Redbubble Tips and Tricks for an Artist Just Starting Out

Posted by Julia Hutchinson on

My Redbubble account has been languishing unused for a couple years. I had only a few designs uploaded and not much was happening. In March 2023 I set myself a goal to upload 500 new designs to the account.

I’m used to selling physical products out of my home studio. I maintain a physical inventory and when someone buys, I ship it out personally. What I offer is determined by what sells, and how much product I keep on hand depends on the physical space in my apartment.

On Redbubble, none of that matters. The print-on-demand model means you upload your image to the site, slap it on the product, and they do the rest. The third party manufacturer makes the product with your design on it and ships it to the customer. There’s no physical inventory or storage space to deal with. The artist gives up most of the control and most of the profits, earning only a tiny amount per sale.

I realized that the “carefully curated portfolio” doesn’t actually help on a site like Redbubble. Recently I’ve been leaning towards more of a “scattershot” approach, where basically I throw a bunch of stuff to the wall and see what sticks. That’s actually a breath of fresh air for a perfectionist like me, because I’m free to play around with fun and silly designs. 

So this spring I was uploading a ton of stuff. In May, I hit that 500 design mark. Here’s four bits of advice for an artist just starting out on Redbubble.

1) Be the weird YOU want to see in the world

Nowadays its so easy to make merch for that obscure little niche you love. Chances are, someone out there is also into that same Thing but is having trouble finding the perfect t-shirt/sticker/whatever. Thankfully, you’re gonna fill that gap!

Birds are my Thing, and my customers are mostly either nature lovers or pet lovers. The pet market is dominated by cat and dog stuff, and the bird people often don’t see a lot of representation. That’s where I came in.

My advice to an artist starting out on Redbubble is this: spend a little time thinking of YOUR weird little niche. Then jot down fun witty expressions. Generic phrases work best:

  • Just a girl/guy who loves ____
  • Tell your ____ I said hi
  • So many ____ so little time
  • Home is where the _____ is
  • I just want to pet all the _____

Now you can slot in your favorite thing and to pair the phrase with your existing drawings. I wanted to get the attention of backyard chicken owners so I made one design each with the word “chickens”. I also wanted pigeon keepers to see my stuff so I kept the same art file and I substituted the word “pigeons” and added one of my pigeon drawings. That’s 10 unique shirt designs right there.

2) Put your art on ALL the stuff

T-shirts and stickers seem to be what sells the most, but there’s dozens of other products available. Keep your art in BIG file sizes so it can go on everything from bedspreads (yes!) down to little bitty pins. There’s a lot of product options. And DON’T ask yourself “why would anyone want a parakeet themed mat shaped like a dog bone”? People put weird stuff in their houses. Don’t overthink it. Just click “enable” on the product and at least give ‘em the choice.

Remember it’s a numbers game. The more designs you have, and the more products available with those designs, the more your stuff is going to come up in search. And it goes without saying, but tag your work. Use up all 50 tags they give you. Do a mix of generic (“birds”) to specific (“backyard poultry gifts”) because you never know what people are typing in the search bar.


3) Who cares if you use old art

Now is not the time to be a perfectionist. The customer is excited to see a lovely piece of art based on that Thing they like. Only you, as the artist, are going to notice all the fussy little mistakes because the art is old and you know better now. I assure you that no one cares. So upload all those “new-to-them” pieces, provided they are a decent size and not fuzzy.

If you’ve got some art that you love but is kind of small, especially a piece with a transparent background, try using the patterns option on Redbubble to make it into a simple repeating pattern. In this way you can get that pattern onto even the larger items like shower curtains or tapestries.

4) Look to the next holiday

You can jump on trends by making designs based on what’s happening in the news or hot memes. But if you’re like me and the news gives you stomachache, try making stuff for the holiday that’s a month or two away. We’re at the end of May now. So think like a customer who is looking for a gift for their Father’s Day or for a graduation. Make a note in your calendar to upload your pumpkins in August or September, to give customers time to decide that YOUR design is the Halloween shirt they can’t live without.

Stay relevant to the search gods and keep uploading new stuff. If you think you can set it and forget it, your stuff is going to be buried under all the other options out there. Give Redbubble a reason to put your stuff in front of eyeballs. Not that you have to go nuts making brand new art all the time. (See number 3 about “new-to-them” art)

Final Thoughts

So, how’s it going with me? After uploading 500 designs, have I made any sales? It’s slow going so far. I’ve made just a handful sales from these recent uploads, but that’s to be expected at first. I’m determined to keep with it and continue to upload new designs. 

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