A T-shirt is a blank canvas waiting for inspiration and expression. Getting valuable tips for designing T-shirts can be a huge plus!

So, how do you design a custom T-shirt that looks good and meets your goals? Start by defining the purpose of your tees. Are you trying to promote a message, business or event, or simply want to unite a team or group? Your answers will guide your design choice.

How you can become a pro designing T-shirts

Our staff has helped clients create custom designs for nearly three decades. The tips below are based on our education, training, experience, and personal desire to create T-shirts our customers will be proud to wear.

1. Browse for design ideas

t shirt clip art from Totally Promotional

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re starting at ground zero with your T-shirt design. And that’s OK. Begin by writing down words and graphics you have in mind. If you have a basic idea or theme in mind, our graphic designers can help you design it. You can describe your design idea in Step 4 of the ordering process. You can also check out websites such as Pinterest for additional creativity. Just make sure the T-shirt design of your dreams is appropriate for your purpose.

2. Choose your fonts carefully

good and bad font choices for t shirts graphic

Font style, size and spacing determine how easy or difficult it will be to read your message. Fancy fonts can make a word or two stand out, but don’t overdo it. Too many curly-Qs will give everyone a headache. Never use more than three font styles in the same design and make one dominant. Browse through our Font Selection, which is conveniently listed by style. In most cases, we recommend using one font each from the Serif and Sans Serif sections for proper contrast. Your account representative can help you nail down the perfect combination! One final font tip: DON’T USE ALL CAPS! No one likes a screamer.

3. Create a good visual balance

good and bad visual balance for t shirts graphic

Give your design proper composition to create a visual balance. This involves placing positive elements and negative space together so no part of your design overpowers another — unless you want it to. This can be a little tricky when combining artwork and text so don’t be afraid to reach out to our professional graphic designers for advice!

4. Coordinate your design colors

good and bad design colors graphic

Use colors in your design that contrast well with each other and the color of your tees. Most people are good at choosing design colors that match, but often forget how it will look when placed on a colored T-shirt. Choose lighter ink colors for dark shirts, and vice-versa. Using more than three colors can make your design appear chaotic. If in doubt, ask your personal graphic designer for recommendations.

5. Avoid a busy design

dos and don't for t shirt designs

Keep your design simple and have a focal point such as a graphic. A busy design with many elements can draw attention away from your message and create confusion. Don’t make people struggle to figure out what’s on your shirt!

6. Position your design to make the biggest impact

t shirt design placement examples

Select a location(s) on your T-shirt that best features your design. Some designs work better in specific areas due to their size and/or amount of text. You can find design locations for each of our T-shirts in the product details section, under “Imprint Area.” This indicates where designs can be printed, such as “Full Front” and “Left Sleeve.”

7. Keep your brand intact

t shirt branding design examples

If you’re using a company or organization logo, we strongly advise you to keep your brand colors in your design. Changing logo colors can be confusing to customers who are familiar with your brand.

Let our experts help when designing T-shirts

totally promotional designers in bright lit room

We understand that everyone has different design talents. Some of our customers submit their expertly created designs to us with their T-shirt order and everything is cool. But if anyone needs a little assistance, we’re always ready to help. We also have an Artwork Requirements page if you want to dive deeper into the world of design creation.

And just so you know, your T-shirt order won’t be sent to our production team until you approve a free digital mockup. We want to make sure you’re happy with the final design and how it will appear on your custom affordable T-shirts. That’s important to us because we know it’s important to you.

"create tees that please" graphic

Written by our experts for you!


  1. Thank you for your advice to keep your brand colors in your design if you’re using a company logo. I’ve been thinking about getting some custom shirts made for some of my employees, so I’ve been curious about what I should do with our logo. I’ll have to keep your advice in mind and see if there’s a good t shirt color that will work well with our current logo.

    • Good to hear from you, Olivia! I’m glad our advice is helping you with your T-shirt decision. The graphic designer who will be assigned to help you will gladly give you further advice on your color choices. You can also request samples to help you decide. We want you to make the best choices!

      Best wishes,

      Shelley Grieshop
      Totally Promotional

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