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The Single Color of Money

(April 2008) posted on Thu Apr 10, 2008

The profit potential in single-color garment designs is a lot greater than you may realize. This month, Trimingham describes how to add visual impact, extra value, and a higher price tag to your one-color work.


By Tom Trimingham

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High-impact artwork makes a lasting impression on the viewer. A visually striking piece can be simple and harmonious or really edgy—something that creates a visceral reaction, such as a piece I created for a popular mixed martial arts fighter (Figure 1). This style of art is popular in that niche and worked well visually because of its hand-crafted appeal and dark imagery. Clients either like or loathe this style, but they rarely ignore it. If you want to sell high-value pieces or create your own brands, then find an artist who can develop a trendy piece with a dramatically original, hand-crafted feel—one that fits your target niche. If the process of realizing a high profit margin on a one-color print requires an investment on your part, spend the money on a talented artist. Be sure to review work samples, and always be upfront about payment and expectations.

The use of uncommon techniques is another way add value to artwork. Unconventional halftone patterns and vintage designs that echo a garment treatment give a premium feel to a simple garment (Figure 2). The gritty look and what I like to call the kindergarten look are popular these days with designs that are drawn completely by hand and purposefully made to look loose and playful (Figure 3). Designs created in watercolor, pastels, charcoal, ink brush, and multimedia can produce surprising combinations and lend an iconic, rustic, and vaguely medieval look to the artwork—even in just one color.

Earning appreciation for high-priced artwork sometimes means informing the client about the attention and effort that you’ve put into the design. Have you ever heard someone at a museum say “What’s the big deal with that Picasso painting? My daughter has been drawing stuff like that since kindergarten!” The point is that Picasso’s cubist works directly confronted the realistic paintings of others to create a different effect on the viewer. Having the understanding of what the artist is trying to accomplish adds value, whether or not you like a design. The value to the viewer stems from in the education behind the effort. T-shirt art won’t hang next to a Picasso in a museum, but knowing the terminology and being able to communicate it during a garment sale can help to establish a more significant price for your work.


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