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Home » Shopping » How To Design A Killer T-Shirt
A number of technologies exist today, from inkjet transfers to online designers, which make designing and printing your own t-shirts easy and affordable. But ease of production doesn't guarantee a good design. The following are three design components to consider when creating a design for a t-shirt: Contrast, Size, and Balance.

How To Design A Killer T-Shirt

A number of technologies exist today, from inkjet transfers to online designers, which make designing and printing your own t-shirts easy and affordable. But ease of production doesn’t guarantee a good design. The following are three design components to consider when creating a design for a t-shirt: Contrast, Size, and Balance.

shirt with pug design, photographed in Madrid,...

The difference in colors when compared to each other is referred to as contrast. Most times, you want to use high contrasting colors between the shirt fabric and the ink color. Some designs will have low contrasting colors, but that has to be considered ahead of time as part of the design. As a general rule, you do not want to print dark inks on dark fabrics nor do you want to print light inks on light fabrics. A light pink or yellow ink will have a difficult time being clear on a white shirt. At the same time, black ink will not show well on a navy blue fabric.

Contrast is an element that has to be part of the actual graphics to be printed. If you try to use black ink and navy ink as separate elements in your design, you may find that once printed the design appears flat and lacks depth. While not a golden rule, it certainly is something to consider and plan for.

Size does matter when it comes to shirt design. Bigger is usually better for both text and graphic elements. Your design needs to be able to be read from around six to eight feet away. Keep your text relatively simple, or at least have a major few words that are large and easily seen. People don’t have the time or inclination to read a paragraph of text on a shirt. You have about 3 seconds to get your message across before the shirt has passed by. While smaller text can be used, remember to save it for information that is less important than your main idea since it will be less easily seen.

Laying out of graphical elements and white space on a t-shirt is referred to balance. Balance refers to the overall balance of the entire shirt which will include any graphics, type and white space. This does not mean that all designs should be centered as placing a graphic or type on the side of the shirt can create a nice dramatic effect. The key to off centered designs is that they must be extremely off center and not slightly as slightly off center designs look more like errors than purposeful. Also ensure that you leave enough white space on all four sides of the graphic.

Size, balance and contrast are vital elements to a solid t-shirt design. By adhering to the principles involved, you will be well on your way to creating a great t-shirt.

Eric is a designer, owner and operator of two popular t-shirt companies, Big Sister Shirts and Phish Shirts.

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