Tips for Creating an Affordable and Effective T-Shirt Design

Not everyone is a professional graphic designer.  That’s ok!  You can still create great designs that are interesting, and most importantly relevant to your purpose.  From plain text, to clipart and fun features, anything goes in the world of t-shirts.  Here are some tips and tricks for creating designs that work for your event, and your budget.  All the designs shown are meant to be easy to achieve using our online design studio.


T-Shirt Color and Print Color

Your t-shirt color and print color are possibly the most important aspects of the t-shirt design.  The colors you choose will be the first impression before your design is even noticed by the person seeing it.  Think about your audience, are they mostly female? Mostly male? Younger? General population?  What mood are you trying to convey?  These are all things to consider when choosing your t-shirt color and print color.  Our online t-shirt designer allows you to seamlessly change shirt colors, and print colors on text and clipart so you can see your design in many different color combinations.

We are here to help you through the process.  We’ve processed thousands or orders of every subject matter imaginable, and we can tell you what other people have done, and what colors are popular for certain groups or subjects.  For instance, if you needed a shirt for an Elementary School outing to the Zoo, A good suggestion might be a bright shirt color and bright print color that will make the kids happy, and keep them highly visible to their chaperones!  These two shirts pictured have the exact same design, and are the exact same price.  Both are completely fine, but for this particular job, I like the brighter colors




The style of the font will definitely set the tone for the design.  In our online design studio, you can choose from several fonts that all have unique characteristics that will give your design just the right feel.  Feel free to mix and match the fonts for added layers of interest.

If you’re doing the design on your own, offline, there are nearly unlimited options for fonts.  There are websites online that offer open source and freeware fonts that can be used free for any purpose, and come in every shape and style you could imagine.   and are two places where you can browse for fonts.

What do you want the overall feel of the design to be?  Fun?  Corporate?  Retro?  The fonts themselves can become the design if you use something with enough character.   Here’s an example of two designs including the same color scheme, and design elements.  The only difference is the use of more decorative fonts.  It makes a big difference!




Both of the above samples use clipart as a feature in the design.  While you can definitely do font-only based designs, adding clipart can give the design more depth, and add to the relevancy of your topic.  T-Shirt Cloud’s online design studio features over 100,000 pieces of unique clipart that cover a wide ranging variety of categories.  Clipart can really bring a design to life.  Let’s take a look at a design that uses only text, and then compare that to a similar design, but using clipart to amp it up!





This image for Ryan’s Landscaping shows a little bit of what you can do with layout.  It’s very common to stack everything along the centerline, and that is completely fine!  It’s how many t-shirt designs are done.  However, if you are looking for added visual interest, or if you just want something different, definitely play around with the layout.  In the image above, you can see I’ve put “Ryan’s” off to the left, and the clipart of the tree off to the right.   You can do this with text-only designs too.  Try rotating some of the text vertical, or moving something off center.





Add Distress

There is a feature in the design studio called Add Distress.  This feature applies a distress filter automatically on top of any element in your design and it is a really cool feature that can instantly give any design a retro edge.  Distress can be especially useful to break up a really heavy design.  This is perfect when printing on Triblends, or Poly-Cotton styles that are really lightweight.  Breaking up the print area creates a lighter laydown of ink and that’s a good thing.  Check out these two designs.  They are identical with the exception of the distress filter being applied.




Using the Shirt Color in the Design

Using the shirt color in the design has two benefits.  Similarly to the distress feature, using the t-shirt in the design, often referred to as “knock-out”, can create a lighter print which is great for lightweight garments, or 100% Polyester shirts.  Another great benefit to using the shirt color in the design is that it can create a similar effect as using a 2nd print color without the cost!  Here is an example that illustrate these two benefits.

On a 100% Polyester shirt such as the Hanes 4820  It’s important to keep a light print.  In the first option, you have the red and white stop sign printed in solid ink on the front of the shirt.  On this fabric that is meant to be light and comfortable, in some ways, it defeats the purpose if you print a thick heavy deposit of ink right on the chest.  The second option uses a red shirt so that can act as the red in the stop sign.  This way, the shirt remains light and flexible in that are and will be much more comfortable.  It also reduces a 2-color print to a 1-color print which is beneficial if you are looking to reduce costs.





Text Features (Outline, shape)

Sometimes text is all you need to get your point across.  With our online t-shirt designer, you can use the Text Shape and Outline features to add depth and interest to your text-only design.  Check it out!



Have Fun, and try new things!!

Most importantly, in design, it’s best to just try new things and to have fun.  This is your design, and you should feel free to make it your own.  Anything goes, and if you like it, go for it!  As always, if you run into trouble or you need personal assistance, give us a call.  We love to talk about designs and we’re always happy to help!


Thanks for reading, now get designing!







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