10 Tricks to Design Your Own T-Shirt

Designing your own T-Shirt allows you to express your creativity while creating something truly awesome. There are many ways you can approach it: From the simplistic one-word T-Shirt to the extremely complex shirt with multiple layers of special effects. Here are ten tricks that’ll help you design your own T-Shirt. Use these tricks to bring out the best in your shirt.

1. Start With a Central Photo or Theme

One big mistake beginning designers make is having too many conflicting ideas in one shirt. Your shirt should have just one central idea, central photo or central theme. Everything else in your shirt needs to compliment that central theme.

You can still have a lot of things on one T-Shirt. For example, if you have a T-Rex chasing people, you can still have cars, people running, buildings falling, etc. However, the central focus is on how big and scary the T-Rex is. Everything else has to compliment that idea.

2. Scan In Real Drawings or Paintings

If you’re only working with digital mediums, you’re missing out on a lot of artistic freedom. The best T-Shirt designers often use offline mediums like charcoal, paint or hand drawings then scan them in and add them to the T-Shirt. Don’t limit yourself to just the digital.

3. Use Multiple Layers and Blend Modes

Blend modes and layers are some of the most powerful tools you could use when designing your own shirt. A “layer” is a layer of pixels or graphical data in a photo editing program like Photoshop. You can overlay this layer on top of another layer. Depending on how your opacity (transparency) settings are set, you may be able to see the bottom layer through the top layer. Blend modes allow you to create all kinds of stellar effects by blending different layers together, almost like blending layers of paint. Experiment with different blend modes to see how the interplay of layers affects the image.

4. Color on Screen

Once you have your image beginning to shape up on your screen, try adding some color. Just use the brush tool and make sure you paint within the lines. Again, you can use different blend modes on your color layers to create different kinds of effects.

5. Add Ideas and Text

Shirts aren’t just about graphics. Sometimes the best shirts are the ones that have unique ideas, unique quotes or unique text. If you want to add text, do it after you have the main design ready. This will allow you to make the type’s design and “feel” compliment the rest of your shirt.

6. Use Filters and Effects to Add Impact

Once your shirt’s main design comes together, it’s time to add a bit of impact. Use filters and special effects to give your shirt that extra bit of jazz. Create explosions, make clouds glow, make words jump out or make things look 3D. Often time’s creating effects involves using quite a few filters together. Use Photoshop tutorials to figure out how to create the exact effect you’re looking for.

7. Remove Anything That Distracts Attention

Finally, remove anything that distracts attention from the central theme of your shirt. Throughout the design process, chances are you added a lot of things to your shirt. As you near completion, take a step back and take a good hard look at your site. Look for things that should be removed now. This will help focus your central theme even more.

8. Finishing Touches: Color Correction, Contrast, Sharpening

Finally, add the finishing touches to your shirt. Use color correction tools like Levels or Curves to balance your colors. Get your contrast right to make your shirt pop. Sharpen any images that appear blurry.

9. Get a Second Opinion

Before you spend the money to actually get your shirt printed, send it off to a couple friends and ask what they think of your shirt. If they like it, go for it. If they have suggestions, see if you agree with them. If so, implement their suggestions.

10. Get the Printing Right

First of all, preview how your shirt will look in CMYK color rather than RGB color. Then do a proof print or a single print first to see how it looks. If everything looks right, then go ahead and print out your masterpiece.

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