T-shirt design is becoming one of the most popular outlets for creative’s. 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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 marketer 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.
5. Keep your humor subtle
If you're going for 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 humor.
6. All about color
Use the T-shirt color effectively and try choosing complementary colors. If you're using Adobe Illustrator, turn on Global Colors. 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 colors you're allowed to use.
7. Prepare your artwork properly
Use Pantone Colors 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.
8. Source a good printer
So your design is finished and properly art worked, 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 screen printer 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. Screen-printing is an art.
9. Get Educated
To have a good understanding of anything, you need to study it and understand its 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.
10. 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.