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The Fine Print: Let's talk about tees!

How to Design & Order Family Reunion T-Shirts

Taking charge of your family reunion t-shirt order should be an exciting experience. Presenting custom order t-shirts to the members of your family should invoke a celebratory atmosphere worthy of your family gathering. But most importantly your family reunion t-shirts should appropriately commemorate to the occasion. You can design family reunion t-shirts which brothers, sisters, cousins, mothers, and fathers will be delighted to wear on other occasions, even if it’s just a trip to the grocery store. That’s IF you design it well and choose the right apparel products.

What are the principles of good t-shirt design? There are plenty of opinions out there based on the type of t-shirt and the target audience so let’s take it back a notch and view good design through graphic design principles.

Asymmetrical composition- Why would you want to incorporate asymmetry in a design? It’s simple, it adds interest. Not just in t-shirt designs. Many creative people take advantage of the transformative effect asymmetry can add. Professional photographers will also place their subject either off to the left or right of the center of their photograph. Even modern professional headshot photographers are known to ask their subject to not look straight at the camera with the standard forward facing, head on full smile as to avoid monotony and create balance and harmony.

asymmetrical composition

With asymmetrical designs you can call attention to important elements and create movement or action in your design.

Focal Point-What is the main element of your design? You can create a focal point in many ways. Make it larger, or arrange other elements in the design to “point” towards the focal point. You can arrange more details around the focal point and conversely, less detail around the focal point can punctuate it.

focal point composition

Color Use-Choosing the right color or combination of colors can make or break your family reunion t-shirt design. In-depth explanations of color theory can be found around the web but there are three color wheels you should be aware of, primary, secondary and tertiary. The primary color wheel consists of yellow, blue and red, and the secondary color wheel is comprised of colors which are created when mixing primary. These are orange, green, and purple. All other tertiary colors are combinations of these.

color wheels

Choosing a color palette for a family reunion t-shirt order should involve the intended recipients. You can mix and match colors if you want to consider gender in your design or you can choose a color that is universally acceptable. Popular apparel colors for family reunion events are grey, white, black, and blue. If the event will be outdoors, think about the weather when choosing black as any dark color t-shirt will absorb sunlight and may be uncomfortable after a while.

color palette

Font Pairing- Some basic design principles should be adhered to when pairing fonts for your design. Typically you don’t want to pair two fonts from the same family although in some instances they can be paired beautifully when mixing a very heavy face with a thin version. Think about contrast when doing this. Two scripts should not be used together. Using two serif fonts together should be avoided. And two fonts that have really strong personalities typically do not fit well together because they are both arguing for the same amount of attention. There are of course exceptions to these rules where designers have blasted the rules with impressive results.

font pairing

Alignment-This element of design can impact readability and overall success of the design. You’ll need to make decisions on whether your text will be centered, left, right justified, or varied. Alignment also refers to objects in relation to one another within the design and can impact the flow and movement of your concept.

Texture-Many people don’t think about texture when it comes to a printed t-shirt design but you can use this design principle to make an impact. Texture can be translated in many ways using screen printing techniques like halftones and distress printing. Texture can also be achieved with the application of specialty inks that result in texture like puff inks, glitter, and crystalline.

Repetition-In t-shirt design, if you’re going to use a lot of art illustrations, you should try to keep the feel of the art consistent. A bad choice would be to combine a cartoon inspired illustration with a watercolor inspired illustration. Instead keep the general theme of your art inclusion in the same family.

Now that we’ve covered some basic design principles to keep in mind, let’s go over some other key aspects you’ll want to consider before placing an order for custom family reunion t-shirts.

Budget-Most family reunion organizers will be working within a specific budget. This will impact the type of t-shirt product you choose, the placement of the print, and the number of colors you incorporate in your design. For recommendations, you could not have found a better resource than DesignAShirt’s customer service crew. They are highly knowledgeable in a vast number of products and with a few questions answered, can provide you with recommendations that will not only fit your budget, but appeal to wide variety of personalities.

It’s possible to order an assortment of apparel products at no extra charge beyond the per piece cost if your needs require junior fit, infants, and even curvy products as long as the design remains the same. If you need the design to be fitted to multiple sizes an extra fee for different sizes of art will apply because we will need to burn additional screens and setup the t-shirt printing presses accordingly.

In screen printing, color equates to cost. Each color, or ink application, in the case of specialty inks requires an additional screen. For this reason, when designing, you must cast a balance between design aesthetic and your budget. We can offer ways to stretch your color budget with applications like halftone printing, but often this will require either expertise in a graphic design program such as Illustrator or Corel Draw or additional art fees from our in-house Art Department.

ink colors

Timeline-If you’re new to organizing a family reunion, you’re likely already in panic mode about timelines. Fortunately, we have one of the fast turnarounds in the custom t-shirt printing industry. It only takes 10-days for your order to be printed and delivered once your order is placed and all artwork, apparel products, and delivery date is confirmed. We mention artwork specifically because if you require a proof, you will need to approve that proof before we begin production.

Family reunion logo styles-The type of design template or original design of your own can be as varied as the members of your family. It can be text focused with use of interesting typography, or it can incorporate a lot of digital art. Themes are very popular for family reunion t-shirts which can be based on the location of your event, or the timing to coincide with a holiday. Themes can also be extracted from popular T.V. shows, movies, games, or even books. The later examples have to be tempered with trademark and copyright laws to mitigate the improper use of protected property. So unfortunately, if you’re planning a Disney themed family reunion, printing a design with Mickey is out of the question and this remains true for any ethical t-shirt printer.

Some other styles and themes to consider are religious, country, state, or city of origin based, military, patriotic, ethnicity, collegiate or sports themed, family coat of arms, specialty family recipe, really whatever defines your family. For an extensive selection of family reunion t-shirt templates check out our library of family reunion t-shirt templates and customize easily for your family.

Typography in Custom T-Shirt Design

You may feel a little intimidated when it comes to personal t-shirt design because you think it takes specific illustration skills and specialized programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Corel Draw. While creative design skills and professional programs are helpful, don’t underestimate the power and impact of typography.

What is typography? In its most simple form, it’s the appearance of the printed word. In respect to this tutorial though, we’re going to talk about typography in its most exquisite state, an art form printed on t-shirts and apparel.

The effectiveness of typography is really apparent on sites such as Pinterest where you can find every saying and quote known to humanity lovingly crafted into miniature digital art pieces. For getting custom t-shirts printed, fonts and combinations of fonts, arrangement, and ink colors used can make quite a stunning impact on its own without the inclusion or minimal use of illustrated art.

old typography

An actual typographer is a person that either creates fonts or decides on the use of fonts to invoke specific feelings such as elegance for a wedding photographer’s marketing material or the use of the best fonts for packaging and promoting a new product.

Some exceptional examples of modern typographers that take their art to the next level can be found on Behance. Behance.

There are a few basic types of fonts which include serif, sans-serif, monospaced, cursive, and script. Almost all modern fonts are derived from these families.

Some of the most universally known and used fonts like Helvetica, Times, and Baskerville have propagated countless imitations and variations during the last few centuries. For the most part it’s because they are very easy to read. However, enhancing the visual appeal and readability of words in entrenched in history.

Civilization started with what could be essentially described as pictograms. Individual societies adapted these pictograms to embody their visions of what was beautiful and well formed from their perspective. Words were formally inscribed in stone but informally used by scribes on papyrus and animal skins using informal versions of writing known as rustic.

A proliferation of styles began to emerge and in an effort to standardize the art of writing, Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne initiated a movement that introduced non-identical twins of the same letter which is now known as upper and lower case letters of an alphabet.

Translating texts from language to language was mostly done by monks in monasteries in scriptoriums which were cloistered areas dedicated to copying and making new texts using highly specialized calligraphy. Monks also illuminated these texts which as hand painted embellishments could be considered the predecessor of modern typography. The calligraphy styles varied from monastery to monastery and were a point of pride for the monks.

With the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg in the 15th century, the dissemination of content was turned on its head and the first typefaces were introduced. Legibility of typefaces dictated how widely they were adopted and used. Moving into the digital age, typefaces were replaced with fonts which are variations of the same type family.

The proliferation of font development gives modern designers extensive choices and provides a virtual playground for artistic expression. While legibility is still important for conveying a message, the artful composition of words using varying fonts can be powerful.

Some fonts inherently convey a theme as part of their design and may even be aptly named such as these examples:

typography examples

Here are some examples of how carefully crafted typography can impact the message on t-shirts:

love typography
hump day typography
love the wine typography

Fonts can create a mood and dramatically alter the feel of your logo or message so experimentation with different fonts is recommended. Check out these samples of the same logo using fonts that contrast dramatically and notice how much the character of a logo can change just through the use of fonts.

logos altered with typography

When choosing fonts to use in your t-shirt design, you can save yourself time by envisioning the desired final output as a horizontal or vertical layout. Some fonts are exceptionally wide, others are very skinny. It’s not typically recommended to condense or stretch fonts very much because it can change the integrity of the font design. It’s more sensible to choose fonts that will work well within the confines of your t-shirt template and printable area.

You might be familiar with typography terms like leading and tracking and kearning. There are standard recommendations concerning these aspects of design but since this tutorial is about creative typography in t-shirt design there are no hard set rules other than maintaining legibility.

Deconstructing typography is surprisingly complex. Components that make up the anatomy of typefaces and fonts have specific names and personalities all of their own. When you think about the individual segments, it’s easy to understand why they have their own identities because most represent each stroke an ancient writer would need to produce to the letter in an artful manner. Here is an explanation of some of the pieces and parts that make the beautiful characters that express language, thoughts, information, and emotions.

Apeture – the open area of a partially connected letter
Apex– The topmost point of a letter where two strokes join
Arm– The horizontal line that does not connect to another stroke either on one or both ends
Ascender– The part of a letter that extends beyond the x-height, most typically in lowercase
Bowl– The fully connected curved part of letter
Counter– The negative space within a totally or partially closed letter
Descender– The piece of any letter that extends below the baseline
Leg- A small stroke that descends a letter to the baseline
Shoulder- The curved arc that descends a letter to a stroke
Stem– A single vertical stroke
Stroke– A line that is either vertical or curved
x-height– The basis of an entire lower case type family but does not include ascenders or descenders

For a more in-depth explanation of typography anatomy, we recommend this resource which will fill you with information from the top of your tittles to the bottom of your bilateral serifs.

Being an Awesome Web Designer doesn’t mean you’re an Awesome Screen Print Designer

Web designing is a valuable skill. It takes time and effort to perfect and learn all the intricacies required to produce first-class creatives for the web. While you may think that designing for the web is the pinnacle of an artist’s career, you might be asked by a client or even a friend to use your amazing design skills for a t-shirt print. Don’t make the mistake of approaching this type of project with the same mindset as web design. Designing, prepping, and delivering art for screen print is an entirely different animal.

DPI differences are critical. Web design only requires a resolution of 72 DPI, any higher and you can impact the time it takes to load an image on a web page in a negative way. Just as with print publishing, producing art ready for screen print requires a minimum DPI of 300 and frankly, preferably a vector file that does not rely on DPI at all but we’ll get to that later. Many online t-shirt design websites will take whatever you upload and print it without counseling you concerning poor resolution. They simply don’t care and have the attitude of garbage in, garbage out. Rest assured we contact our customers that upload low resolution files and coach them on how to improve the art for a screen printed apparel product they’ll be proud to call their own.

As a web designer you’re used to having all the effects under the rainbow at your disposal to create the WOW factor. In screen printing, some of the special effects can either cost you significantly more money or a less than satisfactory result. Some special effects that do not translate well into screen printing are glow, gradient drop shadow, blurs of any type, reflections, displacement effects, lighting effects, and faded edges.

poor effects

There are some workarounds to creating a gradient effect when using halftones but the expectation has to be that it’s not going to look as seamless as a fade in Photoshop will look.

If color matters, and it usually does for any designer, you’ll need to submit color guides using the Pantone matching system, PMS. The Pantone color guide system is a standardized color matching system created primarily for designers that work in fabrics. HEX and RGB colors vary depending upon the monitor and are not sufficient for a guaranteed color match. Purchasing your PMS guide will only make sense if you will need to use it on a regular basis as they can be pricey. Our customers are more than welcome to visit our Tempe location if they are local.

Another option for a PMS match is to let us do the work. If any component of your design or logo is different than our stock ink colors, you can simply choose “Let us do the work” while uploading your file to our design studio and pick how many colors are in your design. We'll then use your file to pick out the colors on our end using a program such as Illustrator to help us identify the best PMS color(s). We'll compare what the program recommends to our PMS book and standard mixed inks and choose a different color if needed based on how the color looks on our computer monitor.

One issue that we sometimes see is when a customer has a business card printed and doesn't understand that the color matching of CMYK vs. PMS is completely different. For example, a red non-coated piece of paper that was printed using CMYK is going to look different than the same red coated PMS color. We use our best judgement, but certain comparisons like that are difficult to match because the mixing systems are different and not translatable to a PMS color.

When screen printing custom apparel, color is money. There is a huge difference when comparing screen printing to web designing because in web design, colors are limitless. For any screen print job, each color requires an individual screen to be burned. Not only is there additional work there, when the garment is being processed on the press, it requires additional setup. There are techniques we can use to pull up to 3 colors from one color which is done by using halftones. This technique can actually produce some pretty outstanding effects but as a designer you’re probably already aware that halftones are dots. For screen printing, there is a limit to the percentage we can use before losing clarity.

Example of 3 color effects from one ink
halftone effect
halftone effect from a distance
Example of 2 color effects from one ink
halftone 2 color effect
Example of 2 color effects from one ink
halftone 2 color effect from a distance

Another issue for large runs and halftones is the probability of dot gain. Dot gain is inevitable in screen printing and is usually unproblematic but has to be acutely monitored when using a halftone method of pulling multiple colors from one ink. Problems are bypassed by either using multiple screens or by halting production and cleaning the screens to continue the run. The timing of this is critical to keep the appearance of the design consistence from the beginning of the run to the end.

Resizing artwork for the web can sometimes be a pain but it’s necessary if you plan to publish on different websites. Facebook requires 1200x630 pixels for a post, Instagram is 1080x1080, Pinterest is 190 x scaled height, and banner ads are all different sizes and so on. Resizing for custom apparel is considerable more work as it requires additional screens and multiple setups on the press. If you have a large order that requires multiple sizes of apparel, from youth to plus-sizes, we suggest you think about multiple sizes of artwork. A single size can work, but you and your client will be much happier if the design looks consistent across sizes. Burning multiple sizes of artwork onto screens requires additional costs.

The web is made up of raster images which work fantastic for the purpose of displaying images. As a designer you’re well aware of DPI, but even a raster file that is high resolution will not translate as well as a vector image. Vectors are made up of paths that are defined by a mathematical formula. The reason why screen printers prefer vector is because no matter how you resize the image, the image remains true and crisp. Since raster images are made up of pixels, resizing the image stretches the original pixels out of shape and you get pixilation. Pixilation is rarely used in design on purpose; it’s usually a regrettable mistake from not understanding the difference between vector and raster.

Should you be Selling Personalized Children’s Apparel?

Personalized children’s apparel is an attractive market that isn’t as saturated as graphic tees for adults leaving plenty of room for growth. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends are eager to offer a unique gift to the newest member of the community. The events that mark the journey of a child into adulthood provide plenty of opportunity for repeat sales and even referral business from community mommy groups and neighbors that notice on your children’s wear designs.

hey girl baby example

Experiment with different design styles to see which get the most attention. Some popular trends in infant and toddler designs include monograms, slogans, and family status identification like “Big Sister” in text or “My Little Brother is a Cat” in text. Even if you find many instances of your idea already for sale, you can stand apart from the competition with your choice of fonts or combinations of fonts and artistic style.

Typography is the visual representation of your text. There is a ton of opportunity when you play with typography in your design. Although for certain t-shirt or onesie designs plainly formatted words work well.

Typography Example
typography example

When designing infant and toddler wear or anything that is intended for children 12 years of age or under, it’s the law that the products you print the design on have a Children's Product Certificate (CPC). This is the portion of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) governing products intended for children. Fortunately, if you’re using the children’s products we feature on our t-shirt printing website, you don’t need to worry about this since our baby apparel products have already been vetted and cleared.

cute baby model

Coming up with outstanding designs is just part of the process. Once you have your garments printed, it’s time to test the market to see if everyone else is just as impressed. Fortunately, you don’t have to print a lot of samples simply to test the viability of the design. Our no minimum required toddler t-shirts and infant onesies are ideal for test printing. We currently carry Rabbit Skins infant and toddler tees plus bodysuits. We offer youth size no minimum required products as well including Hanes, Augusta, and Rabbit Skins.

What’s the difference between these products and products that require six or more in the order? The apparel items featured on our t-shirt printing website are comprised of many different blends of fabric. Some are suitable for both screen printing and digital printing but some are only suitable for screen printing at our facility. Digital printing, perfect for single orders or test prints require apparel made from 100% cotton.

baby model

If you believe through your market testing that you’ve come up with a winning design for large scale production, our bulk pricing on screen printed apparel is very advantageous for your profitability. Selling uniquely designed garments online is one way to gain a lot of exposure but taking on the building and maintenance of a website might not be your thing. Here are some alternative options to marketing and selling your design without the hassle of building your own website.

miss muscles

The Etsy marketplace is ideal for uniquely made items. The makeup of Etsy’s traffic is 86% women and since women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, this is a fantastic market. A tremendous amount of the referral traffic Etsy receives is from Pinterest, so make sure to pin your designs and include a generous description of the product in the pin.

Artfire is another indie style marketplace that puts buyers and sellers together. You are able to create an account and sell your decorated apparel as long as it’s your custom design and does not include any licensed imagery. If you are using any licensed imagery there is a commercial option as well.

eBay isn’t just for used stuff, anyone can create and sell on eBay. The beauty of using a site like this is you don’t have to drive traffic yourself. There is a lot of competition of course, so you’re design, presentation, and of course garment pricing needs to be competitive.

Another advantage to using already established online marketplaces is you may be less susceptible to swings in search engine placement. Obviously you can test an established online marketplace and create your own website to see which channel is more profitable.

snakes and snails

Partnering with local businesses to display your offerings is another way to generate sales of your designed baby apparel. Independently owned and operated businesses are recommended because they don’t have to go through corporate approval to feature your works. Expect to pay a commission on sales or a small rental space fee. Baby apparel compliments some types of businesses more than others.

When soliciting for a place to feature your clothing, think about the type of foot traffic the business attracts and ask yourself if this is your target audience. Here are some recommendations:

  • Coffee Houses
  • Flower Shops
  • Yoga Studios
  • Beauty and Hair Salons