10 T-Shirt Design Tips (For Shirts That Will Sell)

In Creator success, Design tips by Danielle Pederson February 17, 2023

A common question we hear from our Spring creators is: How do I improve my T-Shirt sales? Our answer is simple: With better designs! 

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a graphic designer to have solid designs that your fans will want to buy. Spring’s Dashboard has simplified the process to customize products with your designs. All you need to start is a great idea. 

So here are 10 T-Shirt design tips for tees that will sell:

1. Create quality designs.

It goes without saying, but internet shoppers can tell if a design looks professional or thrown together. T-shirts don’t have to include intricate graphic designs (they won’t read that well anyway) but they should look like some thought and intention went into them. We’ve got good news if you’re a complete beginner! There are plenty of free tutorials on YouTube to guide you through the design process if using Photoshop or Illustrator. Check out the channels Jazza and Charlie Pangus.

2. Research popular keywords.

Every creator has a niche that they fit into, and every niche has trending words and phrases people are using and searching for. You’ll want to know what these words are, because if you can use them in your design, you’ll have a better chance of catching some eyes. A free way to do this is to check out other creators in your niche, as well as their fans, and see what words or hashtags they are using. Or, you can pay for premium sites like KWFinder, where you can search for different keywords to see what is trending (anything over 1000 searches a month is a strong showing).

3. Browse other designs for inspiration.

Not sure what to design? Look around. We like to click through Etsy. You can get a ton of inspiration on designs. Go to the search bar, type in your niche, then type shirts. Ex: Rock climbing shirt. You’re looking for 3 things: 

  • Is this type of design something you can create on your own? For instance, quotes or words are easy for T-shirts, while drawings are more involved. 
  • Look at the reviews. If one tee has 800 reviews and another has 57, then you’ll have a good idea of what’s resonating with other shoppers in that niche. 
  • Look at what the actual review is, meaning, is it a 5 star, 4 star, etc. Were people actually happy with the design? If the reviews all complain that the image was too small or it sat too low on the front of the shirt, this information will help you when you design your own tee 
  • Keep in mind “inspiration” doesn’t mean copying someone else. Your design will be rejected for copyright infringement. Make sure it’s your own work or that you have a license if it’s someone else’s work.

4. Design for the calendar.

There is a lot of money to be made during holidays. Add a holiday-spin to your designs for special days like Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day! In fact, almost every month of the year has some sort of special occasion you can design for. And it doesn’t need to be a lot, you can add some pink hearts to a fan favorite item just in time for Valentine’s. Take advantage of these special days because fans are already expecting to buy something new for themselves or as a gift for someone else. 

5. Play with price.

If your sales are sluggish, try dropping the price slightly from the recommended price. Ex: If Spring’s recommended price is $21.99, drop it to $19.99. Why? Sure, your profit margin will be lower, but the number of sales might rise because you’ll be lower-priced than the competition. Keep in mind the quality of your materials, as different fabric blends appeal to different audiences: Classic, Comfort, Premium, Triblend, etc. If you want a high-quality product, like an apparel line that you’re very serious about, you’ll want to go with the Premium tee, for example. If you opt to go with the premium line, adjust your price accordingly.

6. Placement matters.

This is not a hard and fast rule, but for new designers, using a tall rectangle on the front of the t-shirt while designing is a good guidepost. What if you’re experienced or just don’t want to use a tall rectangle? Still consider proper placement. Will someone be able to see the design when it’s actually being worn? Keep in mind, fans come in all shapes and sizes! You want to make sure your design is clearly visible on all body types! If you’re not going to use the tall rectangle method, make sure the design is still near the middle of the chest otherwise it could get lost when worn. 

7. Fonts matter.

They convey feelings. They can even change the implied meaning. Ex: I will always find you. If it’s in a cutesy font it has one meaning, but in horror font, it’s quite the opposite. Also, keep fonts big, bold, and easy to read. 

8. Use color wisely.

The colors you use depend on your brand and your audience. For example, you may have fans that would be turned off by bright colors like pink, yellow, or orange. In that case, go with popular neutrals like be black, white, or gray. On the other hand, your audience may want colors that are LOUD. In either case, you need to have contrast. Gray text on a black background does not stand out, but white text on a black background does. Also, don’t forget the base colors of your tee! The color fabric you choose should complement your design. 

9. Make your designs easy to understand.

Your t-shirts are a walking billboard. A stranger walking by has 3 seconds or less to see your shirt and register what it says. Don’t overcomplicate it. Make it easy to read and understand. Don’t make the words too small, and make sure the artwork is clear. Remember: 3 seconds tops. 

10. Design complimentary items.

Your t-shirt can lead to a matching outfit! Design another product like the classic pullover hoodie or leggings with the same or matching design. You’re building your brand! 

Don’t forget to take advantage of Spring’s deep well of design resources, where you can even collaborate with a professional designer! We’re here to help you flourish! 

And as always, hit us with questions anytime at creatorhelp@spri.ng.