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The Fine Print: Let's talk about tees!

Color Psychology and Your Custom T-Shirts

By: Rachel Lowenstein

The psychology of color is one that is concerned with the effects of hues on emotions, moods, and performance. Color is pervasive in the world, effective on the impressionable, and helps drive the emotion of man. Color is so profound, that it instantly drives our daily decisions within milliseconds. Why does a pale green calm the viewer while a shocking emerald jolts him? Why is cherry red associated with shameless sex appeal while burgundy is affiliated with timeless sophistication? These questions and many others like them all help individuals understand why hues drive their daily decisions. Therefore, it seems pertinent to consider color when choosing the design, style, and font related to custom t-shirts. Though the meaning of colors can vary according to culture, the general connotation of colors can be decoded into a small handful of meanings.


A scarlet hue can be intense, it can be bold, and it can be passionate. Red quickens the heartbeat and it attracts the eye. Red, as a whole, can often be too straightforward as the primary color of a t-shirt. However, if your t-shirt objective is to catch another’s eye, red is an ideal color. Scarlet is related with love and romance and is often used in related designs. A yellow-based red can be seen as hot and fiery, but also cheap. A blue-based red is the most passionate of the red family and can be worn by most skin types. Burgundy is seen as sophisticated but can also be dated. It is advisable to use red as an accent color in most cases. Hanes’ most used red is Deep Red RE because of its eye-catching nature. Common types of custom t-shirts that use red are sports teams and collegiate events.


Energetic, exciting, and edgy, orange is one of the trickiest colors to work with. Though seen as attention-grabbing, orange is also perceived as the most unattractive color to the eye. It can be seen as aggressive, though it is less intense than red. A golden-hued orange that is commonly used by t-shirt vendors is Hanes Athletic Orange AX. Orange should be used sparingly on a t-shirt design and rarely should it be used as the t-shirt color because of its negative connotations.


Yellow, in most cases, can be seen as cheerful and uplifting. Unless it is a heavily saturated yellow, golden hues are related to optimism, nature, and summer. A bright, saturated yellow can be seen as hazardous and even a sign of warning. Pastel yellows are inoffensive but childish. Family reunion and Greek t-shirts often employ yellow because of its eye-catching, but exciting, nature. Hanes has a variety of yellows, from bronze to bumblebee. The Hanes color Gold GO is a collegiate gold commonly utilized by universities. Golden Nugget GN is slightly more bronze and Yellow YE is a true, vibrant yellow.


One of the most universal colors, different shades of green denotes a variety of meanings. However, most shades of green are the most pleasant to the human eye. Pale green is calming and refreshing while emerald green signifies richness and wealth. Lime green displays youth and playfulness while yellow-green is most popular in Asian cultures. A deep green is one of the most neutral colors to use for text as it is eye-catching but not offensive.


The color blue is collective and ubiquitous. It is, on a whole, the least complicated color to work with. When designing custom t-shirts, navy blue is one of the most requested shirt colors because of its neutrality. Peaceful, trusting, cool, dependability, and care are all words that are related to the color blue. Therefore, most designers use it to imply that a company is dependable and trusting. When in doubt while designing a t-shirt, it is advisable to choose a shade of blue. Aqua is young and hip, pastel is soothing and serene, navy is trusting and loyal, electric is trendy and fun. Companies such as banks and large corporations often choose blue because of its universal appeal.


Purple is often used as a spiritual, sensual, and sophisticated color. It is trendy in most cases and, if not used carefully, ultra feminine. Conversely, a deep purple can be used to replace gray, black, or brown as a neutral shade that maintains a slight punch of color. Religious t-shirts utilize purple for its spirituality while athletic teams use it for its bright neutrality.


When designing custom t-shirts, it is significant to keep in mind the femininity of rose colors. Pink is generally associated with romance, love, and marriage. It is most commonly used on t-shirts that are related to feminine ideals and matters. Hanes' Pale Pink PI is a baby pink, Pink PS is a vibrant pink, and Wow Pink 6A is a hot pink.


Masculine, natural, and warm, brown is a neutral color. It is associated with naturalness because of its abundance in nature. Caramel hues are warm, sand is mild, and deep browns are rich. When designing custom t-shirts, many customers use brown when designing family-style events because of its rich, home-style feel.

Black, Gray, and White

These three colors represent highs, lows, and everything in between. White, in Western culture, is seen as pure, innocent, and virginal. Black, in most cultures, is modern, severe, elegant, sorrowful, and mysterious all at once. Because of its multitude of meanings, black, paired with the correct design, can denote many things. A t-shirt with a skull and cross bones that is black is seen as edgy and severe. Yet, a shirt with modern lines and spacious text can be seen as contemporary. In addition, to soften black, gray is often used to maintain the elegance and formality of black.

How To Create Your Own Custom T-Shirts Design

Written by Rachel Lowenstein

Artists and graphic designers spend hours, even days, on creating the perfect look for companies. Whether it is an advertisement, packaging, a logo, or even a t-shirt, a lot of talent and a lot more time is put into the process of effective design. Thus, the mere thought of constructing a practical, yet provocative, design for a company, personal, or promotional custom t-shirts can seem daunting. What programs should I use? How do I learn how to use those programs? What if I absolutely cannot draw? These question, though perhaps discouraging, all have simple answers that can turn a design-rookie into a compelling computer artist who can apply their skills to their own t-shirt designs!

Where To Start?

The first thing any designer must consider is the media he is going to use. With screen printing, it is important to use computer programs for high-quality designs on your t-shirt. Popular programs used by graphic designers include: Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, Corel Paint Shop Pro, and Adobe Photoshop. Corel products are significantly less expensive, however, most designers prefer the superior capability of Adobe products. However, both companies offer free trials at their websites if you only need to use it for a one-time design! If you absolutely do not consider yourself computer savvy, some companies, like, offer design-consultations. These consultations offer customers the chance to get a personalized, original design without the customer having to think creatively.

How Do I Use These Programs?

The basics of computer drawing programs are not hard to learn. To draw in Illustrator, you can use the pencil tool or the more accurate pen tool for tight, crisp lines. There is also the type tool to easily insert copy, as well as the shapes tool to apply interesting shapes to your design. Both Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator tutorials are available on numerous websites on the internet, with basic drawing to complex rendering to make understanding these programs exponentially easier.

Basic Design Principles

Now that you know how to run the program you are using, how do you know what kind of design you want to create for your custom t-shirt? Keeping basic design principles, that every accomplished designer uses, in mind can help you in copious ways. First, ask yourself, "What is the message of my t-shirt?" Is it a corporate bank t-shirt or is it a sorority fundraiser t-shirt? Is it targeted for children or for adults? T-shirts for children can be brighter with fun fonts and shapes. On the other hand, if your target audience is adults, try to keep the colors limited and the font easier to read. Colors that are dependable and inoffensive include blue, black, and white. If you want your design to catch eyes in an anything but subtle way, go for red, orange, or even yellow. Also, consider if you want the shirt to be more functional or more fashionable. Last, keep in mind your demographic (children, adults, teenagers, there is a whole range of groups of people to target your shirt to.) Remember that design is only limited to your imagination and that these are not rules, but mere suggestions to steer you in the right direction! Your options are unlimited!