Turning Patterns Into Product {open discussion}

March 19, 2008

Samantha Hahn is a Brookyln-based artist that I’m a big fan of, especially since purchasing some work from her recently and seeing it in person. She’s so talented, her splashy hues jump from the page. So when she wrote to me recently asking about pattern design and turning patterns into products (other than prints), I wasn’t sure where to direct her. I’m asked this question quite regularly by readers and I often feel awkward answering since I have little experience in this area. Time to change that with your help!

Turning Patterns Into Product {open discussion} Patterns designed by Hahn.

So the question that Samantha and so many other designers out there have is: How do you take your patterns to the next level — from the drawing board to an actual product — textiles, wallpaper, gift wrap, etc?

When I think about companies like Amy Butler Design or Hable Construction, I see amazingly talented people who do most of the work in-house and then send it out to a mill to be produced. I think the Hable girls use a textile mill in Massachusetts, I know Fall River, MA has lots of mills that people work with but I have no idea how to even contact one and what the initial investment would be. I’m sure pricing varies due to quality and the amount of colors used. A one color textile would be less costly to produce than a multi-color pattern. And if you wanted to go eco-friendly that would be even more expensive.

Then there are designer who produce patterns and send them off to a licensing company and they do the rest for you. The rep may come back to you with news that a card manufacturer would like to purchase your image or a store like Urban Outfitters would like to turn your work into art on canvas and at that point, you negotiate a price and all the details around the product. But I’m going to stop talking now because I really don’t know that much about this.

Turning Patterns Into Product {open discussion} More patterns designed by Hahn.

I know Marisa Haedike has some experience in this area, as does Julia Rothman, Joy of Nantaka Joy, and Meg Mateo Ilasco so maybe these ladies can jump in and give some advice. Not to put anyone on the spot, I just look at these ladies as quite helpful and they have had a lot of success building their business taking patterns they’ve designed to the next level. Maybe they have some suggestions, links, or a few good books to suggest. Ashley G of Kitty Genius wrote about her recent experience with Urban Outfitters, AshleyG and Drew: Taking it to the Next Level While Staying Small, over on Etsy. Perhaps her words will be helpful to some of you.

I invite all readers to jump in if you can help by commenting below. Also ask any questions you may have on this topic in the comments section, too.

(images from samantha hahn)


  • Reply Samantha March 19, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Holly, you are just amazing. People like you are the reason I started blogging. Thank you so much for making a community. I can’t wait to follow all the links you included in the post and read comments by the talents you mentioned.

  • Reply beachgrl March 19, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks for bringing up this topic! I am looking forward to some great comments on the subject. I also would like to know how to go about creating the artwork to be used in textiles, wallpaper, etc. Are there certain rules to follow such as size, repeat, etc.? You just can’t turn any artwork into fabric, so what are the rules to follow.

  • Reply Justine March 19, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    A great book to read if you want to go into business is “Craft Inc.” by Mateo Ilasco
    I highly recommend it! It doesn’t deal directly with textile or paper businesses, but more of an overall guide with a creative business.

  • Reply Cindy Ann Ganaden March 19, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    I’d love to hear how folks have taken their pattern designs to the next level. I’d also be interested in know how they ‘comp up’ and do proto types of objects with their patterns applied to them. I’ve been trying to find an easy way to do some proto types and have yet to come up with an easy process. – Cindy

  • Reply sfgirlbybay March 19, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    I am happy to help anyone from a pure print to paper standpoint. My background is print production, as in posters, cards, letterpress etc. I am nos so savvy in regards to textiles, however. Just drop me an email and I’ll help in in any way I can. I’d love to learn more about this process myself, so thanks for the post, Holly!

  • Reply Marisa and Creative Thursday March 19, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Great topic Holly! While I’m not a specialist in licensing textiles in particular, I do license my art and designed an entire line of hand painted bedding that I showed at the Atlanta market in 2006 ~ so here goes, I’m happy to leave some thoughts if it should help anyone! First off, two of my favorite resources are “Art Licensing 101” by Michael Woodward, and the “Graphic Artists Guild Handbook to Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. Those alone will give you a good start. Second is to start compiling a portfolio of your patterns. When you have compiled a strong portfolio and samples of the patterns printed, go to market or a show. I have attended the textile show in Los Angeles several times and there are quite a few vendors who solely sell their patterns to fabric manufacturers or clothing designers, interior designers etc. As far as I know textile shows are in several cities throughout the year. Then of course their are markets twice a year, the most common being, Atlanta, New York, Las Vegas, also one in LA ~ Chicago, Highpoint NC (strongest for interior design related industries) Then there is also the annual Surtex show in NY that is exclusive to licensing designs! Last but not least you can manufacture your own fabric line. You just need to know where to go. Many companies go overseas to China and Europe. Some can produce their work here in the states. You just need quite a bit of overhead because you have to order LARGE quantities. In my opinion if your just starting out, it’s best to get your patterns together and do some test-marketing/research to see what designs sell best before investing in a ton of yardage. I did this with my children’s bedding/furnishings line, by hand painting the designs and having them manufactured here in LA. Even after getting strong interest and sales, I personally decided that hand painting was not for me and tabled everything until I’m ready to pursue that avenue again with my new line of characters and with the help of a manufacturer who specializes in printed materials. So that’s all I know for now!
    Oh and one final thing in regards to art. Usually when you license your art, you partner with one of the many companies that specialize in licensing artwork. Unless of course you want to get all the art printed yourself and become a manufacturer as well as the artist, a lot of hats to wear but also possible. If not, all the licensing companies accept submissions online usually. And they will also approach you as your work becomes more known. Be sure to submit to places where you feel your work will best fit. And until you know your market, I don’t recommend offering exclusivity to anyone in the beginning. All the best to everyone trying to get their work out there. You absolutely can. Just start somewhere and go from there. You’ll learn and refine where you’re headed as you go.

  • Reply Marisa and Creative Thursday March 19, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    I’m back! I just thought of two more options. With the continual expansion of Etsy you could try to start marketing some patterns even in your own shop there?! Also, don’t forget that if all the marketing, doing shows etc. feels overwhelming you can also target illustration/design reps but submitting your work to them. And if they accept you, they will certainly help educate you and get your work out there.

    • Reply sinem sam ilgar March 24, 2017 at 3:15 am

      Hello Marisa, your input was enlightening and much to the point, i have a ton of hand made designs that i would like to sell to fabric/textile designers, i need to start off on the right foot, Would you consider collaborating and mentoring and coaching on how to untangle all the ropes and head in the right direction? My images are all high res photographed from my original hand crafted designs. The reason i am steering toward textiles is because all of the feedback i am getting. I know you posted this many years ago and i can only hope that you will see this message. I am serious and ready to move on. I am currently in the graphic design business for wall art, printing, framing etc so applying prints to textile and reaching a – market to sell textile designs is all to foriegn to me right now,

  • Reply decor8 March 19, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Lots of great information. I wonder if any readers have tried some of these things Marisa, it would be neat to hear from someone who did say, a Surtex or something.

    I like the idea of putting things on Etsy. I suggested this to Samantha with her prints as I think she could monitor audience response a lot better this way at first.

    And when you refer to illustration/design reps are you talking about a place like Lilla Rogers Studio or something?


  • Reply irra March 19, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while (It’s absolutely wonderful!), but this is the first time I’ve commented.
    This is a great topic to bring. There are so many self taught crafters and designers out there that don’t know how to take their business to the next level, myself include.
    I often wondered if there is any kind of forum out there to help us all get it together. With wholesale and manufacturing recourses, help with tax right of essays of real life experiences etc.
    I think it would be great to have one.
    I even play around with the idea of starting one myself, but am kind of daunted by the amount of work that would take. Maybe one day.


  • Reply Red Fish Circle March 19, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    I design patterns for the children’s market (mostly) and also license my artwork for fabrics with Robert Kaufman. I started out working in-house for a children’s clothing manufacturer. I then went freelance and work with a rep. There are design studios who will rep you, meet with clients and sell your work, and also bring your work to trade shows. Also you can go to shows yourself, the biggest “surface design” show is Surtex. You can also cold call art directors at companies that you would like to have manufacture your work and send them samples. Most companies are very happy to find new talent and fresh new artwork. Hope this helps.

  • Reply Zoe March 19, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Hi Holly, I designed my own patterns for textiles a while back and had them printed digitally (no limit on colours). I had a small run printed and then used the fabric wisely to create products such as bags and aprons. I also have recently been commissioned to create greetings cards by Madison Park, a company in the USA, (I’m UK based – I think they found me through etsy). The then pay me a percentage of sales on my designs. Great topic because although I have done a little bit I’m still keen to find out more about this subject.

  • Reply maria joao March 19, 2008 at 10:12 pm


    well, it’s the first time i comment on this blog, but i have reading it very often. And today a dear friend ( me for this post concerning to pattern design.

    The reason she did it, i think, it’s because i have been very interested in this subject and at this moment i am preparing a series of fabrics to be printed with my own drawings.
    I am a Portuguese artist/designer and here in my country we struggle a lot to find places that can produce our ideas. For what i have been reading, US is the paradise for everyone who wants to turn real their creativity, the resources are just around the corner. But, this doesn’t happen in Portugal.

    So when i wanted to take things to another level, which means, starting to work with my own printed fabrics, with the patterns i like, i found it very hard, specially because of the absence of information about this subject (in my country) and because of the incapability of our textile industries to help me. I just wanted to find someone who could print me a small quantity and the big industries only print huge amounts of fabrics and most of the times they are not so open to help someone who doesn’t have a company and who is not yet a regular customer.
    I searched and searched and searched and finally i found a little place in Lisbon. Was founded for a designer who gained experience in Italy and came back to Portugal to start her own printing business. The market was almost virgin in this area, so she started small, in her own garage and now i can say she is “big” in her own way, with her clients – decoration places, etc.
    I made there a silkscreen workshop, to refresh my knowledge about this technique and i enjoyed it so much – them and the experience – that i started to think seriously about my printing idea. They could help me!
    So i requested for details, budgets, and with some money i have been saving, i decided to take the step.

    It’s expensive , i confess. If you want to use the traditional printing techniques, like silkscreen (serigraphy), you have to make a new frame for each color, for each drawing and this is the most expensive thing. And of course, buying a reasonable amount of fabric, because if you just want to print 1 meter, you are spoiling money. I mean, you have a minimum amount of meters to print, if you want to justify the production of new silk screen frames. In the future, you can use, repeat a drawing the times you desire, so the next time won’t be so expensive.
    I also wanted to print in organic cotton but that is a detail, for now, that i am keeping in my dreams. Imagine if its hard to find someone who can print my drawings, in a small amount, imagine what was the answer i obtained from a fabric retailer, when i asked him about organic cotton! We are still miles away from this textile actuality, and if i want some, i have to order from the USA or to go to India and pre-order myself a little portion of their organic cotton plantations. Maybe one day, who knows!

    In what concerns to licensing of my drawings, well, for now i am trusting in their good faith, because they are such a small business and i dont think they could be interested in print my patterns without my permission, but that is a issue that concerns me and i will certainly look for information about it.
    I am very ansious to see the result because i want to show it, for the first time – it will be like a test, to see the people’s reaction – at a national exhibition, next April.

    Just like “marisa and creative Thursday” said, we just need to go ahead. Try it. Take the step and see where it leads us. I think that it’s very important to read about the subject, but it’s in the “field” , in the process, where we can actually learn and see how everything results and how can it be improved. That book marisa mentioned – The ethical guidelines for pricing, etc etc – its a big help. i got it on amazon and i have reading it. But specially, get information with experienced , skilled person, in my case, the designer and helpers who run the place where i am printing, they have been a great help and the major source for information – how to prepare the files, how to choose the best fabrics to do it, the colors, etc etc.
    And for the first time, start with simple things, to see how it works.

    I am not a very experienced person like the ladies who have been mentioned in this blog, and i don’t know yet if i want to make a career specialized in this field (for now i am just experimenting things) but i thought that it could be interesting to contribute with my little experience. And i will certainly follow the evolution of this post, its comments, etc.

    Congratulations on this super interesting blog

  • Reply Anonymous March 19, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Thanks, Holly, for shedding light on this great topic! I am in the Los Angeles area… does anyone out there have any leads on where I could go to get my designs printed into fabric (print houses, mills, etc.)? I am looking to experiment with a short run print job. I am a graphic designer, this is my first attempt at working with textiles. I would really appreciate any leads from your L.A. readership. Thanks everyone!

  • Reply lizzyl March 19, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    thank you for this topic! i have been wondering this myself recently…:)

  • Reply joy March 20, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Hi everyone:

    Here’s a bit of info. from my personal experience.
    If you’re interested in having your patterns become products, there are two main ways to go:
    #1 – Designing patterns for other companies, which means your name is not associated with the work (or)
    #2 – Having your own line of textiles/fabrics/soft goods in your company’s name.

    Those are two very different things with different paths and ways to go about it.

    The easiest is #1 as starting your own line takes a lot up front costs in addition to many aspects of having your own business. To design textiles for others, you can:
    -get a full-time job/position as a textile or surface pattern designer for a fashion, home accessories, gift company, etc.
    -design patterns on a freelance basis in which companies buy patterns directly from you.
    -get a rep who will show your pattern designs to their clients. when a pattern sells, you make a commission of the selling price. there are lots of reps in new york, and this can be great for someone who can produce lots of prints quickly and knows how to put patterns in repeat. nowadays, many reps work with illustrator and photoshop files (electronic art files) so it helps to know how to put patterns in repeat in those programs.
    -licensing your illustrations/designs is a great option if your name is somewhat well-known, as it’s harder to get licensing deals if you are just starting or new to the industry. most artists who have licensing deals were approached to do so but that’s not to say you can’t approach a licensing company yourself. every licensing deal is different, but for the most part you need to have a large body of work and style established which companies could use to create a variety of items from bedding to stationery.

    #2 – Starting your own line of fabrics, textiles, or soft goods can be a more challenging route to go. Printing fabric is very expensive. While there are mills in the US who can print smaller yardages and test runs, the cost of these smaller runs are very high because of set-up and screen costs. Printing fabric overseas is more affordable but the minimums are very high meaning you need to already have the base of a business set-up and doing well before needing the amount of yardage that overseas manufacturing would warrant.

    Overall, for those who are interested regardless of your eventual goal, it’s great just to start getting your stuff out there. Draw patterns and gauge interest. Even if you’d like to eventually have your own line. Try working with rep first and seeing how your designs may sell to other companies.

    I hope that’s helps as a basic overview of what I know about the business!


  • Reply Anonymous March 20, 2008 at 12:47 am

    I have to agree with one of the prior posters – DEFINITELY take your patterns to Surtex. As a person that is responsible for purchasing art for wrap, gift bags, social stationery, etc – Surtex is my first and yearly stop. I meet most of my studios there – and then schedule additional appointments throughout the year as my needs change.

  • Reply Samantha March 20, 2008 at 1:06 am

    wow, unbelievable response. I took notes and will check out the books and leads mentioned. I wonder if there is a source for reps. that I could use to find the right ones to submit my work to? I know about Surtex but think it would be premature to submit my stuff. I would love to start small and get a rep. If anyone knows a good place to start, I’m in. Wow Holly, this was so amazing. This is what it’s all about. Thank you so much! Thank you everyone for the pearls of wisdom!

  • Reply Red Fish Circle March 20, 2008 at 1:44 am

    To answer Samantaha’s question, a great way to find a studio to rep you is to go to Surtex, they are all there.
    Also, just to continue the discussion, it is not always an either/or situation. You can sell designs through a rep without your name attached and also license to other manufacturers with your name recognition, depending on what agreement you establish with your rep. For ex, If a client finds me for via my online portfolios , then I work with them directly.

  • Reply Andy Mathis March 20, 2008 at 3:48 am

    Hi Holly-
    I am late finding this, but am working on my own artwork for Surtex, so here’s some links that people might be helpful.

    Along with , there are 2 other textile shows that I am aware PrintSource and the Directions show- and .

    Another option for either showing samples, or manufacturing small amounts, is to have the fabric sublimated or directly printed such as with this place-

  • Reply patricia March 20, 2008 at 3:56 am

    As a textile Designer I can add a bit more information.
    Repeats: If you are printing yardage your pattern must be in repeat. It usually looks best when it is half-dropped unless it is a geometric type of repeating motif, then it can be a side or brick repeat.Once you learn about repeats you will never look at pattern the same way again. You will need to talk to your printer because it all depends on the size of your screens and the type of printing: rotary or flatbed, to determine your repeat size.In the beginning it is best to keep it simple because you do pay for each screen = 1 color. If you are looking to print T-shirts or say a pillow you can get a small silkscreener to do the job for you.
    A good source is to find a local college that offers classes and you can either take the class or find a student to do your printing job for you.
    Another source is Selvedge magazine for classes.
    Once you have your design, in repeat and have found your printer then the printer produces strike-offs so you can check the quality of the printing and color combinations, which are called colorways. This is always the best part. At this time you make corrections if necessary then soon you will have your finished fabric.
    Selling you designs:
    You have to decide in general what area you are designing for. Many designs can cross over from apparel
    to stationary, cards, etc. Home Furnishing designs are designed in a larger format.Some buyers want designs to be in repeat generated on the computer so that the screen separations are already done. My background was in painting so I trained to design textiles in the traditional way. I can generate prints on the computer but I don’t like them as much.
    As mentioned SURTEX is the big show
    for surface design.
    Heimtex in Germany for home furnishings.Primere Visione in Paris for apparel but I haven’t been to the Paris show in a few years so I don’t know how that show is holding up.
    Getting a rep is fairly easy. They all work differently so shop around. The rep gets 40% of the fee. If you want to sell your designs yourself just decide who you think would like your style and start making appointments.I have done both, sold myself and had a rep there are positives to either.
    When starting out it can be really helpful to sell your designs yourself because you get such great
    feedback. I know a good book on repeats it’s by Ann Waterman but I have to see if I can find my copy to give you the title.

  • Reply Fifi March 20, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Thank you Holly for this post ! It is like it was written especialy for me. This is why I comment even if my english language is so bad (sorry about that..)
    I wish I have some information to share but for now I am just thrilled with all the ones I get from this post.

    Reading your blog every day is my “bonheur du jour”. Thank you :-)

  • Reply orange you lucky! March 20, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks Holly! This is the best post ever!!! So much wonderful information!
    See you all at SURTEX 08!

  • Reply Meg March 20, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    so glad you posted this, I just love her patterns. I hope she finds a way to get them printed up!

  • Reply JHill March 20, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    This is so great Holly! I produce my own paper line which revolves around my patterns. I’d love to get away from producing my own line mainly because of the financial commitment
    and time spent on production (I spend less and less time drawing it seems…), but it has been a great way to start out.
    I’ve been interested in venturing into licensing and have thought of Surtex so this has helped a lot!

  • Reply Jan Weiss March 20, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    These are all such great ideas. I have been licensed for several years with Bentley Licensing Group and Spiral Licensing in France. My images have been on memo boards, trivets, clocks, stationary and posters. I think the best advice I can give is to try to sign up with a licensing agent. Surtex in NYC is a great place to start. If you can, go to the show with a small portfolio that is easy to view. have a card that can be left with the exhibitor because they often do not have time to review portfolios. For many years I reviewed portfolios and preferred it when the artist left me a card and had something quick for me to review. Do not give your life story, the exhibitor does not have time for that. You must have a web site to make it easy. Make sure that images on your web site are not too large however because you do not want high res files being downloaded. The knockoff market is rampant in this business. Show your work but don’t give away the farm. Also – be sure to study the market and current trends in fashion, furniture, wall decor and color. Fashion is the first place an idea shows up, then it moves there to wall decor and then other merchandise like ceramics, stationary and kitchen decor. Additionally, while it has been suggested that you do not sign an exclusive agreement, the flip side of that is that the agent will not invest much in you if you are not exclusive. Before you sign anything, read the agreement completely and consult a professional if you have any questions. Try Roseann Renzullo at Artistic Brand Management. Also – if you do go to Surtex review the exhibitor list ahead of time and peruse their web sites so you know what you are after. I can’t stress enough that you must do your homework. Licensing agents prefer a savvy artist. Feel free to contact me if you have any more questions.

  • Reply Anonymous March 20, 2008 at 6:44 pm


    I’ve been reading your blog on and off for a while now and I also happen to be the Show Manager of SURTEX. I am happy to see that others have already commented about the Show being a great place to sell or license designs to manufacturers of a variety of products. I would be happy to provide more information to you or your readers offline and I can be reached via email at

    Also, for those who need more information on how to start licensing they should attend our Conference Program that takes place during the Show, May 18-20 at the Javits Center in NYC. There are seminars on Art Licensing 101 and How to work with an agent. More info can be found at our web site

    And one more thing, if anyone is looking to talk to someone who has done the show I recommend speaking to someone who has done it at least 3 times to ensure “true” advise or has been in the business for a significant amount of time.

  • Reply LizD March 20, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    Just a note– I was in NYC last spring and I tried to go to Surtex–it is not open to the public. You need to be an exhibitor or represent a company. Maybe there is another way to attend, but they shooed me away. I was able to snag a directory of exhibitors, which has been very helpful in contacting other artists and learning about their process of getting into the biz.

  • Reply Anonymous March 20, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Hi –

    I am currently beginning to print my own textiles and I know of a fabric printer in San Francisco where they will do very small amounts (3-5 yards). The name of the company is ZOO INK. It will cost about $500 to get started, since most of the costs are in the startup (ie., getting the screen, the film, burning it).

    Another option, which I am exploring is to silk screen myself, large squares of fabric (18 x 18), wherein I then make my product from that and test it at my weekly booth at the Marin Farmer’s Market. I found a silkscreen supplier who will burn the images for you, so all you need to worry about is the printing: ( – look under services).

    I hope that helps a bit.

  • Reply Cara Angelotta | Sew Bettie March 20, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Wow Holly! Thank you for opening up this discussion. My boyfriend Mark and I run a small company, Sew Bettie. I am a sewer/crafter and he is a painter/production artist. Currently, we sell sewing patterns/tutorials, crafty kits, and tshirts. One of our goals is to design and produce fabric.

    Holly, I love that you suggested Etsy as a place to do market research. We use Etsy as a testing ground for our products, which we also wholesale to boutiques. I have found that some products are easy for me to put together and produce ourselves. For example, we have a DIY button ring kit. After Mark designed the instruction cards, I had them printed at I used for the packaging. We have a headband kit coming out soon that we are “manufacturing” the same way.

    Mark has been silkscreening a lot of fabric by hand. We are thinking about selling in our Etsy shop soon. Hopefully someday we’ll have more space so that we can handprint larger runs and/or collaborate with other companies to print and sell our fabric.

    Thanks for all the tips!

  • Reply Kelly C. March 20, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve recently had customers suggest I create wallpaper out of some of my designs, and had absolutely no idea where to even begin. These responses have been so helpful!!

  • Reply Lara March 20, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Hi Holly!

    I came here to leave a comment about Zoo Ink in San Francisco but it looks like someone has already beat me to it!

    As far as I know, this company will screen print reasonably short runs for you. I faced the very same problem a year or so ago about what to do with my pattern designs – and decided in the end to get fabric printed under my own name rather than licensing. It has given me a lot more control over the product and also helped me to build my own name. I’d definitely recommend it. There’s quite a few of us textile designers here in Australia getting short runs of textiles screen printed (most of us use the same printer) and we all love it!

  • Reply Making it Lovely March 21, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Great topic! My experience is with paper goods, so I thought I’d quickly go over some printing options for those that are interested in creating cards and stationery.

    *Silkscreen, Gocco, Block Printing, etc.
    These handmade methods are great because you can create short runs for a fairly low cost. You can produce prints yourself or outsource to a silkscreener. Each color will be a separate screen or block, so the number of colors affects the cost because of materials and time.

    Extremely popular these days. You CAN buy your own press (they range in size from tabletop to giant), or you can outsource it. Again, each color is applied separately.

    *Digital Printing
    There’s a huge range of quality here. You can print something from your home printer and call it “digitally printed”, or you can have it done at a professional print shop. It is possible to produce high quality digital prints yourself, but be prepared to spend $500+ on a good printer (the high-end Epsons are a good choice). Digital printing is often a good choice for relatively short runs, and you can use as many colors as you like without affecting price.

    *Offset Printing
    You can go a couple ways with this?
    – 4 Color Process, Full Color, CMYK: All different names for the same thing. The number of colors in your design won’t affect the cost.
    – Pantone / PMS Color: You can specify a specific Pantone color. Instead of just printing blue, you can say PMS 292. Each color will add to the cost.

    When offset printing, there are metal plates made for each run so the initial cost is high. Anyone that’s ordered business cards will be familiar with the pricing setup. 1000 cards may cost $80, but 2500 cards only cost $100. The more you order, the better the deal.

  • Reply susy March 21, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    This is indeed a great topic. I’m going through it right now…on the way to producing some items in larger quanities. I can say, be prepared, because it’s an investment. And once it’s done….you have to spend lots of time, and maybe money, moving the product into market.

    There are ways of making printing less expensive…actually these days, the material/paper costs are often more than the process itself. Especially if you want it to be eco-friendly.

    Shipping can also add to the item cost in the end.

    Also…and this is important. If you are going to get things printed…make sure you see a sample. Sounds pretty obvious…but it’s important to know the quality you are going to get. Make sure you feel good about the people you are working with– because if you are not an expert, you need people who can really help guide the process, who take pride in their output, not just provide a bargain.

    If you want to keep printing, you need to build relationships, as much as figure out the logistics.

    Good luck everybody!!

  • Reply :: A S K :: March 24, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Too funny … I have been thinking about this a lot lately and just now as I was paging down your blog and reading the JCaroline post, I was thinking that I needed to figure out how to do something with my patterns.

    No time to read all of this now, but I will definitely be back!

  • Reply Anonymous March 24, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Greetings from Indiana!

    Does anyone have any tips on finding an agent outside of the NYC area? Today is the first I’ve ever heard of Surtex, and a trip to New York in the next few months does not seem possible for me at this time. Please share if anyone knows how I could find an agent online.

  • Reply Cicada Studio March 25, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    This is a recap of my life for the last 5 months! I’ve been investigating this industry looking for people who can make my fabric. It’s an incredible investment and expensive at that. Even with my 15 years in the textile design industry, I was not prepared for the search for a printer and all that I would be facing if I were to go for it. But in the end, that’s what I have to do- just dive in.

    I’ve got a line that’s in work now as a license for quilt fabric line. We’re waiting for May market to know if their customers will be interested in my “modern spin”- this particular company is very traditional. (come on guys, you can cross over!) Next I’ll be committing myself to smaller runs of my personal work on linen/cotton blend. Hopefully I’ll have it out there within two months!

    Very interesting read. It’s so funny when you find that your personal battles aren’t all that unique. Look at all the discussion here!

  • Reply Cicada Studio March 25, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Also, I’m so jealous of Australia because they seem to have some local screen printers who can do printing at a fairly reasonable cost. The US (the handful of printers I found- they remain very hidden!) is very expensive so your commitment needs to be fairly large in order to make the set up charges average out over the yardage.

  • Reply Tina March 25, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I’m looking for places to purchase the base fabric to be printed on. What I’ve found so far has been on the expensive side. Does anyone have any links to share?

  • Reply ellencrimitrent March 26, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    hello all I have been in the licensing end of illustration for about 9 years now and I can tell you it is no easy road. I have had full lines in JC Penny in which I had my designs on ornaments, bedding, ceramics etc. to name a few. I license my art with all kinds of manufacturers which include, fabric, ceramic, paper goods, flags, garden products etc.

    I know you have allot of people talking about Surtex which was a great place to showcase your work starting out, but lately the traffic at the shows has been very poor. I believe last year was the worst and I do not expect this year to get better. I hate to be a damper on your readers but these are the facts in working in this business during hard times. When so many people want to license it becomes more difficult to get more work. Years ago you could easily just design one great piece and have it on many goods but that is not the case anymore. Many manufacturers are looking for the next best thing and change up their lines often so you find yourself having to create many new looks often.

    I would suggest also that your readers look at what each manufacture has on their goods and see if their art is a perfect fit. Also keep in mind what types of designs sell well. Some artists who are talented but cannot seem to make a Christmas design that would appeal to a large volume of people. You have to keep in mind always the average person and what you think they would like.

    For example designs that have people in them do not sell as well as designs that have icons such as scarves, mittens, candycanes etc. When you make a design gender/ethnic specific you loose a vast majority of your target audience.

    Also keep in mind do you want to try and be your own agent or find an agent to rep you. Although I find it not difficult to juggle contracts, promote myself as well as design others may not find it works for them. Those who have a hard time selling themselves will not fair well to be their own agent.

    I suggest to, do your homework walk the shows before you exhibit and see if this is something which appeals to you. It is a big expense to do the show if you do not have all your ducks in order so getting a feel for it before hand is a good idea.

    Lastly I would also say go by your instincts and always work with those whom you feel most comfortable with. I never work with clients I feel I would loose sleep over or stress over. Since you are your own boss this is very easy to do.

  • Reply ellencrimitrent March 26, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Hi Holly I did want to add something else. Someone mentioned that reps get 40% this is incorrect most reps get 50% of what you make. I have yet to find one who gets less, also some reps are better than others. You have to watch who you go with, because some may never get your work shown while others do and some are just not nice and I mean it!

    My suggestion for some great reps are Suzanne Cruise
    from Cruise Creative. Bently Publishing ( they were my old Surtex neighbors and very nice).

    Others just do your homework on and make sure never to try and sign exclusive contracts. You get screwed when that happens since you will not be able to use many manufactures . The only area I find this still happens is in the fabric arena, you can only use one with that so make sure they are the one for you.

    This is not for the weary and weak you have to be a tough to get into this business or you will find yourself in many situations you wished you were not in.

    Make sure you have designs for every category such as Birthday, Baby, Wedding, Floral, Christmas,
    Halloween, Easter, Valentines Day, Americana, Spring, Summer, Gourmet, Pets, just to name a few!! I know its allot but it shows the client that you can do almost anything! I have about 700 designs or maybe more so I know, and when they want to see a category I can give them a large variety of designs to look at!!

    Okay back to work for me!!!

  • Reply carol eldridge March 26, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I am a licensed designer and have licensed my designs for fabrics, giftware, tabletop, home decor, holiday on products that have sold millions at the retail level. My work has been in all the major stores including Target and I have developed proprietary products for Target, Steinmarts, Bed Bath and Beyond, Saks on 5, to name just a few. I have also exhibited at the Surtex show for many many years, served on their advisory board and given seminars on Art Licensing for over 15 years for the show. I also spoke on Art Licensing at the CHA craft show.
    In reading the comments on your blog, it seems that the issue for most designers is how to market their work and Surtex is certainly a good venue for that. The problem is with the downturn in the Art Licensing business and the poor economy, the traffic at all the trade shows has been down the last few years and Surtex is no exception. The increase cost of doing business in NYC has made things even more difficult for both artists and companies. Many manufacturers have cut back on sending people to the shows because of cost and the late timing of the show in May, as may lines have already been planned earlier in the year. The gift show in Atlanta is another venue to look at as all the major manufacturers are there in their showrooms and you can make appointments to go and see them.
    One hint is to develop a collection of designs for fabrics, for example, and then just contact one of the many fabric companies with your collection. I think it is a smarter approach than just sending in jpgs of unrelated designs to show your style. You only get one chance to make your first impression so do your homework. In this competitive environment, you need to have a look and a concept to make the presentation effective. There are so many ways to present your work and face to face is of course the most effective of all.
    If any of you are interested I also do Art Licensing Consulting and can be contacted at my studio near Boston thru my blog at or
    I am also thinking of running a workshop this fall in Marblehead on how to marketing designs, Art Licensing 101, presentations, role playing, all the many techniques that I have developed in my career to make my art licensing business successful.
    Like anything else in life, you need to stand out, to make a great impression, to design something wonderful that the client will want to license. That takes a certain panache and marketing skills to pull it off well. You need to know how to go about getting their attention. There are so many talented designers that just do not have the skill set to market their work. Of course, the alternative is to hire a licensing agent, many who are colleagues of mine, but keep in mind that they take as much as 50% of your income. Lots to think about! Good luck to all and make it happen!

    carol eldridge

  • Reply amy March 26, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    Hooray! Thank you so much for posting about this – I have just asked the same question on my blog. I would like to know how to get cups, trays, plates, tiles – housewares in general with my own designs. I even bought a melamine plate making kit, but that is not the same! I am so happy to be reading this post that I haven’t even finished it yet – just wanted to say thanks, and to those who have commented – you are a huge help!

  • Reply Malinda November 8, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    I am so pleased to have found this post!! Some of the information I have found on my own, but a lot I didn’t know! Thanks so much for posting the request – I hope more people come for this information. I’ve already bookmarked it and will be posting it to my site.

    Malindas last blog post: Pattern

  • Reply Malinda November 12, 2008 at 2:00 am

    oh yes I forgot something – I’m hoping someone is ready this post still. What sort of fees do artist’s generally get?

    Malindas last blog post: testing updates on handheld

  • Reply Ansie October 28, 2011 at 5:41 am

    I know this is an old thread, but just incase someone is still interested, I came across this website and blog with loads of information on this subject:
    I am researching this subject at the moment and found it to be very useful.
    Hope it can still help someone.

  • Reply Mindy July 22, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    I know this is a rather old post but I am trying to research to find companies that will print my designs onto comforters and other bedding. I have found ones for duvet covers but not comforters. I know they are out there but have not yet been lucky enough to find. Anyone know of one?

  • Reply Laurinda Stanton July 15, 2015 at 12:50 am

    I have some art I’ve entitled ‘Word Art’ . Some words are BELIEVE, LIVE , BREATHE, SMILE, PRAY, SHINE. they are done as an ‘abstract graphic’ look.
    Inspiring one word pieces that I have on stretched canvas (no frames), t shirts, and canvas that I have displayed on walls but more as a floor cloth.
    Most are a created with a one color background and the word itself is a white ‘drop out’. Very Simple, aesthetically. It’s all in the layout.
    If they were made into posters or note cards or t shirts I believe they would be received well by the consumer.
    I would so like your feedback and if you would be interested in producing this type of product.

  • Reply Laurinda Stanton July 15, 2015 at 1:34 am

    ooops !
    My post was meant to SFGIRLBYBAY

  • Reply Amelia Owens July 21, 2015 at 1:33 am

    Hello! I know this is an old post but it’s been the best I’ve found in my research so far. I studied painting in school and am interested in opening my own online boutique type store of curated goods, but I would LOVE to include a few designed clothing items featuring patterns I have made. Is there any new hope for small fabric printing that isn’t a Zillion dollars? At this point I not planning on working with a design agency. Let me know! Thank you!

  • Reply Ann LeClercq April 9, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Hello! Thanks to everyone for all the great info, and hoping that everyone who has posted in the past has had success with all their creative endeavors. I’d like to start doing my own fabrics for quilting and basic home sewing. It would definitely be a small run (probably packages of fat quarters), at least at first, but I’d like to be able to work out some type of “print on demand” and also yardage capabilities for the future. If anyone knows of some sources that are reasonable (one source I found wants $12/yard – I don’t even pay $12/yd when I buy quilt fabric), that info would most definitely appreciated. Thanks, and much success to all!

    • Reply Lori Osborn July 9, 2017 at 6:42 pm

      What is the contace into for the company that prints for 12.00 a yard?

  • Reply drawyeu January 23, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Hello All.. This is the nice post and i liked the way you summarize the whole context of selling textile print designs and to market them. So, i would say that our hard work must be paid in the end.

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