Teemill Updates

Get T-shirt Design Ideas

So you’re ready to start selling t-shirts on Teemill and maybe have one or two ideas. But how do you consistently smash out professional standard t-shirt designs that make you money, every time?

Some people think you need talent or magic. That’s not true: It is a simple process that can be taught. It consists of two halves, the development of the idea, and the execution in a design program like Photoshop or Illustrator. So let’s get started, bust some myths and get your 5 t-shirt design tips for professional results that sell.

1. If you start in photoshop, you’re doing it wrong

The difference between successful Teemill stores and those that fail to jump the first hurdle is in the way design is approached. Focusing too much on getting a copy of photoshop and playing round with it will blind you from the fact that the idea is the most valuable thing. You won’t have any t-shirt design ideas when you’re in photoshop. Close it.

Your design program is just a tool. Think of it like a saw, or a gun. It’s not the quality of the tools, it’s about the skill of the workman. You must think first – Using your design program to create the finished piece of art it is the last thing you’ll do.

2. Forget about finishing, focus on starting.

A great t-shirt design starts with the parts. Mindmap your brand, cause, values or inspiration, then search it to get some visual inspiration and build some themes. Research shows that people come up with much higher quality brainstorm ideas alone, so no excuses – you don’t need help. Step 1 is to think about your values, and the iconic visual cues connected to that. As a designer at Rapanui we care about sustainability a lot, so naturally polar bears, wind turbines, trees etc. follow.

Googling, and particularly searching themes on pinterest helps a lot at this stage to think laterally and find those iconic items or images that are related to your values or passion. Try building a Pinterest board around some themes. It’s not about finding t-shirts to copy – any visual cue, a poster, stamp, photo, pair of socks, old painting – anything that looks cool and catches your eye that’s related to your brand themes and keywords.

3. You are your own demographic

This bit is easy. Almost every successful Teemiller we talk to has figured something out: They are their own target customer. Maybe you love Motorbikes and want to make some motorbike-themed tees. Forget trying to design what others like: Design what you think is cool and you’ll find other people like you love it.

Go out there and find some other designs you like, and try to categorise or pick them apart. Look at the formula. Make a list. Pun t-shirt, black on white. Photo t-shirt with handwritten typography. Weird but quite cool low-res polygon thingy. Big bold font statement tee. Pocket design. These formats will give you some basic recipe ideas to jump that last hurdle, and get to list of tees that are ready to commit to your design program.

4. Take two ideas and combine

The t-shirt designs that make the most money on Teemill get purchased either because the cause is incredibly powerful or, more often, because the design is clever. High quality graphic design helps, but a clever idea always trumps it. So how to make a clever design? Well, like most jokes, it’s about tricking the customer into seeing something that they didn’t see first time round. A hidden message or visual warp: Darth Vader as a DJ. A wind turbine in a peace symbol. A concorde haynes manual. Subversion, surprise and imagination is what the customer experiences and loves – but it’s not hard to do.

Imagine yourself as a creative large hadron collider and try to smash your iconic objects from your brainstorm into each other.

Polar bear  wind turbine.. nope. Wind turbine  ice berg.. wind turbine on an iceberg? Nope. Polar bear on an iceberg. Polar bear iceberg. Icerberg shaped like polar bear…. That’s a winning idea.

Notice how the design process is a stream of thought, and iterative: Woody Allen, one of the most successful screenwriters ever, writes every day and throws away two pages for every three he writes: Be comfortable with the fact that the majority of your ideas will be total rubbish. Iterate, delete and move on within seconds whilst keeping any good stuff. You’re panning for gold way before you invest time in photoshop.

5. The idea is everything

Next consider your inspiration, out there on the net. We liked the low poly trend last year, and immediately you can see the connection to the iceberg. And the three things, iceberg, polar bear, low poly make up the idea. The idea is everything: You should be able to visualise the design before you even open photoshop, or explain the idea to someone you’ve never met.

Next, work on some more ideas. You should be able to write a list of design ideas, or roughly sketch each one in 30 seconds. A good collection is more likely to be found in a notebook than on a computer. Only then, when you’ve got some great finished ideas, is itit time to fire up the design program and turn that vision into a real t-shirt design that people can buy.

Next: Artwork…

There’s lots of things to consider when completing the artwork for your new t-shirt design, from program choice, colouration, resolution, file formats and the nitty gritty of which tools to use for what, all of which are covered in detail in the next post.


Artwork for T-shirt Printing

So you’re ready to turn your epic design idea into a finished piece of art ready for printing. What are the top 5 things you need to know about the file and formatting to get amazing print quality results every time?

Really great t-shirt design starts before loading up Photoshop, Illustrator or a similar design program. Without doubt, you should have a very clear idea of the design you want to create before reading this blog about artwork preparation. If not, have a read on how to develop your design idea so it’s guaranteed to be epic, in Part 1 – T-shirt Design ideas

You also will want to be fairly competent in finding your way around photoshop to draw, edit, cut and paste and generally create your design. If not, you can learn all about that here.

1. Think portrait

Screens, or pictures, tend to be landscape but despite a natural tendency to design like that, the t-shirt is a portrait space. Almost all the t-shirts in the top 10% by revenue on Teemill is designed in portrait mode – it just looks more natural. The rest are circles in the centre chest. None are landscape, wider than they are tall. Stick to that format and you’ll find all your designs just start looking right.

2. Forget the rules

Most t-shirt design rules will tell you that it’s essential to be able to work in block vector form and use a limited range of colours, to suit screen printing. Whilst we do screen print a lot of stuff, Teemill is digital so t-shirts designed for our free Teemill print-on-demand stores mean that you can forget all those restrictions: Use as many colours as you like, even photos. And if you don’t like vector art, that’s cool – you can create production-ready artwork in raster format, in other words, straight out of photoshop.

3. Think about the printer

Designs on white tees and colour tees are processed a little differently. It’s important to think about it for a second, as it will help you create consistent results. White shirts are like paper, what you see on screen is what you get. Go crazy with blends, fades and blurs, full colour photos and any effects you want. The resolution of the print goes down to objects around 150dpi (considering we’re printing on organic cotton, that’s epic) so as long as you don’t have tiny text with a leading below 1mm, you can’t go wrong with white products.

Coloured tees require more thought, but there’s only a couple of little rules to remember if you really want to do a colour tee. Because they’re colour, we must put a white ink down on the fabric before the colour. It takes more time and costs us a lot more, which is why we pay more Teemill royalties for white tees than colour ones.

Because we have to base-coat with white, this means that blends and fades don’t work so well as they do on white tees. Avoid feather or blurry edges to your art and instead go for graphic, solid artwork.

Try and avoid huge swathes of white ink.The ability to render text is slightly less detailed, so avoid tiny little lines below 2mm on your design.

4. Don’t be a square

As you build up experience, one of things you’ll do is take into account the t-shirt base colour and think of it as part of the design – rather than placing your design on top of the t-shirt. This has the added benefit of accomodating the minor variances in print placement that are part of mass production:

With a big square block design, even a 2mm alignment variation will be more obvious and it can affect your return rate, causing a negative effect on profit.

Lastly, consider colouration: Whilst our screenprinting factory matches pantones exactly as a matter of course, there are too many variables for us to guarantee it with one-off print on demand t-shirts sold via Teemill. Your monitor, design program and image conversion software will make minute changes so we can’t guarantee pantone-standard colour matching. Luckily, our software analyses your design file and shows the customer an accurate representation of how the print will turn up. So if you’re wondering why your art looks a tiny shade different online to how it looks in your photoshop file, now you know – make yourself a tea and take 1st prize for attention to detail!

5. Save for Web, Transparent PNG24

How do I make my art not have a white background, or a border round it? A super common question for new Teemill designers – It’s super easy to solve.

We recommend using photoshop for Teemill designs. You should have downloaded our artwork template for your product to get started where you’ll find the latest advice on file formatting in it’s own layer. Once you’ve got this read, hide the layer and you’ll notice there’s no white background layer, it’s just a transparent working space.

When you use Save for Web, and select PNG 24 in the save for web window, this file format will keep all the great colour you see on screen like a JPEG photo but crucially leave all the space around your design completely transparent. Then, when you upload your design to Teemill, your design will just sit on the tee as you imagined it.

If you’re getting a white box round all your designs, you’re probably saving as a JPEG or have a background layer in your art.

6. Test print

Like all great t-shirt designers, at some point you have to commit and get your design printed if you want to see how it really comes out. At Teemill we’ve gone to great lengths to get the placement (up, down, left right) and colouration (image-adjustment software) matched between your site and what shows up in the post to your customer.

Please bear in mind that t-shirt printing still has artisan skill – each one of these tees is made by hand, printed by an operator using his or her hands and eyes, and each one is therefore unique with a variance of a few mm in every dimention – like every t-shirt.

Also as t-shirt sizes change, the print stays the same so if you order an XXXXL sample, the design will be slightly dwarfed by all that fabric. These are just things you’ll learn about t-shirt design as you go.

Next up: Bring your product to life


Top 10 questions about Teemill

In this blog we’ve compiled the top 10 topics that new Teemill users want to know about. If you’re the kind of person who throws away the instructions, ignores the FAQ and want’s to get stuck in, this is for you – it’s everything you need to know in one quick bulletpointed brief.

If you want the full nitty gritty, you can find all the answers in the Full Teemill Q&A

1. How does it work

Everything you need to sell t-shirts online is inside a Teemill account. A website, which has a cart, security certificates, SSL, URL and all the tools to customise and edit the code without having to have any prior experience. This whole thing is connected to the Rapanui factory, a high tech print-on-demand facility that prints thousands of shirts a day for some of Europe’s biggest brands and ships them direct to customers. We’re a silent partner.

What happens next is simple: You get all that stuff free. You can build your shop, customise it completely and when one of your designs sells, it is printed and shipped to your customer the same day. You can even have your own branded packaging and custom flyers inside the bag. We send your share of the money. That cash is all net profit, there’s no setup or running costs.

Teemill is used by some of the biggest brands and charities in the UK and has more recently been opened to the wider public. It makes it hard to fail at selling t-shirts online: Design great products and get on with the marketing while the boring stuff is automated. Even the customer care is sorted: A dedicated team at Teemill handle all the returns and exchanges too, also for free.

2. How much does it cost

Everything you need for Teemill is Free. There are some custom plugins that developers have made for specialist purposes, but there’s literally no cost to set up, start and run a basic store.

We want Teemill to be accessable for anyone, from ambitious 15 year olds in their bedroom to charities and everything inbetween.

Our technology powers the print on demand side of our business, which makes our company very efficient. It’s this technology that makes it possible to give the Teemill system away for free, and send you your share of the profit. Our hope is that your store is successful and together we can sell many t-shirts together – and in time, we’ll make our money back.

3. Can I get it on WordPress / Shopify / Other shop thingy

Teemill isn’t currently designed to plug in to WordPress or Shopify or other website building packages. However, we do have plans to integrate with these services which will allow you to build a blog on Teemill, publish your own pages and do all the store customisation and more. Keep an eye on our newsletter for updates on new content and features!

If there’s something special you want, like a soundcloud plugin to get your band’s music on there, or a donation button for your charity, we’ve got that.

There’s a growing list of custom apps you can add to your Teemill store, some of which are free.

4. Can I sell other stuff on my Teemill store?

Teemill is designed to be integrated into our print-on-demand factory, meaning that you don’t have to do any fulfillment yourself, or invest heaps in stock and risk your cash on custom printing. We can store and ship items on your behalf from our warehouse, using our Fulfilled by Teemill plugin.

5. If I upload my t-shirt design, who’s copyright is it?

Not ours. We have no interest in stealing your art, we have plenty thanks. The design belongs to you – but it works both ways: Please bear in mind that in order to create a product on Teemill you’re accepting that you have the right to reproduce and sell that design. There will be no protection from us if you upload products that infringe someone else’s copyright and if you get yourself in a spot of bother with copyright, we may be forced by law to hand over your details to a claimant. Go careful, use your original artwork.

6. Can I trust you with my customer service?

We handle the same-day fulfillment, exchanges, returns and questions for some of Europe’s biggest brands and businesses – as well as our own parent company, Rapanui. Our professional customer care team has the skills, training and time to deliver rapid responses and resolutions to any kind of enquiry to a Teemill store.

We even hand write a thankyou note on every order that we ship – every single one – and yes, you can customise even that.

Customer service is our full time profession – we take care of it.

7. How do the payments work?

We pay you your share of the profit at the end of each month. The payment is calculated automatically by the factory based on the balance of sales vs. returns. You never have to pay us anything, unless you choose to buy specific upgrades or applications, or subscriptions like Teemill Pro.

There are no transaction or admin fees, or hidden charges, even if you are overseas: We pay the money via PaypalAPI, which is the cheapest way to send money automatically, internationally – and we cover the transaction fee on our side: Every penny of profit you earn, you keep.

8. Can I have my own custom labelling and swing tags?

Teemill orders are printed on high quality organic cotton blanks that have plain, unbranded neck/size labels. They’re designed by Rapanui for Teemill. Cutting these out and putting fancy labels in can be done by our bulk printing team, but that’s more for our commercial scale customers with deep pockets and existing warehouse infastructure: They buy in bulk and if they really want to do that and are prepared to pay a premium, we do it. It would never be economically viable do this one at a time – and it’s not the future.

They make no difference to the success of your brand or project. The biggest indie brands on Teemill use plain labels and they understand that the customer cares about the design quality, not a neck label: They never see it. We don’t do swing tags because people thrown them in the bin immediately.

To be brutally direct, you do not need neck labels, sleeve labels, swing tags etc. This is the stuff of startups that want to appear larger than they truly are. It’s cool, we’ve all been there – But success will come from focusing on the bigger picture, like getting some sales going online.

Note: One thing the customer does notice is packaging, which can be configured to arrive plain and with your logo.

9. Can I run Teemill on my own domain or URL?

There’s two ways to run Teemill from your own domain, the options being influenced by the SSL. This security certificate has a role in encrypting data for the cart, an important part of e-commerce security and forms part of the legal requirements for companies wishing to take payments online, and helps detect fraud. This all comes free with a .teemill url but would require a serious financial commmitment to do yourself.

The fastest and easiest way to have your own URL is to buy a domain from a domain broker, like 123-reg, and point the domain at your Teemill URL as a redirect.

This means you can advertise your site as www.yourdomain.com and any users hitting that link will be automatically redirected to your Teemill store automagically. This means you get the benefit of a catchy name, but don’t have to try and set up your own security.

The alternative is to invest in your own SSL and domain which has some pretty hefty setup and running costs. But if you really want to do it, you can contact us for a quote.

Lastly we do have a RESTful API that’s designed for professional level app developers, but if you don’t know your API from your Raspberry Pi, it will just look like code spaghetti.

10. Ok, but I can make more per  shirt elsewhere

If you think that, ask yourself if you’re thinking in net profit terms. Let us first explain: You could get t-shirts for less if you found a place that does custom screen printing – they will have a minimum order of 50-100 per design, and you’ll be paying for those upfront. You’ll need to get yourself an ecommerce website and buy an SSL certificate to let you take card payments online, storage, packaging, shipping rates, SEO, product photos, the list goes on: Any time you have a new t-shirt idea, or want to respond to a trend? You’ll have to come up with the money to do all that all over again. So far, we’ve not really talked about how you’re going to profit from all that… it’s mostly just a big list of expenses.

Starting a brand seems easy to begin with, until the making profit bit… For most it ends with a load of unsold t-shirts behind a sofa and a broken dream. It’s why we started Teemill – we know we have a better way.

Teemill lets you build a product in a couple of minutes and start selling it immediately. The key difference is that everything you earn is Net Profit. You are in the black on day one, and in profit from the first t-shirt you sell.

The bottom line: A successful brand after a few years of growth might earn 10% net profit and be considered epic. At Teemill, when you sell a white tee for £20 your profitability is more than double that. Teemill saves you years of work and you make more profit.


  • Got a question? Visit the FAQ where you can search for answers
  • Design your first product on Teemill

SEO: How to get a top spot on Google

Dominating a search on google can be more lucrative than even the biggest and best shop on Oxford Street – and it follows that that spot could be occupied by you. But how?  It’s not about money. You need clear thinking, attention to detail, perseverance and a formula for success.

In this blog post, we’ll explain how to understand Google and the decisions it makes. We’ll also explain how we take care of a lot of the technical and coding side of SEO and understand the things you can do to optimise your Teemill store and make more money selling t-shirts online.

No shortcuts.

There’s a trick or hack to get a top spot on Google. Their very success depends on it’s ability to give users genuine, quality content at the top of search results. They’re better than everyone at finding cheaters and that’s why they’re the top search engine. And they have thousands of employees dedicated to this mission. Trying to cheat google will only end one way.

So whether you agree with their tax affairs or not, you’re going to have to think of them as being ultra merciless about rewarding honesty, professionalism, accuracy, quality and fairness – and brutal with anything else. Accept that SEO is not human and forgiving: An ok description is not good enough. Having done most of your SEO is not all of it. Don’t expect to show up for a search on “T-shirts” if your shop says it’s selling “Bat themed tees”

About 80% of the traffic goes to the top result for any search on Google. In the words of Ricky Bobby in Talledega Nights, If you ain’t first you’re last

So what specifically do we need to do to grab the top spot off our competitor? Well, there’s an immensely complex set of algorithms, or programs, that will judge your worthiness for those top ranking spots, and these change all the time. But don’t let that put you off. There’s one consistent theme throughout that anyone can understand and everything google does is related to it.

Think of variables like a department store

The best way to explain it is to think of your website like a real life shop, on a high street. Google started out questioning how to make the best search engine and using biomimicry you can see why a shop is a good analogy: Human’s had already worked out the format that we like to find things in. A long line of square shops, with big words over the top that say what’s in them, big windows so we can see what sort of stuff is in them. And if you go into a supermarket, ailes so things are labelled and arranged by category, with more space left to more popular things.

Translate that online and you can understand every possible decision google might ever make in context.

Why do Google punish slow page loading speeds? Imagine trying to get into a supermarket but the door takes a minute to open and you have the answer. Why do they reward big keywords in big titles at the top of pages? Well, imagine walking down a highstreet where all the signs are removed. Google is a virtual high street. Start thinking of your shop in the same way to unlock SEO opportunities.

Google work really hard to make their algorithm “see” and “think” like a person. The program has ‘bots’ or crawlers that cruise round the internet and check out your shop, sending back data to Google servers almost like a mystery shopper doing a review. They read your titles, descriptions, even look at what’s in the photo to see if they match (that technology got spun off into the “search by image” feature, which you might have seen).

Choose the right words

We start by walking down the imaginary high street, looking for a [insert word here] that you sell and the goal would be to find your store before all other stores. First, that word needs to be big and clear on the homepage, and maybe in the URL. It’s no good having a sign that says Mr Nighttime Novelty Shop Tees if the customer is looking for Bat T-shirts. Ask yourself, when you write that product name or description, what do you really mean?  Some people call this keyword research: It’s the art of answering this question: What IS it, specifically?

Let us optimise the code while you focus on your wording

Next we need to make sure our door is wide open, warm, fast and clean and tidy inside the shop.

Luckily our boffins at Teemill take care of all this stuff in the code, and we’re constantly optimising it.

So you if you sell t-shirts online through Teemill, relax – we’re working on the techy side of SEO as you read this. Your job is to focus on the wording, descriptions and how they match up with what’s out there being searched for.

Describe your product clearly

Next up think about your product. If you have described it in the title as a Bat T-shirt, make sure it has a bat on it. Cheating doesn’t work. Google will notice customers bailing out and smell a rat. So you want your customers to stick about and maybe have a look. Here’s where good shop floor staff work in the real world. Your version online is the product description. At Teemill we force you to write a paragraph for this reason: Nobody likes a moody, antisocial shopkeeper. We expect friendly, knowledgeable product advice. Like a description that is relevant, grammatically correct and without profanity – but not too much.

Build trust with Online PR

So now you have a shop that’s clearly named and labelled, with great products with clear, informative, honest descriptions. Next up, you’ll need to build up some trust. Of course, you could just sit there and hope that a passerby will give you a go, and over their lifetime, tell a few friends. But like a high street, you can be pro-active about building trust. Online, trust is measured in simple terms with links. That means that one site, linking to another, is seen as endorsing it.

To advance that point, the power of the endorsement is multiplied or divided by the relevance of the endorsement, and the trust that the linker has in the first place. For example, if the Queen recommends Fortnum & Mason, upper class searchers really rank that highly. But if little Jimmy says the same, it won’t carry as much weight. Furthermore, if little Jimmy is know to think his best mate’s football is amazing, that has no relationship whether or not they would shop at Fortnum and Mason.

Again, some get caught out trying to cut corners: Paying for links is the equivalent to asking a gang to hang out by your store and force people in. Don’t be surprised when you lose your ranking.

A big part of SEO is trust, and trust is about quality, not quantity. So find some respected websites, blogs or magazines and tell them about your Teemill project. If they like it, they will write a little feature – and you’ve done it, you’re building trust.

The top Teemill accounts all use effective link building to boost the rank of their store, whether thanks linking from an existing website they own with massive trust scores or using online PR to get articles and features to link back- they do it regularly and build momentum into their routine.

Tip: you can use advanced tools like SEOprofiler to find more link building opportunities, and analyse your page content.




Sustainability as Standard

Teemill may well be nifty in terms of the high tech, efficient and profitable business model but it started out as a sustainability project and continues to be a trailblazer in an era where low impact matters. If you sell t-shirts online with Teemill, that means your brand and product share that same sustainability story.

We wanted to reduce waste using technology and were inspired by a rumour than Dell only hold 1 hours stock at any one time – at that moment, we had around 6 months of stock, half of it was probably never going to sell. A complete waste that plagues the industry, which explains all the sales and subsequent race-to-the-bottom culture.

We worked very hard in our first 5 years to improve upon business as usual by building a supply chain where all our products were made from more sustainable materials like Organic cotton, in ethically accredited, wind powered factories.

We also developed a cool eco-labelling system to help customers shop quickly with a conscience. Best of all, we built some cool traceability tools so our customers could see where our clothing comes from, how it’s made and who made it.

But none of that changed the fact that without a radical new business model, we had either to bin the waste or do regular sales, eroding price and eventually compromising our values. We needed to change the system. Our focus became on inventing some way to prevent waste in fashion, some technology to reduce our stockholding from 6 months to more like 6 days, or better, 6 hours.

And what followed was 3 years of intense technology investment, the result of which is the reduction of that time to a negative figure: Products at our factory do not exist until after they are ordered.

The Rapanui factory in the UK, and Teemill – the software and hardware system we have built to make this real-time fashion supply chain –  is what makes it possible for anyone anywhere in the world to access it. It’s free, requires no previous training or experience to use – just human determination and creativity. It’s amazing to see what people create with it.

Most importantly, during that period we made a point of sticking to the provenance, sustainability and ethics of the product and locked that in: Every tee sold on Teemill is printed in the UK and made from Organic Cotton in an ethically accredited, wind powered factory with traceability from seed to shop. If you’re a 15 year old kid in a bedroom or head of fundraising for a national charity, with Teemill, all that comes standard.

Teemill is making sustainability the new normal.


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