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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Product Mock-up Templates: Creating art for templates & comparison of template packages

Manufacturers can not always visualize how art will look on their products so creating digital product mock-ups and placing your art on them is a good way to market your art. You can create your own mock-up templates or purchase them. Read the articles in "Art Collections / Mockups" section of my blog to see examples of mock-ups and Photoshop/Illustrator tips on creating your own templates.

There is no right or wrong way to represent product shapes. They can be simple sketches of the products or very realistic and three dimensional. Any kind will do the job in showing the manufacturer how the art will look on products and it is up to each artist to choose the style they like. For instance, if your art is characters or a whimsical style, you may wish to use sketched product shapes to compliment your art. Or, if you paint fine art you may choose realistic looking product shapes. The only thing I caution you to do is to make sure that you label your marketing material that the art is available for licensing when showing realistic product mock-ups of your art. You do not want the manufacturer to think that your art is already licensed to a competitor.

Template Packages
If you do not want to create your own templates, there are three different template packages that you can purchase to create product mock-ups; Tara Reed's "Product Mock-Up Magic," All Art Licensing's "PCLS Collection and Presentations Package with 107 Product Templates!," and Phyllis Dobb's "Create Product Mockups." Below is a chart comparing the different packages.

Creating Art for Mock-ups
It is tempting to slap any piece of art on any product template, send it off to manufacturers, and expect licensing deals to pour in. However, not every work of art is suitable for every product so you need to choose only the ones that work for each theme. For instance, flower art works for most products but a party theme is unlikely to work for bath products or bedroom linens. There just is not enough of a market for brightly colored balloons on sheets or shower curtains. :) Read art licensing agent Jim Marcotte's article "Product Design" for a discussion about this.

Also, it is imperative to create interesting product mock-ups with your art in order to get licensing deals. Do not put exactly the same piece of art on every mock-up shape in the collection! As an art director commented in one of my articles, "A true cohesive collection consists of compelling coordinating designs, interesting crops, textures, mix and match print /pattern. The same motif across all SKU's (i.e. product shapes in the collection) is dull and not very exciting." To see examples of product mock-ups, read "The Dynamic Duo #1 - Examples of Art Collections & Mockups" and "The Dynamic Duo #2 - Examples of Art Collections & Mockups."

I welcome any comments. Please write them in the comment section below.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Art Licensing Editorial: Retail is King!

If you have been licensing your art for a while, most likely you have heard the phrase "Retail is King." In otherwords, retail stores rule what products make it into stores, if they are placed in strategic locations OR not, and how long they stay on the shelves before they are moved to the discount table. Product is expected to moved fast and a three month period on store shelves (especially chain stores) is now considered a long time. Seasonal products of course stay in stores the shortest time. Retailers no longer wait until the day after Christmas to reduce prices. This year, I saw Christmas décor prices in some stores reduced 30-60% weeks before Christmas.

To illustrate the power of retailers and how fast products can be put on the "chopping block," one agent during a panel discussion at a Licensing International Show seminar described a manufacturers horror story. A product was scheduled to be introduced to the public on a Monday but as often happens it made it onto the store shelves the previous Friday. On Saturday, two days before the scheduled date, the product was deemed "dead" by the retail chain and move to the discount table. The agent did not say why the retailer decided to immediately sell the product at a discount but you can imagine how that impacted the future of the product. Not only would there be no reorders from that retailer but the word mostly likely spread to other retailers that so-and-so could not sell the product. The product was indeed dead! And if the product had licensed art on it, think what that would do to the reputation of the artist.

Knowing your customer is important in any business. Of course, the ultimate customer is the consumer and retail is the major way* that customers purchase products. How products get into retail and the pitfalls the occur along the path from art to consumer is important knowledge for artists licensing their work. Read art agent Jim Marcotte article "Tap dancing for retail" to learn more about retail, the terms used, and what could happen if a manufacturer does not get the product to the retailer in time.

* In 2010 retail stores is still the major way that consumers purchase products but e-commerce is a strong competitor. It may evidentially take over the number one spot in consumer buying.

Retailers make it their business to stock products that consumers want because the success of their company depends upon it. So a good source in finding out what is popular with consumers is to find sources of information that is aimed at retailers and query manufacturers who have direct links to retailers. Below are some suggestions on how to do it.

• Purchase trend reports & studies about consumer spending habits such as from EPM Communications, Inc. Unfortunate the reports are very pricey and out of reach for most artists. However, the site does have some interesting information worth looking at.

• Searching for articles on the internet about retail trends can be time consuming but one source that has many articles related to retail is the National Retail Federation (NRF) organization. Joining the organization is pricey but the site does have some articles for the public to view. NRF also has a blog with lots of articles such as "Top ten holiday trends for 2010."

• Querying your manufacturer partners is a good source in finding out what art themes are popular. When showing your art to art/licensing directors at trade shows, make sure that you ask about their take on current and future trends.

• Participate in call for submissions (also called art call-out or "cattle-calls") to discover what art themes the manufacturers are looking for. If they are looking for a particular theme, you can be sure that it is what retailers are looking for and thus popular with consumers. For more about cattle-calls, read "Thoughts on Doing CattleCalls - Should You?"

The above list sounds like it would be a lot of work to implement and IT IS. But to be competitive in the art licensing industry and create art that sells at retail, you must be willing to spend the time in finding out what art themes and products consumers purchase.

I welcome any comments or information that you are willing to share. Please write them in the comment section below.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Photoshop Tip: How to create a customized signature brush

As you know, it is important to sign your artwork with a copyright symbol in order to protect it. But the signature is often lost when art is manipulate in Photoshop while creating patterns and derivatives of the art. Of course, a copyright symbol and artist name can be typed and placed on the art but I think it is better to use your own unique signature. One method to do that is to write your signature in a Photoshop file and create a brush of it. A signature brush can be easily reused, re-sized, the color changed, and can be placed anywhere on the image. Below are instructions on how to create your own signature brush in Photoshop.

Image at the right shows the location of some of the commands used in the following instructions.

Create Signature Brush
1. Open a new PS file that is 2500 by about 800 pixels at 300dpi. 2500 by 2500 pixels is the maximum size allowed for a brush. Note: Any size can be used but I chose the largest allowable size so that the signature will be sharp for large paintings.
2. The background layer should be white so that the signature in the above layer really stands out.
3. Create a new layer but do not fill it in with a color. The layer needs to be transparent except for the written signature.
4. Write your signature in black with the Brush Tool. Any brush and thickness size can be used. I used the hard round brush at 25 pixels. Note: It is easier to write your signature with a Wacom pen tablet than with the mouse. Although, I used a mouse for my signature but had to edit it to make it look better.
5. If the signature is too small, enlarge it by selecting it with the Marquee Tool and dragging the window handles after pressing the command key plus the letter T.
6. Use marquee tool to select the entire signature
7. Go to Edit / Define Brush Preset. In the brush name window that opened, name the brush (example: signature brush) and click OK.

Note: For information on creating the copyright symbol © and adding it to your signature for your brush, go to the comment section of this article and checkout my reply to Marci's question.

Test Signature Brush
1. Open a new document to test your new signature brush. Any file size will do.
2. Select the brush tool (located in side panel) and click on the newly created signature brush in the pop-up Brush Preset picker located in the brush option bar (at the top of the page).
3. Choose the color you wish for the signature brush. Make sure that opacity and flow in the brush option bar is 100% or the color saturation in the signature brush will be reduced. In other words, if the flow is set at 50%, the signature would be gray instead of black.
4. Open a new layer and click once to place the signature on the page. By placing it on a separate layer, the signature can easily be edited.

• If the signature is too large, reduce it with the left bracket "[" key. The right bracket "]" key enlarges the brush size.
• The signature size can also be changed in the Brush panel by using the size slider. The brush panel can be opened or closed with the toggle icon in the brush optionbar or by opening it with Window / Brush option (F5).
• The signature can be rotated by using the Free Transform command (command key plus the letter T) or can be warped by using the transform warp command (Edit / Transform / Warp). Warping the signature would be handy when placing it along the edge of a round piece of art or a circular product mock-up.
• The color of the signature can be altered by using the hue/saturation adjustment command (command key plus the letter U) or the curves command (command key plus the letter M).

I welcome any comments or suggestions. Please write them in the comment section below.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Art Licensing: 2011 Trends

Many color and design trends in art licensing seem to be influenced by the fashion industry and then trickle down to crafts, scrapbooking, home decor and finally to the various gift industries. Thus, some of the colors and design elements seen in fashion and clothing design become prevalent years later in licensed art such as exotic animal fur designs, textured backgrounds, stylized floral & leaves, and more recently a grungy-collage art style. Therefore, by following the fashion industry is a good way to determine what design elements and style "may" eventually become popular for product art.

Other trends, originate with events and social concerns existing in the U.S. and around the world such as the Olympic games, museum exhibitions, major movies, the economy, etc. Artists that are attuned to these events, create the right art, have existing connections with manufacturers and convince them to produce trend forward products will be at the forefront of these future trends. For instance, the first artists that created red and purple motifs were able to easily license them when the short lived Red Hat Society mania hit in the mid 2000s. And artists that had teddy bear art before the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear in 2002 received lots of licensing deals. More recently some artists saw art licensing opportunities with the consumer interest in Green America and created art for recycled and ecology related products. But of course, some artists just so happened to have the right art when a trend emerged such as patriotic art stemming from the aftermath of 911.

Pantone is one of the major color trend setters for various industries (fashion, home decor, etc.). And these industries follow Pantone and other color predictions each year. For instance, the Atlanta gift show last January had an abundance of turquoise colored products displayed after Pantone announced that turquoise was the 2010 Color of the Year. The 2009 color of the year was mimosa (bright ochre). Pantone stated in myPantone tweet site that "Each PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR reflects the Zeitgeist (defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history) & provides an emotionally relevant color inspiration for the year." They have not announced the 2011 Color of the Year yet but I assume that there will soon be a proliferation of products with the color once it is made known.

Not all trend predictions become true. But below are links to a few articles on the expected trends for color, art and home décor in 2011.
• "For Spring 2011, the Fashion Color Palette Takes an Inspired Journey of Exotic Hues"

• "2011 Color Forecast by Sherwin-Williams Paint Company"

• "Interior design trends for 2011 will reflect on ancestry"

• "Home Design Trends For 2011 Stress Green, Art And Timelessness"

In my opinion, it is not imperative for you to predict trends in order to be successful in licensing your art. Trying to predict trends can be iffy. You can be ahead of a trend or misread it while the art created for it languishes in your studio. It is more important to be true to your art style, learn what your customers (manufacturers, retail stores, and consumers) are looking for, continually create new art, and make your art fresh and new looking. However, I must admit that I do follow trends to a certain degree and use ones in my new collections that makes sense for my art style. Read art licensing agent, Suzanne Cruise article "How to Keep Art Fresh & New: Reworking Old Art for Today's Greeting Card Market" for information and examples on evolving art and links to other articles on this subject.

Make sure that you read the comments to this article.  Licensing experts have "chimed in" and have posted important information. Thanks to all who took the time to post their questions and the experts who shared their knowledge! ! !

I welcome any comments. Please write them in the below comment section.