In the last decade, online marketing become the front and center for every business owner. But the recent resurgence of offline marketing is allowing brands to remove the human-to-machine interactions and connect with their customers on a personal level.

It’s a bit unconventional, but t-shirts are now a big part of offline marketing campaigns that aim to increase brand awareness. This cost-effective method helps brands stand out from their competitors and build a strong brand image.

The only downside is that designing a t-shirt can be daunting for someone who has no idea about printing techniques, right colors, and apparel designs. If you too are struggling to design a t-shirt for your brand, we’re here to help you out.

We have been designing t-shirts for our clients for years now and in this article, we’ll teach you how to design a t-shirt in 7 simple steps.

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Before we start…

Have you decided on a budget for your t-shirt design?

Deciding on how much to spend on t-shirt designing can be troublesome. You aren’t sure about the fabric you need, designs, and quantity to order. If you haven’t decided on the budget early on, you can end up wasting a decent amount of money.

One way to avoid financial loss is to order your t-shirts in small quantities. Don’t go for bulk orders from the very start. Even if you have extensive savings, don’t put them in all at once. Start small especially if you’re doing it for the first time.

Let’s Design a T-shirt

No doubt, designing a t-shirt is a long process, but to make things easy to understand, we have divided the entire process into 7 simple steps:

  1. Understand The Types of Printing Techniques
  2. Pick a Color Palette
  3. Browse Your Design Concept
  4. Choose a Font
  5. Decide The Style of T-shirt
  6. Pick a Free T-shirt Design Tool
  7. Find a Printer

Let’s discuss how to design a t-shirt in a little more detail…

1. Understand The Types of Printing Techniques

There’re various types of printing techniques available. Which one is best for you will depend majorly on the design of your t-shirt. Other factors like your budget and time also play an important role in choosing the best printing techniques.

Some of the most popular types of printing techniques you can choose from include:

1.1 Screen Printing

Screen Printing, also known as silk screen printing, is done using a stencil to transfer ink onto a t-shirt.


  • Promises high-quality
  • Long-lasting
  • Works best for large quantities
  • Fast results


  • Not ideal for complex and intricate design
  • Can be costly

1.2 Vinyl Cutting

This method uses a professional CAD cutter to create the design and then uses the heat press method to transfer the design to the t-shirt.


  • Suitable for both small and large quantities
  • Very durable
  • The design doesn’t deteriorate with time


  • Needs a special CAD cutter
  • Affects the flexibility of the t-shirt

1.3 Heat Press Printing

This technique uses transfer paper to print designs which are then transferred onto a t-shirt using heat and pressure. It’s a great method for complex designs.


  • Affordable Easy to use
  • High-quality output


  • Not considerable for dark clothes
  • High heat can damage the cloth
  • Time-consuming process

1.4 Direct to Garment Technique (DTG)

This printing technique uses a DTG printer. It works in the same way as the paper printer – by spraying ink onto the textile. If you’re planning on designing and selling t-shirts for a long time, you can invest in a DTG printer and work from your home.


  • Easy to employ
  • Gives soft finish
  • Can be used for multiple designs


  • High investment cost
  • Less design durability
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2. Pick a Color Palette

Colors can make everything look alluring and engaging. Choosing a color combination for a business t-shirt should be done while keeping every aspect of your business in mind. For example, who is your target audience, and what is their age group and interests?

You might want to go for trendy colors; however, we recommend sticking to your branding colors or a palette that represents your brand personality.

In general, there are two types of colors that you should consider for designing a t-shirt – the fabric color and the print color. The fabric color is the base color of the t-shirt and the print colors are used in designing the graphics or images on the t-shirt.

Also, print designs are based on the CMYK color model instead of the RGB model. This is why the printing ink colors look different from the colors you see on your laptop screen.

How to Design a T-shirt

The CMYK which stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (Black), offers a more reliable reproduction of the designs that you see on your laptop screen. If you’re working with a graphic designer or using Photoshop or Illustrator to design a t-shirt, you can easily change the color modes to CMYK colors.

Or you can talk to your printer beforehand and check if they can help you convert your designs from RGB to CMYK.

3. Browse Your Design Concept

Pondering over what design you want the t-shirt to have can be a time taking process. You might already have a few ideas about what you want to do, but you can always take some time to browse some latest t-shirt design ideas.

Dribbble is one of our favorite websites to look for design inspiration. Apart from that, you can browse Behance and Pinterest to find some new ideas.

Some most commonly used t-shirt design ideas include:

3.1 Company’s Logo

This is great for branding in fact many popular brands like Adidas and Calvin Klein have been selling t-shirts with their logos for years now.

But if you’re a startup and you have a Wordmark logo, your target audience might not prefer wearing your brand name on a t-shirt. You can however print a cool Pictorial Marks logo or a mascot on a t-shirt.


People love wearing t-shirts with relatable quotes. The quote can be something funny or wise or you can simply write a hashtag like #eathealthy or #stayfit if your brand works in the fitness niche.

Just make sure you aren’t copying someone else’s quotes or designs as it might lead to copyright infringement.

3.3 Event-Related

If you’re planning to giveaway t-shirts during an event, you can mention the name or location of the event on a t-shirt. But again do check with the event organizers to get permission to print their event details.

4. Choose a Font

Choosing the right fonts for t-shirt design is vital. You might want your fonts to look stylish, but the priority should be the readability of the text. It needs to be clear enough to communicate your message to the reader.

Ideally, people prefer to use simple, clear, and readable fonts like serif or script. But you can choose something distinctive and trendy like rounded sans serifs, rustic serifs, or chubby retro fonts.

People also like to do something creative with typography to make the t-shirt design look more appealing. Here’re some examples:

How to Design a T-shirt

Whatever you choose, it should be clear and big enough to read in one go without putting a lot of stress on the reader’s eyes.

5. Decide The Style of T-shirt

The t-shirt you are planning to design should be an easy fit. Collared or round-neck t-shirts are quite popular and considered a suitable fit. Crop tops or tank t-shirt designs are however considered inappropriate for a business.

The design and style of your t-shirt should be ethical and appealing to a wider audience.

You can always diversify the range of t-shirts according to the weather like half-sleeved t-shirts for summers and full-sleeved ones for winters.

How to Design a T-shirt

At this stage, you’ll also have to choose the t-shirt fabric. Always pick a non-itchy fabric like cotton or a mixed material like cotton and polyester.

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6. Pick a Free T-shirt Design Tool

Now is where the actual action begins – we are starting to design a t-shirt. There are many free tools and software available online that you can use to design a t-shirt for free.

Let’s discuss our top 4 recommendations:

6.1 Canva

It’s no secret that Canva is always our first choice. It’s an easy-to-use design platform that offers many design templates and functionality free of cost.

To get started, simply go to their templates library and search for t-shirt designs. You’ll get more than 1000 options to choose from.

How to Design a T-shirt

Take your time to browse through these and if your find something similar to what you want, you can use that template to edit your designs.

6.2 Adobe Photoshop

If you’re familiar with Adobe Photoshop, then this is your best option to design a t-shirt. You can create your own designs from scratch and even work in the CMYK mode to improve the final print quality.

6.3 Adobe Express

An easier alternative to Adobe Photoshop is Adobe Express. You can use this tool to design a t-shirt from scratch or edit one using their templates. Their design functionality allows you to add your own images, fonts, and logos to personalize your designs.

How to Design a T-shirt

6.4 PlaceIt

PlaceIt by Envato is another popular design tool and Canva alternative, that you can use to design a t-shirt. They have some great options that’ll allow you to create t-shirt design mockups and t-shirt video templates to attract more customers.

7. Find a Printer

Once you have the designs, you need a printer. But before talking about various printing options, let’s talk about another hassle-free choice. If you want to design and sell t-shirts without worrying about the deliveries and inventory, you can sign up for a POD (Print on Demand) site like TeeSpring.

Such platforms allow you to design a t-shirt, personalize it with your branding and logos, and then they take care of printing and delivering the product to the buyer. This is a paid option but it’s ideal for complete beginners.

If you wish to go the DIY route and get the t-shirts printed yourself, then your next step will be to find a good and reliable printer.

Here’re a few things to keep in mind while hunting for a printer:

  • Ask them if they’ll help you convert your RGB designs to CMYK
  • If your printer has an art department, talk to them as they’ll help you out in refining the final designs
  • Determine the overall cost of having a printer before finalizing
  • Opt for looking at a few samples to see how the printing process works, before finalizing the final design
  • If you’re ordering in bulk, get discounts

Summing Up: How to Design a T-shirt

That’s it! We tried to include everything about designing a t-shirt in this article. By following all these tips and tricks, you can easily design a t-shirt for your brand.

But if you’re still struggling, don’t hesitate to contact us. We have a team of designers who specialize in designing for print media including t-shirts. You can easily submit your ideas and work with an expert team for a fixed monthly price.

Sign up for our unlimited graphic design services and get your t-shirt design back within 24 hours.

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About author

Hi, I'm Pooja, Content Strategist at Digifloat, a design & development agency that helps B2B and SaaS companies grow with creative designs and better web-based applications. You can keep up with me on LinkedIn.