10 tips to create the best printed T-Shirt designs

Gavin Drake

Gavin Drake

When you work in the T shirt printing industry, it’s not uncommon for our designers to be asked what it takes to create top quality T shirt designs that people want to buy. After all, if you’re looking to make sales from your designs or to get as much attention for your brand or cause then you need a design which is going to stand out from the crowd, a design which is going to grab people’s attention and then never let it go again.

But the truth is coming up with a T-Shirt design is difficult, coming up with the perfect T-Shirt design is a lot harder. Thankfully, I’m going to give you 10 tips for how to create the perfect T-Shirt design to get you started.

1. Take your time:

Coming up with the best T-Shirt designs doesn’t just happen, even the best designers in the world take their time to bring their creations to life. When you’re creating a T-Shirt design, you want to make sure that you like it and the only way that you’re going to be satisfied is if you’ve taken your time doing it, you haven’t rushed it and every millimetre of your design looks perfect.

It’s also a clever idea to constantly develop your idea. When you’ve designed it, sleep on it, wake up in the morning and go back to your design to see if you’re still 100% happy with it. If you’re not, make any necessary changes and then sleep on it again. Once you’ve created your design and you don’t think that it needs any more changes, only then will you know that you’ve created something that you can be proud of.


At Garment Printing, we create visual mockups for our customers so they can see how their designs look on a T shirt before the order is sent to print. This is because, once you can see how it looks, you’ll know if it’s what you want.

There are some excellent mockups available which you can use in Photoshop to insert your design onto a T shirt. Graphicburger, for example, has some excellent mockups which create a lifelike picture so you can see your designs on a personalised t shirt and image how they’ll look when they’re being worn. I wrote an article recently explaining how to create realistic T shirt mockups using Photoshop.

Another technique is to print or sketch out your design and then place it over a T shirt to see how it looks. This will give you an idea of the dimensions of your design so you can get a rough idea of any changes that need to happen in terms of size.

3. Design is perfect, simplicity is king:

Everyone appreciates fine art, great drawing ability and attention to detail. I’m a big fan of seeing works of art printed onto personalised clothing as it makes you want to study it, it turns heads and it will make you proud when you see other people wearing a design which took you hours to create.

It’s important, however, to remember that some of the most iconic T shirt designs have been simple and are designed to push their message in the simplest way. If you’re looking to create a T shirt that conveys a message or a slogan then it’s always wise to use a simple form of art to portray the message. How many T Shirts have used the Ramones design to create their own slogan? Or how many T Shirts do you see with writing that’s in an eye-catching design or font? This is because it’s a head turner and people will notice without being overpowering.


When designing a T shirt you should be asking yourself who are you designing it for? Are you designing the T shirt for male or female, young or old? If you’re designing a product that you want people to wear,  you need to know what kind of people will wear it.

So before you start designing, know who you’re creating the T shirt for, what they like, other brands that could be visually similar and keep this in mind throughout the entire design process and don’t lose focus on this.

5. Don’t be offensive:

If you’re looking to add a bit of humour to your design, you don’t want it to come across as offensive or harsh. T-Shirt designers generally have a way of creating bold, in your face designs while keeping the humour subtle and low-key.

Likewise, if you want to portray a political message or your beliefs, it’s important to remember that not everybody shares the same ideas, so if you’re looking to sell your designs to a wider audience you need to factor in the offence that you may cause those who don’t think the same way that you do.


Creating a T-Shirt isn’t just about creating the design, you also need to factor in the colour of the T-Shirt. It’s always important to add some variety as not everyone favours the same colour. Also, think about complementary colours as well to give more incentive to buy your designs.

If you’re creating a design which features a lot of black – don’t use a black T-Shirt otherwise your design won’t stand out, keep this in mind when creating the design.

7. Prepare your artwork:

This is important, especially when it comes to turning your designs into a reality. If you’ve used certain colours, it’s incredibly important to know the Pantone reference especially when you’re using screen printing.

Not to mention that the printers will appreciate you giving them a helping hand in how you want the design to look.

Outlining your text and expanding any strokes will also make it easier to create your design and these are simple to achieve when you’re using design software such as Illustrator or Photoshop.

8. Find a good printer:

A good printer will also be able to talk you through the different printing techniques and advise you which technique will be perfect for your design and allow it to stand out perfectly. Likewise, it’s important to learn what kind of T-Shirt you want to print on.

Weight, size, labels, cost can all affect your T Shirts and, in turn, affect your T-Shirt brand. When talking to a printing company ensure that they know what they’re talking about and they’re always thinking about how to turn your design into a work of art – otherwise you’ll end up disappointed.

9. Learn for yourself:

When you’re talking to a printing company, having a basic idea of what you want in mind is essential. Do you want your designs on a lightweight T-Shirt? What size design would you like? Is there a particular printing technique that you want to use? These are important questions that you want to know so you’re not left confused by questions that you will be asked.

It’s always a good idea to study different subcultures and genres as well to see where your T-Shirt will fit in and to help you with inspiration and advertising. This can also help you find your niche and create custom T Shirts which will sell and help to promote your brand.

10. Stay on top:

As a designer, it’s important to make sure that you’re up to date with the latest trends and use these to inspire your designs. When you notice a new trend coming out, other designers are planning their next one so it’s important that you start thinking the same way.

Using the latest trends, but not copying them, allows you to keep yourself ahead of the game and maybe create a trend of your own.

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