Mutant Standard 0.2.3

Promo image for Mutant Standard 0.2.3. All of the new emoji in 0.2.3 are scattered around the Mutant Standard logo in front of a bright blue background. Behind them is '0.2.3' in large light blue letters. The URL mutant.tech is on the center bottom in small dark blue text.

This update was originally going to be focused on aquatic creatures and lizards until I got tired of doing animals, so it has a wide assortment of things instead.

New emoji

  • Aquatic creatures
  • New RPG weapons
  • New symbols and objects
  • A few new nature symbols
  • Humanoid ears
  • New pride flags

Fixes

  • Fixed privacy symbol colours
  • Fixed raccoon geometry

Other

  • Improved folder structure
  • No more miscellaneous folder!

 

Get it here -> mutant.tech/use

Some Merch Tips

I’ve been in the merch game for quite a while now, and I thought it might be cool for those interested in using sites like Redbubble and Society6 to give insight based on my experiences so far.

Ask yourself whether these services are worth using in the first place.

These services are a bit of an Uber, but arguably worse – in order to do this, you’re probably going to put quite a substantial amount of labour in the preparing and upload process (and design, if you haven’t made designs already) without the guarantee of any return, let alone a satisfactory one. Ask yourself whether it’s actually going to be worth that labour for you compared to something else you could be putting it into.

IMO, the answer probably depends on what kind of audience/fanbase you have for your work. Don’t expect the discovery tools of the store to assist you with sales, because popularity is the typical metric for how likely you are to be discovered and there are a lot of people posting stuff on these services. Throughout the ~6 months I’ve been selling, I can guess with a reasonable amount of certainty that nearly all sales came from my audience.

 

Be mindful of what your cut of the sale is

With Redbubble, you decide what profit margin you get from the final product in all product categories. This is pretty nice because you can assert how much it’s worth to you. I’ve selected a profit margin that gives me slightly less than 25% of the product cost, and that is satisfactory to me.

With Society6, with the exception of certain art prints, you can’t decide the profit margin, and the cut you do get is pretty terrible in my opinion (10%). I made the mistake of investing time to make Society6 products before seeing this, but some of their products seem nice and they offer things Redbubble does not so I’ve decided to go along with them as a secondary place for now and making the cut clear to my fans on my website so they can make the decision that suits them.

Look at the cut the site is offering and decide if it’s worth it before deciding to do anything at all with them. If the cut is something you can decide, choose something that you feel comfortable with.

 

If you just want to sell stickers, consider getting stickers printed yourself

If you want stickers, ask yourself if it’s worth using these services or if you can afford to print yourself. You can go to independent print shops to get them done in bulk instead and sell them via a merch platform like Tictail or Storeenvy.

I use Redbubble and Society6 because I don’t have the starting money to make print orders or the physical space or mental energy to manage merch shipping at this current point in my life (and there are just so many emoji that it makes deciding what to print and what not to print difficult).

But if you have some money to do it, and you know you’re going to get at least some sales, printing it yourself is better in a variety of ways:

(keep in mind I haven’t done this myself, so I don’t know what the experience of this is like in detail)

  • More profit (because you’re taking over more of the production and handling process, and you’re printing in bulk beforehand instead of on-demand).
  • More control over your sticker selection, sticker size, sales, pricing, bundles, etc. (Society6 and Redbubble’s minimum sizes are pretty large and I really want to offer my emoji stickers in smaller sizes but I can’t.)
  • Control over where you sell. (You can sell online and at conventions)
  • The stickers will most likely be better quality – you can actually talk to your printers, ask about their production equipment, you can ask what colour profiles they work with and tailor your colours so they look super-good. Stores like Society6 and Redbubble don’t have specific colour profiles, you can only go with a generic CMYK profile (which is saved as RGB even — more on that later.)

If I had the resources to print my own stickers, I personally would.

 

 

Work in CMYK, manually convert to CMYK if you’re coming from RGB

 

 

Two columns of the same emoji (don't awoo, eggplant, CRT with blue screen and CRT with test pattern), the left are the original RGB versions and the right are CMYK versions. Blues, greens and purples are much more muted, and hues are shifted around to compensate.
Comparison of a few Mutant Standard emoji, in RGB and CMYK. Notice how warm colours are barely affected, but cool colours are heavily affected. Also how bright colours are affected more than muted ones.

 

 

If you’re like me and you normally make stuff in RGB colour space, you should make separate duplicate files in CMYK.

Your illustration app of choice will get you part of the way there when you convert your duplicate file to CMYK, but they aren’t capable of making CMYK really pop, which means you will need to get manual. CMYK is inherently less vibrant (especially with blues/purples) so what looks good in CMYK won’t be the same as what looks good in RGB, and you will need to be willing to shift some hues around.

You don’t get specific CMYK colour profiles (ie. US Swap, Japan, FOGRA, etc.) on the printing places I use, so go for a ‘generic’ CMYK colour profile.

The more technically savvy of you may have figured out that wait – you’re giving the site PNGs, and PNGs only accept RGB colour space.

So the colour conversion process looks a bit like this:

  • You make the file in CMYK colourspace
  • You export as RGB PNG
  • The site gets the RGB PNG
  • The site converts the RGB PNG to CMYK again at print.

It’s weirdly convoluted, but making sure you are working in CMYK in the first stage means your printed stuff will look the best you can possibly get them when they do hit the printers, even if colour accuracy guarantees aren’t excellent.

 

Use reusable templates and assets where you can.

You will (presumably) be making merch for the same formats – each printer has their own formats. Make a reusable template with those, so you don’t have to set everything up every single time you want to make something.

Using assets, symbols and swatches can speed up the process quite a lot as well if you’re like me and put certain repetitive symbols on products.

Affinity Designer is super helpful for this because in addition to assets and symbols, it has a really powerful export system with a lot of automation features.

 

Avoid using the positioning and scaling tools on the upload if you need precision.

It’s fine if you’re just uploading a wrap-around pattern that has no precision, but if it does, or if you need to center or align a design accurately, don’t use it.

Look at the store’s image dimensions for each product. Make your template for that product in advance at the exact size so there’s no room for error. Then all you need to do is drag and drop the right file for the right product type.

 

Be very conservative with the amount of time uploading will take.

The upload tools of Redbubble and Society6 are slow, and you will probably upload the same product file multiple times so you can get an idea of what they will look like on the preview.

There is no batch upload, there is just lots and lots of checking and clicking and dragging.

One file for one product line.

The entire file for the merch design of 'Awoo (Paw Hand)'. There are lots of tiny artboards with tiny labels above them arranged in little groups and rows.
The entire file for the merch design of ‘Awoo (Paw Hand)’

Not every app can do this, but if you can have multiple artboards, make a file with one of each artboard for each type product that you want to make for. Then fill the artboards with one design, and export out all at once.

It makes your file organisation easier (because you have one file per product design) and means you can export all items for that particular design in one click.

 

Consider how 3D objects might affect the appearance of your designs.

For instance, I add more padding for my pillow designs because otherwise text and symbols will warp too much towards the edges of the pillow for my liking.

Mutant Standard S1 sketches

These were all spun off really quickly in the space of a few hours and mostly derivatives of other emoji, so there isn’t much in the way of process sketches.

The bottom row is where the actual finished emoji sit.

(This file also has a personal think_dzuk emoji and a think_mutant emoji which were made as gags, but not intended to be an actual part of the S1 release).

Mutant Standard 0.2.2

Promo image of Mutant Standard 0.2.2 - all of the new emoji are arranged in a scattered manner around the logo in front of a tan background.

0.2.2 is a bird-focused update:

  • Lots of new bird emoji!
  • 4 more claw hands (the claw hands are now complete!)
  • Improved western_dragon emoji
  • eastern_dragon emoji
  • Some other small improvements here and there.

Like with all the current updates this season, this won’t be the only update with birds in it, but it’s a big start :).

you can get it here as usual E: -> mutant.tech/use

Mutant Standard 0.2.1 + S1

Promo image of Mutant Standard 0.2.1 - all of the new emoji are arranged in a scattered manner around the logo in front of a pink background.

Mutant Standard 0.2.1

For the next few months, I’m going to put my attention towards animals, nonhumans and humans, starting with animals.

0.2.1 introduces a bunch of new furry animals and almost completes the paw hand set!!! (30/31 to be exact)

It also introduces the rest of the Unicode hearts. E:

You can get them here: mutant.tech/use

 

Promo image of Mutant Standard S1 - all of the emoji are arranged in a ring around the logo in front of a flourescent green background.

Mutant Standard S1

The other day, I made a bunch of novelty thinking emoji and shared them on Mastodon, and thus the idea of making ‘special’ releases was born.

Special releases is a space for occasional memes and dumb bullshit. Like VIP emoji, they are shortcode-only.

You can get them here: mutant.tech/use/#special

Mutant Standard and Guns

So, all of the major emoji vendors have now redesigned the gun emoji to look like a squirt gun, while Mutant Standard hasn’t made any gun emoji yet. I had been asked about my opinion on this and what I plan on doing and I talked about it on Discord. Here’s a blog post summarising those thoughts.

 

 

Clearly, I don’t have any issues with the corporations deciding to slant away from Unicode Specification – Mutant Standard does that liberally and I’ve talked about why I believe that is fine to great length. But I do have problems in other regards.

I feel that the rationale for these decisions is mostly a PR move – American companies don’t want to be associated with gun violence in the American political climate, and that’s understandable, but also what often missing in this discussion is that this decision is only for them.

This move is a disneyfication. It does not erase the horror or the reality of mass shootings or racially-biased police brutality in the US. Nor does it erase the many Americans who have pernicious ideas about gun violence, nor does it erase the lobbying that prevents scientific investigation and systemic changes that might be able to help this. (And there’s also the racist relationship between gun control legislation and black and brown people owning firearms which often goes ignored.)

These companies are some of the most powerful corporate entities in the world, and if they wanted, they could lobby and use their political money and power for change. They could even just have a meaningful dialogue about it instead of vaguely pointing to ‘company values’. But they aren’t interested in taking a stand or making a real contribution to any real issue in the cultural or political sphere, so they change a gun emoji to a squirt gun instead.

It’s like the pointed peach – if you change the emoji, you can make that particular form of communication appear nonexistent without having to engage with it at all. I wouldn’t necessarily mind the squirt gun if they had a dialogue about it and actually contributed something to the world, but they refuse to. And on these kinds of principles, (as opposed to just immature psuedo-free speech narratives) i think the squirt gun is a fucked up thing to do.

 

 

 

But is making a gun emoji okay, and is it okay now, in this current situation?

I think making a gun emoji is probably fine, and maybe Mutant Standard will eventually be one of the few emoji sets that will end up having a gun. I want people to be able to responsibly talk about and communicate about violence (beyond the childish mythos of the ‘good guy’ and the ‘bad guy’), keeping in mind it also exists beyond the aesthetics of physical violence. I also want people to have guns for RPG purposes (and more guns than just a pistol because that would be fun for RPGs).

That being said, I also don’t think it’s right to do it now in the current political climate in the US. I don’t want to be seen as the validator of certain certain culturally negative groups of people who are agitated by the situation in the wake of the Parkland shooting and actively seek validation (even though Mutant Standard’s open embrace and support of certain minorities should probably prevent that to some degree). Regardless of what I intend the gun to be, my decisions have cultural consequences beyond my intent.

So yeah, at least for the meantime, Mutant Standard just won’t have a gun. If it does, it probably won’t be a squirt gun.

Mutant Standard 0.2.0

Promo image of mutant standard - all of the new emoji are arranged in a scattered manner around the logo in front of a bright blue background.

This particular update has been a long-time coming, it’s a major step forward for Mutant Standard and it’s required a major overhaul to how Mutant Standard emoji are produced and presented.

Most of this you can thank kiilas for, who is an excellent programmer and so much of this project is indebted to.

The exporter that I’ve been using to get emoji out in all the colours, sizes and formats has been replaced with a brand-new and much more powerful exporter called Orxporter. This will eventually be open source so if you know how to use a command line, you can use this tool too!

Codepoint packages

You can now download packages with codepoint-based filenames. This has been a long time coming and I thank you all for the wait!

You can find them at mutant.tech/use/#other. There are going to be some differences between the selection of emoji in the codepoint packages versus the shortcode because of how encoding works. I’ve written a new FAQ answer regarding that.

You can find the current details on how codepoint encoding is at the moment and how it’s planned for the future in a new dedicated page.

Improved Shortcode packages

‘Shortcode’ is what I’m now using to refer to the releases you all are familiar with (human-readable filenames and an easy to understand folder structure).

All emoji now only use underscores and alphanumeric characters, no more annoying square brackets to fiddle around with!

New emoji

  • Battery level emoji
  • Privacy symbol emoji
  • Red umbrella emoji (symbol of sex workers’ rights)
  • Lots of Unicode Standard food and drink emoji
  • A few other things

Many web improvements

Many pages have been simplified or greatly improved.

There’s a brand new demo page! You can now choose what type of hand emoji and colours you would like to see and it will show you!

 

Many production/internal improvements

A lot of web stuff (like the demo page) generates itself automatically and everything is generally a lot easier to update.

I have a bunch more in-house automation tools to make producing emoji packages way way quicker than it used to be.

All of these things mean I can spend much more time just making emoji.

0.2.1

You can find the notes for 0.2.1 on Trello!

My current thinking is with this release to do even more in-demand unique emoji – so more animals, more fantasy things, more fun objects!