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 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.

0.2.0, Orxporter, One-Time Donations, Trello

Hey! I’ve been back for a while and posted everywhere else about it but forgot the blog >∆∆<.

Here’s a roundup of the last few weeks:

 

Mutant Standard 0.2.0 + Orxporter

I have some pretty awesome news. Orxporter (the next generation of the script that I use to batch recolour, rename and export emoji) is finally finished enough that I can use it. So the next release of Mutant Standard will be 0.2.0 and will include things like:

– Codepoint releases!
– Better shortcode releases! (better quality releases of the versions you are already used to)
– I will start outlining Mutant Standard’s encoding plans in Unicode’s PUA!
– Some more new emoji!

Orxporter will eventually be available as open source so anyone who can use a CLI can produce emoji like I do~

Thanks very much to kiilas for developing this. Mutant Standard would not be where it is without it. 💚

 

One-Time Donations

You can finally make one-time donations via PayPal:

https://mutant.tech/donate#paypal

Trello

People often ask me what I plan on doing for emoji, so I realised it would probably be a good idea to set something up where my production notes and lists are open to the public so anyone can really get a sense for what I’m thinking about and where I plan on going with things.

I’ve just done that (well, working on it right now) – I’ve made a public Trello at https://trello.com/mutantstandard.

I’m currently in the process of offloading most/all of my notes onto the service (and getting used to how Trello works a bit) so it’s not all there right now. But once this is all set up, this will become my new notes system for the project full-time, so you will be able to get a totally up-to-date view of what’s going on with the project at any time!

Personal Update

This is a personal update. It’s explaining what is going on in my life because as many of you probably know, things haven’t been good and also there’s something important about the project that I need to mention.

This is gonna get pretty heavy and mention poor mental health and abuse.

Continue reading “Personal Update”

Mutant Standard Merch Wave 2

More merch is now available, and there’s a new store too, Society6!

  • Patterns like peaches/eggplants, pineapples and paw hands.
  • Cybre/tech emoji
  • New pride flag
  • Mugs
  • Backpacks, Duffel Bags Beach Towels, Full-Print Shirts, Leggings and more!
  • Mutant Standard stickers if you wanna show your support for the project!

You can find both stores at https://mutant.tech/merch.

I’d recommend checking both stores as the selections differ.

 

 

Thank you for your support and patience again. It’s still been a pretty bad month for me, and there was so much about this wave of merch that took a lot longer than expected because I was getting into new media and processes which I’ve never really done before.

I’ll talk about some of my experiences and give tips about making merch in a future blog post.

Mutant Standard 0.1.0 – The Sketches

Quick guide!

  • Every picture of each file is a snapshot of that file of how it is viewed in Affinity Designer (so you can see each emoji artboard and it’s title).
  • You can click on each picture to get a bigger version.
  • The captions underneath each picture are the filenames of that sketch file. They’re not always the most descriptive (lol).
  • Dates of sketches are the date they started, not the date they finished.
  • Progressions go from top -> bottom, left -> right. I often use arrows to show progression when it’s not that obvious.
  • [M] means that that particular emoji design is going to the Master File (or at least that’s what I think at that moment in time).
  • I do a lot of freehand notes around the emoji iterations to give me an idea of how I’m feeling about them.
  • Some of the pictures might be a bit misleading because for some things (like some colour choices and CMs), I don’t actually make little iterations to demonstrate where I started and where I finished because it would take too long to copy, paste, edit, repeat, etc.. So i just iterate over the same images.

 

Okay, read below the cut to see all the sketches!

 

Continue reading “Mutant Standard 0.1.0 – The Sketches”

January 2018 Plan

Happy new year. I wish I could say that things are going to go off to a great start, but not for me it seems.

(The next version will be called 0.1.0. Unfortunately this won’t be because it will be getting codepoints, it just means a variety of internal structure improvements and unified colour palettes. Codepoints will be 0.2.0 now.)

The bad stuff

As some of you know, my abusive parent is trying to throw myself and my enbyfriend out again, but this time it seems serious and with legal teeth, so we’re going to have to figure out what the fuck we’re going to do, plus dealing with the emotional stress the entire situation (which we’ve been suffering under for months).

I made a general plea for support, and directed people to the Mutant Standard Patreon and Liberapay if anyone wants to donate to try to help improve our options. Because of this, we will have actually broken the $100/month mark across all recurring donation platforms come February. (The total will stand at about $115/mo right now). Thank you so much for all of your support.

That money is more mixed between Patreon and Liberapay now so you wouldn’t have noticed on Patreon. I had been planning to migrate Patreon’s goals to the website for when this kind of situation happened, but I’ve had more pressing things to do. I will try to do it in the quickest way possible this week.

I’m going to be looking for really, any way to get a safe roof over our heads. Because of my situation, my options are very limited. My computer equipment is all desktop and if I find a place, I don’t know if there will be a desk, or a desk big enough to do Mutant Standard work on. Even if there is a place with a desk big enough for me to do work, time will need to be taken out to move.

So I think it’s entirely possible that whatever gets made this month could be the last stuff for a while. I’m not sure how much emoji will be in it. I will work on it when I have the time and whenever is the time to move out, will probably be the time it gets published. It’s hard to say for sure because my mother behaves very erratically and my emotional tolerance for this situation is at it’s limit.

Because we broke $100, I’ll try to give you all some sketches, either of 0.1.0 or of previous emoji that I’ve liked over the month. We have a blog now, so it’s not hard at all. 🙂

 

New emoji to expect in 0.1.0/soon:

New and updated pride flags

These have already been made, just yesterday:

  • Updated rainbow flag to have black and brown stripes.
  • Demiguy and Demigirl pride flags.

 

New, unified colour modifier palettes

Human, paw and claw hands will have a unified colour palette, meaning that paws for the first time will get the unnatural colours that human and claw hands have had for a while. There’s also going to be a few more unnatural colours thrown in. I’ll explain my current plan for colour modifiers in more detail later.

 

Generally just more emoji

This is where I generally make stuff I have in my lists based on my mood. But I do have some priorities in terms of what I want to personally do more of:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Fishies
  • Plants
  • Pineapple
  • Maybe some more paw hands/claw hands

 

 

New Mastodon Account

Ever since I started the project, I made my personal Mastodon account (@dzuk@a.weirder.earth) the official account for news, but it’s also a personal account where I post a lot of other stuff. I have always been on the fence about making a separated account for a variety of weird reasons, but now I’ve decided it’s finally time to do it.

 

You can find it here – @mutstd@a.weirder.earth

All Mutant Standard news on Mastodon will be moved here. I might make the occasional boost on my personal account, but everything should be here from now on.

Long-term goals

Happy holidays, everyone! I hope you’re doing okay, wherever you are.

As 2018 is coming along and because I’ve never *really* done this before, it would be a good idea to roundup long-term goals for Mutant Standard other than just making more emoji, both custom and Unicode Standard.

TL;DR: I want to try to put Mutant Standard in as many places as possible.

Continue reading “Long-term goals”

Website update is out!

This should be the definitive update. I won’t need to be scrambling around when it comes to adding things and I shouldn’t need to really do much with it for quite a long while.

It’s mobile friendly and it’s also something that I hope is easy to understand enough that you can share it with your friends. 😀

The next thing for me to do is to publish the VIP emoji from last month, maybe make a few more emoji, and that will probably be it before the holidays, and then the emoji schedule will continue as usual in 2018.

Thank you for all your patience and support through the Patreon bullshit, it’s pretty much over now 💚.