2023 T-shirt Design Trends: A Guide for Your Print-on-Demand Business

T-shirts are wardrobe staples. So, people are always on the lookout for new trends in the segment. And that’s good news for any print-on-demand business owner. Because there’s always the scope for introducing new designs. What better time to do this than at the beginning of a new year?! So, are you looking for ideas to refresh your custom t-shirt design catalog? Your search ends here. Let’s look at some of the 2023 t-shirt design trends to explore. 

T-shirt design by Kimp

The global market for custom t-shirt printing was valued at U.S. $3.9 billion in the year 2021. People love choosing unique prints on their t-shirts to make a statement. Therefore, with the right targeting and the right designs, a print-on-demand business has a huge scope to grow in the coming years. 

That said, you should also know that starting and running a print-on-demand business is very simple today. What does this mean for your business? An ever-growing competition! Therefore, you need to be ahead of the crowd. You need to always be quick to grasp trends. You need to keep introducing fresh designs that appeal to your target audience. That’s when your business actually makes progress. 

Keeping all these factors in mind, let’s talk about the t-shirt design trends to experiment with in 2023. Some of these design trends have been there over the past years and some are resurfacing from the past. Now, without further ado, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to it. 

2023 t-shirt design trends print-on-demand businesses should know 

1. Custom lettering t-shirt designs 

T-shirts with quotes are the perfect tools to make a statement. And for those looking for a personalized style in this segment, custom-lettered t-shirt designs are the go-to choice. Contrary to the conventional way of choosing fonts, these custom-lettered t-shirts have handwritten text which makes them unique. So, there’s no need to worry about the dispute between serif and sans serif fonts. 

Slogan t-shirt designs were a rage in the 80s and 90s. Considering how the trend has been on the top for a long time now, it’s a good one to add to your list for the coming year. 

The best part is that this style works irrespective of the niche your t-shirt business belongs to. You’ll find a quote for every occasion and a lettering style to suit every theme. Therefore, adding a few custom-lettered t-shirt designs to your collection is one way to appeal to the section of your audience that takes self-expression seriously. 

T-shirt design by Kimp

Bright and happy colors and happy lettering styles work well even in the kids’ t-shirt design segment. 

Kimp Tip: There are some standard online fonts that mimic handwriting styles effortlessly. This is a shortcut you can take if you do not have the resources to create custom-lettering designs for your t-shirts. 

However, nothing beats an authentic handwritten style. That’s where a design team like Kimp can make things simpler for you. 

2. Illustrations 

We spoke about self-expression and how custom lettering makes it possible to achieve that. Another way to customize your design and to add your brand’s flavor is to use illustrations. Also, there’s no worry about infringing any stock asset licensing terms when you use custom illustrations. 

Since there are too many players in the custom t-shirt design segment, you really need to work on your branding in order to cut through the noise. And one way to do that is to create a distinct visual style for your brand. A creative illustration style or even a set of characters created for your brand will add to this. 

Among the many styles in illustration, we anticipate that raw hand-drawn styles might dominate the custom t-shirt design market in the coming years. Luckily, this is one of those t-shirt design trends you can personalize for your niche. For example, if your print-on-demand business specifically targets pet parents or say pet clothing, you can create a whole line of pet illustrations.

T-shirt design by Kimp

Another interesting dimension of illustrated styles in t-shirt designs is that they look great with and without colors. So, whether you wish to create statement looks or a minimalistic range, both can be achieved with illustrations. 

3. 3D effects including 3D typography 

3D styles come and go in graphic design trends. But there’s no denying that there’s a charm in seeing realistic 3D styles on a flat printed surface like a t-shirt. Eye-grabbing t-shirts are more likely to become bestsellers. 

Done right, 3D objects can add a whole new depth to your t-shirt designs. They also make your printed t-shirt collection stand out among the regular styles in the market. 

Along with 3D objects, 3D typography is also one of the t-shirt design trends to try in 2023. Typography t-shirts are timeless and if you are looking to create bold styles, 3D typography does it perfectly. 

T-shirt design by Kimp

Kimp Tip: 3D designs work well on t-shirts. But the catch is that the positioning of the graphic and the choice of colors make or break the effect. How you make the 3D object blend into the t-shirt background matters! So, visualize your design better with a mockup to get an overview of how the end product will turn out. 

4. Minimalistic styles 

Minimalistic styles are both timeless and versatile. That’s what makes them special. 

The casual vibe of t-shirts combined with the sophistication in minimalism is a combination that people in all age groups enjoy. So, if your print-on-demand business caters to a wide range of customer demographics, this is one of the t-shirt design trends to try this year. 

In fact, modern minimalism is one of the dominant styles in the womenswear Spring/Summer 2023 trends. As people are moving more toward sustainability in fashion and a minimalistic wardrobe culture, minimalistic aesthetics tend to strike the right chord with them. So, now is a good time to add this style to your collection. 

T-shirt design by Kimp
5. One with nature 

The rising eco-consciousness among people of all age groups and the widespread discussions about environmental issues are some of the reasons why nature-inspired themes are likely to be part of the custom t-shirt design trends of 2023. 

Based on a survey, Nielsen calls 2023 a “pivotal year for sustainability”. Because about 46% of consumers expect brands to make a move toward sustainability. During such times, consumers love to turn advocates to the idea of sustainability. Naturally, nature-inspired t-shirt designs easily attract their attention. 

Adding a natural component to your design is easy. What matters is how you fit the design into your existing collection or how you optimize the style to suit your brand’s unique personality. If you think nature is not a theme that resonates with your print-on-demand brand’s identity, it’s alright to skip this trend. After all, greenwashing breaks trust and your brand’s reputation too. 

T-shirt design by Kimp

Kimp Tip: Nature-inspired themes are very common. So, come up with a solid theme. Use storytelling to rise above the norm. For example, you can come up with a nature-inspired line that talks about sea creatures or one that talks about rainforest habitats. A meaningful theme makes your nature-themed t-shirt designs so much better. 

To create a set of consistent-looking designs as a part of a collection, working with the same designer helps. Kimp’s designated design team helps! 

6. Go retro 

Grunge styles like baggy jeans were a big thing in the 90s. Have you noticed that baggy jeans have made a comeback recently? So much so that the interest in this quirky jean style grew 45% last year. That’s a good example to show that millennials and Gen Zers are in favor of several retro trends. Not to forget the Y2K rage in recent times! 

Similarly, in the custom t-shirt design segment as well, retro styles are likely to sell. There are many ways to add a hint of vintage to your t-shirt designs. One of the easiest is through visual effects like filters that add a sepia facelift to designs. 

Another is to add vintage elements. Use something that’s easily recognizable, like a record player. You do not want to incorporate the image of some ancient contraption that your target customers don’t recognize. 

T-shirt design by Kimp

Kimp Tip: Retro styles can be tricky to work with. Done right, they look charming. Choosing the wrong colors or overdoing the imagery results in designs that look tacky rather than retro. For example, using retro elements like an old cassette player is a good idea. But if you choose a bright pop-art-like color palette for it, you lose the authenticity of the style. 

If you are creating t-shirts with quotes sans imagery, you can still achieve a retro effect through colors. Another way to do this will be by using subtle distortion, noise, and other textures.  

7. Geometric shapes 

Geometric shapes, when used the right way, look clean and sleek. Therefore, they are wonderful additions to -shirt designs. We anticipate geometric shapes to be one of the t-shirt design trends to look out for in 2023. They are also likely to be part of graphic design trends of the year in general. 

The style versatility of geometric shapes is what makes them a particular element of interest in graphic design. In general, there is a sense of stability to them. For example, with a simple color palette, you can create contemporary and minimalistic designs incorporating geometric shapes. With muted colors and retro palettes, geometric shapes can create vintage vibes. 

So, depending on the theme that feels most relevant to your print-on-demand brand, you can easily add geometric shapes to your catalog. 

T-shirt design by Kimp
8. Mental health themes 

According to Google, mental health was one of the most searched topics in 2021. There has been a steady increase in the popularity of this term and the pandemic-induced lockdown further accentuated it. People search for affirmations and mental health quotes among others.

Any topic that people around the world show steady interest in will be a good addition to your t-shirt design ideas. So, the topic of mental health makes a great addition. 

After all, people who love to share their favorite mental health quotes on their social media pages will also be willing to flaunt them on their t-shirts. 

With the lockdown becoming a thing of the past and people adjusting to the transition of getting back to work and other shifts in their routines, mental health has become a crucial topic of discussion. Therefore, in the coming years, this is a good theme to bank on. 

There are many ways to incorporate mental health themes in t-shirt design. In fact, with this theme as the starting point, you can even experiment with any of the above-listed t-shirt design trends. For example, a hand-drawn illustration of a person practicing yoga, or even a custom-lettered mental health quote. 

T-shirt design by Kimp

The easy way to source custom designs for your print-on-demand business  

Now that you have a set of themes, to begin with, the next question is how do you create these designs? Check out the Kimp blog here for some useful tips on executing your design ideas- from choosing the right fabric to finding the right printing options. 

Next comes the question of how to source these designs for your print-on-demand business. 

  • One way to do it is to have an in-house designer for the job but that can be expensive for a small business. 
  • Another is to work with a freelance designer. But there’s no guarantee of the same designer being available for all your projects. And different designers mean a possible lack of visual consistency. 
  • Choosing a design agency is a great idea, but again, an expensive move for many small businesses. Along with it comes the limited scope of services. 
  • One of the most cost-effective and time-saving ideas to tackle this is a design subscription, like Kimp

With Kimp you get a designated design team and therefore creating visually consistent designs and building a stable brand becomes easy. You get unlimited designs in various categories. So, in addition to your t-shirt designs, you can also get all the marketing graphics to promote your business on social media and other platforms. All these at a flat monthly rate. 

Want to give it a try? Sign up for a hassle-free 7-day free trial!