How To Design A T-Shirt: 8 Tips For Custom T-Shirt Design

Are you looking for ideas to start your own business? We are sure you have seen blogs proposing you set up your own T-shirt business at least a hundred times now.

It is hands down one of the most popular small business ideas worldwide. Everyone is starting one, and they are doing quite well too.

So if you are here because you too want to dive into this new trend in the fashion industry, you have come to the right place. 

A successful T-shirt brand has to nail the production quality and the marketing to reach its business goals. And everything truly hinges on its designs. The humble T-Shirt has become a crowd favorite because of creative designs. If you get that right, then it is mostly smooth sailing from there.

But designing a T-shirt needs a lot of thought and consideration. DIY solutions are plenty in the market, but you need something extra to build a brand. You need a cohesive design style, quality designs, and a USP that makes people come to you. 

And that is where Kimp Graphics comes into the picture. In this blog, we bring you a curated list of tips to make your custom T-shirt business shine.

The Growing T-Shirt Industry 

Before we discuss the tips and tricks of designing a T-shirt for your business, let’s understand this industry a little more. What makes T-shirts so attractive and lucrative for everyone? And more importantly, how do you design them in ways that customers will love? 

The global custom T-shirt industry has been on an upward climb for the last few years. It is currently a $3.64 billion dollar industry, slated to grow at a rate of 9.7% from 2021 to 2028. The customer base for this niche fashion industry is only increasing, showing no signs of stagnation.

So what is it that makes people love buying these T-shirts over and over? Well, there are many reasons, but the top ones are: 

  • Custom T-shirts combine the best of both worlds for style and comfort. Millennials love comfort, while Gen Z loves products with a personality. Custom T-shirts with quirky prints and slogans fit both boxes. 
  • The COVID-19 pandemic brought in a wave of hybrid work environments, and the investment in the fashion industry tilted more towards leisure and everyday clothes. This is in complete contrast to the fashionable office outfits people were investing in before. 
  • Pop culture is fast becoming mainstream now. Celebrating TV shows, movie franchises, comics, and other entertainment programs is easy with custom T-shirts. They allow people to wear their fandoms on their sleeves while looking stylish. 
  • The rise in disposable income among younger generations, that especially love creative T-shirts, allows them to buy products that match their tastes, with no restrictions. 

So it is clear that with the right design, you can build a niche audience for your brand and grow. This brings us to the primary order of business – designing a T-shirt that sells and attracts a large audience base. 

Let’s dive right into it. 

Designed by Kimp

Custom T-Shirt Design: 8 Tips to get it right 

There are several factors in designing a great-looking T-shirt. When your entire brand’s future rests on your designs, you must pay attention to every step. By following this guide from the Kimp team, you can ensure that your designs are always a hit with your customers.

1. Pick a niche 

Businesses that have a clear target audience have a higher chance of succeeding than those without. This is because you can produce products and services for a particular section of customers rather than generalizing it. And this applies to your T-shirt business and the designs you will produce as well. 

T-Shirt designs have a multitude of design options. You can pick any design style, color combination, imagery, and printing options but they will be effective only when you know your niche.

When you are a niche T-shirt business, you can also concentrate more on bringing variety in those designs than constantly catering to the general public. 

To pick a niche, you can start by: 

  • Understanding the popular industries where T-shirt sales are at their highest 
  • Analyzing the resources at your disposal in designing, printing, and distribution 
  • Evaluating the competition in a particular niche

Kimp Tip: Ensure that your niche defines your design style and not vice-versa. Identify the target audience and then design for them. Every cross-section of society has different preferences based on their demographics, cultural contexts, geography, and so on. Cater to them accordingly. 

Read our blog on designing for target audience groups to understand this in more detail. Or you can build your design brief for Kimp Graphics, and our team will come up with different options for you to test out. All for a flat monthly fee!

2. Choose the fabric wisely 

While your customers will flock to your site for your designs, they will stay for quality. And your fabric choice will determine a large portion of that quality. The fashion industry has many fabric options for T-shirts in the current market, including but not limited to cotton, linen, polyester, cotton-poly blend, and so on.

Since the quality of print designs also varies by the medium, fabric choices affect the final output of your T-shirt design, too. You must pick a fabric that works for the printing style you pick and the design as well. 

For water-based ink printing, cotton works better, but the comfort goes down here. Polyester is great for transfer printing, the most popular option, however, it is not very comfortable. You can opt for cotton and polyester blends or experiment with other blends. 

Kimp Tip: Since the fabric and the printing style have a lot of implications in the T-shirt quality, finalize these before you move on to the design. Even if you do this, chances are you may have to iterate a few times with the design before you get it right. 

And that is why Kimp Graphics’ unlimited graphic design service puts no restriction on design requests or revisions. You can experiment with all you want at no extra cost.

Designed by Kimp
3. Evaluate different printing options 

T-shirt printing has grown, and there are many printing options you can explore to get your design just the way you want. You can approach the design and printing cycle in two ways – either pick the design first or the printing style first. 

Each printing style has a few limitations in terms of how well it can capture the full impact of a design. So both these decisions impact each other. 

Popular printing options available in the market are Screen printing, Vinyl Graphics, Direct to Garment, Plastisol, Foil, Novelty, Gel, and Water-Based Ink printing. 

For the best quality and professional-looking prints, Screen printing is the best choice, while Vinyl Graphics give you an edgy design. Meanwhile, gel and water-based ink work feel soft to the touch. Most of these printing options can be expensive for custom designs because of iterations and color compatibility. 

That is why we suggest consulting a professional printing firm and sharing the exact specs with your design team to get it right the first time. Or with very few revisions.

Source: Statista
4. Choose a T-shirt style 

As a T-shirt brand dealing with the custom T-shirt segment, the type of T-shirts you sell has a major impact on your sales. Most people are partial to a particular T-shirt style, so you must have a healthy mix to cater to your audience base.

Popular T-shirt styles in the market include crew-neck T-shirts, polo t-shirt, vest-style T-shirts, sweatshirts, drop cut T-shirts, and mandarin style T-shirts, to name a few. It is good to have your designs in more than one T-shirt style to test out what’s most popular. 

Be sure to specify the design styles to your design team so they can compose and place the design accordingly. 

For example, if you have a logo of a franchise placed on the right-hand side corner of a T-shirt, it may not look the best in a vest-style tee based on its alignment. Also, if there are any pockets there as Polo T-shirts have, that could be an issue, too.

Kimp Tip: Create mock up designs in different T-shirt styles even if you will not print them instantly. It will come in handy when you are expanding your business. In a T-shirt business, there is no such thing as too many designs. So, pick the T-shirt styles you want to work with and get designing. 

Source: Treasurie
5. Pick the color and color scheme 

In our blog on making your logo print-ready, we discussed how you can transform a digital design into print. T-shirt designs go through a similar process. And picking the right color scheme is an important part of this process. 

While you may not directly involve yourself in the design process, ensure that your design team is using print-friendly color schemes like CMYK and Pantone so that printing is a breeze.

So that covers the color scheme aspect. But what about the colors? What colors do you absolutely need, and what can you do without? 

  • Rule number 1 in choosing colors in T-shirt designs is that you must have all the basics and ensure your design works with them. 
  • Do not ignore black and white T-shirts because they are the most popular ones. 
  • Based on the industry and audience you wish to cater to, you can experiment with some colors such as pastel shades, and offbeat shades to see how the reception is. 
  • Whatever colors you choose, ensure they are compatible with the printing style and the design you pick for the T-shirt. 
  • For graphic Tees, ensure that the color plays the role of a complementing element well. Do not opt for color combinations that conflict or fight for attention.
  • You can leverage the principles of color psychology for a themed T-shirt range. 

Kimp Tip: Keeping the colors for your T-shirt design simple can help you when the time comes to print them. Vinyl printing can be expensive if your design has complicated colors. Simple colors mean you can print more at the same cost. Also, simple designs often appeal more to Gen Z and millennials than complex designs.

6. Choose a font for your T-shirt 

Once you have picked the color, next comes the font. Since most custom T-shirts have words on them rather than imagery, the font becomes an important part of your T-shirt design process. 

Typography also plays an important role in the attractiveness of your merchandise. Typical font styles that go in your T-shirt design include Serif, Sans Serif, Display, and Script. You can choose any font you think fits the best to the theme and the target audience’s choice.

You also have to ensure that you pick a legible font above all. Even the colors and styling you choose for the font will play a role in the overall effectiveness of the design. 

To make the right font choice for your T-shirt: 

  • Understand the different options available to you and what each font signifies in terms of brand personality and font psychology 
  • Create mock designs in different colors and styling over the T-shirt to see how it looks 
  • Evaluate if the font size and style you chose will suit different sizes as that is also important for a consistent customer experience 

We know it sounds like a lot of work, but remember, if you get it right once, you are all set. And when you work with an unlimited graphic design service like Kimp Graphics, you have no reason to shy away from this. 

7. Pick the right feature design 

For T-shirts that do not have a prominent written word feature, it is the graphic design or the imagery you pick that matters the most. This is the focal point of your T-shirt design and the USP, without a doubt. 

So, here’s what you need to know to ensure your T-shirt pulls in the customer every time: 

  • Choose simplistic and easy-to-replicate designs. The easier the design is easy to understand and remember, the better it is. 
  • Ensure that the image or graphic design works against all your color options. The aim is to create a complementing combination.
  • Pick and edit images/graphic designs to suit the different T-shirt styles you offer. 
  • If you are using a Pop Culture image or any other copyrighted stock image, apply for the commercial license for it right off the bat. 
  • The placement of the image or design on the T-shirt and the border designs must be perfect. Nothing is worse than a crooked or uneven placement. 
  • Ensure your designer shares high-quality images so that there is no compromise on quality.

Kimp Tip: If your T-shirt business centers on the image and graphic tees, you need a professional team at the helm. Right from licensing to editing, and then getting it ready for print, this is a long marathon. And one that you cannot afford mistakes on. 

8. Understand and evaluate trends 

You may wonder why we are preaching uniqueness and still talking about trends in this blog? 

Trends are not always bad, and even if you aren’t a fan of them, your customers may feel differently. The sign of a good business is always being able to deliver what your customers want even before they ask. 

We spoke about how the T-shirt business is a beloved offspring of the massive Pop Culture influence worldwide. Now, this influence also brings in trends based on what the current hype is all about. By cashing in on this, you can stand to gain customer delight and a major chunk of the pie as well. 

For example, Squid game was a huge phenomenon in the fall. So Squid game-inspired T-shirts were in huge demand in the aftermath of the show’s launch. And no doubt we’ll see a resurgence when the next season comes out.

But, of course it’s important to evaluate each trend to see if it makes sense for your particular brand and target audience.  Trend hopping is good, but you must pick the right trends. 

Build your T-shirt brand with Designs from Kimp 

When your business relies on design more than anything else for its success, you cannot afford to skip that part. Yes, there are DIY and print-on-demand options, but don’t you think your brand deserves a little more? 

You need a professional team that can handle all your design requests and deliver on your expectations to grow your brand. 

With Kimp Graphics, you get a talented team of designers with unlimited design requests and revisions for all the designs you need. 

Sign up for the free trial now and get designing right away.