How I Started RetroSupply

What happens when you mix magic tricks, diapers, and my grandmother's junk closet? You get RetroSupply!

I never planned to sell resources for design and illustration software. In fact, I distinctly remember seeing Photoshop actions on a website years ago and thinking "That looks like such a pain in the ass to make, I'll never make stuff like that!"

Ahh, how wrong I was. Lucky for me, it's been one of the most fun and meaningful adventures of my life.

Here are the highlights...

Born Nostalgic

Maybe it was spending a lot of time around the mid-century treasures at my grandparent's house as a kid. But for whatever reason I've always loved old stuff.

Sub Pop and Suburbs

When I was 12 years old I moved from the suburbs of San Francisco up to the Pacific Northwest where I lived way out in the forest. I spent my time getting deep into grunge music, Sub Pop, and learning guitar. All the while pining for the good old days when I could ride my bike through nieghborhoods with my friends, play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with my friends, and find secret spots with my old neighborhood friends.

Good News

When I was 30 I found out my first daughter was on the way. I was so excited about that sweet girl. But I also needed to figure my life out. I was $20,000+ in debt, stuck at a software company I was building with a friend that was going nowhere, and drinking way too much beer.

Magic Tricks and Diapers

I had a 9 month countdown timer to get my life in order. I wanted to make a business that made money and let me spend more time with my daughter.

Like most illustrators and designers, I found myself constantly looking at work on Dribbble and Instagram and asking myself “How in the hell did they...”

How'd they get that texture?

What brushes are they using?

How'd they make it look so much like a real printed comic?

What's that sweet font?

Unfortunately, most of the time it was very difficult to get folks to share the secrets of how they got different looks in their work. And then I realized that the little tricks of design and illustration are a lot like the tricks in magic. People guard them closely.

I made RetroSupply as a way to share those secrets.


RetroSupply is Born

I started getting up at 5:00 a.m. every morning to work on my little side project. I created a file of work that I loved from different artists and then made a list of all the questions I had about how they got different looks. Each one of these questions would be answered with a product.

The first product I made was actually called RetroSupply. It was a collection of textures and brushes I made from old packaging from my grandparent's garage. I didn't have all the technology I needed back then so I scanned and worked on stuff at a co-working space right across the street from Google.

I released my first product on Creative Market and it made a hundred bucks! I thought I was on to something and, sure enough, by the time my daughter was born RetroSupply was humming along helping other illustrators and designers get the effects and styles they were after!

Fast-Forward Eight Years

Today, RetroSupply products are used by over 50,000 customers and we employ three full time creatives and dozens of contractors.

We've done a lot of neat stuff over the years; too much to get into it all here. But here are a few of the things we've done.

  • The Chris DeLorenzo logo treatment. I've always been a fan of Johnny Cupcakes. Particularly the artwork that was made by Chris DeLorenzo. We were lucky enough to get Chris to do our branding before he started doing 100% illustration.
  • Developed the best comic halftone kit ever. If you love the ink imperfections of old school comics you need to check out ColorLab. The effects will shock you.
  • Made a RetroSupply air-freshener. These weren't exactly a cash cow, but hey, they look awesome and they kind of smell like fresh laundry.
  • Crafted the greatest 70s script font ever made. This baby has over 600 glyphs, Open Type features that have to be seen to be believed, and was made with careful attention to historic detail.
  • Produced the best articles on printing and illustration. RetroSupply isn't about hipster retro stuff. We love historical design and illustration and want to keep it alive. That's why we got Christopher Sperandio to write a brilliant series of articles on the history of printing and illustration.