Everyone loves a great T-shirt design. I know I do. That’s why I’ve been in this business for 15 years (but who’s counting). So what makes for a great design? What makes a T-shirt that people will want to wear over and over again?
Some of the greatest designs are simple. But even the most simple designs need to do some things right– and avoid the most common mistakes– to achieve that greatness.
In this post, I’m going to outline the top ten things you should be thinking about as you design your printed masterpiece. Some of these might seem obvious, others could be news to you. Read on to find out.
There may be things in life where size does not matter. In T-shirt design, it matters a lot. And yet, most people tend to go with standard sizing most of the time.
Here’s the thing: size should be decided based on the nature of the design, and the properties of the garment to be printed. There should be some thought put into it.
Depending on the shape of your design, it can look much bigger than it should. For example, square or circular shapes tend to look better when they are sized smaller than standard, like in the image with two Jutins above.
Some people print out their design at home on regular paper and hold it up to their shirt to get an idea of how it will look, and I fully support doing this. I also support making a superhero costume out of household items while you’re at it.
Another thing to consider: Does one size does fit all? Depending on the size range of your garments, and the size of your order, you may want to consider using a reduced size print for the smaller items, such as ladies and youth.
One more thing to consider is the style of garments or items to be printed, which may have a limited print area. For example, hoodies with front pockets have a max height of 10″, and some toddler tees max out at only 6″wide.
Bottom line, size matters. It can make or break a design. Do you want a shirt that is the first to be chosen from a fresh load of laundry, or will it be the last one left in the drawer when the hamper is full?
When in doubt, ask your sales rep or the Art Department about what the ideal size of your print should be. We’re always happy to help you decide.
Print placement is sometimes conflated with location, but really it’s the specific measurement of where to print the design within the location.
Your design could be so amazing that it turns heads– but get the placement wrong, and heads will be turning for the wrong reason. A common mistake is the belly print, which is never flattering. In an upcoming post, I will discuss this unfortunate placement in detail.
If your design is in a standard print location such as full front or full back, our production team will make sure the placement is also standard, and will work across your various garment types and sizes.
If you request an alternate placement, let us know the specifics and our art team will make sure your request is within the limits, show you on the proof how it will look, and relay those instructions to our Production Dept.
In two upcoming blog posts, I will go over the top standard print locations, and suggest a bunch of alternative print locations that will set your design apart.
3. Typography & Fonts
Typography, in its most basic form, is the visual component of the written word. It’s not the text itself– but anytime text is printed or displayed, it involves some degree of typography.
When it comes to design, typography is the art of typesetting or arranging type in a way that makes sense, along with choosing typefaces (fonts), making sure the letter spacing and line spacing is correct, and the way it interacts with the graphic elements is aesthetically pleasing.
The design on the left is all-caps in a single font that should never be all-caps. The other design uses three different fonts, adding variation and visual appeal.
Your font choice can say a lot about the way your design is received, and convey certain ideas or evoke emotions that may not be intentional. From a lifetime of looking at logos, graphics and ads, we’ve all been conditioned to attribute certain characteristics to certain fonts.
For example, if your T-shirt design is for a family reunion, the font “Batman Forever” might not be the best way to convey that. Or if you’re going for a more corporate or professional look, you should probably avoid “Comic Sans”.
Real talk, you should always avoid Comic Sans.
Some standard fonts will work well for just about anything. Other fonts will only have specific uses in specific contexts. We get lots of designs where the font name starts with “A” or “B” which tells us that you didn’t spend a lot of time picking your font. Explore your options!
Want a crash course in understanding typography? Practical Typography is a great little site packed with good information that can answer your most basic questions on this topic.