The Key T Shirt Design Tips for Beginners

The Key T Shirt Design Tips: Do’s and Don’ts for Beginners

Are you a newbie in t shirt design world who has no idea where to begin? First, you have to be aware that designing a t shirt is not a simple thing to do. Fortunately, t shirt designing is a joyful job, especially to those who are passionate illustrators or graphic designers. So, before you start it, let’s take a closer look at the following essential tips on t shirt design for beginners.

Find your biggest inspiration to brainstorm an idea

Getting inspiration for a t shirt design can be very difficult even though it is just the first part of the project. The following tips might help you go through it.

Do: pick a theme that attracts you much

The Key T Shirt Design Tips Do's and Don'ts for Beginners
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The Key T Shirt Design Tips Do’s and Don’ts for Beginners

A graphic designer–especially the freelance one—must know how it feels to deal with various characters of clients. It is good to meet a client who shares the same interest with you. You both will get to pick a design theme that you will pretty much enjoy working on.

However, you won’t always be that lucky. Improve your creativity. In case a client’s demand does not meet your interest, you will find a way to relate it to something that you are still fond of.

Don’t: do not look at the other designer’s t shirt design

When you are looking for inspiration for a t shirt design, never check out someone else’s t shirt design, as it will be just in vain. You won’t find any inspiration in it. Instead, it will just affect your quality and originality as a designer. So, just be yourself and find inspiration in any other media such as a movie, a book, an advertisement, and many more.

Decide your market/target audience

An Ohio-based full-time graphic designer, Brandon Rike stated that a good t shirt design is the one that has a clear target audience so that they do not only wear the t shirt, but also love it so bad they will never give it away.

Do: choose your market wisely

T Shirt Design Tips

T Shirt Design Tips

As soon as you decide the theme of your t shirt design, do a little research on the type of your audience: whether it is female, male or both; what age they are; what colors, fonts, and images they are interested in. This is also an important part as that is where the money come from.

Don’t: do not make a too generic t shirt design just to fit in all ages and genders

It is also important to make a specific t shirt design since we already know our target audience. Remember to make a specific and different design for each of the clothing lines/brands/clients you are currently working for. This is to prove that you are a professional, skillful graphic designer/illustrator.

Get to start working

Now it is time to begin the t shirt design process. Prepare a drawing tablet to draw your design on your computer (a tablet is optional; just use a mouse if you are not used to drawing with a tablet or choose to stick to a mouse). Also, use your preferred digital drawing/painting software such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint, or free software like Krita or FireAlpaca.

Do: first things first before you begin working

The Key T Shirt Design Tips Do's & Don'ts for Beginners

The Key T Shirt Design Tips Do’s & Don’ts for Beginners

There are several things to consider before you start designing:

  • The graphic size. Print designs are suggested to double the original size for raster files. For vector files, it is a good idea to print them on the original size.
  • What color is the base/t shirt (whether it is fair, colored, dark, or black)?
  • Which way your design will be printed (either digital printed or silk screened).
  • Use Pantone colors for screen printing. Pantone colors are generally used in clothing industry—especially for t shirts.
  • Use below 5 (five) colors only for your design. The more colors you use, the more likely you will spend a way more expensive printing cost. A smart hint: integrate the colors you use with the color of the t shirt you will print your design on.
  • Depending on the request of your client or employer, the number of colors chosen will usually be limited.

Don’t: Do not do several things below:

  • Do not use borders or frames for your design unless the borders can be blended with your drawing, so they do not look obviously borders. This is to make the design look integrated with the t shirt.
  • Do not make a complicated design. Make it as catchy as possible so that people will get attracted to the design and want to buy your t shirt.
  • Also, if you want to make a humorous design, make it as subtle or witty as possible. Do not make it look “cheap” or “cheesy.” Nobody wants to wear a cheesy-designed shirt.
  • Do not copy the other designer’s designs. Use your idea and creativity so that people will appreciate your work more. Besides, nobody likes a “stealer.”

    Post-design process

Display your design on a mock-up before you print it out on a real shirt. This is an important part of your design marketing. There are many downloadable free t shirt mock-ups you can get nowadays.

Printing your design: on-demand printing

The Key T Shirt Design Tips

The Key T Shirt Design Tips

Since this is your first design, it would be better if you consider on-demand printing than printing your design by yourself. This type of printing is more efficient for the first-timer. There are vendors like Redbubble, Teespring, and Spreadshirt that allow you to upload your t shirt designs, open your online shop, and have your t shirts printed and shipped based on orders. So, sign yourself up to one of those vendors to sell your designs soon.

Spread the words out to market your designs

Finally, spread your designs out through personal blogs, Instagram, Facebook page, Twitter, Flickr, etc. Submit your designs to websites of companies like Threadless, Design by Humans, and Behance to gain popularity and be competed with many other t shirt designs of designers all around the world.


There is always the first time for everything. Making a t shirt design for the first time might be daunting or even disastrous, and yes, there are countless competitors in this industry. If you get the right information on starting a t shirt design and are committed to this job, your hard work will get paid off. Good luck!

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