How to design a t-shirt: the ultimate guide – 99designs

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How to design a t-shirt: the ultimate guide – 99designs

It’s stained, it’s ripped, it’s filled with holes… However you simply can’t appear to throw it out. For lots of us, our favourite t-shirts are a option to specific who we’re. (And for others, they’re free promoting!) However how one can design a t-shirt that ticks all of the containers? You’ll discover out beneath.

ironic t shirt
We all know ironic t-shirts are sizzling, however that is some subsequent stage stuff.

Do you’ve gotten an killer t-shirt thought and suspect others will really feel the identical means? Are you on the lookout for an alternate technique of selling your small business, or making some facet revenue with merch? Do you wish to commemorate a particular occasion, like a household reunion or bachelorette celebration?

You are watching: how to design graphic tees

No matter your causes, the basics of t-shirt design stay the identical; it’s what you do with them that counts.

On this Final Information to T-Shirt Design, we’ll run via the every step of the design course of, from the inception of an thought to getting your shirt mass-produced. Regardless of how a lot (or how little) expertise you’ve gotten, these t-shirt design ideas provides you with every thing it’s worthwhile to know.

How one can design a t-shirt in 7 steps —

  • Determine why you want a shirt
  • Outline your funds at amount
  • Know your printing choices
    • Display screen printing
    • Vinyl graphics
    • Direct-to-garment
  • Brainstorm your design idea
    • T-shirt sorts
    • Model and imagery
    • Typography
    • Colour
    • Specialty printing
  • Discover a designer
  • Consider your design
  • Get the precise recordsdata
  • Discover a kick-ass printer

1. Determine why you want a shirt

Regardless of your purpose for designing a t-shirt, it’ll at all times contain a little bit little bit of branding. When you’re utilizing t-shirts for promotional functions, branding is your major objective. Even when it’s strictly trend, you’ll nonetheless have to weave constant model themes into all of your merchandise. For private use—like commemorating an occasion, for instance—you wish to ensure that your t-shirt design communicates clearly.

When you haven’t already, write out a listing of the important thing themes, kinds, and persona traits you need your model and shirts to convey. Is your model playful or severe? Edgy or conservative? Luxurious or inexpensive? A centered t-shirt design can reply all of those questions at a look.

t-shirt design with different color choices
What’s the Prince Adam model of the Brewmaster seem like? T-shirt design by yuyunarts

Take a fast peek on the instance above. What does it inform you in regards to the Brewmasters firm? For starters, they don’t take themselves too severely, and the wood devices counsel a extra conventional brewing model that hints at a basic style. That’s plenty of info from a cartoon.

To get the best design, transfer away out of your private desire and rely extra on actual, quantifiable knowledge. Who’re your goal shoppers/clients? What model traits do they wish to do enterprise with?

Listed here are 4 targets to assist information your t-shirt design course of by serving to you perceive why you want a shirt and what you need it to do.

Promotional items

Your t-shirts are one thing you give away at no cost to maintain your model within the minds of potential shoppers/clients.

This might be one thing given away at conventions, conferences, different promotional occasions or perhaps a leave-behind at a enterprise assembly.

Inner firm utilization

Staff get shirts for solidarity, appreciation or maybe even an organization uniform.

The targets are much like promotional items as a result of there’s a powerful want for branding.


Your t-shirts are a product you propose on promoting, so ensure that to think about model, marketability and enterprise technique.

You’ll want to grasp your shirt’s place out there, so contemplate conducting analysis to find the tastes of your clients. Your individual preferences are a very good begin, however when it comes all the way down to promoting to the lots, quantifiable knowledge at all times beats guesswork.

Occasion souvenirs

Particular occasions want particular souvenirs, and t-shirts are at all times an amazing possibility.

These share most of the identical targets as shirts for inner firm utilization (solidarity, appreciation) however for a extra informal, much less restrictive viewers.

No matter their use, most t-shirts are promotional not directly. Even in case you’re designing t-shirts as merchandise, embrace your model brand so observers know who made the shirt if they need one thing comparable. It ought to have a powerful, even dominant, presence on the shirt.

Apply the identical design high quality and cleverness as you’d a billboard commercial. Extra than simply garments, t-shirts present publicity each time an individual wears them in public, particularly if the proprietor likes the shirt and wears it usually.

When you’ve decided your targets, you’ll be able to then prioritize the totally different points of your t-shirt design. For instance, trend may be a excessive precedence for merchandise tees, however not for worker items. You wish to tailor your design in a means that most closely fits your wants.

2. Outline your funds and amount

You’re anxious to get to the precise t-shirt designing. We get it. However let’s settle some particulars first so you’ll be able to focus your design higher: specifically, your funds and amount. How a lot you’ll be able to spend and what number of t-shirts you want will impression your design.

For instance, funds and amount will assist decide what number of colours you should use. Relying in your printing methodology, further colours could value more cash. In case your funds is tight, a great way to save lots of is conserving colours.

The variety of shirts you want may even affect your printing methodology. Some strategies are perfect for printing in bulk. Others have the next value per shirt and are higher for small orders.

See more: how to edit photo on snapchat without it zooming in

Earlier than you start to consider designing or printing, plan your funds and amount accordingly.

3. Know your printing choices

There are plenty of issues to contemplate whenever you’re on the lookout for the very best t-shirt printing methodology for you. Value, look, manufacturing time, supplies—they’re all necessary. The extra about every methodology, the better it is going to be to determine which one is greatest for you.

Display screen printing

That is the gold commonplace for t-shirt printing. Your printer makes authentic screens of your design (one for every shade) so you’ll be able to print in bulk.

Execs: Dependable commonplace for printing. Reasonably priced and prime quality. Very best for big orders over 20.

Cons: New display required for each new shade or design revision (which will get pricey). Colourful designs find yourself being costly.

Vinyl graphics

One other methodology of heated switch, vinyl printing makes use of extra sturdy vinyl as an alternative of simply ink.

Execs: Extraordinarily sturdy and prime quality. Very best for whenever you need your design to face out (actually).

Cons: Extra colours value extra, so difficult designs get costly. Not nice for big orders.

Direct-to-garment (or print-on-demand)

A more recent possibility, DTG printing makes use of the liberty of inkjet printing, however prints instantly on material.

Execs: Extremely customizable designs with most element and in depth shade selections.

Cons: Use for small batches or maybe a single pattern. The extra you’re printing, the much less viable it turns into. Doesn’t work properly on dark-colored clothes.

Check out our information to t-shirt printing for extra info.

4. Brainstorm your design idea

Right here comes the enjoyable stuff… Now you get to begin determining what’s really going in your t-shirt! Ensure you don’t bounce to this step first. The extra effort and time you place into getting ready for this, the higher.

Your design might go in 1,000,000 totally different instructions. As you’re brainstorming, listed here are some ideas to assist focus your creativity.

T-shirt sorts

All this speak about t-shirts, and it’s straightforward to overlook that there are many several types of shirts. Simply to call a couple of…

How to design a t-shirt step: choosing t-shirt type

Take into consideration your viewers and meant targets earlier than deciding the precise sort of t-shirt. A revealing crop high won’t be the very best promotion for a legislation agency.

As you begin sketching out t-shirt design concepts, ensure that it should translate to the precise dimension. Design utilizing an 18”x18” canvas and bodily place your designs on a shirt. That doesn’t imply it’s important to fill the entire area (like in case you’re protecting it minimal with a small brand), however a realistically sized canvas will enable you get the proportions proper.

Upon getting your design, contemplate the way it will look on bigger and smaller shirt sizes. When you select a display printing course of, totally different sizes could require totally different screens, which implies further prices.

Model and imagery

Colorful dinosaur t shirt
T-shirt design by Prim

At this stage, it’s important to depend on your inventive and inventive instincts to speak the messages you wish to say. Don’t overlook these questions we talked about earlier than:

  • What’s your model?
  • Who’s your market?
  • Why are you designing a shirt within the first place?

Put all of that collectively, and also you’re prepared to begin designing a t-shirt that’s excellent for you.

For instance, check out Prim’s dinosaur t-shirt design. It is a child’s merchandise model, so the model is cute and cartoony, interesting to its market.

Evaluate that to the successful entry for the Pumpkin t-shirt design contest, by 99designs creator DiditRed.

The Forgotten Path t shirt
T-shirt design by DiditRed

This German hardcore music competition is unquestionably not marketed to youngsters. That opens up their designs to edgier materials, which fits their potential shoppers higher.

See more: Best 5 Photo Apps to Remove Unwanted Objects on Your iPhone

After all, there are extra choices than being terrifying or sugary candy.

Datafiniti t shirt
Datafinity t-shirt design by Alex Lalove

Alex Lalove reveals us how one can design an expert, risk-free t-shirt with out being boring. His successful entry promotes the Datafinity model with its brand entrance and heart, however spices up the appear and feel so it appears extra trendy than an ordinary enterprise tee.

Additionally, keep in mind that your design is being displayed on our bodies. Lumpy, bumpy our bodies that aren’t at all times as symmetrical as we’d like. Take into consideration flat, uncomplicated designs since there’s no telling the place the nooks and crannies will land in your picture.

For comparable causes, you additionally wish to keep away from detailed imagery, equivalent to refined shade gradients and complicated linework. At all times err on the facet of straightforward.

Sioux t shirt
Designer Monkeii makes use of a 2D picture and two colours that match the background properly—all with out sacrificing the inventive high quality.

T-shirt typography

The fonts you select say rather a lot about your model. Serif fonts (those with little arms) or script fonts look extra basic. Sans-serif fonts make it extra trendy. T-shirts supply extra of a possibility than different areas of graphic design to play with enjoyable, loopy show fonts, however do maintain readability in thoughts. If the phrases in your shirt are necessary to speaking your message, ensure that they don’t get overshadowed by swirly, grungy, crazy typography.

Colour in t-shirt design

The component of design that’s greatest at immediately speaking persona is shade. Every shade, hue and tint evokes an emotion, appearing as a shortcut so that you can painting one thing about your model at only a look.

T-shirt designs have two units of colours to remember: the material shade(s) and the print shade(s). To guarantee that these two complement one another, at all times use your material shade because the background of your design concepts. (And likewise notice {that a} coloured canvas can have an effect on what inks seem like, so be sure to discuss to your printer about that!)

Pantone colors vs. CMYK printing
Pantone colours vs. CMYK printing

Due to the way in which t-shirt inks work, printing colours can get a little bit difficult. The least costly option to print your design will probably be to approximate the colours. Simply know that your “teal” won’t match your printer’s “teal.”

Precise shade matches are doable with Pantone (PMS) or customized blended CMYK inks—however they’re dearer. PMS makes use of predefined, precise ink tones that your printers should purchase. CMYK printing creates just about any shade by combining Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black) inks. Verify along with your printer to find out what’s obtainable.

Specialty printing strategies

Like another printing medium, t-shirts have their very own set distinctive ink choices.

  • Plastisol — The usual ink utilized in screen-printing
  • Foil — Shiny and reflective
  • Novelty — Glitter, hologram or perhaps a fuzzy really feel
  • Excessive-density — For a dimensional look that pops out from the shirt
  • Gel — Like high-density, however with a “wetter” look
  • Water-based — No feeling in any respect; ingrained within the material

5. Discover a designer

Bought design expertise? Get crackin’! When you don’t, don’t fear. There are tons of professionals on the market prepared to show your design idea right into a actuality.

The DIY route

The primary benefit of designing a t-shirt your self is the worth. In case your funds is tight, the choice is already made for you. Design freedom is a large benefit, however don’t overlook that professionals know the technical issues of t-shirt design (plus an entire lot extra). When you broke out into a chilly sweat after we talked about acronyms like CMYK, you may sleep higher handing this off to a professional.

Hiring a professional

Moderately than educating your self advertising, branding and graphic design, why not pay somebody who is aware of all them already?

t shirt designs
Designs by Budi A, dudeowl, and Natalia Maca

Collaborating with a freelancer may be difficult, but in addition plenty of enjoyable. Do your greatest to discover a designer that thinks such as you and understands what you’re on the lookout for. Take into account the designer’s persona, design model and experience. You can too attempt working with a number of designers without delay by launching a T-Shirt Design Contest on 99designs.

When you’ve discovered your designer(s), it’s important to clearly talk your imaginative and prescient. Inform them what about your design concepts, messaging, and meant viewers. Embrace particulars about colours, logos, visible model, t-shirt sort and printing specs. Ship them photographs of designs that match the model you’re on the lookout for. Give them every thing they should know so you may get the proper t-shirt design.

6. Consider your design

As your design choices begin rolling in, flick thru each model and choose your favorites. Don’t overlook your advertising and technical necessities. Will your design match on a tank high? Is the quantity of shade inside your funds? Is the messaging proper? This isn’t simply an artwork contest, however a enterprise determination. Talk your suggestions clearly to your designer to ensure your subsequent set of choices look even higher.

Then, ensure that to run it by each key stakeholders and individuals who don’t have any connection to what you’re doing. Even when it’s simply your neighbor throughout the road, individuals not intently related along with your t-shirt design will discover stuff you by no means did.

Take into account asking them:

  • What’s the one key message you get whenever you take a look at this shirt?
  • Who is that this shirt for?

Their solutions to those questions will enable you decide if the t-shirt is speaking what you need it to. If it’s not, return to your designer and work out what you’ll be able to change.

7. Get the precise recordsdata out of your designer

You’ve obtained the proper t-shirt design. Hell sure! Now return to that info you bought out of your printer and verify to be sure to have the precise recordsdata.

You in all probability want:

  • Your t-shirt design in vector format. This may doubtless be an Adobe Illustrator (AI), PDF, or EPS file. You’ll want one for every totally different t-shirt design you’re creating.
  • Colour codes. In case your printer does customized colours, be sure to have the Pantone or CMYK shade codes in order that every thing seems trying such as you need.

8. Discover a kick-ass printer

As soon as your design’s prepared, it’s printing time! Discover one that provides the tactic you want at a worth you’ll be able to afford. After all, further options and reductions to sweeten the deal are nice, too. Sifting via printing choices to seek out the very best one to your explicit venture often requires expertise and time… however we’re going to fast-track it for you!

Nerd t shirt
Our designers create superior stuff for us, too! T-shirt design by Asael Varas
  • Discover out if the printer has an in-house artwork division. Not solely does this imply the printer does in-house prints, however it often means these people do good work. Solely profitable printers can maintain an in-house artwork division.
  • Request samples of completed shirts, not design photographs. Most printing firms love guests! Cease by their store to see and contact their shirts. Keep in mind: a printer’s job is to translate design to an precise print, and solely a completed product reveals that.
  • Begin constructing a working relationship with a printer you’ll be able to develop with. Discover a printer who prints six or extra colours. Even in case you don’t want that many to your first venture, you may want them later.
  • When you’re doing a bigger order, ensure that your printer presents pre-press proofs. You gained’t know for certain how the design suits on the shirts till you see a pattern.
  • Beware hidden expenses, notably with screens, movies or Pantone shade matching. Identical to another business, there are a couple of rotten eggs. Go over all the costs earlier than fee to ensure they’re being up entrance.

Time to design a tremendous t-shirt! —

Yearly t-shirt design and printing have gotten increasingly accessible. They’re one thing each enterprise can reap the benefits of… so long as they know what they’re doing. We hope this information on how one can design a t-shirt gave you every thing it’s worthwhile to break into the world of constructing t-shirts. Bought questions? Ask them within the feedback beneath.

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