Unhelpful Habit Number Two: Making drawings too small

Posted by Julia Hutchinson on

I've been selling my art as merchandise since 2008. Here’s what I wish I knew before starting out and some Unhelpful Rules or Habits that need to be unlearned. This is specifically for artists who want to make their art into merch to sell and are just starting out. This is part 2 of an ongoing series.

Unhelpful Habit Number Two: Making drawings too small

Those pet bird stickers I was talking about in the last article? I spent hours and hours creating the perfect bird drawings. They were designed to fit on a 4x6” sheet of stickers and nothing else. I made the file size about as big as the sticker sheet’s final print size. 

That made each bird very tiny, in terms of file size. This meant I couldn’t use them for anything bigger than 2 inches. They were useless for putting on a t-shirt. And of course a jpg file size that small can’t be blown up because it will get blurry. In the end, I redrew those pet birds in a larger size, but that was a lot of extra work.

It is no fun to spend all that time making art and end up with small assets you can’t use anywhere else. (I made this mistake for years… I have like 200 individual assets that are too small for anything but stickers). You don’t want to redraw old art. You would rather be making sexy new art. Save yourself the heartache and set up your files properly the first time.

Even a very basic template helps

Nowadays I make all my merch assets 6” tall. I use a very simple template that’s 6.5” by 6.5” inches at 300 dots per inch (dpi). Inside is a 6x6” square. To help me remember what brush size to use for line work, I even have a little note inside the square. 

When I want to draw a new asset, the first step is copy-pasting this template into the bottom layer. I try and keep the design within that 6x6” square. That way, anything I draw is guaranteed to be 6 inches max. Stuff can be sized down when it comes to making products, but you better have a large original file (if you’re working in jpg and not vector). 

Also, note that I’m referring to the size in inches, not in pixels. It’s okay to use either. But it helps to remember what you’re creating the asset for. The ultimate goal is to turn it into an actual object. So, even when it’s a digital file, it’s helpful to think in terms of the physical product. Finally (do I need to say it?) make sure your file is at 300 dpi resolution which is required for print.

In the next article we'll talk about thinking in terms of sets, not just single drawings.

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