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How to Create Print-On-Demand Designs When You’re Not a Graphic Designer

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By Emily Nelson - October 20, 2022- in Go-Getter Blog

The print-on-demand industry is booming, with Etsy alone reporting a 26.4% increase in its active seller base over a single year. Personalization trends are also soaring in retail, which also fuels an industry known for its creativity & on-the-fly customization capabilities. 

If you want to grow your own print-on-demand business but aren’t a graphic designer, you’re in luck. Although design skills can help, they’re not necessary for creating & launching your online store. Here’s how to grow your print-on-demand empire, even if you don’t have design skills.

Brush Up on What’s Trending

Creating designs for yourself, friends, & family is all about using your imagination. But if you want to grow an ecommerce store, you need an idea of what sells. Before diving into print-on-demand, it’s essential to consider what’s currently trending. 

Start by looking through trending items on Etsy, Amazon Handmade, & Big Cartel among other big players in the industry. Instead of getting started through trial & error, you’ll get a better sense of what will actually sell. If you already have a social media following or strong network, you can also ask what they’re interested in seeing & would consider buying. 

Next, browse through best-selling stores to see what they offer & which products earn the best reviews. You may discover their evergreen items that sell year-round, like simple designs or inspirational quotes, are their most profitable items.

Use Simple Design Tools with Premade Templates

Tools like Photoshop & InDesign are fabulous for creating professional-looking designs but are expensive & have steep learning curves. The good news is that you don’t need professional-grade tools to produce high-quality designs.

Today, there are plenty of tools on the market that are affordable, intuitive, & easy to use. Most will scale up as your design skills evolve, making it easy to start with a free account & upgrade as you need more options for your designs. Get started with some of the best design tools on the market for beginners:

  • Canva
  • PicMonkey
  • Stencil
  • Crello
  • Piktochart

Consider Commercial-Free Use Graphics

Consider a completely different approach to print-on-designs by using existing graphics. There are already scores of creative assets out there ready for use. Sites like Vecteezy offer a range of options you can use “as is” or manipulate to make the graphics more of your own.

Before grabbing some graphics for yourself, thoroughly read through any of the rights & restrictions. Some licenses cover commercial use graphics that you can use on products to sell for a limited run. For example, your license might cover 10,000 items sold. Others only allow you to use the graphic if you alter it first. Make sure you know your license or get in touch with the platform before you take the next steps.

Outsource Your Design Work

You can create gorgeous print-on-demand designs without being a designer or even creative. Instead, you can outsource your creations on sites like Fiverr or Upwork & work with someone to create images & assets for you.

Just like with the commercial-free use graphics idea, you need to make sure you’re also buying the rights to the design work & that they won’t be created or sold again. Ask your designer what file format they deliver in. You will likely need a JPEG, PNG, & PDF for your files. 

Rely on Your Photographs

Whether you enjoy traveling or nature, there’s a market for mugs, apparel, & housewares with interesting photographs. Use your smartphone or camera to take engaging shots & apply to your favorite print-on-demand products.

Tools like Canva also make it easy to give your photographs a creative edge. Use templates or pre-designed assets & turn your photo into a work of art. Once you’re thrilled with your designs, upload them to your CustomCat library & apply to all the products you want, from mugs to hats. When you make a sale, we’ll produce, fulfill, & ship out your order for you.

Focus on Text & Fonts Instead of Images

Rely on quotes, current events, & quirky sayings to create text-based designs for your print-on-demand products. You can add color & flourishes to dress it up or rely on something simple & straightforward. Beyond graphics & images, you can also exclusively use text & fonts instead. 

There are also innovative programs like WordArt that help turn words into a work of art. You end up with professional quality designs without the need for graphic design skills.

Take a Design Course for Beginners

If you love being creative & wish you knew how to dabble in graphic design yourself, there are scores of courses on the market to help you get started. Skillshare & Upwork are a few affordable places to start. There are also free tutorials for program-specific software to help you get started creating your first designs. 

Remember, you don’t need to be perfect; you just need enough skills to get started. Focus on learning the design styles & work you enjoy & apply them to your ecommerce products.


What are your favorite ways to create print-on-demand designs? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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