FAQ: How It Works

Everything you need to know to work with Cotton Bureau


Okay, I’m interested. Why shouldn’t I do this myself?

You’re a designer, web brand, agency, conference, start-up, app developer, or community. You’d love to make t-shirts and hoodies, right? Of course you would. So why haven’t you? We’ll tell you why… it’s hard. Finding a good print shop is hard. Learning about screenprinting is hard. Customer service is hard. Shipping is hard. It’s all a big pain in the butt.

What if you could post your design for sale in a high-quality, design-focused online shop and have someone else take care of all the dirty work for you? No buying hundreds of shirts and hoodies upfront. No inventory. No shipping. No customer service. No risk. Sounds great, right? That's where we come in.

Fine. Let’s do it. What do I need to know?

Great! Here’s how to get started:

  1. Submit your design. We’ll take a look at it and decide if it’s right for us. Fair warning: we reject up to 90% of submissions. We’re not kidding when we say designs need to have it going on.
  2. If we accept your design, we work together with you to choose a fabric, colors, inks, and a price.
  3. Your design goes live on Cotton Bureau for a two-week pre-order period. You spread the word like crazy to your friends, family, and followers.
  4. Your goal is to sell 12 items during those two weeks. If you hit 12 or more, we send your design to press. If you don’t hit 12… well, better luck next time.
  5. As long as your design sells at least 25, you get paid! Over 12 and we still print your design, but we keep all sale proceeds to cover our costs.
  6. Your design is printed right down the street from us here in Pittsburgh by our friends at Clockwise.
  7. Once your design is printed, we pack them up ourselves and ship them all over the planet.
  8. If there are any customer service issues — lost packages, returns, refunds, exchanges, wrong size, wrong address, etc. — we deal with them ourselves.
  9. We almost forgot the best part: we send you a payment for all the items you sold! Even better, we don’t want to be greedy. When you hit 50, 75, 100, 150, 300, and 600 sales, you earn an extra $1 for every shirt you sold.

Sound good? Yeah, we thought so.

How much does it cost me?

Nothing! Using Cotton Bureau is completely free. There are no upfront costs whatsoever for our pre-order tees. Depending on inks and materials, we quote you a price per shirt starting around $20. You choose how much to sell the shirts for on the site above that number. Don’t forget, the more shirts you sell, the more money you make. We’ve paid several sellers well over $100,000 in a single year.

When will I get paid?

Pre-order campaigns pay out a few weeks after the campaign ends. We like to pay you as soon as possible! As soon as all outstanding orders with your shirts in them have been completed we initiate payment through PayPal. If you have kids’ tees for sale with us, we issue payments for those sales the 10th of every month as long as you’re at least at $25. If you haven’t quite hit the $25 mark, you’ll still receive a payment in December of each calendar year.

I’d like to make kids shirts too. Is that possible?

Yes. We use a special printing technique known as direct-to-garment printing to make kids tees. This allows us to print kids’ shirts on demand rather than requiring a 12 shirt minimum. Please be aware that the quality is a tier below screenprinting for most applications. There are some restrictions we place on DTG designs to ensure acceptable quality, however. You can learn more about DTG printing in the Materials, Inks, and Fit section.

Can I donate my proceeds to charity?

Absolutely. We've had many charity tees on the site. You can donate to the charity of your choice after you receive payment from us, or we can donate directly to a select list of charities on your behalf. If you want to know more about raising money for charity via Cotton Bureau, email us.

Can I buy my own shirts at a reduced price?

If you want to buy your own t-shirt—to have a few extra or to put yourself over the 12/25 threshold—just make sure you’re logged in and your price will automatically be reduced to our special seller price. Also, if you sell 12 tees, we send you a coupon code good for $25 off a purchase. You can use that code to either purchase your own tee or scoop up something else you like on the site.

Why you no like my t-shirt design? I sad.

We're looking for shirts that showcase the best in modern graphic design and illustration. More specifically, that means designs that display some combination of concept, originality, execution/technique, relevance to modern design trends, and of course marketability (either to a small niche or a wider audience). The design has to be good, but you also need to think about audience; who are the 12+ people who are going to buy this design in two weeks? Some designs register heavily in one area but lack in others, some trip all our sensors. What we do is super-subjective, we know, but if you look at the rest of the shirts on the site, you can get a picture of the kinds of designs that make it.

Please don’t take it personally. (Unless you’re that guy. Don’t be that guy, because if you are, it’s definitely personal.) We pass on over 90% of what gets submitted to us. We'd like to be able to provide feedback for each submitted design, but we're a very small team. If you'd like to know what to improve for next time, let us know and we'll do our best to get back to you.