Industrious Illustrating #43 – Profit Margins

Hello, and welcome back to another week of Industrious Illustrating! I’ve been super busy with midterms and midterm projects this week, but now that fall break is upon us I’ll have more time to draw for myself. I’m currently on the grind making new products to sell at Motor City Comic Con, so I’ve been thinking a lot about how much money I want to spend ordering new products and then how much I want to charge for them, which brings us to today’s topic:

Profit margins!

Profit margins are the difference between the cost of producing a product and the amount of money that the customer pays for them — so, the amount of money that the seller gets to take home at the end of the day. Good profit margins vary between industries and products, but generally the profit margin is at least 2x the original cost of producing the product so that the seller can put the profits toward paying for the production of new products, paying for their own living expenses, or both.

For independent artist sellers like myself, we oftentimes charge higher for our products than a large company making mass-produced goods would, as we make much smaller product runs (10-50 of a product rather than hundreds) and invest much of our own time and energy into making artwork on top of running a business, requiring larger returns on each product to justify the expense. For example, producing 11×17″ prints costs about $1 per print and prints of that size typically go for around $20 or more, but drawing the artwork that goes on those 11×17″ prints took many hours, meaning that we’d need to sell multiple $20 prints just to pay ourselves a minimum hourly wage for the artwork we made once costs have been subtracted from revenue.

As a case study of what a typical profit margin for a smaller product looks like, I recently designed these bottle cap pins which I’ve started selling online and plan to also sell at events in future. They’re made of metal, are about 1.2 inches in diameter, and feature the fanart I drew of a popular video game.

Because I ordered 20 of each bottle cap pin design, the per-unit cost was $1.6 — it would’ve been lower per unit if I’d ordered a larger quantity. However, as these were manufactured by a Chinese factory and had to be shipped to an agent for inspection before they were shipped to North America, I had to pay $18 for them to be shipped out of China, and then another $13 for them to be shipped out with another order of merchandise I’d made through the same middleman. Divided across 120 units of pins, that’s an additional per unit cost of approximately .20 cents, which brings the per-unit cost up to $1.8 a pin. ‘

Currently, I charge $10 per pin for individual sales, and approximately $8 per pin for bulk deal sales (e.g. buying all 6 pins together). This means I have about a 4x-5x production cost profit margin on my bottle cap pins. However, as the initial order of pins cost about $200, I’ll need to sell at least 20 individual pins or 4 $50 bulk deals just to earn back my production costs before I actually see a profit on these. Therefore, I was taking a decent risk when getting these produced — but as long as I can sell at least that amount of pins over time online and at events, I’ll be happy with my decision to try expanding my products into small items like pins.

Anyway, I hope that was a decently informative explainer about one aspect of running an art business, and I hope to see you guys again next week!

Industrious Illustrating #42 – Summer of Artwork


Sorry about the late post! I had a bunch of deadlines and personal matters come up toward the end of the week, so This week, before I make posts about broad topics, I want to share some of the artwork I made over the summer that I liked the most.

I recently designed this shaker charm themed around Devil’s Hole pupfish, which are a critically endangered species of fish native only to a specific pool of water in Death Valley! Shaker charms are basically acrylic charms with a hollow interior compartment that has individual acrylic pieces which can be shaken around, as I demonstrate in the below video:

In other fun animal-themed merchandise, I also designed a fat squirrel wood pin as a fun and eco-friendly alternative to enamel pins. It’s a loving reference to the chonky squirrels that populate the Diag, though they also have general appeal for anyone who enjoys round orb-shaped cute animals.

I also made myself a logo to use on my branding online and at conventions featuring my original character Toshiaki and his mech “Bhairava”. It’s simple but also still drawn in my style to reflect my unique artistic style. You can also see it in the top right corner of the 2023-2024 Industrious Illustrating banner!

In terms of my digital painting skills, I spent a bunch of time working on improving my painting skills with bigger and more complex drawings than before! I translated one of my mecha digital paintings into a physical iridescent foil print which makes their lights change in color from different angles, defying the usual static rigidity of a paper print.

I also experimented with more complex perspective and color schemes I don’t usually use in my artwork:

All in all, I feel like I had a pretty fruitful summer of experimentation and improvement! I also tabled at a handful of smaller one-day events where I brought in alright sums of money to tide me over before I do a few three-day events in the winter, which I’ll talk about in another post! Anyway, see you guys again next week!

Industrious Illustrating #41 – Another Year!

Hello and welcome back to year 3 of Industrious Illustrating, which means a new header image! I’m going with a new header image look this year to reflect my growth and evolving identity as an artist. Each header image shows off some of the works I’m the most proud of making in the past few years.

In terms of other changes, I’ve been thinking recently about what I want this school year’s Industrious Illustrating columns to look like. Ever since I started selling art at anime cons over a year ago, more and more of this column has focused on conventions and upcoming events I’m doing. Just talking about these events in announcements isn’t the most riveting blog material, so I thought about how to make my experiences more interesting and unique as content.

I then decided that I’ll be putting a greater focus this year on writing about the ins and outs of being a freelancer and selling my art. While I will still post about the artwork I’ve made recently and the processes that go into making art, I also want to bring my own experiences running a small business as an artist to the table for people who may be interested in making that jump to marketing and selling their creations for money.

Some of the business topics I plan on addressing with this year’s Industrious Illustrating columns:

  • Profit margins
  • Different types of art products
  • The “marketing funnel”
  • Different types of art fairs/conventions
  • Fanart vs. original art
  • Commission invoices and finding clients
  • How much does a social media following matter?

And much more! I’m also up for doing columns about topics suggested in the comments on my posts, if anyone has questions or wants me to elaborate more on any of the topics I’ll talk about this year. Anyway, I hope you guys will continue to follow along with this blog column this year even now that I’m moving slightly to a new focus!

Industrious Illustrating #40 – End of Another Semester!

Hey everyone! I don’t have as much to share this time, as I’m doing last-minute preparations to table at Anime Park at Canton High School tomorrow. What I will say that I’m really happy about all the progress and work I’ve done as an illustrator and designer this past semester, and I’m feeling good about my trajectory overall.

I’m actually going to be attending the School of Information in the fall semester instead of Stamps for a myriad of reasons, but I absolutely intend to continue working as an art freelancer and hone my skills in my free time hoping that one day I can support myself solely on my art. I will also continue posting on this blog during the school year for the foreseeable future documenting my experiences and journey as an artist for all of you to follow along with.

While I will be working hard this summer on improving my art skills and doing commissions/commercial work, I also intend to take time off for myself and relax as much as I can. I think that’s an important part of truly making summer break into a break and not just another summer of grinding — there’ll be decades of work ahead of me where I don’t get a summer break anymore, so why rush it?

I’m looking forward to another semester of sharing my thoughts and process with you guys, and I hope everyone has a great summer!

Industrious Illustrating #39 – Life Drawing 4

At this point all my classes are over, so I want to share more of the life drawings I did in ARTDES 269 during the winter semester. I had a lot of fun and learned a decent amount from taking this course and getting to draw human figures from live models using a variety of traditional media and approaches. I’d definitely recommend this course to any Stamps majors or minors who want to learn more about drawing humans.

Warning for depictions of artistic nudity under the cut:

*Edit 5/11/2023: I fixed the image embed issues with this post!

Read More

Industrious Illustrating #38 – Sophomore Year Review Project

*Edit 5/11/2023: Fixed image embeds that weren’t working!

Apologies for not posting in several weeks. I was swamped with finals and finishing up lots of other tasks that hit me all at once.

Now that the winter semester is over, though, I can show my finished sophomore year studio project!

I did my sophomore year studio project with the intent of strengthening the concept art/visual development side of my portfolio. The bulk of my project was creating character turnaround design sheets, both for the Bhairava mech and for three of the characters in my sci-fi story concept “Blade of Seafoam”:


To round out my project, I did create some concept art sketches contextualizing my characters in the post-apocalyptic world they reside in, although I didn’t get a chance to finish painting these before I had to present my project before the review committee.

In the end, my sophomore year review went quite well, and I had a good discussion with the faculty review committee about my work and about my plans for the rest of undergrad. I intend to keep working on my character design and concept art skills over the summer, and I hope to share more “Blade of Seafoam”-related artwork here in the future!