The Perfect Print-On-Demand Gift for Pet Lovers

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Personalized gifts for pet owners are easy these days thanks to print-on-demand websites (POD). Mugs in particular make for a great gift so long as they look less like a “mug shot” and more like a professionally designed keepsake. I have a few ways of making these cups look great. All you need is a decent image and a simple design.


The biggest mistake people make in designing a gift mug is making it too busy. Keep it simple. Choose one photo, the best photo, and then spend time on giving the image a professional gloss.

A cup designed with a single photo and a basic gold accent

Choose a simple color background for the mug or leave it white. You can add one graphic element if you want, choosing a border or a phrase. Resist putting the pet’s name on the mug. Really. The giftee/pet owner KNOWS the name of their beloved companion. Instead, if you want the cup to say something, add a great pet quote or use a favorite phrase you hear the person use with their pet. I call my dog “Sweet Potato Pie.” It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s arguably better if it doesn’t. Custom mug printing through Gelato’s print-on-demand services offers a unique and thoughtful gift option for pet lovers, allowing them to showcase their love for their furry companion while enjoying their favorite hot beverage.


A beautiful expression but the person is distracting

Spend a few minutes finessing the photo. Cropping is everything. Even if you have only a so-so picture, you can crop it and make it more interesting. If the picture has a distracting background, use the markup option in your photos app to white or black it out.

Cropping to just the face makes for a much better photo to go on a mug

On the photo below, I drew over the background in black. Even though the leaves make for a nice photograph, for a mug the simplicity of just the dog works best. Not to mention the person’s legs in the background and the pink leash.

I often use the Prisma art filter app to make the picture more like a graphic design. For HD, you have to spring for a 1.99/month subscription. And sometimes the HD version is less graphically interesting to my eye. For a small item like a cup, the SD free version should be fine.

Edited in Prisma app

If you want to work on a computer, you can use a design website like Canva to not only play with your image, but also to design overlays of text and such. Get the exact dimensions of the graphic area on the cup that your print company uses and then set up the same size file on Canva. The advantage of this is that you can make the background color match perfectly with a color in your picture. 

Whether you use your phone’s filters, an app, or a design website, save a few varied versions because it will look different once you see it on the cup mockup. 


Edited in Prisma app with Frangipani and then applied to a cup

Once you have your photos in several different looks, upload them to the POD company you want to use. I almost always use Shutterfly, though there are plenty of other POD sites. Shutterfly is super easy to use and lets you really personalize the product design. You control background, cup interior color, number of photos, text or no. Even if you pick one of their preset designs, you can totally change it in Layout option. It is very user friendly.  

The Shutterfly app mug design page

Plus, since I signed up for Shutterfly’s email list, I always have offers in my inbox. They’re always giving some kind of incentive. Sometimes the item I want is free and only pay shipping. Sometimes there’s a discount and shipping is free. Usually I end up paying half the full price when you consider both the cost of the item and the cost of shipping. Because of this, I will sometimes prepare a gift way in advance and then wait for an offer.

That’s it. Fill in the payment and shipping and your perfect personal gift is on its way.

NOTE: None of the apps or websites I mentioned in this article sponsor me, and all the services I use are fully paid for by me.

Artist/writer Susan diRende travels the world with her service dog, Mizi, and has been living with no fixed abode since the end of 2014. A published author of both nonfiction and fantasy, she has been going to the dogs all her life for love, inspiration, and laughter.  All photos ©Susan diRende


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