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The Fine Print: Let's talk about tees!

How to Make the Best Custom Promotional T-shirt Designs

As a professional designer you may be approached to design creatives for an entire business marketing campaign. Even if you’re not a professional designer these tips how to make the best custom promotional T-shirt designs will help you succeed at the task given to you.

The most important thing to consider is the scope of the project. Is it just a t-shirt design or will the design be used in other marketing materials? If so, you must imagine all of the different print techniques that will be used and come up with a design that works with all methods required.

iconic t-shirt

For t-shirts, using full color photograph like images will greatly limit the print method and may force your client to go with a more expensive solution known as direct to garment printing also known as digital printing. Screen printing is the preferred method as its longer lasting and is more suitable for bulk t-shirt printing discounts.

brand t-shirt

Creating a design for a promotional business t-shirt doesn’t have to be restricted to the logo. Obviously the company wouldn’t need you’re design skills for something that simple. A discussion about the concept and what they are looking to achieve with the project should be a priority.

During this initial discussion ask if they have a t-shirt printer in mind and get contact information so you can collaborate with the screen printer. If the design will be used in other marketing material, get the contact information for the other printers as well.

Ask your client to bring examples of past design projects that were successful. Also make sure they communicate their timeline expectations keeping in mind that t-shirt printers will need some production time. If the client needs the project finished for an event, the timeframe is critical. Be sure to figure in extra time for unforeseen complications.

If you’re working with a large corporation they will likely have brand guidelines. Brand guidelines typically consist of what must be included in any replication of the brand images and what is not acceptable usage. Sometimes usage can be extremely specific such as how much space is required between the logo and company slogan. This can be limiting when it comes to design. Ask the client how much creative license can be used. If the client is conservative and hesitant about something very creative, come up with 3 different levels of creatively designed concepts. At least one can exude all of your creative confidence and might surprise and delight the client.

sarcastic t-shirt

Font usage is a huge part of design. If you are required to use a specific font family, ask for access rather than acquiring it on your own. There can be many different versions and you’ll want to use the exact requirement. If you’re lucky enough to have flexibility, then ask the client what general styles they like, as in scripts, serifs, or sans serifs. Better yet, come up with a medley for them to choose from.

jean business t-shirt

Brand guidelines will likely include the color palette. Some are very specific with Pantone colors; make sure the preferred t-shirt printer has the capacity to match Pantone colors. If the t-shirt blank is part of the overall design effect and needs to be a very specific shade, communicate this to them so they can have time to source a suitable product. If the client is vague with color direction and simply states, blue on white, try to coax some detail out of them concerning the hue. Is it electric blue, navy, cornflower, or more turquoise? When creating your designs, remember that some colors are only available for web. Also the different printed products may have some variation in the color contrast. If you’re not limited by brand guidelines, offer variations of color combinations. This is especially pertinent if the client plans to sell or giveaway the t-shirts. Not everyone is fan of certain color combinations so allowing people to pick and choose from a diverse collection could increase the acceptance and resell probability.

creative bird design tshirt

If the client has chosen a red t-shirt, be mindful of issues like dye migration if you’re working with a white design print. The t-shirt printer should be able to discuss these potential issues in detail and offer expert advice. Being a professional, it’s your job to think and ask about these eventualities that don’t even occur to the client. First impressions are everything and making a positive presentation can lead to repeat business and referrals.

Choose graphics with discretion because it needs to work to achieve the purpose of disseminating an idea, feeling, or concept related to the brand’s message. There have been some disastrous instances of designs looking like something completely unintentional. If you’re not sure about it, ask a trusted friend to give their opinion. Sometimes a different perspective can identify design flaws.

It’s quite rare for your first proofs to be accepted by the client with no changes or feedback. In most cases there will be several rounds of adjustments and tweaks. It would be prudent to state the number of edits you’re willing to do without increasing the cost of the job during your initial conversation.

Outputting the final artwork in the correct format is critical. Depending on the design settled upon, you may be delivering vector files or if going with digital, it will be 300 dpi PDF. Covert your fonts to outlines, otherwise your design may print incorrectly. A pro tip, make sure to keep your original version intact in case of last minute edits.

If you’re unsure of the final result, a test print can requested but usually at additional cost. If the final piece is going to be screen printed and you want to see what a screen print will look like, then be sure to communicate that to your printers. Otherwise you’ll likely get a digital print since that’s the most cost effective route for one-off prints. Be prepared to pay a significant amount for a single screen printed sample since there is a lot of cost in producing screens and setting up a press. We deduct the cost of this kind of test from your finalized order.

12 Easy Last Minute Halloween Costumes made with just T-Shirts

You’ve procrastinated until the last minute and now are in a crunch to come up with a costume for yourself or your child. What can you do with a t-shirt and some simple craft supplies? We’ve found 12 easy last minute Halloween costumes with just t-shirts that you can make in probably under an hour after you’ve gathered your supplies. Check out these simple, cheap, and cute Halloween costume made with ordinary t-shirts you probably have in your closet.

Here’s a 101 Dalmatians tribute idea for a group Halloween outing. This concept only requires white t-shirts, white socks, some dog ear headbands and some black sharpies. You can cut the sleeves off the t-shirts to make the costume more fitted looking. Dalmatian’s spots are very random so don’t worry about making them perfect. It’s easy to make a homemade headband with some white felt and a glue stick.

Check out this Flounder costume inspired by the Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid is one of the most beloved Disney films and it’s not just for little girls. This easy to make Flounder costume is perfect for a young boy. All it takes is a bright yellow t-shirt, blue felt and a hot glue gun. Cut the stripes out and quickly outline with hot glue and press into place. Cut the tail out and do the same on the back of the t-shirt. Add little fins to the shoulders of the t-shirt to finish it off. Yellow pants or tights make the costume complete.

Make an Indian Princess costume with a brown t-shirt and scissors. Get a brown t-shirt that’s a little oversized and with longer sleeves and a lengthier torso if you can find one. Cut the hems off the bottom of the shirt and the sleeves. Save the bottom hem for a sash. Cut the fringe about ½ inches wide on the shoulders up to the shoulder seam. Fold the t-shirt in half vertically and cut a diagonal point. Save the scraps to make fringe for faux moccasins. Cut fringe on the bottom about ½ inch wide and 3 inches deep. Cut fringe into the remaining scraps and tie around boots. You can finish the look off with a feathered headband and white or tan tights.

This green fairy costume just requires a bright green t-shirt, some green felt in varying colors, a green sharpie, a hot glue gun, and some scissors. Cut the sleeves off and shred the bottom of the shirt into fringe. Be sure to cut the fringe pretty deeply into the shirt to create movement. Cut out leaf shapes from the felt and draw vein accents onto the individual leaves. Glue the leaves onto the bottom of the fringe saving some for the chest of the shirt. A contrasting green undershirt with green tights completes the costume. A flower headband is a great compliment.

Make Harry Potter style robes with a black t-shirt and a black button and some simple sewing skills. Cut out the underarms of an oversized t-shirt in a diamond shape. Sew the edges back together to create new sleeves. Cut the shirt in half down the center from the neckline to the bottom hem. Create new hems along each edge. Sew a button at the top to create a new closure. An oxford shirt with a Harry Potter style tie and scarf finish this Hogwarts wizard costume off perfectly.

An easy M&M group Halloween costume idea can be accomplished with iconic colors, a stencil and some white fabric paint. Find brown, green, red, orange, and yellow t-shirts. Get some freezer paper and cut out the “M” with a craft knife. Tape the design to the shirt and paint on the white “M” allowing the paint to dry before removing the stencil. Repeat on all shirts.

Emoji’s have infiltrated the English language like modern day hieroglyphics. This idea is great for group Halloween costumes and all it takes is yellow t-shirts, felt in varying colors, and hot glue. Cut the felt into shapes that mimic iconic emoji’s and glue onto the t-shirt fabric. This idea is sure to get some reactions.

Make Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head Halloween costumes with brown shirts, felt, and a hot glue gun. Make sure to get large pieces of felt as Potato Head features are really big. Draw teeth onto white felt with a black marker. You could even switch it up by cutting extra pieces and applying with Velcro instead of hot glue to change your expression throughout the Halloween celebration.

T-shirts are so versatile since they are essentially a canvas to express your ideas. Here’s another great group Halloween costume idea. Be a medley of candy bars by choosing t-shirts the same color as their packaging. Draw the logos on with fabric markers or acrylic paint. Perfection isn’t required to achieve the overall effect so have fun.

Despicable Me Minions are wildly popular Disney characters and it’s easy to replicate the general idea of a minion with a light yellow t-shirt and some felt, a black marker, and a hot glue gun. Add blue jeans and black boots to finish off the look.

Check out this sunny side up egg costume made with just a sweatshirt or a t-shirt. Probably the most simple on this list, all you need is the oversized t-shirt and a large piece of yellow cloth or felt glued onto the front of the shirt. It’s another hot glue wonder.

The Che Guevara t-shirt costume definitely takes a particular type of person to pull it off but it makes this list because of its ingenious qualities. This one doesn’t come with instructions but we imagine it’s structured with cardboard cut into the shape of the t-shirt and a hole for the head to poke through. Some red face paint and a thrift store beret and you’re set.

Perception, Emotion, and Color

Understanding how colors can impact others perception of you is pretty powerful knowledge. Colors also have an impact on how you feel about yourself. You can use the principles of color theory intelligently in your day-to-day life to subtly influence positive changes and avoid negativity.

color theory

From our earliest years were taught to associate colors with the environment around us. Red flames that will burn us, blue water that soothes us, blue skies that forecast a beautiful day, green leaves that promise springtime, and so forth.

The psychological impact of these environmental cues is deeply rooted in our psyche but how can we harness this power and make it work for us in a practical manner? There have been numerous scientific studies on the subject of color. One from Cornell University suggests that not only does the size of a dinner plate impact the serving portion of the individual, but the contrast of color does as well.

pasta plate test

Participants of the study were split up, one group given white plates, and the other group given red plates. They were offered pasta with either Alfredo sauce or tomato sauce. Those that chose Alfredo with white plates and likewise, those that had red plates and chose tomato sauce served themselves a significantly larger portion than those with high contrast choices such as tomato sauce on a white plate. Because of the low contrast, they did not recognize how much they were about to consume.

Ever wonder why your doctor’s lab coat is white even though it’s probably the most impractical color choice? White reminds us of cleanliness, purity, protection, and imparts a sense of orderliness. Viewed in that light, white becomes the most practical color choice when trying to assure patients of efficiency.

white labcoat

Want to have a great workout session? Try wearing orange. Orange has the power of energy and vitality. It’s an optimistic and extroverted color that spouts enthusiasm. According to holistic and alternative medicine practitioners, wearing orange while exercising can increase oxygen supply to the brain. Orange is the perfect marriage of red and yellow, two of the most exciting colors on the spectrum.

orange workout

Yellow is the color of clarity and mental alertness. It also induces positivity. Yellow is the color of the sun and lack of sunlight can result in a serious medical conditional known as Seasonal Effective Disorder, more commonly known as Winter Depression. The effect of the color yellow is so dramatic, some color therapists believe exposure to the color can help with conditions like depression and stimulates confidence and optimism. However too much yellow is said to have negative effects on emotions and can cause anger or hyperactivity.

yellow color

Red has been perhaps the most studied color since it’s so controversial. It’s said to evoke emotions of anger, excitement, and even raises blood pressure. It’s also extremely popular in restaurants color schemes because it’s supposed to increase appetite. Wearing red has been found to enhance the physical attractiveness of a woman. According to the research of two University of Rochester professors, red is the color you want to be wearing if you’re looking to entice a male partner. Men were shown a series of photographs of women, some simply had red frames and others were wearing red shirts. Consistently throughout the research, women shown in association with the color red were rated as more sexually attractive. No other trait was seen to increase like intelligence or kindness. The professors suggest it has something to do with the primitive mind. Interestingly enough, the men were not aware that it was the color that was changing their perception since in many cases they were shown pictures of the exact same woman wearing a different color.

red woman

Blue is possibly the most beloved color of them all. It has a calming and serene effect on most people. Maybe because the sky is blue and it’s the color of the ocean. Our affinity with water is dramatic. Most of the population of the Earth lives within 60 miles of a body of water. It soothes us, speaks to our souls, and it’s a source of livelihood and survival. It invokes emotion. It’s hard to imagine that our ancestors didn’t even have a word for the color blue. Opposite of the findings on the color red, blue is supposed to be the best color for a man to wear on a date presumably because of the calming effect.

color blue

If you’re looking to appear more efficient in the workforce, wear black. Black has been scientifically shown to induce the attitude of aggressiveness, not only to the person wearing black, but also has the same impact on how others perceive you. Black has always been associated with the color of night and malevolence. While this sounds negative, translating these traits into the workplace means you are to be taken seriously and have authority. It’s no wonder why Steve Jobs always wore his signature black turtleneck.

black color

Green is the color of relaxation and rejuvenation. Wearing green conveys you are trustworthy and dependable. It also reduces stress and anxiety so if you’re going to have to deal with a problem client or troublesome family member, green is going to have a calming effect. It’s also very soothing to the eyes as it’s the most prevalent color in nature. That’s why skincare companies like Aveda use green in their packaging and advertising.

green color

Perception of color is so subjective that we even extend our feelings toward what the color is called. Why are we drawn to amber and not orange? Spice, but not brown? Iced Cherries but not bright pink? It’s obvious why makeup companies, textile designers, and marketers all over the world expend a lot of resources on research to find out what moves people to buy.


An important thing to remember about color and perceptions is that it is influenced by context and references to our upbringing and memories. If someone strongly associates the color blue with a negative memory from childhood, it’s not going to have the soothing effect that it is generally known to have. Many ideas on color are part of social conditioning like bold colors for men and softer hues for women. In general color should be used to persuade and influence but don’t expect a universal reaction. Each person is subject to their own impressions.

Getting Sample Prints for Custom T-Shirts

Placing a large screen printing order with a new company can be intimidating. If you’re not sure about the quality of the screen printer or you just want to make sure your design is going to look the way you intended, getting sample prints for custom t-shirts is an option.


Screen printing custom t-shirts is the preferred method for larger orders and designs that are more simplistic. Although, ordering a test print without having a conversation with a screen printer first will likely result in the “test” print being a digital print. We need to know that your intention is to evaluate a large run order. While digital printing is a great way to sample the t-shirt product and the reliability of the printer and their service, a digital print is quite different from a screen print.

You’ll also be restricted by the type of t-shirt product you can use when going for a digital print. The screen printing process opens up a lot of options for apparel products like performance wear, and soft cotton polyester blends. Digital printing must be done on 100% cotton.

There are several options for screen printed tests that may alleviate anxiety when spending a lot of money. The first option is the digital print, just with the understanding that digital printing is not going to be as vibrant or long lasting as a screen print would be, nor will it feel the same. And you may not have the option to receive the test on the product you ultimately want.

digital printing

Another option is to get a proof of the very first shirt printed while in production. With high photo quality capability and instant messaging, this is a very reasonable option. However, since the press will be setup and other jobs in queue, getting feedback immediately is essential. Upon approval, we proceed with the rest of the order. If you decide you want to make changes, pricing and delivery time could change.

To see the shirt in person, there is the option of the first shirt shipped overnight. Similar to the option of the first photo proof, we would need feedback within one hour of receipt of the shirt and there is a $25 fee tacked on for the overnight shipping. However you’ll be able to evaluate the print in person to ensure the colors, design, and print quality are exact to your specification.

The final option that does not limit approval to a timeframe is to have one shirt screen printed. You’ll be able to gauge the quality of the print, the apparel product, and the design at your leisure. This option is good for large organizations that may have multiple people or even a committee involved. This choice also works well for brands that offer printed apparel for resale. Assaying the final product is critical for the integrity of the business.

Ordering a single screen printed t-shirt for a proof starts at $50 and goes up depending on your design. While it’s not the most price conscious choice, should you choose to move forward with the full bulk order, we credit back some of the purchase price of the sample toward your bulk order.

We understand trying a new printer requires some time to build trust, especially if you’re a reseller. In that regard we understand it’s a lot easier to sell again to a satisfied customer than to acquire a new one. To that end, we will work carefully to grow a relationship that will result in confidence and assurance of the end product.