There is just one article of clothing that can go almost anywhere. From sleepwear to business casual and even to the red carpet, the graphic tee is having its definitive moment. They can also be a lucrative business or a fun and productive side hustle for graphic designers. A well-designed T-shirt is an absolute staple of modern fashion, and many people will pay top dollar for a design they love.

Here are a few quick tips to help you design an attractive, salable T-shirt that won’t go out of style:

  1. Layout

When you have a concept or art design that you want to turn into a T-shirt, the first thing to consider is the layout. The most common designs are chest or full-front images. Text is popular too, as are all-over repeating prints and pocket designs. Each of these has unique considerations.

For a full or half-front, consider how the image will look on a human body. Is it so busy that it won’t show up well on the medium? Are the details large enough to catch the eye? Make sure that there is nothing that will look odd on a female bust, as well. Any horizontal pair of shapes on the chest area could look unintentionally suggestive when worn on a female figure, and T-shirts are generally considered to be unisex even in a traditional men’s cut.

For text, make sure your font is large and clean enough to read well. A too-small text can make the wearer look larger than they are, which most people don’t want. For a small design like a pocket or an all-over print, make sure your design is clean enough that it’s attractive and clear at that small size. The best way to test all of these is to try it on a blank T-shirt canvas. Sketch out an approximation on the shirt itself, or print out the design and pin it to the part of the shirt where it will live.

  1. Color

Be sure to consider how the color of the T-shirt itself will affect your design. This is particularly important if you’re using a platform like ShirtSpace which offer buyers several different colors and styles of shirt. If you’re using one of those sites, make sure that your design will show up well against both dark and light backgrounds. An easy way to do this is to put it against several different-colored backgrounds in your design software. If you’d like more of a tangible comparison, you can also go back to your blank T-shirt canvas. Get a few different colors of blank T-shirts, or get creative and use the blank backs of T-shirts you already own.

  1. Sizing

Make sure your design scales well to suit different clothing sizes. This will be easier for all-over prints, where you create a fabric pattern and then use as much as you need, and for pockets, which are always more-or-less the same size. For front prints and text, your design will need to be small enough to fit on your smaller sizes, but large enough to look nice at size XL and above.

T-shirts are a fun area to hone your skills as a designer while potentially making a little extra money. Just follow these tips and you’ll be a fashion icon in no time.

Tom Parillo

Tom Parillo

I am interested in all things technology, especially automation, robotics and tech that helps change how society will live in the future.