This question comes up now and again, recently arriving in my email inbox from Lori Kirstein – Resident Artistic Lunatic.  (I LOVE her title – I could certainly borrow it!)

Lori asks…

“I have my images up on Cafepress, but when it comes to product in hand, I don’t have any because the final products of my work are Photoshop-manipulated. Do I need to attend to getting “real world” samples – and figure how to do that best – before I get your book?”

(She was referring to the “How to Find, Interact and Work with Manufacturers Who License Art” )

In case you aren’t aware, CafePress is a Print-On-Demand website where anyone can upload art or digital files and when they are purchased, CafePress creates and ships the product.

The answer I gave Lori was “No.” In art licensing you don’t need to have physical samples to get an art licensing deal.  Sometimes artists will do digital mockups, to show how their art would look on products, but it isn’t a requirement.

When you do get your foot in the door and get a licensing deal or two, it can be helpful to show those products.  Lori could also purchase a product or two from her own CafePress shop if she wanted a photo of an actual product or two for her website.  I’ve even known artists to go to pottery stores and hand-paint samples to show – but that does require time and money.  The most important thing, in my opinion of course, is to be clear about whether any physical products are licensed or mock-up samples and available to be licensed.  I often add a note like this: “These are samples of how the art could be applied to products but are not licensed at this time.  Please contact me if you are interested in this collection for your product line.”

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

P.S.  If you want to create digital mock-ups of your art on products in Photoshop, check out “Product Mock-Up Magic” – we’ve done the hard work of taking photos of products and getting rid of the backgrounds, as well as creating video tutorials to help you learn how to apply repeat patterns to them and more.  Take a look at

P.P.S.  To give Lori some “link love” for her question, you can see some of her work at