Just For Yucks

This is the personal blog of a stange entity called Dave Bealer, who has been publishing his humorous observations online since 1992 - before Al Gore invented the Internet. Dave's writings have been known to cause anger, confusion, and even the occasional laugh. Read the following at your own risk...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Lured By The Dark Side

I've been selling funny designs on t-shirts using "Print on Demand" (PoD) technology since May 2001. During all that time the major limitation has been the fact that all the available technologies can only print on white or light cloth. Two major PoD vendors, CafePress and Zazzle, began offering dark t-shirts to customers in November 2005, just in time for the holiday sales season.

I had been selling my designs exclusively through CafePress since May 2004. In November 2005 I began experimenting by offering a few of my designs on Zazzle as well. This allowed me to obtain sample black shirts with my designs from both vendors. The following is my review of these shirts.

Cartoon Designs

I ordered my new Christmas cartoon design, "Four Calling Birds" on a black t-shirt from both vendors. What follows are the thumbnails provided by each vendor, accompanied by a close-up photo of the actual shirt with the design as received from the vendor.

CafePress Thumbnail:
CafePress Cartoon Thumbnail

CafePress Black Shirt:
CafePress Black Cartoon Shirt

The flash probably washed out the shirt image slightly, but you can tell that the shirt artwork looks barely like the original artwork as displayed on the CafePress thumbnail. The colors are much less bright than in the original artwork. This is to be expected up to a point, of course. There is a world of difference between displaying an image in light on a computer screen and spraying colored ink onto black cloth. But CafePress has always advertised WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get), and that clearly is not the case with black shirts, at least so far.

Zazzle Thumbnail:
Zazzle Cartoon Thumbnail

Zazzle Black Shirt:
Zazzle Black Cartoon Shirt

As you can see, the Zazzle shirt is even more washed out than the one from CafePress. The top blue bird is basically white, and there are small flecks of white throughout the part of the design that was "transparent", where the shirt color should have shown through. It should be noted that Zazzle offers other dark colored shirts, but I've only been testing on black shirts, since black is all that CafePress offers at the moment.

Clearly Zazzle is having even more problems printing cartoon designs on black t-shirts than CafePress. The CafePress shirt might be considered acceptable by some customers, but the Zazzle shirt would be returned by most customers.

Text Designs

I ordered a new text design, "Already Quite Disturbed" on a black t-shirt from both vendors. What follows are the thumbnails provided by each vendor, accompanied by a close-up photo of the actual shirt with the design as received from the vendor.

CafePress Thumbnail:
CafePress Text Thumbnail

CafePress Black Shirt:
CafePress Black Text Shirt

As you can see, the text shirt came out a lot closer to the artwork as displayed on the CafePress thumbnail. The colors are less bright than in the original artwork, but probably within what should be expected when printing on black cloth. It's not really WYSIWYG, but the main problem with the design is that I should have lightened up the blue text at the bottom for printing on dark cloth.

Zazzle Thumbnail:
Zazzle Text Thumbnail

Zazzle Black Shirt:
Zazzle Black Text Shirt

As you can see, the Zazzle shirt is once again less accurate when it comes to reproducing color. The colored print appears brighter than on the CafePress shirt, although as you can see that may be due in part to the fact that the Hanes shirt from Zazzle has darker cloth than the Fruit of the Loom shirt from CafePress.

One thing is certain, Zazzle seems to be having at lot more trouble producing blue colors accurately on their black shirts.

Analysis

None of the these shirts are really ready for shipment to customers, at least not if the customers actually care about WYSIWYG. It should be noted that all these shirts were manufactured and shipped around December 1, 2005. Both companies are obviously learning the new process and hopefully improving the process every day. If you order a shirt from them today, it may well look a lot better than the samples shown here.

I will be returning my shirts for replacement this week. I'll let you know how the replacements turn out.

Clearly these are exciting times in the PoD t-Shirt industry. Dark t-shirts will be major sellers for a lot of designers. But more work needs to be done before these shirts are ready for paying customers.

Dave Bealer

T-Shirts of the Moment: (Links to the two shirts mentioned in this article.)


Four Calling Birds



Already Quite Disturbed

1 Comments:

At 6:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zazzle.com is such a scam. I bought some t-shirts from them and when i recieved them, my logo was only partially printed on the shirt (even though it comes with a signed quality checked paper). It was also printed so thinly that the logo was transparent. Like yours the colors really sucked too. This for shirts that cost $20 a piece. So i had to pay out of my own pocket to have them returned and get my money back. I am currently in the second week of waiting for this refund to come through. I have emailed and called them multiple times and they assure me it is in the process... Just be warned, it is a terrible product for way to much money.

 

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