Written by PotatoSack Cosplay, in consultation with various cosplayers.
It’s only a week until FanCon! And the awesome people behind the event have created a fantastic opportunity for cosplayers to sell prints during the weekend for a fraction of the table cost. Seeing as this is something new and very exciting, PotatoSack Cosplay decided to consult cosplayers that have been selling prints for a while and put together a tip guide for those that would like to sell prints for the first time.
Here are all the things you need to consider for your prints!
The Basics: type, size, amount, content
To start off, let us look at the print itself! The first thing you need to consider with the print is whether you want a Photographic Print – a photographic paper print that is more costly but has a high gloss finish – or a Digital Print, which is a standard matt print on card paper that is not as high in gloss. This can be considered in two ways:
- How you would like the finished product to look?
- What is your budget?
Photographic paper is more expensive than the standard matt prints which are done are card paper, so you might consider going with a digital print if you might have a smaller budget. But if you would like the gloss finish on your prints, you will need to have your prints printed on photographic paper. This is entirely up to you as a cosplayer and what you would like/be willing to spend. There is no right or wrong type of print.
The next area of concern is the size of the print. Again, you have your two sizing types: your standard sizing, A4 orA5, or your american sizing, 5” x 7” or 8” x 10”. Unfortunately, the American sizes are usually more expensive as your print houses have to cut the prints down to size, but the American sizes do offer more variety in the size of your prints as you might find A5 too small or A4 too big.
The places you chose to get your prints done by will impact on your sizes as well. Photo Print Houses offer your American sizes, but if you are having your prints done at a Digital Print House, they often only have standard sizes available for your prints.
So now that you have the paper and your size, you need to consider what cosplay you are going to make into a print!
Now this may be the trickiest part of this stage of your prints. Should you stick to maybe doing one cosplay with a few angles? Or should you do a variety of your different cosplays? How does one decide? Let’s start off at this point:
Which of your cosplays were most popular?
This could be likes on social media or even how a crowd reacted at a convention. Consider how popular the character’s franchise is as well! If you are looking to make sales, you should look at selling your cosplays that have the biggest draw.
If you have a variety of cosplays, look at starting with 3-5 of your best. Look at the quality of photos you have for these cosplays and how you feel about them. If you are proud of the cosplay and feel that the photos of them are worthy to be a print, make it a print!
If you do not have a variety or maybe are not happy with your older cosplays, then you could consider doing multiple different prints of one cosplay. Again, look at the quality and how you feel about each photo, but look at getting photos that show a different side to the cosplay so that each print is unique: a close up, one that shows the character well (an iconic pose perhaps?) and one of high detail to show off the cosplay. These types of prints are usually done by cosplayers that are very established in the print selling industry, but do offer people a variety if you have one extremely popular cosplay.
In terms of the number of prints to make, it is dependent on your budget. But it is best to start off small, as you can always have more printed if your prints do very well! If you decided to start off with 5 different cosplay prints, look at maybe printing 10 of each so you will have 50 prints to sell.
Tip from Baka Sakura: Have a look at what the cosplayers who are big in the print game are making into prints. Look at the composition they use and angles they focus on. They are great to gather ideas for your own prints as they know which photos will sell best from their experience.
Where to print your run
Now that you have decided the size, type, amount and cosplays to have for prints, you need to look next at where to have your prints printed. This does depend on the type of paper you want to use for your prints.
- Photographic print houses:
– If you would like photographic prints
– Orms is very popular in Cape Town to have prints done by as they have consistent high quality with their photographic prints.
– Fotofirst is ideal for small print runs and easier to access as there are branches all over South Africa and multiple around Cape Town (not just in town!)
- Digital print houses:
– If you would like digital prints/Card Prints
– Paperjet Print is great for digital prints and there are many small digital print houses all around Cape Town
Always ask for a sample print in the size that you need. All the print houses should have samples to show you the quality that the print will come out in as each printing house could have a slight variation on how they print their colours. Some places may not print the colours as vividly as you may like or the quality may not be entirely what you desire. It is important that you do this before you pay to have your prints made, as you will not be able to get a refund if they do not come out as you had planned.
This is very important as a bad quality photo will result in a bad quality print no matter how great the printers are.
Standard Print DPI (dots per inch) pixel ratio is 300 for any print. At a push, you can use a photo that has a 200 DPI, but it will be risky as it may not come out as the best quality print. If you are not sure what the DPI is for your photo, you can generally tell by the size of the file. If the file size is around 7mb, then you are looking at a good photo to use for a print.
Should you watermark your prints?
It is always best to look at investing in a watermark, especially if you are looking at sharing your photos in an online setting or selling prints digitally (aka, not a hard copy print). It is not necessary to add a watermark to everything digital (eg instagram always crops your photos), but if you are looking to share your photos on sites like patreon or deviantart or facebook, then you need to invest in a watermark, as it has the ability to be shared and the description does get lost in the sharing process.
As to where you would like to put the watermark: it is entirely up to you. Just note that if it is in the corners of the photos, people can crop it off very easily, but you also need to consider how the watermark would impact the look and feel of the print. You could put a transparent watermark over the whole photo, but again, you need to consider how this would affect your print’s look and feel. Play with it and see how it looks. Some cosplayers have even put a small text that can run along an arm on the print, which makes it harder to crop out.
At the end of the day, aim for your print to have the look you want and for the watermark to not be too much of a distraction.
As to physical prints, this is entirely up to the print seller whether to add a watermark or not. Some cosplayers do, some cosplayers do not. Play with a watermark and see how you feel with it on the print before you have it printed.
Professional Photographers or DIY?
There is no rule at the end of the day stating whether your prints need to be photos by professional photographers or done by yourself. At the end of the day, you are looking at to sell a quality print.
Always look back at cosplayers that are doing well in the print-selling game and see the types of photos they are doing; how they are posing; whether they use locations or studios; how they manipulate the light or colours; the quality of the storyboard they are creating with the photos; whether they selling the character or if it is just a pose.
If you can do shoots with photographers for your cosplays, it is recommended, a they have the skills to produce amazing photos. But this is not always financially viable as we all know that cosplay is an expensive hobby. You do need to consider if you have to pay royalties/purchase the photos from photographers as some photographers require this if you wish to sell their photos as prints. This is why it is important to always ask photographers how they feel about using their photos as prints. Never use a photo from a professional shoot as a print before getting permission.
Taking your photos by yourself tends to be harder as you may not have all the equipment and skills necessary to take a quality photo, but it can be done! Try asking friends to assist you with a photoshoot. Maybe have a day where you can take photos of each other or maybe find a location that works for multiple cosplays of yours. If either of you have the editing skills, you can edit the photos yourself, or you can look at passing it to a professional photographer to just do the edits to the photos (which would cost cheaper than a shoot). Just make sure that the camera you are using for your photos takes photos at a high enough quality for your prints.
Tips from Baka Sakura: Never use just the raw photo as a print! There are always things that you can look at tweaking, whether colour, background or make up fixes (doesn’t always have to be hard edits). Often it is something as small as frizzy hair on your wig. Sometimes the best photo has small little fixes and that it why it is better to use an edited photo for a print than a raw one. Very few photos are perfect!
You are also selling an ideology of this character coming to life, not necessarily you dressed up, so you would like to get yourself as close to embodying that character as you are happy with. You still want to keep a sense of realism in your photos, so don’t alter your figure to have a unrealistic waist with huge boobs just because that is the character. You just want to make sure that your photos are super neat and on point, and you get this from an edited photo.
Cost-Benefit Analysis of selling prints:
Now comes a big consideration: are you willing to incur the costs if your prints do not sell?
Getting prints made is often a big cost up front, and you have table rental to consider, so it you need to consider the option that you may not make your money back. This is why you need to consider what you are willing to spend, or possibly lose, by doing prints. This is why it is important to do a break-even calculation to see if you think it is possible for you to make up the cost.
The cost of your print is also very important to consider, as you do not want to sell your prints at too high a cost to try make a higher profit. If you are a first time print seller, you will need to consider the effect of being a newcomer in your price.
This is why it is important to look around for quotes for your prints. Try various printing places and look at the sample prints they show you. You do not want to drop the quality just to drop the cost, but some places may charge more for a smaller print run than others.
With the pricing of your prints, have a look at the cost of prints from local cosplayers. It is probably best not to consider what international cosplayers sell their prints at as USD conversions may make the price too high for the local market.
Try even talking with fellow print sellers at a convention and see on setting a similar price. Having a standardised print price might help everyone in their print sales and make it easier for convention goers to budget for buying all the prints they would like.
Prints are not only a way for you to make some money from cosplay, but they add to promoting your cosplays. It is a great way for your supporters to support you and have something from you in return, along with a way for new people to see your work and start supporting you. It is hard to get your name out there in the big world of cosplay and prints is one way to do it.
You can even look at doing a combo price. One print for R80, two prints for R120 and so on, but again, consider the cost of the prints when doing this.
Tip from Baka Sakura: Always start with a small print run. It tends to be a lot of money that you are putting in up front and there isn’t always a guarantee that you will sell all your prints.
You need to consider if you would like to do prints by order or prints by stock – Having stock is more ideal if you are selling at conventions, but if you have an online store, prints per order is more ideal.
Doing bulk prints is cheaper as printing places usually give discounts if you have more to print, pay for having to do the prints each time as opposed to doing one run of the prints.
Signing and personal messages on the prints:
Sharpies! Always use a sharpie when you are signing prints. They are the best and most reliable pens to use, and you should rather invest in one than going a bit cheaper to save a few rands.
Now, what colour? According to Yamaki: Gold…always go for gold. Gold is great as it shows on light and dark, whereas black can be tricky if there is a large amount of black in your photo. You are welcome to buy a few different colours and match colours to prints, but if you are starting out, gold should be the go to.
Do not assume people want the print signed. Always ask, and then also ask if they would like a message with the signature and where they would like it. Some people would rather have the signature/message on the back of the print. This person is making a purchase and you do not want to possibly “ruin” their purchase and have to toss the print by doing something they do not want. Go slow and ask them to spell their name for you. Write slowly, do not rush and always wait for it to dry. Chitchat for a bit and just warn them that the ink may still be wet.
Always give a photo sleeve or even a flip file sleeve; something to give a layer of protection to their prints once the ink is dry.
Lastly, when is the time to start selling prints?
This is something that I think crosses every cosplayer’s mind at some point, “Am I worthy/ready/popular enough to sell prints?” This was something I asked a few cosplayers that have been selling prints, and this is what they had to say.
Sometimes it wasn’t a decision that they had sat and made, but more based on the amount of people that requested or said they should sell prints. It is not always easy to think that you are at the level to sell prints or are ready to sell prints, but if there are people that would like to have prints and support you while receiving something in return, then you should consider giving it a try.
It is a source of income for a cosplayer, with cosplay being expensive as is, and then a person can get a product in return, so it seems a more fair exchange.
Prints do tend to sell better at conventions where people can see your work and go “wow” and then want to support your work. The decision has nothing to do with vanity or ego. Everyone has the ability to do it and you should, but you just need to make sure that you are happy with the quality of your cosplays and that you ensure a quality photo for prints.
Hopefully this article has answered some of your questions and has helped you make the decision to try your hand at selling prints at Fancon 2019! It has helped me with my prints and I am already putting all this great advice to good use!
If you wish to sign up for an hour slot at the Cosplay Showcase table at Fancon, please click HERE to sign up! Remember you can also apply to share the table cost with someone else.