Anna-Maria’s designs have taken the world of comics, role-playing games, and T-shirts by storm. In this interview, she talks about her career and shares a few tips for success.
Of dreams & inspiration
Hi Anna-Maria! You’re already a real celebrity in the T-shirt business, so first of all, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions! Even though many already know you, can you introduce yourself to our community?
Hi guys, I’m a nerdy illustrator from Graz. I got my degree in Multimedia Arts in Salzburg and a degree in Illustration in New York. I’ve published several comics, drawn for newspapers and children’s books, and made designs for the licensing market which are sold on numerous products worldwide.
In 2019, I illustrated ‘Movie Clichés – The Card Game’ for ‘Nichtlustig’ creator Joscha Sauer, a project that was successfully funded on Kickstarter.
I love pen & paper roleplaying games and am passionate about live roleplaying.
Role-playing games, comics and games are your world – and you have illustrated several publications yourself. What was your best experience in this field?
I’ve been able to meet and talk to several of my idols. Among others, Matt Groening: the creator of The Simpsons … He was my biggest idol when I was a teenager. About 10 years ago, I met him in New York at a comic book festival and had a brief conversation with him. That was an incredible experience I’d been dreaming of since I was 16… and so a real “dream come true” moment.
Apart from Matt Groening – which styles and artists have influenced you the most?
When I was younger, I was mainly influenced by comics from the Franco-Belgian and US regions. Later, it was concept art from movies and computer games – especially animated series and movies. I love cartoons like “Gravity Falls”, “Regular Show” or “Steven Universe” and their style of character design.
Success as a designer
You’re on just about every platform where it’s possible to sell designs and have been for many years – what brought you to Print on Demand platforms like Spreadshirt and what’s special about it?
In 2009, I moved to New York to study and was in desperate need of money. That’s when I came across the t-shirt business and discovered these different platforms. Over the years, I’ve made quite a collection of designs and created passive income for myself with POD sites.
The special thing about it is that you keep the usage rights and so you completely own your own art.
Where does your inspiration for T-shirt designs come from and how do T-shirt designs differ from other formats?
My inspiration for T-shirts comes mostly from popular culture, but also from science and my love for adventure and stories. Pen & paper role-playing games, fantasy & sci-fi, and ‘end of days’ themes are all inspirations for me. But I also like “goofy” humor or the British “silliness” of Monty Python, for example.
When I design something for a T-shirt, I have to make sure that the design doesn’t look like a box, but integrates smoothly with the color of the T-shirt and that the idea is recognizable even from a distance.
That’s a great tip for those who are just starting out with T-shirt designing. What mistakes did you make when you first started selling your designs on print-on-demand platforms, and what did you learn from them?
One thing you should avoid is relying too heavily on revenue from shirt sales. You should definitely have a side income and do other jobs on top of that. The market is flooded with competition these days and it can take a long time for you to start making money from sales on a regular basis.
You should not expect too much in the beginning. That’s why I recommend keeping your day job and selling your designs on different platforms.
Hang in there
Do you promote your designs and illustrations and how do you interact with your target audience?
I started with Facebook in 2012 and back then it was much easier to be seen. That’s why I still have a lot of followers there today. Since these channels started to have a more commercial focus, it’s very difficult to be seen. I still post regularly, but try not to include sales links in the posts. However, I still enjoy interacting with fans, especially on Facebook.
What hardware and software do you use in your work?
Pencil & paper for sketches, and then Photoshop for finishing. I also find it relaxing to work with watercolors, for example if I’m drawing in a café.
Any last words for other designers?
Hang in there. There probably won’t be sales right away. Sometimes it can take weeks or longer. It pays to keep adding designs because quantity counts as well as quality.
Stay true to yourself and make designs that you enjoy. Try to be original and don’t copy other people. Build up something else besides the T-shirt business. One tip I have is to sell your designs as prints at conventions. You can reach people there much better. For example, ComicCon works really well for me.
Thank you Anna-Maria for the exciting insight!
You can find lots of content from Anna-Maria on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and of course in her Spreadshirt showroom. Do you have any questions for Anna-Maria or for us? Ask them here in the comments!