It’s stained, it’s ripped, it’s full of holes… But you just can’t seem to throw it out. For a lot of us, our favorite t-shirts are a way to express who we are. (And for others, they’re free advertising!) But how to design a t-shirt that ticks all the boxes? You’ll find out below.
Do you have a killer t-shirt idea and suspect others will feel the same way? Are you looking for an alternative means of promoting your business, or making some side income with merch? Do you want to commemorate a special event, like a family reunion or bachelorette party?
In this Ultimate Guide to T-Shirt Design, we’ll run through each step of the design process, from the inception of an idea to getting your shirt mass-produced. No matter how much (or how little) experience you have, these t-shirt design tips will give you everything you need to know.
How to design a t-shirt
No matter your reason for designing a t-shirt, it’ll always involve a little bit of branding. If you’re using t-shirts for promotional purposes, branding is your main goal. Even if it’s strictly fashion, you’ll still need to weave consistent brand themes into all your products. For personal use—like commemorating an event, for example—you want to make sure your t-shirt design communicates clearly.
If you haven’t already, write out a list of the key themes, styles, and personality traits you want your brand and shirts to convey. Is your brand playful or serious? Edgy or conservative? Luxurious or affordable? A focused t-shirt design can answer all of these questions at a glance.
Take a quick peek at the example above. What does it tell you about the Brewmasters company? For starters, they don’t take themselves too seriously, and the wooden instruments suggest a more traditional brewing style that hints at a classic taste. That’s a lot of information from a cartoon.
To get the most effective design, move away from your personal preference and rely more on real, quantifiable data. Who are your target clients/customers? What brand traits do they want to do business with?
Here are four goals to help guide your t-shirt design process by helping you understand why you need a shirt and what you want it to do.
Your t-shirts are something you give away for free to keep your brand in the minds of prospective clients/customers.
This could be something given away at conventions, conferences, other promotional events, or even a leave-behind at a business meeting.
Internal company usage
Employees get shirts for solidarity, appreciation, or perhaps even a company uniform.