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Bear with Me - Still Diving Deep into Print on Demand

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

Cheddar Steel - Backpack

It's been about a week since my last post, but I have been adding new designs to More Merch - Portuguese Elements quite a bit since then. I'm exploring ideas and approaches, figuring this avenue out. Lots of research, of course, and during that research I found Society6, another print-on demand service. The difference is that they emphasize the art as much as the merchandise. There are a lot of artists there who use the site to promote and sell their designs, as opposed to Zazzle, which is more casual and aimed at more amateur users. Just the minimum resolution requirements of Society6 alone indicate that they take it a little more seriously - images must be a minimum of of 6500 pixels in the shortest direction at a dpi of 150, with some products demanding sizes much bigger than that. File sizes get big; it's not unusual for me to be uploading a PNG of more than 100 MB. Each site has its advantages, though; each has products the other doesn't, for example.

So, like the title says, please bear with me while I get this initial enthusiasm out of my system. Regular programming will return shortly.

These are the "raw" designs used there. This is actually a link to prints of the designs, but it gives a nice uncluttered view of all the designs in their entirety (i.e., not cropped for specialized placement on a given product).

Of course, the following are examples of one product per design, but in actuality almost all designs can be applied to almost all products. So the above Cheddar Steel can also go on a clock, cushion, shower curtain, shirt, greeting card, or whatever.

Please see the end of the article for a little insight into the process of preparing images for these applications.

Venice Bleach - All-Over Graphic T

Mungo Above - Fanny Pack

Vanishing Sun on Toulouse Terrace - Outdoor Floor Cushion

Francesco Passage - Shower Curtain

Sarlat Northwood - Tote Bag

Big Tech Hive - Long-sleeve T

Sintra Cobbles - Carry-all Pouch

Barcelona Shore - Coffee Mug

Here's a little inside baseball. This close-up snippet is a view of the Granada design at 100%. It shows you how I have been dealing with the resolution/file-size requirements at Society6. Pics from my old half-decent digital cameras (around 8 megapixel images - 3072x2304 ) show blurriness and a weird multicoloured graininess when blown up to 11,500. There are many ways to deal with this using Photoshop, but one way around this problem using Gimp is to use this approach:

  • Enlarge the image to the desired dimensions and dpi.

  • Create two duplicate layers of the image. Think of this is having three copies of the image printed on acetate transparencies, stacked precisely on top of each other, with the advantage that you have control over each layer's transparency (and other qualities).

  • Keep the bottom layer untouched - this is your non-destructive safety layer.

  • On the middle layer, apply some kind of blur filter. Something that will smooth away the pixelization at the local level. I like Gimp's "Mean Curvature Blur" - it somehow blurs areas in an interesting way while keeping many edges smooth and relatively crisp.

  • On the top layer, apply just a little blur to soften a bit, then apply the Cartoon filter. This outlines contrasting boundaries with black, giving a graphic, cartoon look.

  • Now you can play with the layer mode of that top, cartoonified layer. Many modes are available, giving different ways the top layer can interact with the layer below it. "Multiply" and "Overlay" are good ones to try, as they retain the black of the cartoon but make lighter areas more transparent. This has the effect of placing that crisp, black, cartoony sketchiness on top of the soft, blurry underlayer. Here's an example, showing the result of this technique on a heavily manipulated photo with mild expansion problems. From Big Tech Hive:

The thing is, this view is extremely close-up. Print the image it came from on a smaller scale (like on a coffee mug) or full-scale and stand back a bit (like on a shower curtain), and that cartoon layer becomes just the image's detail and the result is something that still looks like a photograph, more or less.

So, here is an example of the original image at 1600x1200:

And here is that same image reworked for upload to Society6:

I've decided to bite the bullet and fork out the rental for Photoshop, so expect a dramatic uptick in my manipulation of images.

24 views2 comments


Justus Hayes
Justus Hayes
Aug 08, 2020

Hey Mom! Love ya! :-)


Loved the stuff. Shower curtain esp. me

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