How to Start a Printables Business: A Beginner’s Guide

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Kevin Hayler: Professional Wildlife artist, author, and traveler.

In many ways, the Printables business model is the answer to your prayers, if you can make it work. There’s no stock, no shipping, and a recurring income. That’s why I’m writing this post. I needed to know how to start a Printables business.

The easiest way to start a printables business is to open an Etsy store. This platform is user-friendly with a large existing customer base already searching for your digital products. The next step is to link your Etsy store to your own website and social media to drive more traffic to your listings.

This is passive income after a lot of hard work! With that said, this is a long article so let’s crack on.

These are jump links if you need to skip to the sections that interest you most:

Disclaimer: When you buy something via my affiliate links I earn from qualifying purchases and sometimes earn a commission, at no extra cost to you. I am an Amazon Associate among others. I only recommend trusted sites.

What is a Printables Business?

A printable business revolves around the creation and sale of digital files that customers can purchase, download, and print themselves. These can range from printable wall art, calendars, and to-do lists, to, stickers, coloring pages, and more. For artists and graphic designers, starting a printable business is a wise move. 

It allows them to monetize their creativity and art skills and offers a platform to reach a global audience without any of the logistical challenges of producing and shipping physical products. Moreover, it provides a source of fairly passive income, as a single design can be sold repeatedly, making it a sustainable and scalable business model.

Getting Started With Your Printables Business

Choosing the Right Platform for Your Printable Business 

Choosing the right platform for your printable business is crucial as it can significantly impact your reach, sales, and overall success. The platform should be user-friendly, secure, and have a large customer base. Ideally, it should also provide tools for showcasing your products, managing transactions, and communicating with customers.

Popular platforms for selling printables include:

  • Etsy: Known for handmade and vintage items, it’s a favorite for printables due to its large, global customer base.
  • Amazon: As one of the largest online marketplaces, Amazon offers a vast customer base and robust selling tools, making it a viable platform for selling printables.
  • Allows you to create your own standalone store with comprehensive e-commerce features.
  • eBay: A well-established platform with a broad customer base.
  • Creative Market: A platform specifically for digital design assets, including printables.
  • An all-in-one platform that allows creators to sell directly to their audience, perfect for printables.
  • Creative Fabrica: A marketplace for digital files, including fonts, graphics, and crafts, which makes it suitable for printables.
  • Your Own Website: If you have the technical skills or resources, creating your own website gives you full control over your brand, customer experience, and profits. Offer downloads via the Woocommerce plugin or integrate with Gumroad or Sendowl

Remember to consider the specific needs of your business and your target audience when choosing a platform.

Creating a Brand: Business Name, Logo, and Internet Presence

What Types of Printables Can You Sell as Digital Downloads?

As you venture into the printable business, consider offering a diverse range of products to cater to different customer needs.

Here are some popular printable types that you can consider:

  • To-Do Lists: Help your customers stay organized with printable to-do lists, perfect for both personal and professional use.
  • Digital Planners: Offer comprehensive digital planners that can assist in scheduling, goal setting, and productivity.
  • Printable Wall Art: Provide beautiful and unique designs that customers can print and display in their homes or offices.
  • Coloring Pages: Cater to the growing adult coloring trend with intricate designs that provide relaxation and stress relief.
  • Greeting Cards: Create printable greeting cards for various occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.
  • Wedding Invitations: Design elegant and customizable wedding invitations that couples can print and distribute for their big day. This can be a lucrative niche
  • Inspirational Quotes: Design printables featuring motivational or thoughtful quotes that can serve as daily reminders or wall decor.
  • Educational Printables: Develop educational materials like worksheets, flashcards, or learning games that can be used by teachers or parents.
  • Digital Paper: Offer unique digital paper designs that can be used for scrapbooking, crafting, or digital design.
  • Calendars: Create printable calendars, ranging from yearly overviews to detailed daily planners.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many printable products for sale as digital downloads the list is enormous. 

The key to a successful printable business is offering high-quality, unique designs that cater to your target audience’s needs and preferences. The most successful products solve a problem. It’s your task to make digital printables that fulfill a need. 

Let’s not forget ebooks. And by sheer coincidence, I have written my own!

Selling art made simple banner

Where to Research Ideas for Printables

Coming up with ideas for your printable designs can feel like a challenging task. Fortunately, there are many great places to research ideas for printables. 

One great place to look for inspiration is Pinterest. This platform is full of creative ideas and can be a great way to get started with your own printables. 

You can browse through different categories such as home decor, lifestyle, or organization, and save images that spark your interest. Don’t forget to take note of any color schemes or design elements that you find particularly eye-catching. 

Another valuable resource is Etsy itself. Browse through best-selling printables on the Etsy store to see what kind of printables people are currently buying. 

This can give you an idea of what types of printables are in demand at the moment and help you identify gaps in the market that you could potentially fill with your own unique designs. 

If you have graphic design skills and experience working with digital files, websites like Creative Market or Creative Fabrica offer high-quality printable designs that will inspire your own creations. 

​If you already have an email list, your own website or an active Facebook group, that potential customers visit regularly, ask them what type of printables they would like to see from you! 

What Tools Do You Need to Start Making and Selling Printables

You don’t need much really. You can cut corners everywhere to save money.

Here is a list of things that you’ll need to run a business, ideally:

  • Graphic Design Software: Tools like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or free alternatives like Canva or GIMP are essential for creating your printables.
  • Scanner: If you’re creating hand-drawn artwork, a scanner will help you digitize your work. The Epson V6 home scanner is top-notch.
  • Computer/Laptop: You’ll need a reliable computer with enough ram to run a photo editor smoothly. 
  • iPad: If you have an iPad you can do your digital art with the Procreate App and an Apple Pencil. An iPad is perfect for work on the go.
  • Online Platform: An online marketplace or website to sell your printables.
  • Marketing Tools: Social media platforms, email marketing software, and SEO tools (Marmalead for Etsy) can help you market your products and reach your target audience.
Marmalead homepage screenshot

When using other people’s artwork or graphics in your printable designs it’s important not only to ensure they have commercial use rights but also provide proper credit where required.

Overall having the right tools combined with creative printable designs and a good marketing strategy through SEO-optimized Etsy, blog posts, and social media presence can turn this venture into a great way of generating passive income. 

How to Create Your Printables

Creating designs for your digital products can be done in various ways, depending on your skills, resources, and the specific needs of your project. 

Creating Designs Yourself in a Photo Editor

If you have skills in graphic design, you can use photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop or GIMP to create your designs from scratch. This gives you complete control over every aspect of your design, from the colors and fonts to the layout and graphics.

Once your design is complete, you can import it into Canva to add any additional elements or to use Canva’s templates and tools for further customization.

Using Canva’s Design Tools

Canva is a user-friendly design tool that’s great for beginners and those without formal design training. It offers a wide range of pre-made templates, fonts, and graphics that you can use to create your designs.

You can also upload your own images and graphics to use in your designs. While you may not have as much control as when using a more advanced photo editor, Canva’s intuitive interface and extensive resources make it easy to create professional-looking designs.

Purchasing Digital Assets

If you don’t have the time or skills to create your own designs, you can purchase digital assets from online marketplaces like Creative Market, Shutterstock, or Etsy. These assets can include everything from graphics and illustrations to fonts and templates.

Once you’ve purchased these assets, you can import them into your photo editor or Canva to incorporate them into your designs. Make sure to check the license of any assets you purchase to ensure you’re allowed to use them in the way you intend.

You can buy art mockups on Creative Market you should check it out.

Hiring a Graphic Designer

If you have a specific vision for your design or if you want something truly unique, you might consider hiring a professional graphic designer. This can be done through freelance platforms like or Fiverr.

While this option can be more expensive, it can also result in higher quality and more personalized designs.

The best option depends on your specific needs, skills, and resources. It’s also possible to use a combination of these options. For example, you might use Canva’s tools to create a basic design, then purchase digital assets to add unique elements to your design.

How to Start Selling Your Printables From Your Own Website

Setting up your own WordPress website to sell printables is a viable option that gives you full control over your business. WordPress is a powerful and flexible platform that allows you to create a professional-looking website without needing advanced technical skills.

To start, you’ll need to choose a domain name that reflects your brand and a hosting provider that supports WordPress. Once your website is set up, you can customize it using WordPress themes and plugins to match your brand’s aesthetic and functionality needs.

One essential plugin for your printable business is WooCommerce. This free eCommerce plugin makes it easy to set up an online store on your WordPress site. It allows you to list digital products, set prices, and handle transactions securely.

However, having a website is not enough. You need to attract enough traffic to your store to make sales.

This is where marketing comes in. Implement SEO strategies to improve your website’s visibility on search engines, create engaging content to attract and retain visitors, and leverage social media to reach a wider audience. This is no minor task. 

Finding an audience is your biggest hurdle. A new fully SEO-optimised website will not attract significant traffic for at least 6 months, sometimes much longer.

Your marketing skills will drive traffic but make no mistake, there is nothing passive about this aspect of the business. 

While setting up your own website gives you more control, it also comes with more responsibilities. Websites need constant attention to function properly. As an alternative, you could consider using third-party eCommerce platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce.

If you need convincing read this: Do Artists Need a Website? Yes – 11 Best Reasons Why

These platforms handle a lot of the technical aspects for you, at a price, and that allows you to focus more on creating and selling your printables.

The success of your printable business depends not only on the quality of your products but also on how effectively you can reach and engage your target audience.

Whether you choose to sell on your own website or a third-party platform, always prioritize your customers’ needs and strive to provide them with the best possible experience.

I use GreenGeeks for web hosting because they are carbon-neutral and have great support.

How to Sell Your Printables on Etsy

Most people will sell their printable downloads on Etsy. 

This outline will give you an overview:

  1. Start a New Listing: Log into your Etsy account and navigate to your shop manager. Click on “Add a listing”.
  2. Upload Digital Files: Scroll down to the “Digital Files” section. Click on “Add a digital file” and upload your product files.
  3. Create a Title: Write a descriptive title for your product. Include relevant keywords to help potential buyers find your listing.
  4. Write a Description: Provide detailed information about your product in the description section. Explain what the buyer will receive and how they can use the product.
  5. Set a Price: Determine a competitive price for your product. Consider the complexity of the design, the time it took to create, and the prices of similar items on Etsy. Enter this price in the “Price” field.
  6. Publish the Listing: Once you’ve filled out all the necessary information, click on “Publish” to make your listing live on Etsy.

I wrote these posts about Etsy:

Make Sure to Deliver the Right File Type

If you’re new to digital downloads and unsure about which file types to use for your Etsy products.

Here are some commonly used formats and their applications:

  1. PDF (Portable Document Format): This is a versatile file format that maintains the quality of your design and can be opened on almost any device. It’s ideal for printables like posters, planners, or eBooks.
  2. JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group): This is a common format for images and photographs. It’s widely supported across devices and platforms. However, it’s a lossy format, meaning some quality is lost when the image is compressed. It’s suitable for digital art, photography, and printable designs where small file size is more important than perfect quality.
  3. PNG (Portable Network Graphics): This format is ideal for images with transparent backgrounds, like logos or clip art. It’s a lossless format, meaning it maintains its quality regardless of compression. However, PNG files are typically larger than JPEGs.
  4. SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics): This format is used for vector graphics, which can be scaled to any size without losing quality. It’s ideal for designs that customers may want to enlarge, like logos or cut files for machines like Cricut or Silhouette.
  5. ZIP (Zipped File): This is not a format for the designs themselves, but a way to compress multiple files into one download. If you’re offering a bundle of designs or multiple file types for each design, you can put them all in a ZIP file for easier downloading.

If your digital files are too large to upload directly to Etsy (over 20MB), you can use a cloud storage service like Dropbox to deliver them to your customers.

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Upload the Files to Dropbox: Sign in to your Dropbox account. If you don’t have one, you can create it for free. Click on “Upload files” and select the files from your computer that you want to share with your customers. Wait for the files to upload completely.
  2. Create a Shareable Link: Once your files are uploaded, you can create a shareable link. To do this, hover over the file or folder you want to share, click on the “Share” button, and then click on “Create a link”. Once the link is created, click on “Copy Link”.
  3. Provide the Link to Your Customers: Now, you need to give this link to your customers so they can access the files. Since Etsy doesn’t allow you to send the link directly through their platform, you can create a PDF with the link and upload that to Etsy. When your customers download the PDF, they can click the link to access the files on Dropbox.

Remember to set your Dropbox link to “view only” to prevent anyone from altering or deleting your files. Also, make sure your customers know they’ll be receiving a Dropbox link, and provide instructions on how to download the files from Dropbox.

Choose a Scaleable Aspect Ratio for Wall Art

Aspect ratio plays a crucial role in the creation of art prints for digital download. It refers to the proportional relationship between the width and height of an image. For instance, a 4×5 ratio means the width is 4 units and the height is 5 units.

This ratio is significant as it allows an image to be scaled to different sizes while maintaining the same proportions, ensuring the integrity of the design.

For example, a design created at 16×20 inches under the 4×5 ratio can be scaled down to 12×15 inches or 8×10 inches. These sizes maintain the same width-to-height ratio, allowing for flexibility in printing while preserving the design’s quality.

Offering designs under other ratios, such as 3×4 and 2×3, and saving them in different sizes, provides additional options for customers.

By providing five versions of the design in different aspect ratios, customers have the flexibility to choose the size that best fits their needs. This will increase sales and reduce the need to reply to customer requests.

These related posts are worth reading:

​The Importance Of Adding the Right Keywords

Keywords play a pivotal role in Etsy listings, significantly influencing how easily potential customers can discover your products. They are the words and phrases that accurately describe your product and are likely to be used by potential customers in their search queries.

Etsy’s search engine, like all search engines, uses keywords to understand the content of your listing and match it with user queries. When a customer types a query into Etsy’s search bar, the search engine scans all the listings for relevant keywords to find the most suitable matches.

Sandra Di has a Youtube Channel where she shares many of her best tips.

Here’s how keywords and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) work together to enhance your product’s visibility:

  1. Title and Tags: Incorporating relevant keywords into your product title and tags is crucial. These are the primary areas Etsy’s search engine looks at when determining the relevance of your product to a customer’s search.
  2. Description: While the description is not as heavily weighted by Etsy’s search algorithm, it’s still beneficial to include keywords here. This can help with broader SEO, as Google and other search engines do consider the description when indexing pages.
  3. Relevance and Ranking: The more relevant your keywords are to a customer’s search, the higher your product will rank in the search results. This increases the likelihood of your product being seen and clicked on.
  4. Long-Tail Keywords: These are longer, more specific keyword phrases that customers search for. They usually have lower search volume but also less competition, making it easier to rank highly for them. For example, instead of using the keyword “art print,” you might use “botanical art print for bedroom.”
  5. Keyword Research: Tools like Marmalead or Etsy’s own search bar suggestions can help you find relevant keywords. Look at successful competitors’ listings for keyword inspiration as well.

How to Offer Good Customer Service in the Printable Business

Offering excellent customer service is crucial when selling digital printables, as it not only enhances the customer’s buying experience but also builds your reputation as a reliable seller. 

Here are some ways to provide good customer service:

  1. Clear Instructions: Providing clear instructions on downloading and using your digital printables is essential. This could include information on how to unzip files, how to print the files for best results, and any software requirements for using the files.
  2. Prompt Communication: Respond to customer inquiries promptly and professionally. Whether they have a question about a product or need help with a download, quick and helpful responses show that you value their business and are there to support them.
  3. Detailed Product Descriptions: Ensure your product descriptions are detailed and accurate. Include information about file types, dimensions, resolution, and any other relevant details. This helps the customer understand exactly what they’re purchasing.
  4. Follow-Up: After a customer has made a purchase, consider sending a follow-up message to thank them for their purchase and to check if they have any questions or issues. This proactive approach can help resolve any potential problems quickly.
  5. Troubleshooting Support: Be prepared to offer support if a customer has trouble with a file. This could involve providing additional instructions, recommending compatible software, or even sending the file in a different format if necessary.
  6. Feedback Management: Encourage and appreciate feedback. If a customer leaves a review, thank them for their time. If the feedback is negative, address it professionally and constructively, showing that you take their concerns seriously.

By offering excellent customer service, you not only increase the likelihood of positive reviews and repeat business, but you also build a strong reputation that can set you apart from competitors.

How to Price Your Printables

When it comes to pricing, it’s a good idea to research other sellers in your niche or industry. What kind of printables are they selling? At what price point? 

​-You can use this information as a starting point for deciding how much you want to charge for each of your items. If you’re looking for printable ideas that will sell well and earn you extra money, take some time researching best-selling printables on platforms like Etsy or Pinterest. 

​This way, you can see what kinds of products people are already buying and get an idea of how much time and effort goes into creating each one.

The most important thing when it comes to pricing is finding the sweet spot where customers feel like they’re getting value for their money while also allowing you enough profit margin to make all your hard work worth it. 

This guide deals with other aspects of pricing: How to Price Art Prints: A Practical Guide For Beginners

​You may need to experiment with prices until you find what works best for both yourself and your customers. Another option when it comes to pricing digital printables is offering different tiers or bundles at varying price points. 

​Offering free digital downloads may seem counterintuitive when your goal is to make money. However, it can be a strategic move that leads to increased revenue in the long run.

Here’s how:

  1. Lead Generation: Free downloads can attract potential customers to your site or Etsy shop. Once they’ve downloaded a free item, they’re more likely to browse your other products, potentially leading to a paid purchase.
  2. Email List Building: You can offer a free download in exchange for a visitor’s email address. This allows you to build an email list for marketing purposes. You can then send newsletters, promotional offers, or updates about new products, encouraging subscribers to make a purchase.
  3. Upselling and Cross-Selling: Once a customer has decided to download a free item, you can offer them related paid products. For example, if you’re offering a free printable planner page, you could upsell a full planner pack.
  4. Building Trust: Offering a high-quality free download can demonstrate the value of your products and build trust with potential customers. If they’re impressed with the free item, they may be more likely to pay for your products in the future.
  5. Increasing Exposure: Free items are more likely to be shared, increasing your exposure to potential customers. If your free download includes branding or a link to your shop, anyone who sees the downloaded item could become a new customer.
  6. Affiliate Marketing: If your free downloads are digital products that complement other products (like a free printable planner that could be used with specific pens), you could include affiliate links to those products and earn a commission on any sales made through those links.

Read this: 45 Affiliate Programs for Artists: Mega Guide (2023)

Remember, the goal of offering free downloads is to attract potential customers and provide value, ultimately leading to increased sales of your paid products.

How to Market Your Printables Business 

Marketing your digital printables effectively is crucial for attracting customers and driving sales. 

Here are some strategies you can use:

  • Social Media Marketing: Use platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook to showcase your products and engage with your audience.
  • Participating in Forums: Engage in relevant discussions on platforms like Quora or niche-specific forums. Answer questions and provide value without overtly selling your products.
  • Facebook Groups: Join groups related to your niche and actively participate. Share your knowledge and occasionally promote your products.
  • Email Marketing: Build an email list and send out newsletters featuring new products, special offers, and useful content.

Read this post: How to Start an Email List For Artists: Beginners Guide

  • Content Marketing: Create valuable content related to your printables, such as blog posts, tutorials, or freebies, to attract and retain customers.
  • Press Releases: Announce new product launches or significant business milestones through press releases to generate media coverage.
  • Blog Posts: Regularly publish blog posts on your website related to your niche. This can help attract organic traffic and position you as an expert in your field.
  • SEO: Optimize your website or online store for search engines to increase your visibility and attract organic traffic.
  • Paid Advertising: Be careful with this one. Don’t advertise unless you know what you’re doing. You can lose a lot of money. Try the course below. Pinterest ads are less costly.
  • Affiliate Marketing: Set up an affiliate program where others earn a commission for promoting and selling your products.

How to Start a Printables Business: Final Thoughts

From understanding the concept of a printable business to choosing the right platform, creating your printables, and marketing them effectively, is crucial to your ultimate success.

The great thing about a printables business is its scalability and potential for passive income. Once a design is created, it can be sold an unlimited number of times without any additional effort or cost.

This makes it a sustainable and potentially lucrative business model, especially for artists and graphic designers.

Starting an Etsy printables business can be one of the easiest ways to launch an online business. You can reach a global audience and leverage the platform’s features to showcase your products and manage transactions with minimal costs. 

Alternatively, setting up your own website gives you more control over your brand and customer experience. The choice is yours but there is nothing stopping you from doing both. 

Remember, the success of your printables business depends not only on the quality of your products but also on how effectively you can reach and engage your target audience.

Whether you choose to sell on Etsy, your own website, or another platform, always prioritize your customers’ needs and strive to provide them with the best possible experience.

Marketing your printables effectively is key to attracting customers and driving sales. It’s an essential requirement for any online business, and the good news is, with the right tools and resources, anyone can start a profitable printables business.

Selling art made simple digital guide for starting a small art business

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How to Start a printables business. A beginners Guide
The artist and Author Kevin Hayler

Hi, my name’s Kevin and I’m a real person!
I’ve been selling my wildlife art and traveling the world for over 20 years, and if that sounds too good to be true, I’ve done it all without social media, art school, or galleries!
I can show you how to do it. You’ll find a wealth of info on my site, about selling art, drawing tips, lifestyle, reviews, travel, my portfolio, and more. Enjoy

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