So you want to design your own t-shirt, but you aren’t sure if people are going to want to buy it. There are several key factors to consider that play a role in the demand for a t-shirt. Not only will you have to deal with the creative aspects, but you’re going to run into technical issues as well.
In this article, we’re going to give you tips for designing your own t-shirt and discuss what you need to consider and which mistakes to avoid.
1. Come Up With a Concept
The most important aspect of designing a t-shirt is the design itself. You don’t need to be a high-fashion expert in order to create a good design, but it will require some creativity and basic knowledge of design software such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator.
Figure out what you want to create. Do you have a business and want to include a t-shirt in the gift package at an event? Put a creative spin on your logo. Or perhaps there’s a meme you want to recreate on a t-shirt. Whatever the case, you need to have an idea of what you want and visualize it.
If you’re a new artist, it will take a while to figure out your brand and aesthetic. Take your time and play around with the software. And don’t put yourself in a box—most artists’ works span over a multitude of concepts and themes.
2. Elements of the Composition
Now that you’ve conceptualized a design, it’s time to consider the elements of the composition. There isn’t one right way to do it.
Art is subjective and you need to accept that some people simply won’t think it’s good. We can, however, give you some tips on what will catch the eye of most people.
Most of us can appreciate a good, complex work of art, but that doesn’t mean it will translate the same on a piece of clothing. The key to creating an eye-catching t-shirt design is to keep complexity at a minimum and make the design easy to digest.
Try to center the design on one thing and allow additional elements to complement it instead of drowning it out.
If your design consists of more the one element, you need to find a sweet spot for their placement in relation to each other. Don’t put a rose on top of a skull with text expanding over both. Instead, space them out so that potential wearers can see everything clearly.
Typography and Fonts
Playing with typography can help you turn text into a visual component. There are three things you need to consider: the words themselves, the font, and the placement.
Think of the phrase you want to use. It needs to suit your brand and complement the design, should you decide to combine text with it.
The font can make or break the concept you’re going for. Calligraphy may look pretty, but it’s hard to read. On the other hand, sans serif fonts are easy to read but might come across boring or uncreative. Find a unique font, and consider using different fonts for each word to create variation.
Don’t overlook the placement of the text. The spacing between letters and words, as well as their size, will influence the visual appeal.
Borders and Edges
You need to think about the edges of your design. Do you want the edges to be free-flowing or will it look better on a border?
There are countless border types to choose from. Experiment with the shape; nobody’s stopping you from using a circle, or the outline of the design itself. Frames can also add a unique touch to the composition.
Colors and Contrast
The color scheme of your design will be entirely up to your artistic goal. However, it might be worth looking into the ways different colors complement each other and knowing when you’re using too many—you don’t want to overwhelm the wearer. You also need to consider the color of the t-shirt; how will the design look against the backdrop?
With color comes opacity—the brightness of the colors. You need to consider the color of the t-shirt when settling on the opacity of the design. A design that looks faded can play into the aesthetic you’re going for. But typically, a higher contrast between the t-shirt and the design, and on the design itself, will make it stand out.
3. Placement and Sizing
Once you’ve completed the design, you’ll need to decide where you want to put it on the t-shirt. The middle-front is usually where designs go, but you can also place it on the back, or scale it down to fit it on a sleeve.
Sizing matters too. How big do you want the design to be in relation to the t-shirt? If it’s too big, people might have a hard time making out what it is as the shirt bends with movement. But you don’t want it to be too small either—unless it’s a logo, they look neat when sized-down on the top left.
4. T-Shirt Fit, Color, and Material
If you’ve ever looked through the t-shirt section of an online clothing store, you’ll know the abundance of variety with fit, colors, and materials.
The fit of a t-shirt refers to the way it’s cut and sewn. If you’re unsure of which fit to pick, or how many different fits to pick, the basic crew-neck t-shirt is always a solid choice as it suits all body types.
Black and white t-shirts are the most common since they act as a blank canvas for colored designs. But don’t be scared of using other colors—this will make it stand out to potential buyers. A creative tip: make your design black and white, or monotonal, if you’re going to put it on a colored t-shirt.
It goes without saying that you need to use high-quality material, regardless of the type—for t-shirts, cotton or cotton blends are the most common. It needs to be comfortable and durable.
Try getting your hands on a fabric sample in person before placing a big order. That way, you can confirm that it’s up to your standards.
5. Printing Options
There are several t-shirt printing options, and they all have pros and cons. It will come down to your budget, the quality you aspire for, and how well they work with your design. The two most common printing methods are:
- Screen Printing: Most designers opt for this method since it’s affordable and reliable. The downside is that it can get expensive with colorful designs since the printers need to use a new screen for each color.
- Direct To Garments (DTG): This method uses a textile printer and ink, similar to a typical office printer. It’s ideal for detailed and complex designs. Plus, the ink is thin so you won’t get that thick, rubbery feeling. Unfortunately, DTG doesn’t work well on dark fabrics.
There are also various types of ink you can pick from. The most commonly used ones for t-shirts are:
- Plastisol: Plastisol is the standard ink for screen printing. It’s versatile and durable. Since it doesn’t soak into the fabric but rather sits on top of it, it has that slick rubbery feel.
- Water-Based: The benefit of water-based ink is that it’s ingrained in the fabric, so you won’t be able to “feel” the design. It’s also eco-friendly. The downside is that it’s only suitable for cotton fabrics and will wash out over time.
Once you’ve settled on a printing method and ink type, acquired the t-shirts, and have your design file ready to go, you need to find a reliable printer that offers your preferred method within your budget.
Have Fun Designing Your Own T-Shirts
Anyone with a creative side and some patience can design their own t-shirt. Simply follow the tips outlined in this guide, and you’ll be on your way to creating an eye-catching t-shirt. And if enough people like your design, you might even be able to start selling them.
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