Becka Rahn teaches a Spoonflower Master Class.
Spoonflower is a print-on-demand service that allows you to create your own design, upload it, and print it on fabric, wallpaper, and gift wrap. They offer more than 20 different bases you can choose to print on: fabrics including cottons, swimsuit lycra, denim, minky, and velvet; traditional or removable peel-and-stick wallpapers; and glossy, heavy-weight wrapping paper.
You might be reading this and thinking to yourself: I don’t do anything with fabric or home decor. But you don’t have to know how to sew to fall in love with designing fabric & wallpaper. Spoonflower has a “Marketplace” of thousands of designs that are created by designers all over the world and are available for anyone to purchase by the swatch or by the yard.
As a designer, you just upload your design, purchase a proof swatch, and then make it for sale. No sewing required. When someone purchases something you designed, you get a 10% commission on the sale. You can learn more about how that works at Spoonflower’s website.
How do you become a successful seller on Spoonflower?
The key to selling anything online is getting found. The same is true of the Spoonflower Marketplace. Because shoppers browse new designs on the site or type something into the search bar, you want to make sure that your designs are showing up in those searches.
The tags and title you put on your design help the search engine understand what your design is all about so you want to be as specific as possible. I reached out to Meredith Feingold, Spoonflower’s Marketing Manager, and we chatted about what goes into really great tags and titles. The answer was tacos! Or more specifically: Theme, Audience, Color, Object, Scale.
When you are choosing words to use in your design title and tags, you should make sure you pick words in each of these categories.
- Theme: What is the style of the design? geometric, mid-century modern, floral, abstract, Scandinavian, retro, minimalist, tropical, nautical, bohemian, steampunk, tiki
- Audience: Who is the buyer who might like this design? dog lover, athlete, baby, nurse, teacher, musician, geek, dancer, kids
- Color: What are the most prominent colors in your design? Use general colors like pink, green, orange, or more specific, trendy color names like blush, mint, or terracotta.
- Object: What are the things that you can see in your design? dinosaurs, coffee, ladybugs, diamonds, tulips, lobsters, stars, paisley, baseball, origami
- Scale: What is the size of the objects in your print? ditsy, large-scale, oversized
Just Goats Black and White by Scrummy shown as a fat quarter fabric preview.
There is only space for 13 tags on your design so don’t waste them on things that aren’t helping your design get found. Tagging something with both “pink” and “flamingo” or the phrase “pink flamingo” is equally good, but using all three wouldn’t get you any advantage. Also don’t worry about plurals or variations on the same word. The search engine understands “cook” so it will also look for “cooking” and “cooks.”
What kinds of designs sell well?
I asked designers Anne Schuster (MissChiffDesigns) and Sharon Turner (Scrummy) about their tips for designing bestsellers. Both mentioned color as being a really important design choice. “I started out using tons of colors in a single print and those never seem to sell. When I use a simple color scheme, they do better,” Schuster shared. Turner, whose signature style is hand-drawn illustrative prints, says that her most popular designs are often black and white. My most favorited design is a two-color squid print that people often use to make shower curtains and throw pillows.
“Simple designs can be very appealing,” says Schuster. “As your knowledge of the software grows, and you apply all the bells and whistles to your patterns, that doesn’t mean it’s going to sell better.” “
“Some of my most simple designs, the ones that I dashed off as fillers for a collection, do better than the ones I spent hours creating and agonizing over.”
We all agree that designing what you love is also a key. “I try not to focus on what is popular or selling well in the Spoonflower marketplace. I just do my own thing,” says Turner. When I asked her about a design that has surprised her, she said, “I love that my goats sell so well! I drew them for a contest—they make me smile. I never thought they would be so popular!” Some of my own most popular fabrics have been a collection of oboe-themed designs. My husband plays the oboe and I had a hard time finding anything oboe related that wasn’t too juvenile or glittery pink. So I designed a collection of oboe fabrics in shades of blue, grey, and citrus colors. Customers send me messages about how excited they are to find oboe fabrics—something they would never see in a traditional fabric store.
We also talked about what worked well when you are thinking specifically about creating wallpaper patterns. Unlike fabric, which is often cut into many smaller pieces to make a project, you see repeats differently when the design is covering an entire wall.
Masterclass students with their completed designs.
“I like to make my repeats interesting and as random as I can manage because patterns look so much better on wallpaper that way. A really obvious repeat drives me nuts when it’s on a big area,” says Turner.
Finally, getting your designs out in the world can make a big difference. Schuster, who specializes in watercolor-style designs, has posted photos of work-in-progress and finished pieces on her Instagram account nearly every day for over 2 years. She says the consistency helps keep her designs in front of her potential customers.
My own sales got a huge boost when I started participating in Spoonflower’s weekly design challenge. I set myself a goal of submitting to the challenge every week of 2018 and sales of my designs tripled from the previous year. (Your mileage may vary.) Because I was adding a new design to my shop every week, my designs were showing up consistently on the lists of “new” and “trending” designs that shoppers could browse on the site. Participating in the contests got my designs in front of all the contest voters week-to-week and put my designs in the on-trend collections in the marketplace.
Becka Rahn is a full time artist and teacher. She specializes in surface/fabric design, fiber art, and teaching business skills to artists. She is the co-author of The Spoonflower Handbook and writes essays about life as an artist at her blog: www.beckarahn.com. She lives in Minneapolis with two big black labs and spends a lot of time thinking about pixels.