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Airbrush Action Tip N’ Tricks
TShirt Basics (4Part) by Pat Gaines
An artist can display all o f the highcost, highquality artwork they want in a Tshirt shop. But, the bottom line is that nothing will ever replace the lowpriced, quick designs that include a name and a simple black outlined drawing with color. This is the stuff that pays the rent, the “bread and butter1′ of any Tshirt shop business.
Upwards of 50% of an entire store’s display should be made up of low priced designs . One of the most important, yet simplest, areas in this category is the name design. Pictured are a number of good selling name designs chosen from our Design Portfolio. Customers should have a wide variety of this type of design with many different letter choices and color combinations. Simple name designs should be kept inexpensive not only to attract customers but because they are a great addon sale to a shirt you may paint with a larger more detailed design on the reverse side.
Let’s say you’ve just painted a car on a shirt. When the customer comes to pick it up, tell them that for only $3 more they can add a name to the back of the shirt. Tell them to pick one of your 25 or so name designs and that you will change the colors to match the colors of the car. The customer will think this is a real deal, only $3! Just for asking the simple question, you’ve made an extra three bucks.
Maybe this doesn’t sound like much, but if you ask this question every time you sell a shirt like this, over a year’s time it really adds up. You could add thousands of dollars to your income. And, nothing could be any easier than painting simple name designs. All you have to do is ask.
The trick is to have a good selection and to display them very prominently close to your cash register. We call this a “pointofpurchase” sale. It’s the same idea used by grocery stores putting candy and other inexpensive, appealing items along the check out lanes. Did you ever wonder why they do that? Well, now you know.
Name designs are also very popular around the holidays. We display a number of children’s shirts with big, bright name designs painted on them. A sign, posted close to the register, advertises the inexpensive price. This appeals to the customer who may have a lot of family to buy for. These customers will purchase 4 or 5 Tshirts or sweatshirts at a time. This is where the phrase “onestop shopping” comes from. Having these selections on you; display during the holidays, when shoppers can afford to buy in quantity, is not only a winner for your customer, but for you as well.
Another big seller is always sportoriented designs, not only on Tshirts but also on license plates and other accessories where the addition of a name or simple picture can make all the difference. These inexpensive name designs and designs with small pictures shown from our Design Portfolio are the cornerstone of any airbrushing business. Give your customers a great choice of designs from which to choose and just stand back and watch them sell. Looking ahead to my next article, I turn the spotlight on designs from other categories of a lowcost standard display including boyfriend/girlfriend designs, cartoons and sceneries from the West Coast Design Portfolio that you can copy for use in your own display. Don’t miss it! Until then, “just do it”! Part 2 As promised in the last issue of Airbrush Action, here are 12 great, lowcost standard designs to add to your display. Falling in the $12 and under retail price range, these designs will increase your portfolio as well as your income. These types of designs are categorized by the fact that they can all be painted in approximately 5 to 12 minutes and use a onepiece positive or negative stencil application to complete the picture. They are very simple and meant to target specific customers. Along with name designs seen in the last issue of Airbrush Action, the designs shown here will constitute nearly onehalf of all sales in most airbrush Tshirt shops. A lowcost standard display is more than just a hodge podge of quick, inexpensive designs.A great deal of effort goes into this type of display at successful airbrush Tshirt shops. At West Coast Airbrush Stores, we consider these factors in laying out a good display: 1.
The display must include all categories of lowcost designs including name designs, boyfriend/girlfriend designs, original cartoons, sports designs, sceneries, and lettering phrases. 2.
When considering designs for each of the categories, the proper ratios of each subject matter should be considered. For example, within the sports category, a display should reflect the customers’ interest for which sports are most popular. Thus, a display should include more baseball, basketball, and football designs than golf or tennis. 3.
Always keep up with the changing interests of your customers. In this regard, keep an eye out for popular colors that seem to pop up on hip consumer goods and add them to your design display. New and trendy clothing styles are indicators as well. With the resurgence of the 60s hippie styles, we have added peace signs, environmental designs, and other 60s culture designs to our display. 4.
Always remember that the best sellers in the lowcost design category are often the ones that can clearly be seen as a gifts. More than twothirds of the designs you sell from this category will NOT be worn by the purchaser. This can be seen most clearly around the December holidays, Valentine’s Day, and Mother1s/Father’s Days.A good airbrush artist will suggest and showcase these images as the perfect gift for anyone.
How many of these designs should you have?As many as possible, as long as you do not duplicate designs and are sure to organize them in an appealing manner. At West Coast Airbrush Stores, we display our $3 to $ 1 2 standard designs on pennant felt squares on wall display ateas, Tshirts, and flip racks. (See Airbrush Action’s November/December ’98 issue.) This way, the designs are seen in many ways by many people at the same time.
You don’t have to be the greatest airbrush Tshirt artist in the world to be successful. Spend time mastering your airbrushing skills. Work hard to improve your lettering, line quality, and smooth application of color. Remember the basic art fundamentals of composition, balance, and color. With these abilities and an understanding of business fundamentals, fair and attractive pricing, and being in the right place with good potential customers, you’re well on you way. Now go out, and just do it!
Looking ahead to my next article, we will start covering the other 50 percent of what you will need represented in your shop to complete your overall display. We’ll look at designs from the lowprice custom category which should represent 25 percent of your overall sales and fall into the $ 13 to $25 price range.
Part 3 Up to 25 percent of a Tshirt airbrush artist’s income will come from lowcost custom designs. These are categorized by designs that take from 1025 minutes to paint and range in price from $13 to $25. West Coast Airbrush’s sales strategy is to always offer customers a choice in how we create a design and the price we charge for it. Why, you may ask? It’s very simple: PEOPLE LIKE CHOICES. You will be very surprised to see how many of your customers will spend far more money on designs than you would ever expect if given choices and a chance to make up their own minds. Granted, giving customers choices does take a little extra time but, if planned right, the trade off is the higher prices you’ll charge for the artwork, or the multiple shirt orders you’ll get from groups and business people. Here’s how we sell a customer on a lowcost custom design at our stores. A customer comes to our booth with that, “Iknowhe’sgoingtobuysomethinglook.” He starts off by saying, “I’m Joe and I own a pizzeria. I need some staff shirts for my employees; you know delivery people, waitresses, and maybe one for my wife and I. We went to a silkscreen shop and they said we had to order at least two dozen shirts and even if I did do that, the cost for one or two colors was just too much. Then, I went to a place that did embroidery and while I knew that the prices would be high, I didn’t know they would be that high. Anyway, I thought of your shop and now I’m here. What can you do for me? I start by saying, “Your situation sounds familiar and I be the silkscreen and the embroidery people didn’t even give you much of a choice of what they could do for that high price, did they?” Joe replies, “Nope they didn’t! They just shoved it in my face as though they were saying, ‘Take it or leave it. We don’t have time for
such a small order.” “Imagine that,” I continue. “Well, I’m going to give you plenty of choices. I’ve got a shirt for every person on your staff and a great idea for a special shirt for you and your wife.”
I invite Joe to look at my lowend custom example photo album featuring samples of lettering, designs from simple to complex, and clipart that I have collected. First, I show him example photos of designs that are made up of lettering only. I explain that this type of design would be well suited for delivery people; something inexpensive so he could afford five or six of them. The price on this type of design would range from $6 to $10, depending on how elaborate he wants the design to be. I show Joe three examples of lettering designs (Figures 1, 2 & 3). I also explain that with a multipleshirt order, he will receive a discount of a least $1 off the price of each blank shirt.
From experience, I know that Joe is most likely going to choose a lowcost design for this category of employee, but he’s not finished yet, and I don’t want him to feel pressured into something he’s not
Joe makes his first order of six shirts with the $6 lowcost lettering design. The total cost so far i s six shirts at $6.95 each totaling $41.70, plus 6 designs at $6.00 each totaling $36. Next, we look at the type of design that might be suited for his counter help and waitresses. I still suggest he might prefer to stay with letteringonly designs, but notethat many designs include ‘ pictures. Joe remarks, Pictures! That sounds good, what can you do?â€ At this point I go for my life of restaurant and food service clipart. I pull up all of the drawings of pizza shop stuff and let Joe (with my help) pick out his favorites.
We settle on a design of a pizza chef holding a steaming hot pie. I bring Joe’s attention back to my lowend, custom photo album example book and show him how I can customize the design for him. I begin by showing him how, for between $13 and $15 (figure #4), 1 can include a drawing along with some simple lettering. I then move to another example in my album that shows a design with a larger, more detailed drawing and more premium lettering for around $1 5 to $20 (figure #6).Finally, I move to my best example which includes a large, detailed drawing with color vignette background and elaborate lettering for $20 to $25 (figure #6).
Bringing Joe back to the discussion of the shirts for his counter help and waitresses, I tell him he has a lot of choices to choose from. He ponders over his choices over and, knowing that he’s not spending too much on the delivery shirts, he decided to go ahead with the $13 design for his other employees. Six more shirts at $6.95 totaling $41.70, and six more designs at $ 1 3 totaling $78 onto the special shirts for Joe and his wife. When he goes for the first class $25 design, it doesn’t surprise me a bit. At this point, Joe feels totally in control of what he is spending. He’s had plenty of input and lots of choices.
Two more shirts at $6.95 total $1 3.90, and two designs at $25 each equal $50. The grand total so far is $261.30. Doing great! I then tell Joe that i f he decides to put these designs on the back of the shirt, I would put a small pocket name design on the front of all the shirts for free. Without pressuring, I inquire if he has ever given any thought to his staff wearing visors. A lot of fast food restaurant employees wear them and I could make him a good deal on a few of them. “How much?” he asks. “Only $3.95 each plus $2 for “Joe’s Pizza” written on them in colors to match the shirts”, I reply. You never know what some people will spend when they feel comfortable and in control. All you have to do is ask or make a simple suggestion. Twelve visors at $3.95 each total $47.40 and twelve designs at $2 total $24. The grand total of $332.70 makes the average price per shirt $17.42. This is much cheaper than embroidery and he could never have clotten a small order of only 15 shirts silk screened with designs of up to 6 colors and personalized with names at that price. Joe feels good about his he will be back as a return customer, and that is what really counts for the future of your business. The bottom line remains, give your customers choices, give the value for the money they spend, and be a friend to your customers. It will always pay off. So get started and just do it!. Next time, in part #4 of Tshirt basics we will find out how high end custom ”WOW” designs play an important role in your over all display and, believe it or not, I will show you how this category of designs can still be done in the $1 a minute format.
If you have been following the three previous installments of Tshirt Basics, you have got a pretty good idea of the types of design that make up the majority of a shop’s Tshirt display. In this installment, I will cover the highend designs (meaning designs that sell for $25 and up). At West Coast Airbrush Stores we will, of course, paint just about anything and for whatever amount a customer wants to spend. In most cases, what customers want and the price they are willing to pay remains fairly predictable. Knowing this, we are able to create a display that, in most instances, reflects customer interests rather than our own. Keep in mind that your shop’s display of custom design is necessary, but it is also easily overdone. There are three ways to “overdo” a custom display. #1 In most busy tshirt airbrush shops, highend custom Jobs account for 20% or less of your overall income. So it is important not to have more than 20% of your display represented by designs in this category. #2 You don’t want to confuse your customer into thinking that all of the designs in your shop are expensive. For example: If a customer comes to your sales counter to ask about prices for designs and is told: “Well, that one is $50, and that one is $65, and that one is $70,” it won’t be long before that customer is out the door thinking, “Man those airbrush shirts are Just to expensive for my pocketbook.” Because the customer was distracted by too many custom designs, they paid little attention to your lowercost display and assumed that everything in your store is too expensive.
#3 If you spend a lot of time and demonstrate your truly amazing artistic talent on a display piece for your shop, you may have to reproduce the design for a customer at some point. The more elaborately a display piece is painted, the harder it will ultimately be to recreate. In the past, I’ve had customers order real highend designs from a display. I would paint the design. Then, when the customer came back to pick up the shirt, they would look at it, study the shirt on display, look back at their shirt, and the worst thing an airbrush artist can hear rolled across their lips: “Well, I like it buttt, it does not look just like that one on the wall.” You want to say: “You know I’m not a copy machine – I’m an artist. A hand done design will never be exactly the same twice.” I’m sure you get the idea. Try not to overdo your custom display. Make the majority of your samples easy to reproduce. At West Coast Airbrush Company Stores, we stick to $1perminute format, whether we are painting a $4 name design or a $45 custom animal portrait. But how do we avoid spending two hours on a custom piece and having to charge $1 20? There are only certain ways you can render certain items, and you should be sure to use all of the tools and aids you have at your disposal. When painting custom designs, how you paint really matters when vou are working in the $1perminute format and trying to keep most of your work under $50 or $60. For example, freehand Â¾ view cars can be done all day long for $50 or less, if you simply use an opaque projector to lay down the image onto the shirt quickly. Then, trace in all of the appropriate lines with a soft lead pencil. Simply go over all of the pencil lines with a black airbrush line, model the car with the proper shadows, and fill in the colors. Add a color background and lettering, then highlights, and you’re done. Most experienced painters can accomplish this in less than an hour; many in less than 40 minutes (see August 1997 Airbrush Action article “01′ School HotRod TShirtin”‘ by Randy Wariner for a complete howto of this painting method). Like cars, human portraits that sell can also be done quickly. Again use an opaque projector to lay out the face, lightly sketching out lines with a soft lead pencil. When painting, use only sepia tones to render the face – no other colors. Set up your shop display to show only this type of portrait. Painting portraits in sepia tones is far less time consuming than trying to get all of the color tones necessary for a full color portrait. Ultimately, it can cut your overall production time by 1/3, and sepia tones work well for rendering people of all different races. I suggest your portrait display predominantly depict youngsters and that you offer your portraits on canvas boards as well as Tshirts. At West Coast Airbrush, one of our artists sells portraits of kids in sepia tones painted on 12″x16″ canvas boards for $35 a piece at Christmas time as fast as he can take the orders. This is just an idea you might try. Another very popular custom design category is animal portraits. These designs are great if you have a display window in your shop – they will really attract customers. We call them the “wow” factor designs because people say, “Wow, check that shirt out!” when they pass by our shops. One West Coast Airbrush artist, Mark Daehlin, is a stenciling wizard. He came up with the most popular
exotic animals, all done with large full shirt stencils. The trick here was to paint a wolf or tiger or any number of other animals in only 2530 minutes and have it turn out almost exactly the same way every time. In this way, the customer, as I mentioned earlier, will never find differences when comparing the displayed design with the finished product. In the “HowTo” following this article, Mark Daehlin demonstrates how to paint one of these fast animal portraits. Remember, showing off your great work will establish your artistic credibility with your customers, but don’t show off too much unless you’re ready to reproduce the work. How your custom work is displayed can add a great deal to its over all customer appeal. Take time to work out a nice display for your custom work – it will pay off in the end. Until next time, just do it!
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An artist can display all o f the high-cost, high-quality artwork they want in a T-shirt shop. But, the bottom line is that nothing will eve...