Even though t shirts are easy to find, and you can get many existing designs, there’s something incredibly appealing about getting your own shirt made. You can get these made in a physical store or purchase them online.
Of course, you could go the full customization route and design your own custom t shirt from the ground up. Whether you want to do this as a hobby or plan to turn it into a small business, you should know how to design t shirts. It won’t take long to become an expert.
Planning a Custom T Shirt Design
What exactly do you want to do with your custom t shirt? It could be a really cool new design to show off, or some kind of symbol to promote a brand that you’re working with. Whatever it is, the purpose behind the design should motivate the design itself.
If you’re advertising anything from a professional background, the point of the image should be to highlight the logo. Go for something simple but effective when you’re trying to push a product. If you’re promoting a sports team, ensure that you include the team’s colors when you create the shirt. If it’s for a music group, try to incorporate the style of music or the image of the band itself.
You could also start with a photo and work from there. Make sure to use a photo that you won’t have to credit to anyone else. If it specifically came from a stock photo with explicit free-use instructions, this is fine.
Choosing a Color Scheme
Contrast is one of the biggest things to consider when making a custom t shirt. You’ll need to think about how certain ink colors will blend with each other when going with lights vs. darks. There are some kinds of ink that will appear to stand out more than used on an actual shirt as compared to what they look like on a digital screen.
When working with lighter shirts, stay away from light blues and pinks, as well as anything with yellow. They’ll stand out on a shirt, but you won’t be able to tell what they say from a distance. If you need a shirt with a logo, you need that logo to be visible from as far away as possible.
If you go with pastel colors, throw in an outline of a darker color to make the text jump out. It will make the entire shirt easier to read.
A dark-colored shirt will look amazing when you use lighter ink. You do need to be careful, though, when using dark on dark. Shirts that are colored maroon, dark green, or dark blue can distort any ink when you go to print them.
Anyone that uses Adobe Illustrator will find that the Global Colors settings will help out a lot.
Finalizing the Design
Next, you can add dimensions into your existing design. After you have finished work on the coloring aspect, you might find that it still doesn’t “pop” enough. To give your shirt a bit more depth, you can add colors that are the same shade as what can be seen beneath it. This way, you can brighten your image and add to the dimensions.
Making a vector outline inside your software is a great way to resize anything in your design that you might need. If you’re using software that has a lot of customization options, like Gimp or Paint Shop Pro, you can start with an image and manipulate it however you like. The possibilities for t shirt choices are endless.
Get some balance throughout your design by combining all the parts into a whole. This might sound unnecessary, but you need to work with your image to give it some clarity. You might have a lot of smaller elements that need to be organized into a bigger canvas.
Make sure that everything comes together evenly on the t shirt. If the whole image is balanced, it will draw more attention to what you’re trying to convey.
As you finalize the design, figure out where it should be placed on the shirt. Do you want to center it, or create an image that ends up wrapping around? For a more professional display, something simple and in the middle tends to be the most effective. Don’t forget about the back of the shirt as a supplemental spot, too.
Creating a Digital Image
Once you have your design worked out, you can take what you’ve made on paper and feed it into your computer. Use a scanner or camera to transfer your sketches into your imaging program, where you can clean up any uneven lines. You can make adjustments with filters, brightness, and saturation if you need to.
Throw in some lines and splatter effects before you get any further. Ensure that the whole layout is consistent by keeping all of your measurements and proportions at an effective level.
If something isn’t working for you, you can create more sketches from scratch inside your imaging program. Add color inside your tablet if you want to take the image with you to work on the go. You never know when inspiration might strike you, especially if you notice a color scheme while you’re out walking or on the train.
When working with fonts, you need to complement the design and not take away from it. Using the wrong type of font can completely take a viewer out of the image and ruin the entire concept. Use any filters you have on the font as well as the image and check to see that your layers are properly applied inside Photoshop.
You can find tons of fonts on different websites. Many are free as long as you aren’t using them in a commercial property like a film or video recording. If you’re an expert in design, you might even consider making a new font from the bottom up. It’s hard to argue against the effectiveness of an original font to bring in awareness.
How to Transfer Your Design
You have several options for how to move your image from printer to an actual t shirt. Obviously, you want to start by having a blank t shirt for printing. From here, your supplies will depend on how you want to print your image.
Using a Screen Printer
For this method, you’ll need access to a printing screen. You can easily find these on Amazon or at your local art supplies store. You’ll be mixing emulsion and sensitizer together with this method, so make sure you are comfortable with different kinds of chemicals.
Once you have created the image and put it into a transparency, you can burn the entire image into the shirt. You’ll need a powerful bulb for this, around 500 watts. This can be done in about 15 minutes.
You can then rinse the screen under a thin layer of water for a couple minutes. Tape off the edges of the underside and get your screen-printing ink ready. Once you’re done with the application, you can cure the ink with a hairdryer.
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Using a Stencil
When stenciling, you’ll need contact paper. Tape the paper to the peeling side to keep the design visible throughout the process. Use the sharpest possible knife to cut out any black parts on the design, and peel off the sticky side from the contact paper. Now, you can slide a piece of cardboard inside the shirt.
With a sponge brush, you can apply the fabric paint. Don’t out the spots anywhere that the contact paper hasn’t been cut and let it dry. Once you peel off the contact paper, your stencil work will be complete.
Finding Custom T Shirts Without Really Trying
If you aren’t especially artistic, you don’t have to worry. Plenty of online merchants sell custom t shirts directly to customers. In fact, you might find some people who have the same ideas as you for designs even if you can’t make them yourself.
Look into Etsy or Redbubble to find designs that you would like to wear for yourself. If you’re looking for a new design for a business, you might consider commissioning a new logo through someone whose art you admire. Be sure to show courtesy when asking about a potential job, as artists can get busy fairly quickly.
Enjoying Your New Custom T Shirts
All that’s left for you to do is proudly display your new creation. If you’re promoting a band or a new product, wear the shirt wherever you can to raise the visibility. Scan your design and hashtag it on Instagram or Twitter to see how far you can get the message out.
It only takes one person to notice your custom t shirts before they become popular. You never know exactly who could be looking, so give it your best shot when designing your logo or image. You might even have someone ask how they can buy the exact same shirt.