Tips For Printing T-Shirt For Better Results

Everyone appreciates a well-designed T-shirt. But what makes an impressive design that people desire to wear again and again? Although some of the finest designs appear to be basic, even the simplest designs must avoid the most common faults to attain greatness.

Based on 25 years of experience in the custom printing industry, here are Teeanime’s top ten T-shirt design tips.

1. Set a modest print size

A t-shirt design is not one of those things where size does not matter. Setting your design to standard size is a common mistake. However, standard is close to the maximum, which may be too large for most designs.

The size of a design should be determined by the purpose of the shirt, the features of the garment, and the characteristics of the design itself.

Keep in mind that certain forms, such as circles and squares, appear better when sized smaller than standard. Consider the entire surface area of the print, not just the width and height.

Additional sizing considerations:

  • One size doesn’t fit all. For large orders with different sizes of T-shirts, you might want to make the print smaller on the smaller shirts. For example, a chest print that is 8 inches wide on youth tees and smalls and 10 inches wide on the rest.
  • Some styles have small areas where you can print. Set the size of your print to meet the needs of your style. For example, hoodies with front pockets can be no taller than 10 inches, and the print area on stank tops is much smaller than on T-shirts.
  • Think about comfort. Large prints can make it hard to breathe and add weight to a T-shirt, especially if it is thin. If you are making T-shirts for a 5K run, a big print will become a “sweat patch” that is uncomfortable.
  • Don’t turn people into advertising. Even people who really like your brand might not want to wear a T-shirt that makes them look like a walking advertisement. Keep the size of the print small, and more people will wear it.

2. Get the placement right

Print location is not the same as print placement. It is the exact size of where to print the design in the space.

If you’re choosing unique print placement, make sure you have a good reason. Many people who are new to T-shirt design don’t know that a standard full front placement isn’t halfway between the shirt’s top and bottom. In fact, it’s about 4 inches from the collar. So the belly print is a common mistake, and it’s never a good idea.

If your print will be in a standard place, like the full front, full back, or left chest, our production team will make sure the placement is the same for all of your different types and sizes of garments.

Just let our art team know if you have specific needs or want to print in a different place. They’ll make sure your request fits within the limits, show you a digital proof of how it will look, and then send the instructions to our printers once you’ve approved them.

3. Focus on fonts and typography

At its core, typography is simply the art of visually arranging words (not to be confused with the font, which is the style of the text). Typography is used every time text is printed or presented, whether the result is good or terrible.

Graphic designers use typography, or the art of typesetting, to make text legible and visually appealing by determining the best design for the text, selecting the most suitable typefaces (fonts), checking that the line spacing and letter spacing are adequate, and so on.

However, you don’t have to have formal art training to master typography. Just remember the fundamentals!

The typeface you’ve chosen speaks a lot about you. Whether intended or not, it communicates a wealth of information and can generate strong feelings in the listener. Over the course of a lifetime spent absorbing logos, illustrations, and advertisements, we have all developed preconceived notions about the qualities associated with various typefaces.

A T-shirt design for a family reunion would not benefit from the “Batman” font. Never use “Comic Sans” if you’re trying for a serious business or professional vibe.

While certain common fonts are appropriate for almost any use, others should be used with caution.

It is time well spent to investigate potential solutions. If you’re designing a T-shirt, keep these guidelines in mind.

  • The most important words should be the ones that stand out and are closer to the top.
  • Avoid gigantic block lettering. You aren’t making something for the side of a bus.
  • Using fonts with different styles makes things look more interesting, but don’t do it too much.
  • Think about where you put line breaks because they tell how your message is read.
  • Plan out how the text and images will work together.
  • Don’t put text right on top of images that have a lot going on. It can make reading much harder.
  • Textures and drop shadows should be used as little as possible, if at all.

4. Take care with composition

You may remember learning about composition in high school art class. The overall composition of a design is made up of how all of its parts are put together. Design is all about how things are put together.

You might think that what makes a composition appealing is a matter of taste, but if you follow a few simple rules, you can make a design better. People say that you should first learn the rules and then break them. If you want to learn how to write better, you can find a lot of help online.

Common mistakes are when things are too far apart or too close together. Sometimes the design as a whole can be off-kilter, drawing attention to the wrong place. Or, if you’re not careful, the type will be in the wrong order and the message will be lost.

5. Ensure image quality

When customers send in art files, “low resolution” images are one of the most common problems. That means they don’t have enough information about the pixels to give us the quality and details we need for good print quality.

At full size, images should have at least 200 dpi. Best is up to 300 dpi. Most images on the web are 72 dpi, which is not big enough to print.

Artifacts caused by compression can also be seen in low-resolution images. Remember that the print will only be as clear as the image we start with, so it’s important to start with a good image.

For the best results, scan photos at a high resolution. Try to find the original if it’s a copy that’s been resized or saved again. If all you have is low-quality stuff that’s hard to fix, you could give it a distressed look to make it look like it was made to be rough.

6. Be careful with colors

One of the most important choices is the color. Not only for design, but also to make sure the job fits your budget if you want screen printing. More colors equal more cost per item. Screen printing works best with solid colors and a limited number of colors.

You can choose from a wide range of in-house ink colors in the Design Studio, or if you need colors that match your brand exactly, we can match Pantone colors.

If your method of printing is DTG instead of screen printing, we’re printing in full color, so the number of colors doesn’t affect the budget anymore. It’s a great choice for blending and gradients, especially in photos.

No matter how the design is printed, the way the colors look is always something to think about from an aesthetic point of view. It can be tempting to add a lot of colors to a design to make it more interesting, but this can go wrong. If you use too many colors, your design may start to look bad because the colors are more likely to clash.

There is almost always a good number of colors to choose from or a small range.

Try to get your design done with as few colors as possible. People will wear the shirt more often if it doesn’t have all the colors of the rainbow on it.

7. Consider the contrast

Contrast is a part of choosing colors, but it’s an important and specific part to think about. What does it mean to contrast? It’s the difference between the darker and lighter parts of an image, or how different shades of the same color look together.

Designs with high contrast are easy to read and stand out more, while designs with low contrast are more subtle. Black on white or white on black will always make the best contrast. When bright colors are on a dark background, the difference between the two is high.

The overall contrast can be set by the design itself, in terms of the content and which colors cover the most space or are the most important.

When put against a neutral background, a crazy, eye-catching image with strong colors will really stand out.

Not always is the goal to get the most contrast possible. Low-contrast prints have a soft look that many people like. Some of the best designers use low contrast in their work. But there is a thin line between that and having no difference.

Common mistakes with contrast are navy on black shirts, light gray on sport gray, and ice gray on white. These don’t have much contrast, so we don’t recommend putting them together.

When a customer wanted a very subtle look, we have printed black ink on black shirts. You can still see it, but it’s rare. If you want to do something like that, let us know so your order doesn’t get marked as needing to be changed.

8. Invert negative images

Inversion is a step that is often needed, especially when printing light ink on black clothing. You probably don’t want your photo to look like an x-ray unless there’s a good reason.

It’s hard for the average person to know when something needs to be turned around. Find things that are usually black or white. For instance, a skull should be white, and the shadows in its eyes should be black. Line drawings on dark clothes should often be filled in with white instead of just being white lines.

When a negative image needs to be turned into a positive one, a white outline is often needed.

If you are not a designer or at least know how to use graphics programs, you should have someone else do this for you.

Our art department is happy to help you with this for free. Add a note to your order explaining what you want, or talk to one of our project specialists. They can look at your artwork and help you figure out the best way to do it.

9. Avoid over-complexity

Keep It Simple, Stupid (K.I.S.S.) is a saying that everyone knows, and it applies to T-shirt design just as much as anything else. Most likely, “Stupid” was added just to finish the acronym. It’s rude, but the advice is good.

The human eye can only take in so much information at once, whether it’s text or graphics.

And with a T-shirt design, not only do you have a short amount of time to look at it, but you’re also usually a moving target. So keep it simple.

People sometimes try to be too creative by stacking things on top of each other, using strange angles and composition, and making a chaotic mess.

Sometimes the complexity comes from the nature of the design or the number of colors.

Don’t make it hard for people to figure out what’s on your shirt. Choose one main image or idea and get rid of anything that competes with it or isn’t needed to get your point across.

10. Add borders, masks, and edges

Many of the designs we produce include images. A photo that is simply sitting on a shirt with plain edges can appear boring, if not cheap and amateurish. A simple option is to place a border around it.

There are numerous border and edge design options. The most basic is a thin white or black border, which can improve the appearance immediately. But perhaps you do not want it to be square. In that scenario, you can utilize our Design Studio’s “mask” tool, which provides you with a selection of forms to choose from.

Alternatively, you might use a frame, which is a thicker border with beveled edges or ornate features, as shown in the images below. You can choose from a range of edge styles in our clip art library.

Consider your topic. You could want a beautiful frame if it’s an anniversary design. You could want damaged edges for a competitive mudder competition. Do you want to design a company shirt? You want something neat and professional.