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

Designing, customizing or buying a t-shirt print

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

This 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.

t-shirt print

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.


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.


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.


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.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *