How to design T-Shirt

By in Software Reviews on June 24, 2011

Hi guys? I am sure most of you have club or organization T-Shirt that is self design by your club member. Some of them might design the T-Shirt by using hand and then leave the rest of the task to the shirt printing service company. In my secondary school, my friend make a really complex design and sent it to Bizandry. Although the price is a little high, the quality is awesome. Exactly just like the hand design.

For some designer, they are comfortable to use Adobe Photoshop for designing. After finished, they send the design to the printing service. Most of them think that designing using Adobe Photoshop will make the design at the shirt will be the same after printing. This is totally wrong.

How shirt printing shop process your design

I used to think that what I make in Adobe Photoshop will produce exactly the same result after printing. However this can only be done if your design is simple. This is because Adobe Photoshop use raster format (format such as Jpeg, Gif, PNG) while printing shop needs vector format for printing process.

If you send hand design to the printing shop, they will scan it and then use the vector software to edit your design. So, vector format is essential in T-Shirt design.

Between a vector and raster

Vector this, vector that.. How important is vector actually? I am sure you have the question in your mind. Vector is really important to produce the after printing result that look exactly like your design.

Raster format such as Jpeg and Gif use dots (pixel). So, the picture that use the format will broken once it is enlarged because the number of dots is still the same. This make raster format not printer friendly.

In contrast to raster, vector format process design by using math equation. For example, you just create a circle in a vector software. In Adobe Photoshop, the circle consists of dots but in vector format the circle is made by using the equation 2.Pi.j (the equation for circle perimeter).

Since the circle is made by using math equation, the circle image will not be broken while enlarge because the math equation is still the same. This made vector format very useful in T-Shirt printing and extremely useful in banner printing. This is because most banner really need to be enlarged a lot.

Adobe Photoshop vs Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator are two softwares that proud Adobe. Adobe Illustrator is important in designing shape. Even a difficult shape can be done by using Adobe Illustrator.

While Adobe Photoshop is useful for adding effects and make the design more lively and awesome. Usually icon or logo designers use Adobe Illustrator to make the design shape and then enhanced the design by applying effects that can be done by using Adobe Photoshop.

Software for T-Shirt design

To have a good design for T-Shirt, software that supports vector format is needed. You can use either Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw for designing. Each software printing company will surely have one these two software because those softwares have been industry standard format in printing. Some companies have both of them.

My suggestion, it is better to have Corel Draw because Corel Draw is a lot cheaper then Adobe Illustrator. Furthermore, curent version of Corel Draw allow Adobe Illustrator file to be edited by using Corel Draw. However Adobe Illustrator file will have a little lag if edited in Corel Draw. But it is better than using Adobe Illustrator that does not support Corel Draw format. However, you can do a lot more with Adobe Illustrator. If you think you wanna be a real and hardcore designer, Adobe Illustrator is the best choice.

For free vector software, you can try DrawPlus. It has two version. One free and another version costs USD 10 but with more features. It will not hurt to spend USD 10 for better features (you can pay by using paypal).

How to get vector files

Vector files come in various format such as .ai (Adobe Illustrator), .cdr (Corel Draw) and .eps (standard format). I remind you again that Adobe Illustrator can only open .ai while Corel Draw can open both .ai and .cdr. Eps format can be open in all vector software since it is the standard format for vector.

To get and download free vector files, these sites might help you:

Copyright and license issue

Although all of above vector is free, a lot of them is distributed under Creative License. That means you can only use the vector design for non-commercial purpose. It is OK if you want to make a club T-Shirt and distribute it for free but it is against law if you sell the T-Shirt to your club members since the design for the T-Shirt is under Creative License.

I am sure most of you can’t give away T-Shirt for free due to certain circumstances. So it is better to paid some money for vector files that you can have full privilege. You can buy beauty and cool vector files for affordable prices at Fotolia, VectorStock or ShutterStock (I like VectorStock of all). The commercial vector price is very cheap compare to what you need to pay if someone sue you for license issue.

Type of T-Shirt Printing

There are three ways to print a T-Shirt. The first method is to use silk screening method (also called screen printing). The second method is to use heat transfers or also called heat printing. And the third method is to use DGT printer. The usage of heat transfers and DGT printer for printing is quick. However, a lot of  small printing company do not use the machine because of the high startup cost needed. Most of the shirt printing companies use screen printing.

Although screen printing is the traditional way of printing, it produced the greatest quality compared to other methods. The printed T-Shirt will not fade easily. This method use blocks  according to the number of colors needed for a design. If the design has one color, then a block is enough for the printing process. Since more blocks are needed for a few colors, then there is no wonder for the printing cost to increase if the printing shop use screen printing. This is also the reason why the printing price become less if you order in a bulk since the same block can be reused for every T-Shirt.

Please keep in mind that blocks printing can not produce tone. It can but you may need to pay for a very high price since tone consists of a lot of colors. And a lot of colors need a lot of blocks. I am not here to saying that you should go for screen printing for T-Shirt printing, it just depend on your needs. The reason I go with screen printing for my design is simply because all of them only have 3 to 4 colors. Another reason is I don’t find any printing shop that is using DGT printer or heat transfer method at my area. If you need a solution for T-Shirt design with lot of colors, and need your design to be finished in a quick time, then you should find printing shop that is using DGT printer or heat transfers.

Picture: Block is used in screen printing

How to get cheaps price for T-Shirt printing

If you make a T-Shirt for money, of course you need to design a T-Shirt that is cheap so that you can get more profits from it. If you follow these guides, I am sure you can have a worthy T-Shirt at cheap price.

  • Number of color – make sure that you do not use too much in your design. Different colors need different set of blocks, thus increasing the price for printing.
  • Block size – as you already knew, the printing shop will make block based on your design. If your design is too big, bigger block is needed thus increasing printing price.
  • Textiles – there are few textiles available at shirt printing such as cotton, fiber, TC and TC cotton. Some textiles is expensive while some is cheaper. Choose the textile that suit your design best.
  • Design style (the number of cutting) – Sometimes we want the T-Shirt to look more cooler and professional. Thus the T-Shirt may need more cutting and thus increasing the price for making the T-Shirt.
  • Total order – to get cheap prices, you need to order in bulk. The more you order, more cheap you can get. This is because most price is due to number of block that is needed. However, the same sets of block can be used again and again . That’s why ordering in bulk will give you better price. To avoid loss, you can take orders before printing.
  • Tips to ask for price – To get a better price, I recommend you to bring a club T-Shirt that has the same design (number of color and cutting style) as the design that you want to ask for printing. Then try to ask them how much they are willing to give for the design. Since there do not know how actually the T-Shirt worth, they will try to give it as low as possible since they do not want to lose to their competitor. Since the T-Shirt that you bring has the same design and cutting style as the T-Shirt that you want to be print, automatically the price for the printing should be the same with the price of the T-Shirt that you bring.

How to satisfy your customer

Although cheaper price means more profits to you, it is important to make sure that your customer is satisfied with your design. Make sure the price suits your design. You can charge more if you think the design is really beauty or cool.

If you think your buyers consist of Muslimah, it is better to choose a textile that is not so thick so that they not complain about their bodies being exposed or the T-Shirt is too transparent.

If your buyers wear hijjab, make a design for them so that the design will not be covered because of the hijjab. A design at the bottom of the shirt is a nice way to do it. You can also provides long shirt since most of Muslimah that wear hijjab cover their hands too. However this is not necessary since they can still use hand socks to cover their hands. I already asked few Mulimah about those issues. Most of them do not care so much about long shirt or not, but most of them really care about the thickness of the T-Shirt.

How to sell your T-Shirt effectively

A lot of students like to sell T-Shirt but selling alone might give you a lot of headache and can disturb your study. So it is best if you can find a team so that T-Shirt selling can be done in organize way.

To have a complete teams, you need to find a designer, someone to take orders, and someone to distribute the orders. By having a team, marketing becomes more effective thus resulted in more buyers. Having agents is also a good idea. To make your team members and agents enthusiastic, you can pay them according to the buyers they get.

Beware of middle man

There is a lot of T-Shirt printing services that doesn’t really print the T-Shirt themselves. They are just middle man that know how to find the real printing factory. My first experience is a success since my design is simple. However my second design is a bit complex. My second T-Shirt printing experience is with an uncle who is middle man. He make T-Shirt printing cheap by buying shirts from a company and then use printing service of another company.

The first problem occur during sending my design. Since he is just a middle man, he doesn’t really know how a T-Shirt is printing. That’s why he just ask me to send a hard copy of my design to him. Doesn’t he know that the printing company will scan the hard copy and editing it using vector software? By scanning and re-editing, my design just not gonna be the same as the first one.

The second problem is the due date. Since the printing is not done by him, the T-Shirt is not confirmed to be done on promise date. The printing factory might cause problem, and when that happen can you blame him because of the company? That is just a waste of time because nothing gonna change.

After my team received the T-Shirt after a long wait due to the printing company problem, I feel really sad since printed T-Shirt is not like the design. That is because the design is too complex and I gave him a hard copy of the design, not a vector soft copy of the design.

A good and knowledgeable middle man will tell you how to make a t-shirt design that can produce good t-shirts. They will tell you to use Corel Draw and they will teach you how to choose textile according to your design.

In order to avoid problem with middle man or even the printing company, it is best if you make black and white with them. State in the document that you will ask for refund if the T-Shirt is not turn out like the design.

Since my first T-Shirt printing is not a success, I done a lot of research to know how to make a good t shirt. Thanks to him, I am writing this post.

The result after printing

If you are using vector software to design your T-Shirt, there is no need to worry about the results after printing. I completely guarantee that you will be satisfied with the results. However the results may vary according to printing company since different company uses different kind of machine and technique.

To choose a printing company for printing your design, make sure you ask them to show a few sample of the T-Shirt that they had done. See if they can make a design that has the same level of complexity of yours or not.

Never give up

After the unfortunate first experienced, I thought to never design T-Shirt again. My second experience is when I already have full knowledge about T-Shirt design and printing. So instead of using Adobe Photoshop, I use Corel Draw for my design. Then I find t-shirt printing service that accept Corel Draw format. I feel really nervous when the shop tell that the T-Shirts are done. I am worried to have second failure. Surprisingly, the T-Shirt is really beautiful and turns just like the design although the design is a bit complex.

Guess how much the T-Shirt costs? RM20 only. For a shirt with a few colors and a few cutting, it is really cheap isn’t it? Furthermore, there is embroidery design behind the t-shirt. Embroidery can make T-Shirt more beauty and cool but I regret using it because it is pain in the ass to take care of it. You can not use washing machine to wash it and you can’t brush the embroidery part too hard if you wash it manually. Unless you want the embroidery part to be like grunge and hippies, you can do it.

If you notice, I put the design at the bottom of the T-Shirt. This is because a lot of Muslimah that use hijjab were going to wear that T-Shirt. I don’t want the design to be cover behind their hijjab. There would be no point in printing the shirt then. Better if they just wear empty t-shirt.

For your information, I just used free vectors that available in the net for the T-Shirt design. Although the T-Shirt is under Creative License, it is OK for me since the T-Shirt is not for commercial. Some of my friends said that I am creative and can be a designer but they don’t actually know that almost all people can do it if they know how.

12 thoughts on “How to design T-Shirt

  1. 1

    i like this article. I am doing some research on a DTG printer .. i am very dissapointed becoz the price is to high 🙁 the lowest i can find is about $3333

    bro look at this machine
    its very cool

  2. 2

    Cool. Printer to print T-Shirt. Hope this machine is available in M’sia.

  3. 3

    hi. i like ur post and i love ur tshirt design, simple but yet stylish. i’m having problem. i need some opinions. im a form 1 class teacher. my students want to have their class t shirt. i dont have any experience and not talented on designing. can u help me? where did u send ur shirt to be print? or can u take an order from me?

  4. 4

    Where do you live? Usually it’s not hard to find t-shirt vendor/factory for t-shirt printing.
    .-= MaxMonic´s last blog ..Dell computer =-.

  5. 5

    Hi Max,

    Any T-shirt Prinitng factory near Kepong or Gombak Selangor?

    How much they normally charge for printing services?



  6. 6

    Hi Kim. I am sorry because I only know t-shirt printing at Parit Buntar because here is where I study.

    I hope that this link could help you to find the related t shirt printing company.

    About price for T-Shirt printing, I cannot say much.

  7. 7

    Hi all!
    I’m from Mega Seni Enterprise.
    My office is at Bangunan MARA, Penang.
    We are very pro and experienced in graphic, printing, ‘sulaman’.

    We have :
    1)t-shirt berkolar
    2)t-shirt sport design
    3)kemeja F1
    5)jaket korporat/jaket bengkel
    6)vest/blazer/baju batik

    Booking/ negotiating can call me at:

    Im incharge for Penang, Kedah, Perlis, Perak

  8. 8

    for the round neck shirt.,wat is d pupose properties dat should we add on it??

  9. 9

    Wow… thank you so much especialy for the vector explanation. Also, I think I’m gonna change some ideas after reading the Muslimah part cause it’ll be a waste for them not to be able to show off the design. thanks! MEOW!

  10. 10




  11. Pingback: How to print T-Shirt designs | MRR2

  12. 11

    Halo .. selamat pagi. koleksinya bagus2 sist..