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9 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Designing a T-shirt

The only experience more exciting than designing your own t-shirt is proudly wearing it. But unless apparel design is your main hustle, you might unwittingly overlook some fundamental apparel development principles that could doom your design.

To ensure a positive experience for you and your potential t-shirt wearers, we’ve compiled a list of the biggest mistakes novice apparel designers make and how to avoid them when designing your own t-shirt.

By following these simple guidelines of what not to do, you can accelerate your success as a t-shirt designer.

1. Avoid overcomplicated designs. Keep it Simple.

Think of your t-shirt designs like a walking billboard. If you want your design message to resonate, you’ve got to get right to the point.

Ask yourself, ‘Would I get the main message of this design at a quick glance?’

If your design isn’t simple and straightforward, those who wear it may be subjected to lingering glances from strangers, making encounters awkward.

To help keep your design simple, you can use a free tool like Canva. Check out their templates for inspirational design ideas.

2. Avoid color combination fails

If you’re ordering bulk t shirts in specific colors, make sure your design comfortably contrasts with the base colors of the t-shirts.

You may need to create your design in two color schemes to accommodate different colors. Many companies predominantly use their logo in one distinct color.

Yet, you may sometimes notice they use a white version, also called “reversed,” when the primary logo is placed on a dark or non-contrasting background.

The exception to this rule is if your goal is to have your design purposefully subtle, like dark gray on black.

3. Avoid over-colorizing

With screen printers, you pay by the color. Sticking to a one-color design maintains simplicity and fewer headaches when considering how it will look on different colored t-shirts.

Meanwhile, with direct-to-film printers such as the Prestige L2 DTF roll printing machines, you can enjoy the freedom to create vibrant, multi-color designs without worrying about additional costs per color. This not only expands your creative possibilities but also streamlines the process of printing on various shirt colors, making your workflow more efficient.

Add additional colors sparingly and only for a good reason. Remember, the color of your t-shirt also plays a role in the overall color of the design.

4. Avoid tiny design elements

Small, thin design elements (tiny type) may be difficult to read once printed on t-shirts. Even worse, light graphics on the outer design edge can crack and peel.

5. Avoid low-quality fonts and images

Just because an image looks good on your iPhone or computer screen doesn’t mean it will print well. Follow the guidelines provided by your t-shirt printer and ensure you upload high-resolution images.

6. Avoid printing your design before seeing what it would look like on a t-shirt

Many t-shirt printers can show you a digital mockup of your design on the actual t-shirt. If they don’t, you can use a tool like Smartmockups to see how your design looks before printing.

7. Avoid disproportionate designs

Just because a t-shirt printer can print an image of 8 square inches doesn’t mean your design should take up the entire space-size and placement matter. Refer to your mockup to see what size and placement look correct when printed.

8. Avoid disregarding sizing considerations

If you’re planning on purchasing t-shirts in a wide variety of sizes, make sure your design size works as well on the biggest-sized t-shirt as it does the smallest-sized t-shirt.

9. Avoid ignoring your audience

Make sure your design style appeals to your audience. Fonts and graphic styles change like fashion. See what’s trending with your audience and create designs that replicate those styles.


Now it’s time to get designing!

First, create your t-shirt design, carefully choosing the style, fonts and colors to make sure your message gets across at a glance.

Then, double-check your design to make sure you’ve avoided all nine mistakes listed above.

Finally, bring your high-resolution design to life by getting it printed on the perfect t-shirts so you can proudly wear it and share it.

This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from and other Amazon websites.

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