Popular graphic T-shirt designs to include in your shop

One of the most common ways of expressing yourself – personality, affiliation, likes etc – is through clothing, sometimes unconsciously but most of the time by choice. When we choose clothes to specifically send a message, the t-shirt is the most popular go-to medium. And because of that popularity a lot of niches have developed, up to the point of becoming part of the daily fashion.

Now, we all know how elaborate the fashion industry is and how hard is to set your own style, without falling victim to trends. These many trends apply to t-shirts as well, coming and going with each season. But there’s one type of t-shirt that’s constantly on top of the most popular list: the graphic t-shirt.

It never gets old because people will always want a connection with the outside that is more or less invasive to society, and a graphic print is the easiest expression of one’s mind. It is adaptable depending on the mood, social environment, relationship, occasion – you name it! Good or bad, the graphic t-shirt is there to send the message you don’t want to actually utter out loud.

Now, the type of graphics for t-shirts depend on many factors as I mentioned earlier, but they invariably circle around some general themes. As a business, the graphics you choose to sell can be in trend or can appeal to a certain niche. You can go for pop culture or Christian references. There are no perfect formulas for selling graphic t-shirts; there are no certain types of graphics that guarantee high profits. It’s consistency and quality of graphic that pave the way for a thriving business. Regardless of what type of prints you choose, make sure you use the most suitable printing technique for them.

As far as the themes go, there’s so many to pick from, like Vintage,Minimalist, Geek, Christian, Abstract, Pop culture, Typography, Social causes, Motivational, Music, Celebrations, LifestyleCouples and Sports, which are the most searched for.

Any and all of these types of graphics are included in the comprehensive uDesign tool

 

 

But let us show you some other examples of successful graphic t-shirt prints that populate the best selling pages of dedicated sites:

ABSTRACT

POP CULTURE

VINTAGE

LIFESTYLE

CELEBRATIONS

GEEKY

CHRISTIAN

MOTIVATIONAL

These are just some examples of graphic t-shirts you can include in your shop or on your site, to cover some of the most searched for themes in the industry. Not only will you find such styles in the library that comes with the uDesign tool but it will also include no less than 500 clip-arts and designs to start with, plus new fresh graphics coming out every month.

 

A basic guide to garment printing techniques

We’ve mainly talked about general aspects of starting a t-shirt business, so it was about time we got down to some specifics.

As much as this has been discussed, new comers to the t-shirt printing industry still find themselves in a quandary about how to actually print their garments. That’s because there is no simple answer to that. As with all things relative, the answer to the question „What is the best t-shirt printing method?” depends on the type of business or project you are embarking on and its scope. It also depends where you are with your business.

The aim of this article is to pin down the basics about printing on textiles, referring to the most common and popular techniques.

Because the info is simplified to help you get acquainted with the technical specifications, the advantages and disadvantages will be discussed as a guide for start-ups, freelancers, independent sellers, graphic designers.

DTG means direct to garment, and as the name suggests, the ink is printed directly into the textiles. Just as your home printer does for paper, the DTG machine will imprint the illustration onto clothes.

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PRO’s:

This method is excellent for small orders, for individual products. You have complete freedom of design, in the sense that as an artist you have no restriction of colors or details and shades, because the printer will recreate them perfectly.

CON’S:

For larger orders it is definitely not cost effective, because the ink is quite expensive. The same goes for the equipment, not to mention replacement parts and cleaning. The overall upkeep is quite difficult and time consuming in order to prolong the life of the machine and maintain a high quality result. And even then, it still not the most long lasting print, because the colors will fade in time. The t-shirts have to be washed on the inside out to protect the colors, at 30 degrees.

In conclusion, this method is preferable when you have already established your business and have a good profit. As a beginner, you will be taking a costly risk.

Screen printing is basically a screen with your design exposed, over which you will drag ink with a squeegee. The ink will go through the exposed part that form your design and onto the t-shirt.

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PROs:

 This method will get you the best quality print and it the most long lasting from the bunch. The print is light, sharp and professional looking. That is why it is ideal for promotional merchandise for catalogues, samples to retails store, for loookbooks, to see if there’s demand. You will be spending a little more money but you do it to let people know about your product, convince them that this is a product a store can endorse.

This is the best method to use for large orders, because the screen can be used over and over again, for years.

CONs:

Unfortunately, this is not recommended for startups, because the equipment is very expensive and you can’t work from your home. You will be working with ink and materials that can’t be disposed of in your sink. There there’s also the time necessary for ink to dry, so renting is the way to do it. Thus, expenses increase drastically.

Another problem is that screen printing has an enormous learning curve. There’s no shortcut, you get better at it by doing it as often as possible. The worst situation is to have small orders, because all this time and equipment involved is not worth the effort.

In conclusion, it is better to use a screen printing company and can make it more cost is effective if you buy your own t-shirts and have as little colors in the design as possible.

Iron-on transfers

There is a special type of adhesive paper that you can run through your regular, home printer to print the desired design.

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PROs:

The method is very simple and cheap. It is accessible because you can print the design from the paper by heat transfer, using an iron. It is ideal to personalize small promotional material.

CONs:

The print can wear, flake away and will not be very high quality, because a home printer will give you the sharpest image.

It is definitely not recommended for professional situations. You can use for example to customize tags for your t-shirts, but not for the actual design on garment and not if you are sending products for review or as samples.

Plastisol heat transfer is the next best thing after screen printing. Plastisol ink is added on special release paper, for a one time use. The foil is put on a t-shirt and the transfer is done with a heat press. The transfer paper is peeled off and the ink is imprinted on the garment.

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PROs:

It doesn’t matter what color your t-shirts have; also, you can have as many colors as you want in the design. The print lasts for many years, and it doesn’t crack or fade. The technique is very good for a startup because you order up the foils in the mail and print them with a heat press. The heat press will be the only big investment, and that you can also purchase it second hand, from ebay for example. Plastisol transfers are cleaner and much easier to use than screen printing.

CONs: It is less profitable than screen printing, especially if you don’t do large orders. Some customers will find the print to be too thick or heavy on the textile.

Vinyl transfers are made with a special equipment that cuts the sheet of vinyl following the outline of your design. After you remove the unnecessary parts, you heat transfer the print with a press.

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PROs:

It is easy to use, good for a startup because there’s no complications with paints, emulsions or chemicals. The best way to use it is for branding promotional materials, for special events for example.

CONs:

With vinyl, the designs you can do are limited, and it gets rather expensive to have the variety of colors needed. It is best for one or two color designs. The designs are not as sharp as screen printed one but they are much better than iron-on transfers.

How to deal with the online promotion of your t-shirt line

After dealing with the hardest part of the business, you now have to step outside and offer your everything to the public. In the internet era you know that things can be extremely easy or quite intricate. Do not take online exposure for granted, it’s not a given, even if you ooze talent and are praised by all your friends, family or offline customers. If you don’t tackle the online promotion of your t-shirt brand professionally, you may find yourself in a sea of frustration that could minimize all the previous effort and even end your business venture.

So let’s try to clarify some basics of online t-shirt promotion, taking into account the possibility of cashing out as little as possible.

Generally, online promotion for  a small business means considering the following:

  • creating an identity for your brand, bringing your products under a common principle, catering to a certain niche, becoming a representative for a particular trend/culture/movement/phenomenon

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  • being consistent about your message, maintaining your stance on all channels: website, social media, blog, partner sites, promo campaigns, ads and so on
  • knowing your audience. Your discourse, products and promo style should resonate with your target public (ideally, as genuinely as possible). Speak their language, be aware of their needs and grievances, listen to their feedback. People are highly sensitive to your conversation as they become more and more educated about brands and products.

Target marketing concept in modern flat design style with graphs, icons and business related elements isolated on colored stylish background

  • focusing on social media. A great opportunity for one on one interaction with your audience, excellent tool of real time marketing (when done right), the fastest promotional channels – social media is obligatory, for both big and small businesses, because of their reach and engagement.

That’s just putting it (very) simply. But let’s be more specific.

For t-shirt brands or t-shirt lines, consider checking the boxes for the following steps:

  • ideally, designing t-shirts could come from a natural desire to express a feeling or opinion, to show preference or to protest. But I think in most cases, it will be about looking to become popular, financially successful, or even famous. In which case, a little if not plenty of research is crucial. Focus on a niche, choose your segment carefully and familiarize yourself with its past and what its present needs are. In order to catch people’s attention your products should be the answer to these needs, and at just the right time.
  • set up a site/shop with a professional. First impressions are crucial and you have very few chances to get people hooked in the first moments they click on your page. This could be expensive for a small business or an independent artist, so consider alternatives such as sites that host pre-designed shops with template themes that you can eventually personalize. Spreadshirt or Shopify, as well as Big Cartel are among the most popular options. Go for the simpler layouts and discreet colors to begin with, in order to keep the focus on your awesome products.
  • which takes us to the products presentation. Don’t just slap the design on the site! Use mock-up templates, with 3D effects, like creases, shadows, rolled sleeves and so on to simulate printed t-shirts. Go a little further and get some (handsome) people to wear and model the t-shirts. Maybe your friends, if you’re lucky enough. Most brands now have a photoshoot for lookbooks, in specific environments, that create a mood in sync with the designs. Don’t worry or overthink it, do what comes naturally. A promotional video will get you even more engagement, one that either creates a story or a behind the scenes video, with fun moments from the photoshoot.

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  • use influencers to spread the word and gain more followers, more attention, more interest. Contact people from the industry and ask them for a review of a product, collaborate on a guest post, invite them to manage your social media account for a day or ask for a simple shout out on their channels. There are many creative things that the two parties can agree on. Make it fun! Your audience will feel that.

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  • be consistent about your content. The news, the photos, the blog posts, the contests should all be in the same sentiment throughout all media: social media, site, blog, ads. Thus, people will easily identify you, become acquainted with your style and remember your brand.
  • t-shirts are usually favorites among the younger generation, who live and breathe social media, which is what you should also do. It is fast, cheap, direct and flexible. Remember that it can go both ways – social media can lift you with positive, viral content but it can also break you just as fast, if you are not careful with the messages you send. Make sure not to leave too much room for negative interpretations.

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  • paid advertising is also an option if the financial resources allow. Sponsor or promote your content on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram,  buy ad spaces on other sites/blogs that can relate to your products, or pay for an article on design of t-shirt blogs/sites specializing in t-shirt news that will recommend brand. 

Among all these, no one can tell you what works best for you. But everyone can vouch for one thing: testing and consistency are key. Be active among your followers and try out all of the above, to see what does wonders for your brand.

What’s in a t-shirt print? – designing, customizing or buying

You’re well on your way to building a comprehensive t-shirt brand. You know what you want, you know how it should look but how do you create the actual designs?

When we started this discussion in our previous article, we were adamant that the t-shirt business is very accessible and even if you are not a designer, you can still make a name for yourself in the garment industry.

That is because the internet has allowed for a fantastic exchange between shop owners and designers, who are not necessarily one and the same person. So, you can either be the designer selling directly to customers, or you can be a shop owner going through a designer, in order to offer your vision to the public. Which one are you?

Creating your own designs will require graphic designs skills, in Photoshop, Corel or Illustrator, to name but a few; the most popular ones, actually. I am also aware that having excellent drawing skills is very important, but eventually you will have to transfer them in the digital medium. As much as I respect traditional designers, in the printing business you may well not be able to sketch a tree and still run a successful printing business. Thanks to the softwares I mentioned earlier, mouse drawn graphics are highly lucrative and brilliant concept wise.

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So, you should be able to use at least one of these mediums to have a certain control over your material and be able, for example, to prepare a file for printing. You can also opt for free alternatives such as GIMP, if you’re not sure you’re up to doing everything yourself.

If you are the ambitious type and want to learn how to create a design from start to end, check out the many tutorials that you can find on YouTube for free or pay for more complex courses on Lynda.com.  If you’re looking for premade designs to modify, such as icons, photos, fonts and more make sure you visit Creative Market. They also have monthly graphic bundles at $39 with mixed resources, so be on the lookout for that.

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On the other hand, you might be more focused on running the business and building a strategy than sketching the best illustration ever. In which case, you can buy template t-shirt designs. And here you can go for designs that can be slightly customized, in terms of colors, texts or small elements or you can go for ready-to-print designs that require or accept no changes. You just purchase them, upload them into your printing software and, in the limits of the said license, you can print a number of garments. The prices for such designs vary from $10 to $15 or even $6 for some of them, not to mention that graphic marketplaces also run sales and offer bundle options.

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The price you actually pay is not your pocket, but in the sense that such designs are up on the sites for an unlimited time, so there’s a chance you might find them somewhere else.

Lastly, the most expensive option is to hire a graphic designer, in order to have something truly unique. The process is sometimes long, but it’s all for long standing quality and the assurance that there’s nothing similar to what you have. This option is definitely recommended when planning for a world competitive brand.

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But what makes a good design? It is an artistic industry, appealing to subjective opinions and first impressions. There’s no magic formula but you could say that most of the time the rule of “less is more” is definitely the popular choice. Simpler designs, with bolder fonts appeal quicker to the audience, which requires quite some experience and skill, as well as a fine sense of observation. If you want to start somewhere, browse product printing sites for best sellers and see what pops up. We recommend you have a look at Spreadshirt, Zazzzle, CaféPress, Threadless, DesignbyHumans.

Once you’ve handled this other important aspect of your t-shirt printing endeavor,  it’s time to put your name on the internet map, setting up (virtual) shop, which we’ll talk about in the next article.

Welcome to the printing business – managing a t-shirt brand

Welcome into the world of the printing business, where consistency, quality and customization are stepping stones to any successful, long-standing brand.

We’ll be presenting you with the basic information on how to get started, how to stay on the market, beat the competition and consider innovation in your particular area.

We will break the ice with one of the most versatile and resourceful items to print on – the t-shirt. Printing on t-shirts will be the focus of the next articles and we’ll also refer to other popular items such as caps, phone cases and more, at a later time. So let’s get started.

Selling t-shirts online is one of the easiest, most affordable ways to start a real business and earn a serious income. Irrespective of how new you may be in this field, with the online resources available and the possibility of outsourcing many of the services involved, you will be able to set up an online t-shirt shop rather quickly. Most of the time you don’t even need to buy, deliver or actually print a garment. But before you get there, there are some guidelines or rules one should follow, not just for this case, but for businesses in general. So, even if t-shirts are not your thing, the following basic information will be useful for all entrepreneurs.

It may be the easiest business to get in but it’s also very competitive, as a result of that. What will set you apart is being as specific as possible about your theme. Contrary to one might expect, quantity in this case does not equal quality, and it may not even be a guarantee of success or profit. The same goes for complexity of design. Some of the best selling t-shirts of all time have had pretty simple prints although quite meaningful.

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Therefore, choose a topic, a broad one and then narrow it down to a high potential niche. Take your own example and think about how and why you prefer a certain movie or hobby – you will know exactly what’s the best slogan or visual, so start from there. What makes it promising is finding a social phenomenon around it, like memes, or communities based on it. Google is definitely your best friend for this. Once you find it, think ahead and ask yourself if you could print the design on other products as well.

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Next up, is choosing a name for your brand, in accordance with your products. It should be easy, to which people can relate, one that tells them right away what you’re selling. It should also be simple, considering it will show up in your web address, social media, emails and even adverts. It’s easier said than done, but definitely not impossible. Try name generators, play name associations, ask friends, look up the meaning of words, go back and forth until it sounds right and recreates your brand’s identity.

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Speaking of identity, don’t underestimate the power of a good logo. If you are not particularly good at creating one, fear not – the internet is here. You can hire a professional, who will create something unique but will get pricey. If you haven’t inherited a fortune, consider a template that will allow you to fit the name of your brand. And if you’re in a real rush and really tight with money, Fiverr for example is an option in that sense, but not a good idea if you want to build a strong brand for the future. You could get lucky, though, and get something really good, because there are many undiscovered talented designers out there!

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This right here is just the tip of the iceberg, in the long journey to start your online t-shirt brand, and it’s already quite the work, time wise. The good thing is that you can do all of the above mostly from your computer. Research is paramount to a good start, to good decisions regarding your new business venture. Know the environment, know your identity and your target audience, then you can move on to new challenges, such as t-shirt designs, which we will discuss in our next article.