Artwork for T-shirt Printing

If you’re ready to turn your epic design idea into a finished piece of art ready for print, there’s some things you can do to help get the most out of the print technology.

Really great t-shirt design starts before loading up Photoshop, Illustrator or a similar design program. It’s a good move to 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 a program like Photoshop or GiMP to draw, edit, cut and paste and generally create your design. When you’re good to go, here’s our advice for getting the most out of the t-shirt design process.

Think portrait

Screens, photos and art canvas all have one thing in common: They tend to be landscape in orientation more often than not. Clothing, particularly t-shirts, are portrait shapes – and so starting out by flipping your canvas 90 degrees into portrait mode is a pro tip.

The most popular designs with consumers are portrait shapes, and there’s a reason why chest prints are everywhere –  it’s what consumers buy.

It helps to go look at some popular t-shirt designs to familiarise yourself with what sells, but the most important thing is to design something that you would buy. If you create something that you feel you would really love to wear – if you feel compelled to buy one for yourself – you’re in a good place. And if you really ask yourself “do I want to buy that?” and the answer is no, then have another go.

A simple chest print is all you need, and stick to what you like, don’t try to design things for a target demographic. The internet is a big place so make stuff you love and go find people who will love it too.

No vector, no drama

Most t-shirt design shops 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, the Teemill factory uses digital technology for most orders you can forget all those restrictions and go right ahead and use raster art. If you’re not sure what that means, a raster is basically a normal image made from pixels. Use as many colours as you like, even photos. If you get stuck you can Google how to make and save transparent PNGs for web, or even easier, have a dig in our art library or start with a slogan template in the product creator – they’re free to use.

How it’s printed

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. When printing t-shirts, the print is onto a woven fabric so the resolution of the print is about 150dpi in paper equivalent (considering we’re printing on a natural fibre not photo paper, that’s epic). As long as you don’t have tiny text with a leading below 1mm, you can’t really go wrong on a white t-shirt or top.

Coloured tees require a little more thought as we must put a white ink down on the fabric before the colour layer goes on, sort of like a base coat. The main design consideration is that the base coat of white means blends and fades don’t work so well as they do on white tees so it’s best to avoid feathered or blurry edges to your art and instead go for solid edges.

Try and avoid huge swathes of white ink. The ability to render text is slightly less detailed with a white base coat, so avoid tiny little lines, ideally keep fine detail above  2mm on your design.

Save for Web, Transparent PNG24

We recommend using Photoshop, illustrator or a similar image manipulating program for Teemill designs. The aim is to create an image where the area that is not the design is transparent, so that you don’t end up with a naff white box around your design. To do this you have to cut the image out and then save as a PNG with a transparent background. If you’re not sure on how to cut an image out, it’s worth a google.

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.

In photoshop 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 making products and they have white or black backgrounds around them, it’s best to stop and learn how to prepare your art right or your products probably won’t sell.

Use sRGB

Lastly, consider colouration: Whilst our screenprinting factory matches pantones exactly there are too many variables for us to guarantee it with one-off digital print on demand products sold via Teemill, and remember your monitor, design program and image conversion software will all be configured differently.

Our software analyses your design file and shows the customer an accurate representation of how the print will turn up which is why your art looks a tiny shade different on your store to how it may have looked in your design program.

If you are an advanced designer, its best to set up your space in sRGB as our software will convert CMYK colourspaces to sRGB making your K channel a bit snivelly. If you don’t know what that means you’re all good, as your program will do this by default.

Test print

It’s a good idea to test print a few product samples to see how your design 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. You can do this through the sample ordering facility in the menu.

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