The Ultimate Guide To Custom T-Shirt Design


May 31, 2023


June 2, 2023


Custom t-shirts are a great way to reflect your unique designs of promoting your brand. They make a statement, showcase creativity, and are powerful marketing tools. Getting started can be challenging if you’re new to custom t-shirt printing – but that’s what we’re here for. The Growth Shop is all about giving you the best tips, tricks, and reviews on the custom apparel industry.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through designing t-shirts and printing them so you can make the most of your budget.

Let’s jump straight in.

Why custom t-shirts?

Custom t-shirt design has gained immense popularity in recent years for multiple reasons. People love to make fashion statements; businesses use them to build recognition or market their products/services, and e-commerce companies can create unique products to sell.

The custom apparel printing industry is hot right now, showing zero signs of cooling down. But why custom t-shirts?

Well, they’re affordable, versatile, and something that most people wear. But there’s so much more to custom t-shirts.

Creativity and originality

E-Commerce companies have so much competition out there, and the key to success is offering customers something unique. Custom t-shirt printing allows you to bring original designs to life and attract a wider audience.

Group identity

Custom t-shirts are excellent for creating a sense of unity and identity within a workforce or team. Sports teams, clubs, organizations, and events, use them to foster a sense of inclusivity and camaraderie among members.

Brand promotion

For businesses and organizations, custom t-shirts serve as cost-effective advertising tools. By printing your logo, tagline, or promotional messages on t-shirts, you can effectively promote your brand and increase its visibility.

Gifts and keepsakes

Custom t-shirts make thoughtful and personalized gifts for friends, family, or colleagues. You can design a shirt tailored to the recipient’s interests, hobbies, or preferences, making it a unique and cherished present. Custom t-shirts can also be created for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, or graduations, adding a personal touch to the celebration.

Fundraising and awareness

Custom t-shirts are used for fundraising campaigns and raising awareness for social causes. By designing shirts representing a specific cause or organization, you can rally support and generate funds for charitable initiatives.

It’s an effective way to engage the community and make a positive impact.

Uniformity and professionalism

Many industries use t-shirts as a way to ensure professionalism in the workplace. Retail stores, restaurants, and service-orientated businesses use branded shirts to establish a brand image and give employees a sense of belonging.

However, branded t-shirts also ensure customers know people are around to help and can create a better experience.

Getting started with custom t-shirt design

Before you dive into the design process, it’s essential to understand the purpose of your custom t-shirts. Are you creating them for a special event, as merchandise for your business, or as a fashion statement?

Identifying your target audience and defining the design concept will help you create t-shirts that resonate with your intended recipients.

Designing tools and resources

You’ll need access to the right tools and resources to bring your design ideas to life. While artists and seasoned designers can use software to bring their ideas to life, you can hire professional designers specializing in custom t-shirt design.

There are so many platforms out there, so why not check out our latest reviews and see which is best for your needs?

Selecting the right T-shirt

The quality and comfort of the t-shirt you choose will greatly impact your design’s overall appeal and durability. Cotton and polyester are usually the most popular types of fabric for t-shirts, as they’re highly breathable and great for all temperatures.

Cotton is soft and airy, while polyester is a moisture-wicking material, so they balance each other out. You’ll also need to consider the fit of the shirts, but most platforms let you choose a range of styles that will suit everyone.

Coming up with t-shirt design ideas

There’s so much you can do with customized t-shirts, so it entirely depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Branded t-shirt design should align with your logo and current identity, but the sky’s the limit if you’re creating e-commerce designs.

However, paying attention to color selection is essential, as different colors evoke different emotions and convey distinct messages. Typography also plays a crucial role in delivering your message effectively, so choose fonts that align with the tone and purpose of your design.

Incorporating graphics, illustrations, or even photographs can add visual interest and make your custom t-shirts unique.

Ensure consistent brand themes

Creating a cohesive brand identity involves more than just adding your logo. Think about the message you want to convey through your custom t-shirts. What values and emotions does your brand represent?

Incorporating these elements into your designs through imagery, slogans, or taglines will enhance the visual appeal of your t-shirts and create a strong connection with your target audience.

Making sure your designs are original

Originality plays a crucial role in the world of custom t-shirt design. It’s tempting to replicate popular designs or use pre-made templates, but creating original designs offers numerous benefits and ii ensures:

  • Uniqueness and exclusivity

  • Innovation

  • Brand representation

  • No copyright infringement

  • Brand differentiation

Choosing the printing method

Once you have your custom t-shirt designs, it’s time to print them. The options might be limited depending on which apparel printing company you use. Here are the most common printing methods available.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is one of the most popular and widely used techniques, suitable for bulk t-shirts. It involves creating a stencil (or screen) for each color used in the design. Ink is pressed through the screens onto the fabric, one color at a time.

Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing

The DTG printing technique uses specialized inkjet printers to print the design directly onto the fabric. It’s suitable for intricate designs and allows for unlimited colors and shading. DTG printing is ideally used for small batch orders or single custom prints.

Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV)

HTV involves cutting designs from colored vinyl sheets and then heat-pressing them onto the fabric. This technique is great for simple designs and allows for vibrant and durable prints. It is often used for personalizing sports jerseys, team uniforms, and promotional items.

Dye Sublimation

Dye sublimation printing uses inks and heat to transfer dye onto synthetic materials such as polyester. The design is printed onto a special paper, and heat enables ink transfer onto fabric.

Using the dry sublimation technique ensures vibrant, long-lasting prints that are breathable and don’t fade or crack.

Discharge Printing

Discharge printing is ideal for retro-style designs because it uses water-based ink, which removes the existing dye or color from the fabric and replaces it with the desired color.

The result is a soft, vintage-like look, as the design becomes part of the fabric rather than sitting on top.

Plastisol Transfers

Plastisol transfers are screen-printed designs that use heat to transfer them onto the fabric. The design is first screen printed onto a release paper using plastisol ink, then heat-pressed onto the garment.

The method allows for detailed prints and is often used for intricate designs or when printing on dark-colored garments.

Foil Printing

Foil printing uses a special adhesive and metallic foil to create a shiny, reflective design. The adhesive is screen printed onto the fabric, then the foil is applied, and heat pressed onto the adhesive, creating a metallic finish.

Quality assurance

Before you proceed with mass production, you should check if the final design is feasible and will retain its quality after printing. Working with a specialist custom apparel printer means you’ll get the best results, and professionals know how to look out for design flaws.

Alignment, pixelation, and the longevity of each print matter, and if you plan on selling your designs, they must be durable enough to withstand regular wear and washing.

Promoting and selling your t-shirts

Once you’ve designed and printed the perfect t-shirt, it’s time to consider distributing them or getting your employees to wear them. If you’re an e-commerce brand, you’ll need to focus heavily on marketing to reach your target audience.

Utilizing social media platforms, such as Instagram or Facebook, to showcase your designs and engage with potential customers. Setting up an online store or partnering with local retailers can expand your sales channels and make your custom t-shirts easily accessible to interested buyers.

Some custom apparel printing companies offer an integrated platform to sell products, making it easier than ever to make money with this lucrative side hustle.

The bottom line 

Hopefully, this guide to t-shirt design gives you plenty of actionable tips, and you will feel confident about reaping the rewards of customized apparel. Remember, the best printing company and method for your needs might differ from someone else’s.

Weighing up your printing and design options, and thinking about what will represent your brand well, ensures you’ll create amazing t-shirts that serve their purpose.

Need some inspiration? Want to find a graphic design specialist? At The Growth Shop, we specialize in custom apparel reviews. Enter a query into the search bar, and you’ll unleash a world of opportunities.


The design process duration depends on various factors such as complexity, revisions, and the designer’s availability. It can take a few hours to a few days to create a custom t-shirt design.

No, it’s important to respect copyright laws. Using copyrighted images without permission can lead to legal issues. Instead, consider using royalty-free images or getting someone to create original artwork.

The cost of custom t-shirts varies depending on factors like the printing method, quantity, and design complexity. Obtaining quotes from different printing services is recommended to find the best option for your budget.

When designing a custom t-shirt, selecting the right sleeve length is an important consideration. The sleeve length not only affects the overall style and appearance of the t-shirt but also influences comfort and functionality.

Here are the most popular different sleeve styles to consider when designing your custom t-shirt:

Short Sleeves: As one of the most common and versatile sleeve styles, these designs will always be a hit. Whether you’re designing t-shirts for everyday wear, events, or promotional purposes, short sleeves are a safe and popular choice.

Three-Quarter Sleeves: Three-quarter sleeves, also known as raglan sleeves, extend to the mid-forearm or just below the elbow. The length offers a more unique and stylish look, adding a touch of elegance to your custom t-shirt design.

Long Sleeves: Long sleeves extend to the wrist, offering maximum coverage and warmth for the colder seasons. Businesses can benefit from providing long-sleeve options to ensure their employees are comfortable.

Cap Sleeves: Cap sleeves are short sleeves with a small, minimalistic design covering the shoulder’s top portion. The sleeve length is popular among those seeking a feminine and delicate touch to their custom t-shirt designs.