What I Learned Sampling My Palette on Redbubble Merchandise

Earlier this year, I realized I wanted a very specific mug with a Venus flytrap line drawing on it (currently the banner on this blog), and I could draw it myself using my photos as a reference. I got the red for my design by sampling an area of my flytrap’s leaf, and happily awaited my new mug (and impulse matching tote bag).

I was disappointed when they came. A little. Not too much. The red on my mug was too yellow, and my tote bag was too blue. I wasn’t surprised though, I knew enough about design to know that a lot of palettes are made with specific inks in mind, and I was basically rolling the dice colorwise. If I had printed the photo of the plant, it probably would have been fine. The results of the color would have been covered up by nearby colors averaging it out. Isolating a color with an eyedropper tool and using it to fill a large area meant any problems with the color would be magnified.

Testing your palette means that you know beforehand how your colors will behave on different materials. I would like to be able to use my Prisma pencils or the palette in my drawing software (Autodesk SketchBook), and know that I can rely on them. My first samples used a minimal palette and logic based on what pencil tins I would take with me on a roadtrip, unfortunately my minimal approach was a bad idea.

My samples showed me that I couldn’t trust fairly standard colors as much as I thought I could. I eliminated a few I really liked, and didn’t have something to replace them with. I should have tested a larger range of colors. The images I uploaded to my shop for the next round of samples (when I can afford them) addresses that. The new image samples all the pencils I have on hand. It’s not meant to represent the complete range of the brand. There’s almost 75 of them on my image, though.

Comparison of mug sample to the magnet, showing a vast difference in one red and some subtle differences in others.

Because I spent all my money on the more limited samples, I can only discuss my results from those, but they’re useful. I couldn’t afford to get a sample of everything. But, I know from experience that ceramic and cloth are a must. I also got a card, the range of stickers, and a magnet to see what I could soft proof and what I could not.

Comparing my samples to a test print from my home printer and my laptop screen.

I can indeed use my home printer to soft proof cards, as well as matte and glossy stickers, as long as I keep a few things in mind. Cards seemed to be a little more dark or saturated, and greens seemed a tad more blue. Stickers weren’t as saturated, due to a very slight difference in texture that allows a hint of white to come through.

Your own experience with your printer would tell you if you need to get samples on these materials, but I’ll tell you right away to not bother with both glossy and matte stickers. Just get one or the other, they were almost exactly the same. However, transparent stickers and magnets seemed to get slightly different results. That’s fine though, they’re inexpensive enough to get samples of.

Cloth is generally lighter, brighter, and less saturated. At the same time, it seems more vivid. This is probably because the actual ink is more saturated, but the white parts of the cloth show through. I’m basing my results on a mask, but it might be worth the effort to order a wider range of cloth samples. Things with a tighter weave will show more detail, a looser weave will lose more saturation.

The ceramic surface feels glassy smooth, but the colors themselves are a little textured, almost like paper. This causes the colors to be a little more reflective and brighter. Red tones are more vivid. Drinking coffee out of this mug while I draw is way more satisfying than I thought it would be.

The next time I order samples, I will order transparent stickers, a mug, a magnet, a cell phone cover, a mask, a zippered pouch, and a tote bag. When combined with soft proofing, that should provide enough information for fairly reliable results on a range of products. After that, as long as I’m careful to not use my colors in a way that might create a shade that goes off of my palette, my designs are fairly safe, and the only samples I have to worry about ordering are the things I want to own in the first place.

Because the process of organizing these samples took a couple of days (partly because I was dealing with about three decades’ worth of pencils), I went ahead and put my palette up in my store so others can use it and not have to go through all that. Even if you use different software, you can use my sample with an eyedropper tool and compare it to the image below. If you order on something that provides you with a lot of information (like an iPad cover or something else that I haven’t tested), please let me know and I’ll update this page to add your information and link to your results on your own site and store (if you like).

This leads to the part where I point out this means my store is now open. In fact, I have a whole new promotional page that has some free downloads as well.

Maybe you want to sample my palette, maybe you like my art, or maybe someone in your audience will. Please share, I need to raise the money to buy more samples, and I’m hoping the usefulness of this article will help me reach people willing to buy my products. I especially want a zippered pouch to hold my pencils, I have no idea what the material on those is like, but that would be a great reference to have right on the pencils. I’m hoping it will be a plastic type canvas that shows detail well. I also kinda really want a flytrap hardback journal for a bog garden diary.

P.S. – That first mug idea I had, the one that fueled the desire to start designing things? I knew I would be revising it and ordering the revised version in the future anyway, so I decided it would also do as a sample for how well the item held up to serious wear and tear. It became my only drinking mug, and I put it in the dishwasher daily, right next to where the jets came out. Don’t do that. I think a slip of paper with my last mug said it was dishwasher safe. If so, that would be only an occasional dishwashering with cooler temperatures, away from the jets. If you really like a mug from Redbubble, hand wash only. Once the flaking started it did not stop, even when I switched to hand washing. Guess I also need a new flytrap mug.

P.P.S. – I almost forgot. I have a goal. If I get 1000 followers on Instagram, Joe will work with me on getting a better camera. I really enjoy taking photos, but my camera is actually a camcorder. I can’t even adjust some of the settings on it. Take a look at my Instagram, and follow me if you think I deserve an upgrade.