Artwork for CafePress - Chapter 1

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Artwork for CafePress

by BogusRed

Libraries: PhotoShop Tutorials

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This tutorial covers the basics for preparing your artwork for use in the PaperDemon Cafe Press store. Although, this may also be useful to those of you with your own Cafe Press store.


This tutorial is for those of you who want to put your artwork on products in the PaperDemon CafePress store. Although if you have your own CafePress store, then this may be useful to you as well. Anyway, this tutorial covers the basics for image preparation. For this tutorial, I will be using the Journal (Sketchbook) product as an example.

You are going to need an image editing program such as Adobe Photoshop. I am not familiar with PhotoShop Elements or Paint Shop Pro but they would probably suffice. I doubt MS Paint will be good enough.

Selecting an Image

The first thing you need to do is decide what artwork you wish to use. Pick something that you think someone might want to buy. Also think about what product it would be best on. If you have something really graphic like, it might look good on a T-shirt. If you have something more like a sketch, it might look better on a Journal. If you are having trouble picking an image, I suggest sending a link to your gallery to your friends and ask for their opinions. Or post a topic in the forums asking the members for help. Please also be sure that the artwork you have chosen is available to you at a high resolution digital image. I'll explain this in more detail later. Once you have your image or images selected, send me a private message or an email with links to these artworks so that I can approve them (that is if you want to sell this artwork in the PD store).

Select a Product

After you've selected your image, choose a product you'd like to put this artwork on. Here is a complete list of products with descriptions. You are not limited to how many products you want to put your artwork on. But for now, just pick one to start with. The popular choices are the Journal, Calendar Print, Mini Poster, T-shirts, and mouse pads.


For every product at CafePress there is a template file that is used to aid you in preparing your image. It allows you to have complete control over the placement of your artwork and I'm going to require everyone who submits art to the PD store to use them. It takes extra time, but that time is necessary to ensure that the products offered at the PD store are of the best quality. We are artists and we want to use just as much care in this stage as we did in making our artwork. For this tutorial, I'll be using the Journal product as an example. You can download the Journal template here. A complete list of the templates can be found here. (If these links stop working at some point, please contact me by writing a review or something and I'll update the links)

Using the Template

The templates are zipped so go ahead and extract the template file and open it in your image editing program, along with the artwork you've chosen. Go ahead and read all of the messages in the CafePress template. Any product that has a full bleed option will have a dotted line in there to indicate where the "Safety zone" is located. T-shirts and other apparel do not have full bleed so you will not have to worry about this. But the point is, you don't want to put anything important on the outside of the dotted line because these areas may be cut off.

Now go ahead and copy your artwork into the template on a new layer and save your template as a new file (PSD if you are working with Photoshop so that you retain the layers). In Photoshop, to copy your artwork to the template, just select your artwork, drag it's layer onto the template image and it will appear as a new layer. Now, if your artwork is too small and doesn't cover all or most of the area of the template, your image is NOT at a high enough resolution. DO NOT MAKE YOUR IMAGE BIGGER. Do not just simply do a Transform or go into image properties and make the image bigger. By doing that you are asking the image editing program to create pixels that weren't there before and these programs aren't very good at doing it, which means the quality of your image will degrade SIGNIFICANTLY when you resize your image to a bigger size. If you do this and submit it to me, your submission will be rejected. Below is an example showing the detail of one of my art pieces. The left side shows the image at high quality, while the left shows what the lower quality version looks like resized to make it bigger. Notice how it looks very fuzzy and still retains that blocky look of the pixels.

image quality example

Instead, re-scan your image at a higher resolution. To know what resolution to scan it at, you'll have to look at your product template's size. The Journal's size is 5.5 by 8.5 inches at 200 dpi. So if your artwork on paper is about the same (5.5 by 8.5 inches) then scan it at 200 dpi. If your artwork is smaller, like maybe only 4 inches tall, scan it at a little more than twice the dpi, like 450. If you don't want to do the math, you can always just scan the artwork at a really high resolution such as 600 dpi or higher and resize it later. The elf angel drawing seen in the PD store was only 3 inches tall, so I scanned it at 600 dpi to be safe. If your artwork was done digitally and you didn't work at a high enough resolution, or for whatever reason you can't scan the original artwork, then I'm sad to say that you may not be able to use this artwork.

Note to Digital Artists

If you do work digitally, I suggest you start working at a size of 11 x 17 at 300 to 450 dpi so that your artwork in the future can be used for pretty much all of the products in the CafePress store and so that in the future, if you ever want to publish a book of your artwork, you'll have high quality versions of your artwork available.

If your image is too small, there may still be hope

journal image small center

If you can't obtain a higher resolution scan for some reason such as you gave away the original art or you drew it digitally at a small resolution, then there may still be hope. What you could do is just have the artwork small on the product. Like have the artwork small and in the lower right corner or in the center of the journal as shown in the example on the left. This works best if your artwork is a vignette, meaning it blends in with the background or has no background, such as the angel drawing shown in this example.

So place your image where you want it to be and take note of the template. If your artwork is too big, just go to Edit > Free Transform and you should see handles appear around your layer so that you can resize your artwork. Hold down the Shift key on your keyboard while you adjust the handles so that your artwork resizes in proportion. If you don't see the image resizing handles, zoom out by selecting the magnifying glass tool, holding down the Alt key and clicking. If you want to be able to see the template as you position your artwork, double click on the layer with the template and this will bring up a Layer Properties dialog box (this is in Photoshop anyway). Just click OK and it should turn it into a movable layer. Move the layer to the top of the pile of layers and then change the opacity of the layer down to something like 25% and you should see your artwork through the template. Then select your artwork layer and position it where you want it, making sure nothing vital is outside of the dashed line.

Dressing up your images

If your artwork is just a pencil sketch, you may want to add some effects on it to make it more interesting for print. There is an effect that I use on a lot of my sketches in my galleries such as on these Vegeta sketches that only takes a few minutes in Photoshop. Make sure your artwork layer is selected and then go up to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast... and then lower the brightness by about 35 points. This makes the white areas gray. Next, go to Image > Adjustments > Color Balance... and then adjust the sliders to make the sketch any color you want. Now your sketch is just a little more interesting for print. You may want to take a couple minutes to add in some highlights by selecting the paint brush and painting some white paint in areas as I've done with the Vegeta sketches. I think I also did some shadows too. Anyway, it's up to you.

There are also other kinds of effects you can apply to your sketch to make it interesting, too. Look around at what other artists do. There is actually a "Action" set in Photoshop to instantly apply a sepia tone effect. There are other image effects in there too so experiment with them. If you don't see the Action palette, go to Windows > Actions and that should make them visible. Look in the Image Effects folder (in Photoshop CS 2). Remember that if you don't like what you see, you can always undo it by going back in the History Palette.


Another thing you may want to do is create a simple background for your artwork if needed to fill the white space. White is so boring and it only takes a few minutes to create an interesting background. This is especially recommended if your artwork is too small for the product and/or it is a full bleed product (I.E. not apparel). When I created the Celtic Elf journal, I could have just had the little boy holding his staff and flag and had a plain white or flat color background. But that would be too boring. So I created a quick and dirty background. I think the way I started it was created a new layer behind the artwork and then filled it with a flat de-saturated green color. Then I selected the brush tool and chose an interesting textured brush from one of Photoshop's preset brushes, selected a new color, lowered the opacity of the brush, and then started painting in. From time to time I'd change the color, brush, opacity, and brush size and kept going until I built up an interesting look. I also used some royalty free images from a Dover book for the celtic knots. Play around with the Photoshop filters and texture effects as well.

Watch out for Halos

If your artwork is a sketch or has a white background or something, you'll need to remove it if you want your new background to show through. You don't want to end up with a weird white box there. The first thing you might think of doing is using the Magic Wand tool to select the white and remove it. This is an ok approach if the settings are set correctly. If it isn't done correctly, you'll end up with this ugly white halo around the art. If your drawing is a sketch, instead of going through all of that hassle with the selection tools, just select the layer with the sketch, and then change the Blending mode to Multiply in the Layers Palette as shown below.

Blending Options


Now your artwork should be ready to go. For most of the products in the PD shop, I'd like it if the PD logo or the text was on the product somewhere. You can add this text yourself using a standard font such as Times New Roman or something else where we don't have to worry about copyright laws for fonts, or you can ask me to add the logo or have me use one of the fonts available. For previews of available fonts, see the submission guidelines page.

Save your PSD file (or whatever your master file is) then hide or delete the template layer, flatten the image, and do a Save As. Save it in either JPG or PNG format at the maximum quality setting. It's preferred that you save it as a PNG format because JPG's compress and usually have some quality loss although it isn't that significant. Then you can just email your image(s) to me at kage_suishou [at] yahoo [dot] com or one of my other email addresses if you happen to know them.

Author's Note

As always, if there is anything that you think is unclear about this tutorial or think there are areas that need some more elaboration, please let me know. I hope this tutorial has been helpful.

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