How To Create A T-shirt Design (Easy Steps)

This guide will show you how to create a design completely FREE and without any copyright issues. If you want to learn how to become a professional designer, you will need to read a more advanced guide in the future since we will only be covering the basics to get you started.

Learning to create great images takes time and skills, consider hiring a professional agency or ask your print shop for help if you don’t mind investing money and do not want to learn the process yourself.


  1. Why Learn It Yourself?
  2. The Right Free Tools
  3. General Instructions
  4. The Printing Process

Why Learn It Yourself?

There are several reasons for learning the process yourself, below is a list of the most important benefits you will gain. Also, you do not require any drawing skills, since the entire artwork can be created using only image manipulating software. Here is a list of some of the benefits you will receive from learning this process:

Transferable Skills

In our times, many things are done on the computer or electronically, meaning your skills at the right software can be used for many purposes. From creating posters and Ads to advertise your own brand, finding a new job or even starting your own business.

Save Money

This is quite obvious, however, people often don’t realise how much can an artwork cost. It’s not easy to communicate your vision to an artist, each alteration and small change will consume more time therefore more money.

Imagine this: you started a new clothing brand and paid someone to make your first design, what do you do for your next 10 ideas? And those few small changes you want to make? The total cost will add up very fast.

Your Design, Your Way

Only you know how the final product should look so, if you really intend on starting a clothing brand, that reflects your vision and ideas, then do it yourself. Do not risk outsourcing your designs.

It’s Safer

Everything is fine if you find a talented artist that can create your artwork just the way you imagine. What happens when you pay up front for a design and get an image very badly done and not fit for purpose? Each designer will promise great results and will tell you they are the best, but how do you find the top designer for an affordable price?


The Right Free Tools

First of all you need to have a software to get the job done and a source for your material that is free, not copyrighted. Below is a list of the places you will find free material and some optional paid versions.

Image Manipulating Software

For the right software you have two options we always recommend, GIMP (Free option) and Photoshop (20£ a month). Both options can get the job done and provide you with all the tools necessary to create just about anything you desire.

Gimp is an open source image editor, this means that a lot of different creators are contributing to its development. This also means there are thousands of YouTube tutorials on just about anything you want to learn.

Photoshop is known worldwide and also provides you with all the tools and tutorials you might ever need. They are built in a very similar way so skills are highly transferable between those software.

Knowledge And Tutorials

YouTube is the best source for knowledge you will need in your learning process, not only on how to use the Editing software, but also on how to create awesome effects and new ideas for your designs.

Source For Basic Images

Like we mentioned before, you don’t need any drawing skills to follow this guide, being able to draw can definitely improve your end result however, it’s not always necessary. Once you learned the basic commands of the editing software you will notice that you can create great looking designs by just reusing small parts of many other images.

To avoid issues with copyright you need to use free of copyright images. Here is a link to the top 3 websites you can use:

  • Pixabay is totally free to use and sign up to, which we advise you to do, as it allows you to download much higher resolution images without any security checks. Great and easy interface and fast search bar which allows you to select between Images, Vector Graphic and Illustrations.
  • Pexels are very similar to the above option, also very well knows and used, it can add to your options. Website is also totally free to use and the images are Royalty Free
  • Shutterstock is a paid version of stock images. The price depends on the image and the license you want to purchase, however, the overall price per design is not too high, so this can be a great alternative if you wish to invest some money.


The right idea for your next project can happen at any time, just browsing the internet or social media can point you in the right direction and it’s a great source for inspiration. It’s important to remember that copying or creating designs that are almost the same as an existing product is a very bad idea, and we strongly recommend you don’t do so.

Always create your own original designs, especially if you plan on making money out of them. Copyright is a big issue, to own a piece of art or design you do not have to pay for a copyright license, just by taking a picture on your phone or drawing something, you already own all of its rights. This means you can easily get in trouble if you take shortcuts at any stage.


General Instructions

Here is a list of the general things you must keep in mind while creating your Artwork, no matter the reason your are creating it.


Be consistent and focus on a set of colours to use across your designs, keep it somewhat consistent. Use colours that compliment each others instead of randomly testing different options. Each software has a great library of colour palettes, those are already made colour combinations that work well together, consider using them.

Keep your Brand image in mind and the reason you are creating the design in the first place, it will help you decide on the general direction you should take with your colours and feel.

Look And Feel

Same as with the colours, you should try and keep your designs within the same theme and feel. It is great to experiment with different ideas, however you should always keep in mind your customers and your initial idea. This is for 2 main reasons.

1. Your customers found your designs, and started following you, because of that awesome skull t-shirt that started it all. How will they feel if you release a bright heart with a Love quote? Become very good at one type of design instead of being average across every type you can imagine.

2. You will make more money. Returning customers already know your product, give them what they came back for. It will be hard to sell your new Love quote garment to a customer base that was created with a skull design.


Preview On Garment

When creating a new artwork, that will eventually end up on a t-shirt or other piece or garment, always create a preview of your finished product. This way you will ensure that it fits your garment to perfection, instead of only looking great on your screen.

Based on the printing technique, garments and position, you might need to alter your artwork to fit specific requirements. For example: Direct to garment can print with unlimited amount of colours, however, if you plan on using special ink like Gold, you will have to use Screen Printing instead, which can be very expensive for multicolour designs.

Size and positioning will also influence your artwork, all printing techniques have width and height limits. Find out the ratio and max printing size of your supplier, in case you wish to make your design as big as possible, or how close to the seams and pockets you are allowed to print. Each print shop will have different limitations due to equipment.

Details And Time

There is no need to rush, invest some time into your Artwork, quality over quantity is Key here. Even when you think the design is finished, you might still find some details to add, such as your Logo hidden in the background or a cool effect you saw somebody else use.

Keep experimenting, make different colour variations or test it on a different colour background until there is nothing else left for you to improve. We mentioned this already, but it’s very important, get inspired by others, but do NOT copy them.

The Right Files

Approach your print shop with the right files without the background. We suggest to use PNG for Direct to garment print shops. Check this guide to find out more about removing background from your design and using the correct file type.

Know Your Customers

Are you creating a design for Men, Women or Unisex? For Kids or Adults only? Keep those basic information in mind when making your design. Age, gender, religion, who they are and even what other brands they like, those are all important details you should eventually be familiar with as they will help you create a more targeted artwork that will sell more.


The Printing Process

Depending on your Artwork colours, garment type, amount, size of print, special inks and positioning, you might need to chose a very specific print shop.

The Right Printing Technique

We already made a guide to the 2 most used printing styles so you can check it under this link: Direct to garment vs Screen printing. Here is a very short recap: Direct to garment (DTG) is suitable for multicolour images and up to 200 garments while Screen printing is best suited for less detailed designs and BULK orders, 200+ garments.

Can They Do It?

So you found the right printing technique, what’s next? Well, quite simply the second basic aspect is, can they do it? Each print shop will use a different printing technique, each with its own equipment, settings and methods.

This is very important when you are trying to create something a bit more creative like printing on the side of the hood. In this example, our London T-shirt Printing Shop will accept such orders, however 2 other London printing companies we work with, would decline your order, even if their own very similar equipment to ours.

Know The Price Structure

No matter the printing technique you chose, all print shops will charge you a set price per print. This includes any additional sides you might want to add on the garment such as: back, sleeves, back inside neck and so on.

The total cost quickly adds up. Another general rule is size, bigger images will cost more, this is due to increased inks cost, production time and higher difficulty in completing the order.

Just remember that, no matter how simple or easy a request is, someone will have to do it so it will cost more. If you have any knowledge of sewing or even printing, then do as many additional steps yourself, it will save you time and money.


Every print shop can upload good looking pictures and tell you they are they best, there is only one way to find out. Ordering a sample is slightly more expensive than Bulk orders, however, this way you will have a peace of mind, know the print shop quality and see your own finished product.

A sample will also give you a chance to make any necessary changes before releasing your design to the public and swap the supplier, in case they are not up to your standards.

We design and print t-shirts for all occasions. You can get in touch with our London print shop if you want us to create a design for you or make alterations to your existing artwork.