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Design Your Own T Shirt In 7 Easy Steps
If you’re like most of us, life is crazy. Far too crazy to design your own t-shirt, right? Not so fast. Though the OneHourTees team does offer incredible, professional custom design services for any of your apparel needs, we also totally believe in your ability to create your own amazing garment as well.
If you’re ready to take a stab and flex those creative fingers, we’re here to offer our own expert advice, tips, and tricks for creating a showstopper of a t-shirt design. Honestly, what sounds cooler than rocking an incredible look that YOU actually made? From sports teams to fundraisers, all it takes is seven easy steps and you’ll be stepping out in-style wearing a one-of-a-kind look.
Of course, depending on how complicated or simplistic your overall design is, you may be able to complete the process in less than seven steps. Just to cover all bases, let’s going to start from the initial concept, then work through to the final production.
Step 1: Nail Down Your Message
Most of our customers already have at least a vague design idea about what they want on their tee. This is a great place to start, but don’t let it end there.
When it comes to creating that perfect custom t-shirt design, remember that conveying your message is everything. That’s why this stage of the process is incredibly important. It’s essentially the foundation that you’ll build the rest of your design upon.
Start out by brainstorming what you want this shirt to say, both literally and figuratively, to anyone that sees it. This can vary drastically depending on what the shirt will be used for.
For example, if it’s for a baseball team, you’ll want your team name big, bold, and easy-to-read from the stands. Or if you’re making tees for your 5-year-old niece’s birthday party, communication might take a back seat to covering the shirt in pink unicorns, swirls, and rainbows.
Also, remember that not all ideas are actually work well on a t-shirt. Think carefully about the size of the design, what message you want your t-shirt to have, and if there are any possible ways that the message could be misunderstood, or even unreadable using your initial concept.
Simple is almost always better. Try to keep the text on the t-shirt short so that it is clearly readable with just a quick glance. Ensure your ideas for graphics aren’t overly complicated or over-the-top. It shouldn’t take a decoder to figure out what your t-shirt design means.
Once you have a solid concept in mind, draw up a quick sketch. Don’t worry about it being a work-of-art. This is just a handy exercise to map out where the different elements can fit. It can also help you realize if your concept is too much, too little, or just right.
Step 2: Choose a Printing Style
The printing method you choose can have a huge impact on the design itself. For example, using screen printing will limit your design to vector-based art which often means fewer, yet brighter, colors and hand-drawn, cartoony or graphical images. In comparison, direct to garment, or DTG, printing allows for photography and unlimited colors, but likely won’t “pop” as much as screen printing will.
All printing methods will look bright and professional, but each will have their pros and cons. Check out Our Printing Styles to learn more about screen printing, direct to garment, embroidery, and heat transfers to help figure out the right one for you.
Step 3: Choose an Image, Photo or Graphic
You’ve got your overall concept. Awesome! Now it’s time to actually turn those ideas into an actual t-shirt design. If you’re an artist, or can get someone to draw something up, that’s a great way to create your image.
However, if you’re no Van Gogh, worry not! There are tons resources online where you can purchase great ready-to-go stock images like Shutterstock or Graphics Factory. You can even find some that are totally free like Pixabay or Vecteezy.
If you’re still stumped, reach out to our expert OneHourTee design team. We’d love to help turn your t-shirt dream into a reality, even if all you have is a rough sketch.
Though not available with all printing methods like screen printing, photographs can be printed on apparel. The best printing method for photography is DTG printing.
Choose an image, photo or graphic that goes with the message, event, team, etc. It can be funny, serious, abstract, or an original. If you are using anything trademarked, licensed, or in any way owned by a company, brand, team, artist, or anyone else, ALWAYS make sure you have explicit permission and full rights to use the design.
For more in-depth advice about choosing the right art, check out our Fonts & Clip Art page.
Step 4: Choose a Font
Now, once you have your graphics down, the next step is to choose a font that takes your look to the next level. Fonts can significantly enhance the design—though it can also hurt it if not used properly.
Larger, block or sans serif fonts that are crisp and clear are the easiest to read. These work great for your main message or headline like a team name, business, event, etc.
Highly stylized, curvy, or “fun” fonts can be great additions when used right, but don’t let them get out of hand. Readability is the primary intention of fonts. Think about whether the font you choose actually helps communicate your message. Avoid anything overly complicated or difficult to read.
Some design programs are fairly limited on font options. Thankfully, we have the internet! Just a few minutes online can immensely open up your font choices. Some of our favorite free or “Pay What You Want” options are DaFont.com and Lost Type Co-Op. If you’re willing to pay for higher quality fonts, check out Adobe TypeKit and MyFonts.
Like with imagery, always check licensing and permissions before printing your tees.
Here are a few tips on using fonts right:
- For most designs, choose no more than 2–3 fonts total
- Make your fonts large enough to easily read
- Use color contrast to help your fonts pop out from both the design and t-shirt color
- Avoid too many “gimmicky” fonts. They can district and be hard to read
For more in-depth advice about choosing the right font, check out our Fonts & Clip Art page.
Step 5: Choose Your Preferred T-Shirt Style and Color
Depending on your chosen printing method, your possible color palette may be limited when it comes to the shirt or garment itself. Though you’ll always have substantial options, do check out our page on screen printing and direct to garment printing to learn exactly what your options are. This will help you avoid falling in love with a color combination only to learn it’s not available.
Once you know your choices, think carefully about your final design and what color it will look best against. You may have to do some final color adjustments on the design itself to make sure nothing ends up blending into or clashing against your chosen apparel color.
Generally, white or light colors will look best on dark shirts. Dark colors will look great on light shirts. You may have to do some experimenting and playing around if choosing colors somewhere in the middle.
Step 6: Choose a Printing Company
What good is a great design if you don’t finish it with a high-quality shirt to showcase it, and a crack team of expert printers to make your vision a reality? Your final step is to choose a printing company that can truly deliver the tee of your dreams.
Not that we’re biased or anything (Ok—maybe a little), but we encourage you to consider OneHourTees. We’re seasoned professionals at designing, printing, and delivering incredible custom apparel from here in Chicago to anywhere in the country.
We pride ourselves in producing only the highest quality t-shirts, as well as sweatshirts, polos, jerseys, and much more. With over 80,000 printing and product options, we’re confident that we can provide you exactly the item of clothing you desire.
We can also have your order ready in as little as an hour and work with orders from one to thousands. Just let us know your budget, timeline and design desires, and will provide you expert services that will work perfect for your unique needs.
Step 7: Show Off Your Work
In as little as an hour, pick up your freshly designed and printed apparel and proudly show off your design to anyone you can find. In no time, you made your very own tee from start to finish. How cool (and easy) was that?
Have a design all ready to print? Want to learn more about the custom printing process or need some design tips? Contact the OneHourTees team at 773-687-0520 or get an online quote here. We can’t wait to get you looking sharp.