Your Printed T Shirt Design – 6 Factors That Could Make Or Break It

#Thanksgiving proper sizing of your printed t shirt design

You’ve created the perfect design, following all the important rules for what makes a good printed t shirt design…the kind of design people want to keep wearing, forever.  You got this! And now it’s time to present your masterpiece to the world.

Whoa, Nelly! There are several more factors to consider about your printed t shirt design. Some may seem elementary but overlooking them could make or break your design. And after all your hard design work, you certainly don’t want that!

So, here are 6 important factors to help make your final printed t shirt design a winner.

1. Sizing Your T Shirt Print Design

Size does matter when it comes to t-shirt design. One-size-fits-all need not apply! Just because you may have an available print area of 14 x 14 inches does not mean that you must fill it completely. There may be times when that is appropriate and looks good, but others when keeping it smaller in size would look better.

Sizing your t shirt design print
The design on the right fills up the entire print area and just looks a bit too large, while the printed design on the left looks better.

Also, consider the size range of garments to be printed. Using a reduced size print for smaller items such as youth sizes may be appropriate, while 5XL may require an enlargement.  

The shape of your design could be a factor as well. Square or circular shapes tend to look better when sized smaller than standard, especially on the front of a shirt. Also, different garment styles, such as hoodies, may have limited print areas, so give it some thought when sizing your designs.

2. Your T Shirt Print Design Placement

Assuming your design doesn’t fill the entire available print area, there is a little wiggle room for placing the design on the garment. For example, if you do a line of text that goes across the back of a t-shirt, sometimes it looks better to place it to print across the shoulders rather than center in the back. And for full front designs, the last thing you want is a “belly print” that results from placing the design too low on the shirt. Placing the design to start a little higher up, maybe a few inches down from the neckline, is sometimes a good choice. And, of course, make sure the design is centered vertically on the shirt as well.

Poor print placement of your design can produce belly print.
The dreaded “Belly Print”

Creating mock-ups of your design is a great way to see exactly how it will look when printed on different items. It allows you to play with sizing and placement and also see it on different colored garments to test for your desired color contrast. My favorite way to make mock-ups is a website called Placeit. It’s how I made all these mock-ups you see here. Check it out!

3. Shirt Color & Contrast

Contrast should be considered along with your color choices. What is contrast? It’s the degree of visual different between dark and light areas in your design and the way they correspond to each other. Black on white or vice versa will always produce the strongest contrast. And bright colors on a light background or neon colors on black will produce high contrast as well.

Bright colors on a light background produce high contrast
The colors in this design produce a nice contrast against the white hoodie.

However, achieving the highest contrast is not always the goal. A very popular look right now is the use of subtle, low-contrast print. This can be achieved by using ink colors that are slightly darker than the garment color being printed. But you still need to make the colors bright enough to achieve that subtle level of low contrast. There is a fine line between low-contrast and no-contrast. So, be careful!

There is a fine line between low-contrast and no-contrast in t shirt design
The design on the left has almost no-contrast, while the design on the right achieves a subtle low-contrast look.
Popular low-contrast t shirt design for Thanksgiving
Low-contrast print is a trending style in t shirt design.

4. Design Inversion

Have you ever taken a black and white design that looks fine on colored garments and placed it on a black garment? Sometimes it looks like an x-ray! This can sometimes happen when placing it on a white garment also, depending on the design. That’s when you know that your design needs to be inverted and it usually happens when printing white on black garments.

Examples of design inversion - inverted designs
Depending upon how you want your design to look when printed on dark and light colored garments, it may be necessary to invert the design.

Inversion simply means swapping blacks to whites or vise versa. And sometimes it will require adding outlines to certain areas of the design to make them stand out against the background. It may sound confusing to know when to invert a design but trust me, you’ll know that it just doesn’t look right when needed. And after you invert it, you’ll see how much better it looks.

5. Edges & Borders

My least favorite look for t-shirt prints is when someone just slaps a photograph on the shirt, producing a harsh, square outline in the center of the shirt. Not only is it boring, it can also look cheap and unprofessional.

How to eliminate harsh edges in your t shirt design
One way to eliminate harsh edges when using photos in your t shirt designs is to use shape masks.

What are some options? Try adding a shape mask, like a circle. You could also “knock out” the background area around a photo, giving it a natural, uneven edge. And distressed designs are very popular right now, so you could try distressing the edges of the photo for a more subtle look that blends into the garment. Try different options and see what looks best.

6. Image Quality & Print Quality

This should go without saying, but you want your printed masterpiece to be of the highest print quality and look its best. So, first, make sure you choose a printer you can trust who does high quality work.

But, as my screen printer always says, “it’s all in the artwork.” A great printed product begins with great artwork. So, make sure that you provide your artwork to the printer at the highest quality possible. Submit a vector file if possible because vector art can be scaled to print perfectly at any size without losing quality. It is the most preferred file format and typically are PDF, EPS, AI, or SVG file types, like those you can download from our ready-to-print designs and design templates.

If a photograph is used in your design, make sure that it is a high-quality scan of at least 200 dpi at full size. Also, make sure that the photo doesn’t have any common issues like blurriness, awkward cropping, or graininess.

Image quality is very important in your printed t shirt design as it directly affects the final print quality.
The image quality in the design on the left is good and clear, while the one on the right is grainy and blurry looking due to low image resolution.

So, there you have it! If you’ve read and followed the 6 Rules For What Makes Good T Shirt Design along with giving consideration to the important factors discussed in this article, then you’re on your way to producing a wear-forever t-shirt your customers will love!

2 thoughts on “Your Printed T Shirt Design – 6 Factors That Could Make Or Break It

    • Gina says:

      You’re welcome and thank you for your nice comment. I hope to continue bringing you great designs, templates and helpful information!

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