What You Need to Know to Create Your Own T-Shirt Print Design

Miracle Ballard
March 7, 2024
Custom Shirt Design Tips

Ever wonder what goes into designing a print for a custom t-shirt? There are surprisingly many steps implemented to ensure the process goes smoothly.


The first step to creating a design for a custom printed t-shirt is knowing the occasion for the shirts. If you are getting shirts for company merch, your designs may look different compared to designs for shirts getting printed for a local retail shop to sell. So it is very important to know what the shirts are being printed for first. This will give you a better idea of what the designs should include. For example, for company merch, you may want the prints to look sleek and professional. Depending on the type of company, less is better. Typically, company merchandise has a left chest print of the company logo along with the company name. These types of designs can be easily created on programs like Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop. Other than a logo or a name, some ideas of what to have printed on custom t-shirts for a company would be: the company’s mission statement, slogan, advertisements of any special offers, what the company is known for, or specific achievements made. These can vary depending on the company but are very basic design ideas to have on custom printed shirts.

There may be more artistic freedom when it comes to designing artwork for an event. Check out our blog on Custom Printed Shirts for Events here. Designs for events like a music festival can have more color and illustrative elements rather than just a logo or statement. Furthermore, rather than a left chest, these types of designs are made to be front and center or a full back print. Think about the last concert tee you bought. Concert merchandise will almost always have back prints of the cities the music artist will be visiting on the tour. Additionally, they will have big front prints of the artist or art that is in the theme of the concert.

As far as designs for retail, they don’t usually follow a specific “code” rather than following the branding guidelines from the retail company. Designs can range from small emoticons or a graphic of a mountainside. So there is a lot of creative freedom in this category of designing for custom printed shirts. For retail, you’ll find that prints can be located on any part of the shirt: front, left chest, sleeve, or back. They are very versatile. Once you’ve figured out what your custom printed shirts are needed for, you can get working on brainstorming your design!

Spot Color vs. Process

The next thing to keep in mind when it comes to designing artwork for a garment is how detailed it will be. There are two categories of prints, high detail (also known as process) or spot color. Spot color artwork is the generic type of design that is created, blocks of color that will easily get divided when the artwork gets separated. Process artwork is highly detailed artwork that is most of the time photorealistic prints. Process prints take a lot of time to perfect on press and are more difficult to separate in comparison to spot color designs. Both of these types of prints have their pros and cons. For spot color prints, they are easy to print and don’t take that much fine-tuning on press, however, when you get to higher counts of colors, it can be tricky because colors may have to be stepped on and this can cause some imperfections if the press operators don’t use a specific technique. When it comes to process prints, they can turn out very cool and impressive but as mentioned, it can be time-consuming and take a lot of fine-tuning on press to perfect the look on the shirts.


Colors can also be something important to note when designing artwork for custom printed shirts. If you are picking specific colors for your print, it may be a good idea to pick colors from a Pantone book, as most print shops will use the Pantone book to make their color library. It is also important to keep in mind that sometimes colors on a screen versus on a print can look a little different. So it is best to look at a physical Pantone book to pick colors for your artwork. If you don’t have specific Pantone book colors chosen, your account specialist will provide you with close matches to your colors from the Pantone book!


Sizing can be a tricky thing to execute because if your artwork is not a vector image and it is not to size, there may be issues with resolution. To avoid this from happening, try to keep your artwork to the size of what you would like it to be printed if it is not vector artwork.

Here are some sizing guidelines to keep in your back pocket for when you want to get your custom printed shirts done: 

- Left chest prints can range from 2-5 inches wide 

- Standard screens can print up to 14 inches wide, which are good for full front or back prints 

- Jumbo screens can print up to 17 inches wide by 23 inches tall 

- Sleeve prints can be up to 4 ½ inches wide and up to 17 inches tall.


With all these tips and tricks about creating designs for custom printed t-shirts, you will be in good shape to get started on the creative process for your next t-shirt order. Some recommended programs to design in are Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Procreate, and designs can even start from grabbing a piece of paper and a pencil! Do make sure that when you are ready to submit your designs to your print shop to send it as the size of your print, in a format of one of these applications, or as a high-quality JPEG/PNG. Ensuring you follow these guidelines, you should have a hiccup-free experience with processing your order.

Happy designing, and reach out to us when you're ready to get those custom designed shirts printed!

Miracle Ballard
Last Updated:
March 7, 2024