How To Start Designing T-Shirts.

It is not easy to start designing T-Shirts. In fact, it is very difficult and very tedious. From researching a design idea, to picking a company to handle your printing and order fulfillment... it is a bitch.

Researching T-Shirt design ideas and the market, not just your competition, is more valuable than gold to a professional tee designer. It saves a lot of time and grief later down the road if you do your homework to avoid copyright issues and adding to an over saturated market place.

One piece of advice that will help you out on your t-shirt designing journey is to make a full commitment. This stuff is not easy. It is grueling work. There is Researching, Designing, Marketing, Networking, Customer Service, and more that must be done or delegated to someone else.

You will not become a success overnight. You will not make a fortune off your design or designs right away. You will not get instant traffic to your shop unless you have a ton of money to invest into it. If you have a shop at a Print On Demand service purchasing PPC ads is not worth the investment at all (It was around $5 a click last time I checked for T-shirt related keywords). If you are using a POD service, not all are created equal. If you are starting a clothing brand it will require more than your mom and brother sporting your label. And on that note, just because family or friends say the design or brand is good, doesn't mean everyone else will. Family is supposed to be supportive, the t-shirt wearing public however are a different animal all together.

I cannot preach having your own design or brand niche enough. As you can tell on the TeeFetch homepage there are a ton of pop culture mashups out there with just as many designers as their are concepts. I'd highly advise avoiding that niche unless you are on the same level as Zerobriant or Winterartwork. With so many DMCA notices flying around I would just avoid pop culture all together. Be original.

How To Start Designing T-Shirts.

Now for the basics of T-shirt designing. Get a program such as GIMP (it's free) or Adobe Photoshop CC and or Adobe Illustrator. Create your design on a HIGH RESOLUTION of 300 DPI TRANSPARENT BACKGROUND sized according to the Printing Service's guidelines that you are going for. Put your single colored line work on its own layer. Then a new layer for each color that you fill in. All the Red on a single Red layer, all the Blue on a Single Blue Layer and so on. DO NOT MERGE THE LAYERS. Try not to exceed 6 colors total if you are having your designs screen printed. For Direct To Garment printing it doesn't matter how many colors. PNG 24 format works great. Some sites like AI or EPS formats. It doesn't hurt to save your file as each type. Avoid JPG and GIF. And make sure you are designing with a Black tee in mind.

Is the T-Shirt Industry Over Saturated?

Is the T-Shirt industry over saturated? In a sense, yes. To various degrees and different stages it is over saturated and over crowded. The industry is effing brutal.

Does this T-Shirt industry over saturation mean that you should not enter the highly competitive tee market? No, not at all. The problems lie with the lack of originality and the powerhouses crushing startups...be it manufacturing, distribution, or even retail. They (the powerhouses) do it by blocking, or by taking other people's ideas.

From the designer's perspective, it also comes from everyone having similar ideas or people blatantly ripping off other people's concepts. The same thing can be said about T-shirt Blogging, everyone tries to do what everyone else is already doing. The key is to be different and if possible, protect that difference with everything that you have. But that is a daunting task if there ever was one, if not outright impossible to achieve.

T-shirts may not make you rich, but if you enjoy it by all means keep at it. If it brings some income fantastic. Just be original. If you aren't making any money and that is your primary goal then it is pointless to continue.

How To Compete In the Over Saturated T-Shirt Industry.

To compete and make it in the saturated T-shirt market, look at the trends. Look at them and ADAPT to them. Don't just do what everyone else is doing but produce a variation that goes off in its own tangent and niche market. Avoid the self promotion label/logo tee crap like Old Navy, Abercrombie and Fitch, and American Eagle do. In all honesty no one gives a damn about your name or start-up brand. Why the Hell should they pay to advertise you? Again, BE DIFFERENT. Give people what they want not want you want. You may like your drawing of Deadpool wearing a Superman cape, doesn't mean others will or will not. Go for what you know for sure that people will like enough to buy.

That is my opinion on how to handle the T-shirt Industry being over Saturated.

Why Recycle Tees?

Why Recycle Tees? You may ask. Because I said so that's why. Just kidding. There are many reasons and ways to recycle or better yet upcycle old tees that are actually beneficial to everyone ever involved with the tees. Generation T is a great book on the subject.

Recycle Tees

Recycling T-shirts gives them new life so they are not being wasted and filling up our landfills. This makes the effort that goes into the producing shirt worth while. From the Cotton harvester to the designers that put graphics on the tees. Below is a small list to get the ball rolling.

Ways To Upcycle and Recycle Tees.

  • Turn Shirts Into Dresses
  • Use Tees As Posters
  • Make a Shirt Quilt
  • Turn Tees Into Pillow Cases
  • Tee Shirts Make Great Hand Me Downs
  • Make a Slashed Peek-A-Boo Shirt
  • Convert The Tee Into A One Shoulder Top
  • Make a Pipe Vault Tee Dress
  • Make a Tee Dress With a Cinched Waist
  • Make a Fringed Necklace From The Tee Shirt
  • Make a Skirt From A Shirt
  • Turn The Tee Into A Knotted Scarf
  • Make a Cut Out Top
  • Make a Draped Vest
  • Create A Halter Top From a Shirt
  • Make a Tee Purse or Bag
  • Turn Old ruined Shirts Into Rags
  • Makea Tee-Kini Bikini
  • Create A Produce Bag From A T-Shirt
  • Turn The Tees Into Leggings

Why Use Tshirts To Spread A Message?

Tshirts To Spread A Message

Why Use Tshirts To Spread A Message?

Tshirts are a great way to convey an idea, to spread a message, or just get the word out about whatever you are passionate about. It doesn't matter if your promoting your own blog, representing a political affiliation, or using a tee for your activism of choice. Tees are the most affordable way to get your point across everywhere that you go. Everyone looks other people's tees as they pass by so they are definitely attention magnets and they can be worn over and over and over again.

Tee Shirts are great as fundraising items and rewards too. For instance St. Jude's Trike-A-Thon is a prime example of this concept in action.

T-shirts never go out of style, even if they have a date on them. This makes them Vintage and wearable time capsules.

People have even used tees for marriage proposals. Which is great for people that are too nervous to speak. Basically any message can be delivered on a T-shirt.

will-you-marry-me-on-tshirt

Those are just a few of the reasons why Tshirts should be used to spread a message.

Why Make Tee Designs With Transparent Backgrounds?

There are many reasons why you should have transparent backgrounds for your tee designs. To learn how to make Transparent Backgrounds using PhotoShop.

No Transparent Backgrounds Looks Like Crap.

Firstly, solid color backgrounds look like crap when put on any color of tee (Shown above). The design would just look like a rectangle or piece of paper on a tee. This is as unprofessional as it gets. It not only makes your tee look bad but it reflects on the printing company that you are using especially if it is a POD (Print On Demand Service).

Secondly, if you use a transparent background (Shown Below) you can place the design over almost any color fabric (depending on the design, if your design needs to be Blue to replace a sky then you don't want to put the design on a Red tee).

Papa Mario Tee Design Transparent Background.

Thirdly, if you really know you craft you can do all kinds of cool stuff with transparent backgrounds. You can have areas of your design empty so that the shirt color fills in those areas. This is cool for the Subject Matter, the Background, and the Foreground. Shape the transparency into the design (Shown Below).

Papa Mario Tee Design by GeekTrove.

So Why Make Tee Designs With Transparent Backgrounds?

Why make tees with transparent backgrounds? Because it's the right thing to do. Don't be that guy.

St. Patrick’s Day Tees.

St Patricks day Tee St. Patrick's Day Tees

You may be aware that Saint Patrick's Day is a big deal for the T-shirt industry. Designs such as what can be found at StPatty help make Irish and non-Irish folk laugh and have a good time. And the beauty part is that the designs don't really take a lot of skill to make. If you have an original phrase or concept slap a clover or four-leaf clover on it and call it a damn day, because that is a tee someone somewhere will want to buy. But to really stand out, don't be so generic. Originality does sell, just do not make the designs overly detailed. The reason that the generic clover designs sell so well is because they are simple and can be identified from far away.

Saint Patrick's Day Tee

Even slogan only tees make it big on St. Paddy's Day such as "Irish These were Bigger", "Irish you were a beer", and the classic "Kiss me I'm Irish".

The only real downside to marketing for St. Patrick's Day is that it has a very small window for sales. The period begins February 15th (The day after Valentine's Day) until March 10th (The last day tees should be ordered and expected to be delivered on time for Saint Patrick's Day.) that is less than a month. The only other complaint would the cost for SEM and other keyword based ads. If you are not the t-shirt printer don't bother wasting your money for pay per click ads.

St. Patrick's Day Tees Long-term.

But don't let that discourage you from making St. Patrick's Day tees as this can be very profitable if you do it right and it should pay off, year after year after year.

Design for Black Tees.

Why Design for Black Tees in Mind?

Black tees are the most popular and most requested out of all the other color tees industry wide. The least popular being Lime Green. On the bar graph chart provided by NeatoShop, Out of 3000 shirts sold 48% were Black. (If you have not yet opened up a shop with NeatoShop, I highly recommend that you do so.)

Tee Shirt Color Sales Chart, Black Tees Sell More

This is because Black is a classic and the color pairs well with everything. It is a neutral color. It also offers the most contrast, making the designs pop. If you design around a Black canvas, then your print will look better on any darker colored fabric. That is assuming that you are not designing for Black only. (By excluding for example, the Black line work and shading from your design. Thus having the line work and shading whatever color the background is by leaving it blank. If so then any other fabric color will not look right in its place.)

Some reports in the industry state that solid white sells better. This is not data related to the "graphic tees" and "design" aspects. White shirts mostly sell as undergarments and account for the cheaply made "Value Tees" that you find at some of the Print On Demand sites. These sites usually use the inferior Heat Transfer method. They are essentially throw away tees as you wear them once and then the design is ruined after the first wash. The price is the main factor there. The statistics for "Preferred Color" is still Black.

Those are the reasons why I would recommend designing for Black Tees. Just because you design for Black Tees doesn't mean that you can't offer the same design on other colors if you do it right.

TShirt Design Inspiration.

TShirt Design Inspiration.

TShirt design inspiration can come from anything. Be it a T.V. show or something that happened to you on your way to work. The thing to do is to write down the idea so that you do not forget it. Then later actually take time to think of the SIMPLEST WAY possible to execute the idea as a design.

If you are stuck in a rut and need tee design ideas or inspiration perhaps making a grid chart can help. Put the subjects that you like as the rows such as TV shows or video games (or both). Then for the columns put some details like the characters and their personalities/powers etc. Go a step further and color code all of the characters based on what color they are or outline then with whatever general shape they are. Now look at the chart. You may see that a mashup of two like colored characters or characters with similar powers would make sense. For example, Pikachu and Wolverine for being Yellow and Black or perhaps Pikachu and Blanka for being electric.

These charts can contain all kinds of information and not necessarily used just for mash ups. Any Subject, Place, Color, etc would be placed in rows and columns. You might end up with a Green bird, a castle, and Pink sky. The point is it can help pull elements together or at least set the thought train down a tangent.

Hopefully you found these tips for Tshirt design inspiration useful. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

TShirt Design Concepts That Went Viral.

Today for the sake of inspiration the topic is Tshirt design concepts that went viral. Meaning they were trendy and made their designers boatloads of cash. These Are Design based not Text based and are not related to a Band or some other vehicle of unfair promotion. This isn't a complete list but more of a teaser for an upcoming article.

As referenced in the hit film "Forrest Gump" the Smiley Face tee was huge hit especially in the 80's. Granted that the "Gump" version of the story is complete and total BS. The controversy behind the actual smiley face goes back decades at least 53 years, and possibly even the 1940's.

Three Wolf Moon TShirt Design Concepts That Went Viral

The Three Wolf Moon Tee took the world and its wide web by irony. What started out as Amazon reviews making fun of tee turned out to be the greatest publicity a humble tee designer could hope for. Everyone can thank Brian Govern's Three Wolf Moon review for getting the ball rolling on that. It's his fault that the tee is seen everywhere.

The Tuxedo T-Shirt is a novelty tee that the world would be better off without. But yet it continues to sell more tees than anything else that comes to mind at the moment.

TShirt Design Concepts That Went Viral.

Now for the audience participation segment of this post. What tee designs do you feel should be included in the Most Viral Tees Countdown? The tees shouldn't be obvious ones like The Rolling Stone's Lips design or Kiss Me I'm Irish. The tees need to be more on the side of dumb luck.

Where To Sell Your Tee Designs.

Where To Sell Your Tee Designs.

Please read Marketing Your T-Shirt Designs for a companion article relating to Where To Sell Your Tee Designs. There is two schools of thought on this topic. One, is to sell at as many retailers as possible. The second is to commit to a single retailer. For more in depth information on Print On Demand retailers and options please read "How To Start Your Own T-shirt Shop" as I have reviewed the most popular P.O.D.'s.

Selling Tee Designs At Many Retailers.

Selling at many retailers has one clear advantage. More exposure. Possibly more income at least short term. But it has many disadvantages as well. Variations in quality and price are the big two. Some printers are not as good as others and your name or brand gets associated with who you do business with. The price variation ends up with the scenario where you are are competing against yourself. When you combine the quality and price, some things simply cannot be justified and it can hurt you in the long run. People do comparison shopping and they will take notice. Also this practice spams the search engines and eventually even design and product name variations will be omitted if the indexing trends continue as they have over the past decade or so. Especially when the image indexing bots start recognizing and remembering designs better.

Selling Tee Designs At A Single Retailer.

Committing to one retailer can be extremely beneficial. If you choose to go with the retailer with the best quality then that reputation gets associated with your brand. Less maintenance is another benefit. You have one shop to maintain and watch. Putting all that effort into one place could prove more profitable in the long run. But what if your stuff is overlooked or never found?

The Selling Tee Designs Compromise.

To me the ideal solution is don't offer all of your tee designs at all places. Study the marketplaces and find out which type of designs perform better at which site. Rather than have your Iron Man parody tee at all the places pick one and sell your Science tees at another retailer. In other words, make the designs exclusive to each retailer. You will avoid having the same design on basically the same tee at different quality levels for different price and you will still get the exposure. Put your best stuff at the retailer that offers the highest quality.

Hopefully this will help you figure out where to sell your tee designs.