5 Tips to Design a T-shirt for Beginners

1. Make sure your design is in high-resolution

This is one of the most important tips to take note when you’re designing a t-shirt, or in fact, anything that will be scaled up when sent to print. If you’re using a software (Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) to design your graphic, tune up the pixels/dots per inch (P/DPI) to 300.

If you’re using a non-vector software e.g. Photoshop, make sure you’re working on a substantially large canvas, say, 3000 x 3000 pixels and above.


2. Tinker with different font options and styles

Fonts and texts are a crucial step in t-shirt designing. In fact, many t-shirts have solely text as their graphic. So don’t settle for pre-installed fonts when it comes to designing. Instead, browse for (free) fonts online and a quick tip to do that is to search up keywords like “best script fonts”, “best fancy fonts”, “top fonts 2017” and scroll through the results in the images tab. This gives you a visual summary of your results and saves you time from finding your desired fonts by opening multiple tabs.

There are also many font sites with an extensive collection of free fonts where you can browse fonts from, including Dafont, 1001 Free Fonts, and Font Squirrel.


3. Pay attention to font pairings

Sometimes, all you need for a brilliant t-shirt design is the perfect marriage of two fonts. Font pairing is a simple yet quintessential design concept that many designers swear by, and can’t stress enough. Most complementing fonts balance each other out – an elaborated, larger, script-style font paired with a simple, sans-serif font; a bold, loosely kerned font paired with a simple, hairline-thin one for its body copy…

Though, finding ideal fonts that go well together can be a tad bit challenging for beginners. To save the trouble of that, there are many font pairing guides available online that are immensely helpful for t-shirt designing. Here are a few examples: 1, 2, 3.


4. Gather inspiration from online t-shirt stores and sites like Pinterest

If you do not have a sketch before you start designing on your software, more often than not you’ll find yourself having a blank canvas staring back at you for way too long. So, where do we begin?

Rather than cracking your brains with little fruition, gain some inspiration to kick things off from sites like Pinterest, or simply search up keywords like “t-shirt design ideas” and look through the results.
Shortlist a handful of designs and styles you want your t-shirt graphic to resonate to, and even create a moodboard if you have the time. This helps to path your ideas towards a more concrete design tone, which in turn accelerates your t-shirt designing process.


5. Keep things simple

Designing a t-shirt is very different from painting a large canvas, or designing for a billboard poster. A t-shirt is relatively smaller, and so is its playing field for the graphic. As such, it’s not advisable to include too many art works and font types in one t-shirt design. Keep in mind that most t-shirts, when worn, are seen from afar, and details are easily lost at such a distance.

Looking at the two shirts above, the simpler one on the right is much easier on the eye, and conveys the message of the t-shirt more effectively with an apparent focal point – Yosemite National Park. On the contrary, the one on the left might be a suitable design when it’s blown up and printed on an A3 canvas, but doesn’t achieve the same effect when it’s on a t-shirt due to the over-complexity of including the many texts and artworks.

These tips will definitely help you with t-shirt designing, but there’s really no rule when it comes to creativity. While keeping these at the back of your mind, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. Who knows, you might surprise yourself with what you come up with!


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