T-Shirts ain't no walk in the park, she says

T-shirt design

I love it and I hate it. The process, the variables, the finished prodcut- they all can be your favorite thing one minute and the bane of your existence the next. I can't wait to see this puppy finished and on the torso of a coworker. Hopefully he/she will look proud. Superhero pose- go!

I wanted to share this process with you, though. It's a unique one, and there's a lot of things to consider when designing apparel.

Here's where I started:


After the feedback from the team, I moved with the chosen image and started thinking color choices.

After this step I ran into the biggest issue: T-shirt color. Now, it's not really about the color and if people will like it, but more- can we find a company that makes it? It would have been smart to consider the following before designing color paletts:

  • What ink process do you want to use (i.e. look and feel of graphic)
  • Shirt color and style. Have this determined early on if possible.
  • Shirt material. Will the ink work well with preferred material?

This is where it got difficult: I liked the colors in the graphic itself, but I started pasting it onto shirts and it looked like a sticker. It wasn't whole, it didn't match, I couldn't get it to become "one" with the shirt.

So iterate, iterate, iterate!


After several other choices, this is where we landed. We all felt like we'd come to a great place where the graphic, color, shirt all worked together quite harmoniously.

But (and that's a huge butt) the physical t-shirt swatches of the "heather-slate" that we wanted did not actually look like the t-shirt above. grrrr It was waaaaaay darker and therefor, all the colors in the graphic would have had to change. I think the key here is to order samples, find a shirt you want to use early on, and design based on that. The web does not depict colors acuratly.

But in the end, the shirt is going to work. You have to wrap it up and move on.

And we're all so excited to start the printing process with the screen printers. It's the best feeling when you've put so much work into a project and you feel like you've finally landed on something you really really like. You say to yourself, "Oh yeah! That's why I spent so much time on this- I need to get it here."

Not all projects are like that....

If you have any questions, I'm always available! I highly recommend taking the t-shirt design class on Skillshare.com with Chris Delorenzo. He breaks down the process really well, and the designer who runs it does some rad stuff for Johnny Cupcakes.