It can be hard to come up with t-shirt design ideas or inspiration. And with t-shirt design becoming a hot topic due to Print-on-Demand services, the resulting competition for good tee design ideas is making the creative process harder.
Hundreds of thousands of people now use this as a creative outlet and a source of income. Now more than ever it is crucial that you get ahead of the game.
Our t-shirt design ideas, inspiration and tips will help you succeed in this competitive but very profitable area.
Keep Your T-Shirt Design Ideas Simple
Simple T-Shirt designs are on-trend at the moment, likely stemming from flat design, popularised by Google, Apple and Microsoft.
These tech giants have redefined what people find aesthetically pleasing by pushing this simple minimalist look.
Gone are the days where gradients, drop shadows and 3D-looking designs are the “in-thing”.
This shift in design has transitioned into physical printing, which is clear to see just by browsing online or taking notice of t-shirts that people are wearing day to day.
Compare these two shirt designs ideas, each with a beer theme – one of which is realistic, complex and with a gradient and the other a simple flat design.
The more complex design idea is undoubtedly a very skilful piece of work. But the more simplistic, flat tee design is more visually appealing and works well on a t-shirt.
With this first t-shirt design idea/tip, you will not only create a superior design with more demand, but due to the simplicity, you will reduce your design time significantly.
Text-Only Designs Ideas Work Well On T-Shirts
Let’s take this idea of simplicity a level further with this t-shirt design tip. Text only designs sell incredibly well. Again, this is partly because of the current simplicity trend but also because they can easily convey a slogan, belief or phrase effectively.
As you can see with the designs above, both standard text (left) and mixed, more artistic text (right) work well but the mixed approach has the edge. Choosing what to write on the shirt is easy but finding quality, free to use fonts is a challenge.
A benefit in the design process is that you can come up with text only t-shirt design ideas a lot more quickly as it can just be a simple word or phase in isolation, but then again, sometimes we all need a little help!
Due to Amazon’s venture into POD with Amazon Merch, it is now home to one of the largest collections of t-shirts on the planet. Because of this, we suggest using this specially tailored, directed Amazon search query for the best text-based tee design ideas and inspiration.
Distressed Or Vintage Designs Are Incredibly Popular
This is in contrast with our first design tip but interestingly, be combined with it for better results.
The distressed, vintage, grunge or “used” look is in very high demand by t-shirt purchasers. Often a design can look “stuck on” to a t-shirt depending on the print process used but distressing the artwork can make it feel more integrated into the tee.
Both shirt design ideas are perfectly acceptable and in a lot of cases, it’s probably worth submitting both to your POD service.
But the distressed design undoubtedly has something extra and integrates nicely with the shirt due to the textured look.
Distressing an image is easily done in any imaging editing program using layer masks to chop out sections of the design and essentially make it transparent in those areas. Take a look at this simple how-to video:
Focus Your Design Ideas Around Conventional Layouts
There is a reason that conventional t-shirt design layouts are the most common and that’s because they just look “right”.
For this reason, you should absolutely focus your design ideas around these traditional set-ups.
Each of the 3 design locations below also has a purpose or an ideal type of design that should be used there.
- Pocket Design: Logos look great in a pocket design location. In some rare circumstances, graphics can work here too. For example, this Legend of Zelda “Pocket Link T-Shirt” works especially well.
- Chest Design: Ideal for text, specifically short phrases or even a single word.
- Full Torso: Large graphic designs look great spread across the full torso, as do graphic/text combinations. Text-only designs can also be pulled off if interesting, visual typography is used.
Choose Colors that Complement The Base T-Shirt Color
This is an important T-Shirt design tip that is often ignored. You can create the most amazing design but if you place it on top of a t-shirt with a base color that is too similar, or in conflict then a good design idea can turn into a bad design in practice.
This is pretty straight forward but make sure you place dark designs on a light shirt or light designs on a dark shirt for good visibility.
Also, make sure that the color combination you use (shirt and design) work well together.
Choosing colors that work well together is most definitely an art form but you can help yourself out by looking at t-shirts that sell well and noting their colors. You can also take advantage of fantastic color palettes created by designers, for example, 100 Brilliant Color Combinations and How to Apply Them to Your Designs.
Consider the designs below. Both from exactly the same design idea, one implemented well with black and one barely readable with green:
Generate Design Ideas Using Variations of The Same Design
If you are working with a print on demand service then you have no upfront costs. Use this to your advantage. When you create a design create multiple variations. Elements that you can alter to create your variations:
- Font (Even try more than one font in a single variation)
- Colors (Combinations or colorful vs monotone)
- Design location
- Size of the design
- Removal of additional text
The great thing about this is if you’re really on the ball, you can actually analyze the results to see what sells the best, so over time you can focus on the specific variation that seems to sell the best.
Tap Into Niche's For More Ideas
A simple way to generate more ideas is to look into niches. By niche, we mean any specific topic that people are interested in.
If we look at the niche “dogs”, we have a whole host of variables to use:
- Type of dog: Spaniel, Labrador etc.
- The person the shirt is for: Mom, Dad etc.
- Related phrases: I love, my best friend is my, etc.
So using this simple format we can create a huge amount of shirt design ideas:
My best friend/pal/buddy is my spaniel/labrador/husky. That’s 9 variations on a design from a single thought.
Use Merch Informer To Generate Design Ideas & Keywords For You
Merch Informer taps into Amazon’s almost unlimited catalogue of t-shirts, meaning that it can suggest keywords and designs, and provide inspiration. The additional upside is that it also shows you the profitability of each of the t-shirts/designs listed.
Amazon itself, or other POD sites are a goldmine for creative inspiration and to give you the boost you need to generate more t-shirt design ideas.
And remember, using our tips above you should be able to come up with all of the ideas you need by applying the principles discussed.
Good luck, and get designing!
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