DesignFeature

10 pro-tips for T-shirt design

Interested in T-shirt design but unsure of where to begin? SOYU designer Mike Ng is on hand to give you his top 10 pro-tips to get you started...

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T-shirt design is becoming one of the most popular outlets for creatives. Whether you're an illustrator, graphic designer or typographer, the thought of having your design on a t-shirt is a pretty cool concept.

However, the process can be a daunting thought. Thankfully, Mike Ng of SOYU T-shirt designs has taken time out of his busy scheduele to bring you his top 10 pro-tips for T-shirt design. Plus, there's 20% off SOYU designs especially for Creative Bloq readers - find out more at the end of the article!

Take your time and explore your concept

Sketch it out, go for a walk, create a few variations, have something to eat, do a full brainstorming process. Then sleep on it. And do it over again. If it comes to you straight away, great. But explore other options just in case.

t-shirt design
T-shirt design: Electric Zombie tee by Derek Deal has loads of colour and loads of detail

Imagine the design on a shirt

Having worked on both print and web over the years. I know the vast difference between design on screen and a printed piece. Don't be afraid to mock it up on a photo of a model, print it out if necessary and place it on an actual tee, and of course create your artwork at actual size.

Detail is king but keep things simple

Everyone appreciates great drawing ability and attention to detail. There is nothing better than seeing a really well executed masterpiece on a tee, that you can study for hours.

But equally, some of the most classic designs have been the simplest and get the message across through their simplest form. Anywhere in the middle and you may struggle to deliver a successful design.

t-shirt design
T-shirt design: The classic Ramones tee redesigned by Johnny Cupcakes showcases the single colour and strong concept

Consider your market

This is an important one. Are you designing for male or female, young or old? At the end of the day you're designing a product that you want people to wear. Like a good marketeer would do, write down the exact person you want to attract to your design - who they are, what they like, what other brands they like and go from there.

Keep your humour subtle

If you're going for a humorous designs you don't want it coming across as a cheap and low-cost joke shirt. Even the most successful loud and in your face designs have subtle humour.

I'm generally not a fan of 99% of humorous tees, but done correctly it can turn heads! I'm digging Brad McGinty's designs at the moment because he has a good balance.

t-shirt design
T-shirt design: Try choosing complementary colours in your design

All about colour!

Use the tshirt colour effectively and try choosing complementary colours. If you're using Adobe Illustrator, turn on Global Colours. It's an absolute life saver and will save you so much time. You can also use Halftones to make the most of the restricted colours you're allowed to use.

Prepare your artwork properly

Use Pantone Colours when screen printing, the printers will love you for it. They'll also love you if you outline text and expand any  strokes you may have. There are plenty of good tutorials out there depending on whether you're using Illustrator or Photoshop.

T-shirt design
T-shirt design: It's important to take time to learn about what type of tee you want to print on

Source a good printer

So your design is finished and properly artworked, but your tee will only be as ever as good your printer. You can give a shout over to a reputable company like White Duck or you could even give your local screenprinter a call. But it's important to take time to learn about what type of tee you want to print on.

The weight, the sizes, the labeling options, cost, etc, all affect the end product. This takes a while and will require speaking to various companies, but one thing is for certain... deal with a company who wants to treat your tee as an end retail product and will handle your work with care. Screenprinting is an art.

Get Educated

To have a good understanding of anything, you need to study it and understand it's context. Tees have come out of every subculture phenomenon that has ever existed whether it's tees from bands, skateboarders, street art, sports crossovers or general pop culture.

Find out about them and and have an appreciation for it all! One good book for reference is this Vintage T-shirt Book below.

T-shirt design
T-shirt design: To have a good understanding of anything, you need to study it and understand it's context

Be ahead of the game

Be inspired by what the latest trends are but don't copy them. Chances are by the time you have seen that t-shirt produced, other designers are moving on to something else behind closed doors.

Mike Ng is the Creative Director of SOYU and has been a print and web designer for the last 7 years.

SOYU discount code:

  • Head to SOYU, pick your favourite design and enter 'creative20' at the checkout to save 20%. Let us know which one you picked!

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