How To Create Your Own Custom T-Shirts Design

How To Create Your Own Custom T-Shirts Design

How to Design Your Own Custom T-Shirts Online

We all have that creative itch inside us waiting to get out. Making your own custom t-shirt designs can be a really fun way to express yourself. And thanks to modern printing technology, it's easier than ever to go from idea to actual shirt.

In this guide, we'll walk you through everything you need to know - from coming up with concepts, refining your designs, finding manufacturers, and finally wearing your creation. Let's get started! 

Brainstorming T-Shirt Design Ideas

Coming up with that killer t-shirt concept can definitely be tricky. When staring at a blank page or screen, it's easy to draw a blank too. The good news? There are some simple brainstorming tips that can help spark creativity:

  • Look to Your Interests and Passions - What do you geek out about? Favorite books, movies, bands, sports teams...all make great design fodder.
  • Make Lists of Keywords and Phrases - Write down every word or phrase related to your interests. These can unlock logo ideas.
  • Find Inspiring Imagery - Search sites like Pinterest, Behance or Dribbble for t-shirt graphics you admire.
  • Play With Clever Sayings - Funny puns and witty words often make quirky shirt designs that stand out.
  • Remix Exisiting Ideas - Put a new spin on a classic logo or motif.

Once you have a few promising concepts, it's time to start visualizing them.

Sketching Your Design Ideas

Your ideas need to transform from abstract visions into more concrete drawings. Sketching out t-shirt designs really helps bring them to life.

You don't need Rembrandt-level drawing skills here. The goal is simply getting ideas out of your head and onto paper, even in a rough form. Here's a quick process:

Gather Your Materials

- Pen and paper work fine, but a tablet allows more flexibility.
- If using paper, have an eraser handy so you can iterate easily.

Start Loose and Focus on Shapes

- Don't stress details early on. Lightly sketch basic shapes and silhouettes.
- Doing several very rough drafts first can boost creativity.

Draw What Excites You

- Try different elements - from slogans to characters to abstract shapes.
- Draw the ideas that you feel most passionate about first.

Refine the Most Promising Sketches

- Identify your 2-3 favorites and hone them further.
- Define finer details like facial expressions, precise lines and color schemes.

Take Breaks

- Walk away periodically to gain a fresh perspective each time you return.

Finalize a Design

- Choose the sketch you feel conveys exactly what you envisioned. This will be the basis for the final design file.

Creating Your Digital Design File

With your sketch complete, it's time to digitize everything. There are a few easy ways to approach this:

Option 1: Vector Graphics Editor

Programs like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape are the most versatile and scalable approach. You can precisely recreate your sketch using vector shapes, then export clean SVG files for printing.

Key Steps

  1. Trace over your sketch using the Pen, Shape and Brush tools
  2. Add any text elements
  3. Adjust colors using Swatches palette
  4. Export completed design as an SVG file

Option 2: Raster Graphics Editor

If you prefer pixel-based editing vs vectors, GIMP or Photopea are two full-featured free options similar to Photoshop.

Key Steps

  1. Open your sketch scan
  2. Draw on top with Brush and Shape tools
  3. Add any text layers
  4. Adjust colors
  5. Export high-res JPEG, PNG or PSD file

Option 3: Design Apps

For mobile and web-based designing, Canva or Designhill have drag-and-drop features to build shirt graphics easily.

Finding Manufacturers to Print Your Shirts

You've nailed the fun creative parts. Now it's time to get your designs physically printed! Here are some options:

Local Print Shops

- Pros: Higher quality, support small business
- Cons: Smaller production runs, costs can add up

Online Print-on-Demand Companies

Some popular choices:


  • Integrated end-to-end ordering systems
  • Easy scalability
  • Drop shipping


  • Can't control quality checks
  • Lower profit margins

Overseas Manufacturers

Alibaba is a good starting point to find wholesale suppliers and factories, primarily located in China.


  • Ultra-low unit costs at high quantities
  • Custom production options


  • Need large minimum order sizes
  • Language barriers
  • Long production and shipping times

Tips for Evaluating Manufacturers

A few key things to look for:

  • Price per unit
  • Production time
  • Shipping fees
  • Customization options
  • Order minimums
  • Quality control checks
  • Responsiveness

Order a few samples first before finalizing your order if possible. This allows verifying the printing quality.

Selling Your T-Shirt Designs Online

Creating t-shirt designs with no plan to actually sell them is a bit anticlimactic. But turning your concepts into profit does take some work.

Building an end-to-end ecommerce operation yourself has a lot of complex moving pieces. The good news is there are simpler options to get sales up and running quickly.

Sell via Print-on-Demand Marketplaces

Many of the popular print-on-demand companies like Teespring and Redbubble also have built-in marketplaces.

You simply upload your designs, set a price, and they handle the transactions and printing automatically as orders roll in. The sites have huge traffic volume, so less effort for discovery.

Downsides: Lower profit margins, lots of competing merchandise, and you don't own the customer data.

Launch Your Own Online Store

Solutions like Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace make launching your own store easier than ever.

You'll need to drive your own traffic, but have much more control and customization ability. Integrated print providers like Printful can handle fulfillment.

Downsides: No built-in audience, so marketing is 100% on you. Also more overhead managing orders, inventory and customer service.

Promote on Social Media

Platforms like Instagram and TikTok are great for showcasing designs and directing followers back to your store.

Run contests for free merchandise and collaborate with influencers in your niche to gain more exposure. Hashtag marketing can connect you with interested audiences globally.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

And that covers the complete process - from initial concept to printed product to getting sales. The most important next step? Just get started creating!

  • Sketch out a few rough t-shirt ideas
  • Choose your favorite and turn it into a digital design
  • Upload it to a print-on-demand site to get your first sample
  • Show it off on social media to gather feedback

Learning by doing as you iterate on ideas will teach you more than any guide. Don't overthink it and have fun seeing your visions come to life!

What t-shirt design dreams are brewing in your creative mind right now?