10 Services That Turn Your Designs Into Real Stuff

posted under  Tips & Tricks on Aug 26th, 2010 with 9 Comments

26 Aug

There's a new industrial revolution going on, and it's called digital fabrication. Using rapid manufacturing technologies — from laser cutting to 3D printing to digital textile printing — products no longer have to made on the assembly line. This means products can be personalized, customized, and individually created. The best part about this new manufacturing model? Anyone can turn their designs into real products. Here are ten cutting-edge services leading the democratization of design.


Ponoko is an online, custom product making service built on "the world's easiest making system." It's where creators, digital fabricators, materials suppliers and buyers meet to make (almost) anything.

Over 60,000 user generated designs have been made to date including jewelry, furniture, home accessories, apparel, toys, tools, signage, and more.

The company operates two digital making facilities — one in California and another in New Zealand — and has making partners in Germany, Italy, and the UK.

The Ponoko network can make, sell, and ship your designs all over the world. All you need is a great idea. (And some skills in Illustrator wouldn't hurt.)


Spoonflower offers custom digital textile printing with no minimum orders.

Designers can upload graphics, repeat patterns, photographs, or engineered designs and have them printed on a variety of cotton fabrics. The printing process uses water-based inks, no additional chemicals, and allows for an infinite number of colors in a single design.

The result? One-of-a-kind designs and eco-friendly fabrics. You can also sell your designs in the Spoonflower marketplace which offers the largest collection of independent fabric designs in the world.


Shapeways creates your designs using 3D printing. This process builds your design from a 3D software model using layers.

Shapeways offers 3D printing in a variety of materials including stainless steel, alumide, glass, dyed polyamide, acrylic, and ABS plastic.

Users have created everything from jewelry and home decor to robots and mathematical art. Skills in 3D software are needed. But with programs like Google SketchUp, Blender, and the latest iteration of Photoshop, it's now easier than ever to make the jump from 2D to 3D designer.


Blurb is the ultimate self-publishing service. Whether you're a craft hobbyist or an InDesign pro, Blurb turns your designs into a professional printed book.

Books can be printed with a softcover, hardcover with image wrap, or hardcover with dust jacket. There are five sizes to choose from, and pricing is tied to the number of pages per book.

You can set a price and sell your books through Blurb's bookstore. Each time someone orders your book, Blurb prints the order on-demand and ships it directly to the customer.


Zazzle was one of the first companies to offer mass-customization, the creation of personalized products for anyone. Everything from hoodies and hats to calendars and mouse pads to pet clothing and skateboards can be customized with your own design.

Zazzle has created personalized products for brands like Disney and Hallmark and countless creative individuals. And of course, you can sell your original designs in the Zazzle marketplace.


Evelop lets designers submit original graphics and artwork for a variety of textile based goods. They offer on-demand manufacturing of cotton basics like napkins, oven gloves, pillow covers, table runners, and tote bags.

Member-designers submit their creations which are added to the online shop after approval. Each item ordered is assembled in Belgium, and the designer receives a share of the purchase price. The company also has a B2B program which supports design businesses and offers wholesale ordering to retail establishments.


Pinball Publishing is your go-to printer for eco-friendly, low minimum quantity paper goods.

Using soy based inks and professional grade papers, Pinball prints a wide selection of stationery goods, promotional items, and media packaging. You can create business cards, greeting cards, posters, hang tags, notebooks, cd sleeves, 7 inch record covers and more. Minimum orders for some items start at just 50.

There's also a Connect section which lets creative professionals list their design services for search by Pinball customers.


100K Garages is a worldwide network of workshops, each with its own set of designers, crafters, and tools. It's more of a maker-community project than a service, and the goal is to connect creative consumers with local fabricators.

To have something made you first post a request on the job board. The workshops, called fabbers, bid on the project. From there, you work out the details of the arrangement with the fabber whose bid you selected.

It's very experimental, but has a lot of potential for encouraging a return to localized production and one-of-a-kind items.


MagCloud is on-demand printing for professional quality magazines.

The company was started three years ago by Hewlett-Packard to make publishing easier and more accessible. Anyone can create a PDF, upload it to the site, and have it printed, bound, and shipped by MagCloud.

With printing at just 20cents a page, your magazine can sell at a competitive price. Anytime someone orders your magazine, MagCloud handles everything and you collect your royalty.


Wallpaper On Demand creates custom interior wallpapers. Patterns, graphics, and photographs can be printed using CMYK powder on fleece wallpaper.

Because these wallpapers are digitally printed, you aren't restricted to repeatable graphics. You can create any-size wall murals.

Unlike most of the other services on this list, Wallpaper On Demand does not let everyone sell in their online shop.

Know of another service that lets creative individuals make their own products?

List your resources in the comments below.

Author: Kristen Leigh Turner

Kristen is a freelance writer and designer with a love for travel, technology, business and art. She is also the contributing editor at the Ponoko blog which focuses on the democratization of design through digital fabrication.


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9 CommentsThoughts from the Community

  • Christopher J. said Sep 15th, 2010
  • was always thinking on how they would create customized stuffs from those complex personally made designs. Thanks for this informative article.
  • Kristen T. said Sep 7th, 2010
  • Thanks everyone for the comments. I'm glad it was the list was useful!
  • Brian M. said Sep 6th, 2010
  • very good selection that will inspire anyone with an ounce of creativity thanks for posting.
  • Fabian C. said Aug 30th, 2010
  • Ohh, really found it useful, have the idea to make book for my illustratiosn and no have idea where star to looking for, thanks for the information! :)
  • Nicole B. said Aug 27th, 2010
  • Wow, cool, had no idea you can get such stuff created with your own designs! need that! ^^ hope they also deliver to Germany. ;) Thanks!

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