Getting Started with Custom T Shirt Design

Getting started with custom t shirt design usually means three things:

1. You want to make your own t shirts, of course!

2. You are interested in design or the artistic expression – on a shirt.

3. You want really cool shirts.


custom-designAccomplishing numbers one to three is actually easy, especially with all the free tools that are available to budding new designers of today. A simple Google search will show you a plethora of online design apps that you can launch from your browser so you can get going with your own design.


Big question: what if you don’t have any idea how to start? Maybe you are just an artistic fellow, but shirt design is something that you have never done before. Maybe you are interested in making a shirt, but found that your type of art does not match print shirts, exactly. What do you do?


Our recommendation is to simply push through with the t shirt design. We have rounded up some great tips for you so you can start designing your new shirts with confidence.


I. Tame those typefaces

There are literally thousands of available fonts online. There is even a website that sells 10,000 fonts for just twenty bucks. But you don’t need all these fonts to make a good t shirt design. For the most part, you will only need a few special fonts that will help you accomplish the following:


– The text is easily readable

– The text stands out in the design

– The text does not make it hard for people to actually make out what is written


In short, the typefaces that we choose for shirt designs should not only be readable, they should also be able to help whoever is reading the shirt to understand what the content is about.


In the beginning, it might be a little tempting to try typefaces that people have never seen before. There is just so much joy in downloading new fonts and trying them out for the first time. If you are adventurous with your aesthetics, using new fonts is like pumping fresh blood into your creative center.


But the question is: are the typefaces that you have chosen helping your design deliver the message that it is supposed to be delivering in the first place?

You should answer that million-dollar question. Because if the current set of typefaces aren’t delivering, you should definitely reconsider and maybe change them, so you can get better results with your design.


II. Scale those elements properly

 Scaling is the process of balancing the size of elements on a given canvas. If you have not been designing before, then this would be a great time to start practicing proper scaling. The basic principle of scaling can be summed up as follows

– Elements need emphasis, but there has to be proportion between elements.


– Balancing means the resulting design is pleasant to look at, even if the typefaces are different and you have a canvas of differently-sized images and texts.

– Colors affect the projection of scale. For example, your design may involve a dozen different words titled in different orientations.

But if all the other words are in white and only two words are in red, that affects the scale immediately.

The white text is immediately transformed into the background of the canvas, and the red text is immediately part of the foreground.

– Some typefaces don’t look good when they’re blown up/scaled up. What looks good at 14 pt. may not look as good at 72 pt.

Make comparisons, change it up if needed and remember: you are not married to any font. You can shift the fonts as many times as needed in order for you to get the desired effect or impact.

– Clarity is number one. All texts and images should be rendered boldly on the canvas, and you should never sacrifice clarify over anything else.


III. Tweak the visual projection of the design

custom-design This is probably the trickiest part of designing a shirt. Many shirt designers tend to overdo it when it comes to resizing text or images, until the point is reached when the elements no longer connect to one another properly.

Consider the word “DARE” that is blown up so much on a blank canvas that there is just too much space in between the letters. The result is dissociation, or the letters begin to lose their meaning and impact because the scaling was incorrect. In this respect, we highly recommend that you tone down on blowing up elements, and focus on combining them in a meaningful way instead.

Blank space in the canvas has meaning, too. Often, this blank space is what you need to make individual elements stand out. Don’t be afraid to space your elements out properly, but take care to ensure that the resulting spacing will not affect the meaning of the design that you intended.


IV. Color selection matters

The magic number to look for when combining primary colors is three. It’s easy to balance a design with just three colors, though this is definitely not the limit, but for ease of design, you may want to follow this tip. If you want to expand the colors of your design, use only a maximum of three secondary colors to complement the main swathes of color on the design.


Not overdoing it is the challenge – so take it slowly when designing and don’t add more colors than necessary. Maximize the colors that you already have, be sure to balance them out, and finally, make your design pop.


V. Background colors matter 

Your background can either make or break the central design. Even if you have killer background art, it still has to complement central design, and one way you can do this is by altering the brightness of the background image. Adjusting the brightness of the background can help improve the visibility of the central text/symbols.