This article is writte by Lee Patterson is a custom t-shirt printing specialist that works with many different companies to create promotional products. He has held positions with many top labels and brands, consulting on their artwork design process.
Custom t-shirt printing is not only a great business idea but can also be very fulfilling on a personal level as well. Whether you’re designing promotional products, gifts or even items for your own use, custom t-shirts have a variety of uses.
They are easy to manufacture, hold great value/novelty, and do not have to be extremely expenses to produce. However, if you want to do things right, there are some secrets of the trade that you should know. Keep these 8 tips in mind whenever you are designing a custom t-shirt and you’ll ensure that there is strength and quality in your design.
#1 – Always Use High Quality Products –
There are a lot of different t-shirt manufacturers out there. They are located from Canada to China and all offer differing quality, price and cuts. But when designing a custom printed t-shirt you want to ensure you have the top of the line when it comes to plain t-shirts. Always use a 100% cotton t-shirt when possible, and a 50/50 blend in cases you can’t.
There are several brands to choose from including American Apparel, Fruit of the Loom and Gildan. Depending on the feel you want from the t-shirt, you can choose from light to heavy weights. When decided which style of shirt to get consider your budget, purpose for design and the end user of the shirt. This will ensure you have the best possible quality for the job you’re trying to do.
#2– Get Your Colours Right –
When designing artwork there are several things you need to consider. Some obvious ones include the size and style of the design, the message you’re trying to get across and even the colours you use. When deciding on your colour scheme, however, be sure you know which colour mode you should design in. Most computer software works by default with RGB and CMYK colour modes.
However, to ensure full accuracy of colours you will want to incorporate PMS colours. PMS stands for Pantone Matching System and is a system of matching colours for use in manufacturing and printing. It ensures the closest match to the colours you intended with your artwork. Ask your designer or t-shirt printers more about how this works if you’re unclear.
#3 – Design Artwork To Scale –
This is a very important tip when it comes to custom t-shirt printing. You never want to leave it up to the printer to adjust size for you later, especially if you’re not using vector-based graphics. Stretching an image degrades it’s quality and when that transfers to an actual print, the results can be horrendous.
What you should always do is design your artwork at the actual size you want it on the t-shirt. If you’re unsure of what size to create something, simply grab an old t-shirt and measure the length and width of the print area you intend on using. This will ensure that the final product turns out exactly as you envision it (or as close to it as possible).
#4 – Be Careful With Text –
On most custom designed t-shirts, text plays a huge part, especially with promotional products. Whether it’s a brand name, message, or anything in between, text is what can make your plain t-shirt humorous and creative, not to mention bring out the emotions of the person reading it.
But when designing text for a custom t-shirt printing job, the goal is often to design it in an innovative way. But if you use a custom font or one that is not stock with most graphics software, you run the risk of having It replaced with a more generic font during print. To make sure this doesn’t happen, try to convert any text layers in your artwork to actual images. This way the printer’s program interprets it as a solid image, rather than editable text. Alternatively, you can also convert any text to its outline. This will make the t-shirt printers software interpret the text as an image and not actual text.
#5 – Include A T-Shirt Mock-up –
Again, it’s important to have all your bases covered so your final product is exactly as you imagined it. Do not leave it up to a t-shirt printer to know where you want your design to be. Even if you say something as simple as “in the middle of the shirt,” it can mean different things to different people. To get around this it’s best to include a mock-up design in the files you hand over to your printer.
Simply take your design and overlay it on a picture of a plain t-shirt to give them an idea of where you want the artwork placed. This way there is no second-guessing and potential mistakes you have to worry about. Everything is visually right in front of the printer’s eyes. If they still mess up the placement, then it’s their fault altogether.
rangga’s note: try shirtmockup.com for a very simple tee shirt mock up online tool
#6 – Choose Your Colours Wisely –
Nowadays, with computers at the forefront of design and printing, it may seem as if your options and possibilities are limitless. However, this is not always the case. And even if someone says it can be done, it may be that you do not want to have it done. For example, intricate designs with many different custom colour shades may not be the best choice for printing on t-shirts. It’s not that it cannot be done, it is simply a matter of final quality.
The colours may not transfer from the artwork to the actual print correctly. The shading may be different and in some cases completely wrong. Also if you choose to print dark colours on a dark t-shirt (brown ink on a black shirt, for example) it may not show up properly. So be sure to think through the type of colours you’ll be using.
#7 – Choose Your Printers Wisely –
The custom t-shirt printing business is quite large and has a lot of different players in it, regardless of the country you’re in. One of the biggest secrets to effective custom t-shirt design and printing is choosing the correct company. You want to be sure the company you are going with is of high quality and professional.
There are many companies that look great on the outside (website, etc.) but their products do not stand up well. Be sure to ask questions of your custom t-shirt printers and look for actual testimonials from previous customers. And make sure you know the type of products they are using on your project. You do not want to be stuck having an order of 1000 shirts from a company that uses inferior quality t-shirts and bad ink. And keep in mind that, oftentimes, you get what you pay for. So don’t be fooled by rock bottom pricing.
#8 – Keep It Simple –
This is probably one of the best tips that can be given when it comes to designing custom t-shirt printing projects. As someone designing a custom t-shirt it’s easy to let yourself get carried away and create very intricate and colourful works of art you’d like to transfer to a t-shirt or other garment. And because making very cool and complex designs on a computer screen is convenient and sometimes easy, it may seem like a no-brainer. The reality of the situation, however, is different. Most printers today use a process called screen printing to print designs on custom t-shirts.
The issue with screen printing and computer aided graphic design is that certain things look great on a computer, but cannot accurately be transferred to the printing process. That’s why it’s usually best to limit your use of colours and the intricacy of your design. You’ll get the best quality using a large image without lots of tiny lines and only one colour. The more you add, the more difficult it becomes to reproduce it at the same quality.
That’s all! Regardless of your level of skill in terms of the custom t-shirt printing process, the above tips can be used to make the process as smooth and pain free as possible. Take your time, keep it simple and know what you’re getting into and you’ll be happy with the results. And once you have your custom t-shirt design printed and ready to go, it will all have been worth it.
Check out Canadian T-Shirt Printing company PrintedShirts.ca for more information about custom t-shirt printing.