Within the last month or so I opted to sell my work using two different print-on-demand sites, as my work schedule and temporary living quarters have made it less than ideal to make/print, sell, and ship my own work. I’ve ordered some items from both sites to check the print quality, and now that I’ve received those and had a chance to use both sites, I thought it might be useful to compare notes.
The sites are Society6 and Redbubble. I’ll be comparing the user interface and ease of uploading to different products, the overall look and browsing experience on each site, the pricing options, the product range, and the quality of the samples I bought of my own art. Lots of pics included!
Since this is a long post, I’ll sum up my results here: Overall, I do like Redbubble more, but I didn’t see major differences in quality between the two. I think there are pros and cons to each site, and with the differences in their product ranges I’ll likely still use both.
(Click pictures to open up an expanded view with more readable captions!)
User interface & uploading
I really prefer RB’s upload system. You can upload one image and apply it to all the products you want, with the option to upload different images for various products as needed. For example, for my Raven product line I had to use Photoshop to collage extra feathers in so that my file would be big enough to print on skirts and leggings, but I used my original photo for prints and cards because that looked better for those products.
Everything other than prints also has a preview where you can scale your image up/down and shift it around to get it exactly where you want it on that product, and some offer a repeat/tiling option. This makes it super easy to tweak each item.
On S6, you MUST upload the image as a print first. Then you can upload additional files to fit other products. Each file has to be exactly the right dimensions before you upload, and you can’t see any previews first. If it doesn’t look right or you don’t like the placement, you have to alter your file and upload again. Dislike.
Redbubble has a much more comprehensive help section.
The only other thing I would note that is for RB, they know that certain products print duller (fabric, matte finishes, etc), and they wash out their preview images to give you a better idea of that. It would be nice if they had an auto-correct feature that could compensate for that, so that you don’t have to blindly mess with your images. More on that later.
Overall: S6 has room for improvement but manages to look a little more high end.
Product previews: I prefer the look of S6 because their product previews are a little nicer; it makes the items look a little more real.
Profile/shop pages: When looking at a specific artist’s profile/shop, I’d love to mash the two together. I like how S6 divvies items up by product category, making it easier if you know you only want to look at pillows by that person, but I don’t like that the preview image for each category is randomly generated, which can make the page look monotonous when images are used multiple times. I like RB’s Profile and Portfolio pages, and the concise look of the Collections, but don’t like how the Shop page displays random products as a default. I haven’t sold anything yet, so looking at my page, I am guessing that ‘Top Selling’ refers to those products site-wide, and it plugs in my most recent products of the same type? I’d rather see a mix of different products/categories.
Product pages: I like how streamlined S6 is, with other available products shown underneath, all in one neat, sidescrolling line. On RB you have to click a tab to show other products, and then scroll down through everything, which is rather ungainly.
Front pages: S6 features artwork across a range of products, mostly regular previews but with a few modeled shots thrown in; RB features new art daily, but they’re just the art, no products. They do feature different categories of products above that.
Both sites have base prices for their products. With RB, you can control the markup on every single product (defaults to 20%, and you can make it more). With S6, you can decide the markup for your prints only, and make a predetermined amount (10%) on other products. With both sites, if you buy your own work, you pay the base price only.*
Pricing is pretty comparable between similar products/sizes.
*A friend asked why I’d do that; the base pricing isn’t really competitive enough that I’d want to have things printed and then sell them myself, but it is nice that I could order some things as Christmas gifts for others. Or myself. I’m totally in love with my mugs, and as soon as I get a new phone, I’m getting a case or skin for it.
Winner: Redbubble for product control
Both sites offer a lot of different products, with some overlap between the two, and some unique options on each.
I prefer RB’s approach, which is that you can upload your file and choose which products to offer.
On S6, you HAVE to offer the image as a print, and then you can choose additional products past that. I chafe at this– what if I only want to offer greeting cards of a specific image? I have some really small paintings that I’ve done that I know will not scale up well as a print, but would be fine for cards. Or what if I want to design something just for a shirt? I feel like my options become limited because I don’t want to bog down my shop with what I’d consider boring or low-quality prints.
The other rub is how S6 groups certain products together in the upload process. Want to sell a greeting card? Good, you’re now selling it as a phone case as well. Throw pillow? Now a tote bag! or if it’s big enough, a shower curtain AND a duvet cover! Even the prints are automatically offered as a fine art print, framed print, and canvas print.
On RB, you can opt in/out of almost every product. Only want to offer a fine art print, and not posters, photographic, metal, framed, and canvas? You can. Phone case only? Yup. Only a few things are lumped together, and they do make sense: regular mugs and tall mugs, greeting cards with the prints*, and… Wait, no, that’s it.
*Only an issue because greeting cards print at a specific ratio. So say your image is square; it prints on the card as a square with a white border. Maybe it’s not a big deal for you, maybe it is. I’d prefer to see greeting/postcards as a separate item that you could tweak the cropping or upload for.
Both are great!
From Society6, I ordered a mini print and a mug featuring my “Mushroom Gatherer”. The quality was great on both. I felt that the colors were a little dark on the print, but that was my bad. (After we moved I forgot to recalibrate my monitor, so when I was saving the file prior to uploading it looked too light, and I darkened it. I switched back to the original version and re-uploaded it.) The mug was great, the colors are perhaps a little more saturated than the original painting, but it really pops. I also ordered two prints by other artists that I really liked, one mini and one small, and both are lovely.
The prints shipped in a tube, the mug in a box. The prints were wrapped in a newsprint sheet; would have preferred a plastic sleeve.
I ordered a slew of things from Redbubble. ^^,
- Mug, “Sprouting”. I didn’t get the same mug as from S6, because I know how the colors are supposed to look on my art, and I wanted to try a different one. Again, the colors were brighter than expected, but in a good way.
- Spiral notebook, “Foraging”. I was disappointed with this one. I think it’s a result of the paper stock they use for the cover, but the colors were quite dull. I plan to alter the image, reupload & reorder.
- Fine art print, “Repurposed”. Just about perfect!
- Photographic print, “Foraging”. Colors were a little dark, but otherwise good & bright. Print is borderless on glossy photo paper, 8×10″.
- Postcard, “Sprouting”; greeting cards, “Raven” and “The Mushroom Gatherer”. Lovely! Colors & quality great, AND the title, artist’s name, and url are printed on the backs. Matte finish; paper stock is a little lighter than the ones I order from Moo, but still great.
- Skirt, “Raven”. Soooo pleased with how this came out. My only lament is that their size chart doesn’t provide measurements, just conversions from XXS-XXL to dress sizes. Skirt #1 was a large, and was super tight. Based on how tight it was, I reordered an XXL. I wear my skirts lower, closer to my hips than my waist, so skirt #2 is perfect. If you plan to wear the skirt a bit higher, I think their size conversions are accurate. The colors look super! The fabric is polyester & elastane, and is quite silky and stretchy.
My order came in four different boxes: mug and notebook (box); art print (tube); photo print and cards (stay-flat mailer); skirt (bag). Everything was well packaged and looked really snazzy– A+ on your packaging, RB! The notebook, prints, and cards all came in plastic sleeves.
Bottom line: If you’re trying to decide which site will be better for you, it might come down to what products you want to offer. Both offer good quality and some unique product options, and each has their quirks that leave room for improvement.