The list of ways to sell artwork is HUGE.
I’ve found myself constantly researching, trying to work out what the best options are - which websites should I be using, what products should I be making, how much time and effort will I have to invest to sell something?
Redbubble, on the surface, looks like it would simplify all of that for me: I just upload my art, Redbubble handles everything else, and I get a regular monthly cheque! Sounds like a great deal.
So, I’ve dug into it to figure out if Redbubble is too good to be true.
In my opinion, Redbubble is an easy way to reduce the number of steps it takes to sell artwork, but they take a huge cut. You will still have to find customers and send them to your shop, or make a huge amount of targeted designs, to make any money.
Finding customers is the hardest part of selling artwork, so ultimately I think Redbubble should only be considered by a small percentage of artists.
With that said, let’s dig deeper into Redbubble and the various factors that will affect your success on the platform, and whether you should even consider using it.
What is Redbubble?
Redbubble.com is an online print-on-demand store, designed to help artists sell their work on products and merchandise including T-shirts, stickers, device cases and posters. Redbubble handles all of the manufacture, printing, shipping and customer service as well as giving each artist their own personal store on the platform. All the artist has to do is upload their work, choose which products their work will be sold on, and get a payment from Redbubble once a month.
Redbubble has a fairly extensive product catalogue:
Clothing, including T-shirts, Hoodies and sweatshirts, Tank tops, Dresses, Leggings, Skirts, Socks, Scarves, and Kids and Babies clothes
Stickers including car stickers, helmet stickers, and laptop stickers
Device cases, including wallets and skins for laptops, iPads, iPhones and Samsung galaxy phones
Wall art including Paper Prints, Art Board Prints, Framed Prints, Canvas, Metal, Mounted Prints, Photographic prints, Posters and Tapestries.
Home & living including Acrylic blocks, Bath mats, Bedding, Coasters, Clocks, Floor pillows, Mugs, Shower curtains, Pillows and Blankets
Accessories including Drawstring bags, tote bags, travel mugs, water bottles, zipper pouches, pins and buttons and cloth face masks.
Stationery including greetings cards, spiral notebooks, hardcover journals, postcards and pencil cases.
Basically, Redbubble will print your art on a lot of different stuff.
Why do artists use Redbubble
Making money from art is a lot of work. Making the art is just step 1; next you have to turn it into a product, then you have to find customers, and THEN you have to sell and ship it! Most of us aren’t able or willing to make printed T-shirts at home, and most of us don’t have the money to open a high street store and employ staff to sell those T-shirts.
More importantly, a lot of us want to spend our time making art, NOT on all those other steps.
I think most artists that turn to Redbubble are using it because they are short on time and energy. Redbubble offers to take care of all the other steps, so the artist can concentrate on making art.
What Redbubble isn't making clear, is that the artist has to take care of the hardest parts, while Redbubble does the easy stuff and keeps the lion’s share of the profits.
Pros of Redbubble
Despite being a little down on Redbubble, I do recognise there are upsides to using it:
Redbubble will host your store and gallery for you - setting up your own site with a store would generally cost around $20+ a month, so it’s a reasonable monthly saving.
You only need to upload one jpg for each piece of art you want to sell, and Redbubble will quickly put that art on all of their products with only a small amount of tweaking needed to make the art fit properly. Setting up the same amount of products on your own website would take a lot more work and time.
Redbubble will handle payment processing, printing and manufacture, quality control, worldwide delivery, and customer service, so you don't have to and instead can concentrate on making the art (this might sound like a big deal, and it is, but I’ll explain later in the article why Redbubble doesn't deserve much props for this).
Redbubble let’s you completely control your products and your profit margin - Redbubble has a flat price tag for each product; you decide how much extra to charge for your cut of the sale. Not every place gives you this much control.
Once products are up, any sales you make on Redbubble are passive income, requiring no further time from you.
Cons of Redbubble
Sales you make on Redbubble may be passive, but you’ve still got to take care of the two hardest, most time consuming and most valuable steps yourself: making the art, and finding the customers.
You are competing with all the other artists on Redbubble marketplace; once you send your customer to Redbubble, you are also sending that customer to every single other artist on Redbubble! There is every chance that they end up distracted by someone else’s work.
When a customer makes a purchase, you don’t get their contact information, but Redbubble does.
This is a HUGE deal, as now that person is Redbubble’s customer. Let me explain:
The people most likely to purchase your latest work are those who have bought from you before. If you use Redbubble and create a new product for sale, you have no reliable way to contact people who have bought from you before, unless you know them all personally.
Redbubble however, because they have the contact information, can market other artists work to your customers whenever they want to. Customers that YOU worked hard for and then sent over to Redbubble!
It just isn’t a fair system at all.
There will be Redbubble branding on the product, on the packaging and on the email receipt, not your own branding. Your customer will be building brand loyalty with Redbubble, and not with you.
Redbubble controls the product quality, so you don’t know if poor quality goods are being sent out to your followers. This is a con of using any print on demand fulfilment company.
The profits are small, even for print-on-demand. In 2023, they also introduced new fees. The new fee only effects small sellers, making somewhere under $800 a month I would guess, and cut your profits by another 10-50% depending on how much you sell per month. The big sellers dont have to pay the fee.
Read the next section for some alternative print-on-demand companies that offer better margins.
Is there something better than Redbubble out there?
There are many platforms that offer the same deal as Redbubble; hands-off print-on-demand services that will print and fulfil merchandise for you, like Zazzle and Society 6, but honestly the differences between these platforms are very small and they are all, in my opinion, a bad deal for most artists.
The best of the bunch, if you want to concentrate on selling prints, is undoubtedly INPRNT.com, as they pay much higher rates to the artist.
There are some other alternatives to Redbubble that provide many of the pros and a higher profit margin, with fewer of the cons.
Printful, Printify and Prodigi are all print-on-demand companies like Redbubble, but they are what is known as ‘white-label’; instead of hosting your work in a store on their marketplace, you host the merchandise on your own website and it is shipped with your own branding.
The profit margins are around double, you have better control over the product quality, the branding is all your own and you get to keep the customer’s contact information, which on its own is well worth the work and expense of having your own site.
How to use Redbubble most effectively
Not everyone is ready to have their own website, I get it.
Redbubble does have it's own customers that browse the site. If you can figure out what those customers might buy and then make it for them, you stand a chance of making some money.
This means fan art, on-trend designs, popular seasonal designs, that sort of thing. Things that people are looking to buy anyway, without you having to sell to them. The king of that sort of strategy is Michael Essek. You do have to make hundreds to thousands of designs if you want to make a living that way, but it can be lucrative if you’re good at jumping on trends.
On the other hand, if you are like most artists, you make art for yourself. It’s not really seasonal, its not really designed to appeal to a market.
If this is you, sites like Redbubble are probably not going to generate much money for you.
Still, Redbubble and sites like it might be an easy way to get your feet wet selling prints and merch with minimal time investment.
You can try out Redbubble, test the waters and see if making merchandise is something that you want to pursue, and if you have an audience that will buy it.
However, once you are making about $30 a month from Redbubble, enough to cover the costs of a website, I strongly recommend moving to a white-label company like printful so you can keep the customers that you've put so much time into nurturing. You’ll make more money, and your customers will feel more connected with you.
So, is Redbubble worth it for artists?
Hahaha. Here’s my opinion:
Check out INPRNT.com first. If you still choose to use Redbubble, go into it understanding that you’re doing 80% of the work for 10 to 20% of the profits. Companies like Redbubble are just about the least profitable way of selling prints and merchandise.
Making your own products and merch yourself is going to have the highest profit margins, and after that going for a white-label company like Printful.
Since most of us aren't going to make our own T-shirts in the garage, I only recommend using Redbubble if you want to test out selling merchandise, without having to put in a lot of work or money up front. You aren’t going to make much money, almost guarenteed, but it’s a good way to play about and see what’s possible.
After that, make yourself a website and integrate something like Printful.
Hey, I’m Christopher
I started making digital art in 2009, became a full-time freelance artist in 2016, and now I’m able to work on my own schedule from anywhere in the world.
I created this blog to help other artists make the same journey.