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So, You Want to Design a T-Shirt?

All gifs from Giphy

Summer is officially upon us and that means t-shirts… Lots and lots of t-shirts. Some that make you laugh, cringe (just me?) and some you will feel indifferent to (read “meh”). T-shirts are like billboards, you only have a split second to get the viewers’ attention and make a lasting impression. When done right you can design a memorable shirt that forwards your brand, conveys a message, or just makes someone’s day.

Have you been tasked to design this year’s family reunion tee? Need a giveaway at summer trade shows? Launching a rebrand and need new merch (merchandise for everyone over 22 years old)?

Keep these five things in mind when designing and even “the kids” will sport your tee (or at least not complain about wearing it).

1. Use contrasting fonts (a maximum of three, yes THREE) in order to create an easy-to-read design. If you need a refresher on typography check out our blog on the subject. Thanks, Canva for the great example!

2. Keep in mind the t-shirt color (PSA: No one wants another white t-shirt – we promise). Make sure your text and graphics will stand out in the colors you choose! Check out this visual guide to color contrast in t-shirt design by Around the Bonfire.

3. When possible use vector graphics (graphics created in Adobe Illustrator or some other vector artwork program). Vector artwork doesn’t use pixels so images can scale up or down without being pixelated.

Need a little extra help? Vector artwork can be confusing. Find more in-depth information.

4. Be mindful of printing/ink limitations. Printers often charge more for additional colors. Pro Tip: Take advantage of the in-house artists/designers available to you for the best result! Not sure what kind of ink to choose? Check out this guide from Bizfluent.

5. When in doubt, simplify! Yes, you have most likely tried to incorporate too many elements into your t-shirt design. Remind yourself of your goal and get feedback from others (who have good taste).

Ahh, the symmetry! Examples from Ugmonk via Creative Market.

Need more tips? Rush Order Tees has a hilarious list of things to consider when creating a design (with photo examples)!

May the contrast be ever in your favor.

Everyone wearing your shirt…

Author, Laura V. Boston
The C3 Group