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Star Trek Artists: Tips for Getting Your Fan Art Approved by the Brand

One of the abstract Obsidian Order (commissioned) pieces CBS approved on RedBubble.
Another commissioned set of designs approved by CBS this week.
I finally have a handful of artwork that's been approved by CBS for sale on RedBubble! It only took 6 months, but at least now I have a better understanding of what they're looking for, and what they're rejecting. What follows is only slightly above hearsay but it's what I've learned from other Star Trek artists and from representatives at RedBubble and TeePublic (which have now merged.)
I only recently found out a lot of this stuff when RedBubble and TeePublic joined forces. TeePublic reached out to me upload my fanart over there and I asked them what the brands, particularly CBS/Star Trek was looking for. The rep actually gave me some really helpful info that isn't on the Brand Partnership page.

Here's the TL;DR if you don't want to read the whole thing:
  • Avoid actors' faces.
  • Avoid controversy, politics, pessimistic themes.
  • Focus more on classic original series, or whatever is playing now or coming up (Disco, Picard, Lower Decks.) 
  • Avoid crossovers that will require two brands approve.
  • Cute/funny/lighthearted themes seem to get through the approval process faster.
  • Be patient. It can take months.

1. Saleable vs Licensed: First know that there is a difference between being allowed to sell your Star Trek fanart on a platform, and being licensed by the brand. My stuff is allowed - not licensed by Star Trek. CBS isn't promoting my work, using my art or anything - they just said it's ok to sell it. That's good enough for me. The art that gets licensed tends to be far superior to what I can do at this point in my art career. Plus, I'm very niche. I like my Garashir, Spirk and Orions and frankly that stuff doesn't really sell for them. Which take me to . .

2, Brand 's Self Image: Know what the brand thinks of itself. Star Trek sees itself as very optimistic, uplifting and forward-looking. They tend to want art that makes people feel good, or at least no feel bad. They feel strongest about promoting the "Core Brand" - Classic Trek, and whatever is currently airing and coming up. So think Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks etc. That kind of (free) promotion is good for their brand.  And they don't care for controversy. Star Trek as a brand icon has always been willing to take risks. CBS/Paramount don't really share that enthusiasm.

3. Avoid faces of actors. When you use the actors' faces, you not only have to get CBS's permission, but then the talent agency/representative permission. That takes ages and ages. Just avoid it if you can.  That said . . .

4. Babies and Animals: Stylized, chibi or animal versions of characters actually have a good chance. Baby trek, Trek cast as puppies, whatever - that sort of thing, especially if it's cute and/or funny, has a really good chance.

5. Originality: Come up with stuff that hasn't already been done a million times. Facepalming Picard and stuff like that is starting to get rejected just because there is so much of it, and they want to move forward with Picard.
Speaking of stuff that's getting hard to get approved - Gorn, apparently. I heard from a couple of artists that their Gorn art, unless it was baby Gorn, or some other very stylized and different version of Gorn, was having a hard time getting through. Mine was no exception. My Gorn to be Wild artwork was rejected. :-(  Which is why I recommend looking forward, not backward . . .

6. Look ahead: Think about what the characters and themes that are coming back for Picard - those probably have a good chance. Remember, getting Jeri Ryan's face on a mug probably won't work, but her ocular implant is recognizable on its own and can be used in something more stylized.

I hope that helps. Anyone with suggestions, stories of successes or rejections you'd like to share -- please jump on!


  1. Hi. Thanks for this guide. Who do you actually submit your art to? I have some Trek designs, but Redbubble and TeePublic rejected them outright. Do you present them to the selling site or did you approach CBS/Star Trek. I’m just looking to make them sellable, not licenced.

    1. Very few of my designs, percentage-wise, are actually approved by brand. The only way to get them posted "under the radar" is not to tag them. No Star Trek, no character names, nothing. That's why all my Cardassians are labeled "Murder Lizards". I have more tips on going that route in the post after this one "The Road to Hell is Paved with Quodo".

      My designs are on Neatoshop, RedBubble and Teepublic and I submit through them - not the brand directly. For designs I know probably won't get approved because they're faces, crossovers or mashups etc., I just don't tag them at all. If they're IDIC symbols or more abstract designs, I give them a shot and tag them Star Trek etc. (be sure to check the fan partnership program guidelines for each website you submit art to.)

      But bear in mind it is very, very risky to post art without brand approval. I lost my entire store on Society6 for a design that got noticed by the brand. If you're not up for taking that kind of risk, don't try it. Keep trying the legitimate way. Teepublic and RedBubble support are both good about answering questions, though they can't always be specific. You can ask them if Star Trek is currently rejecting all art right now or if they're looking only for art for particular shows, that kind of thing. They may be able to give you some help.

      Good luck!


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