Slogan t-shirts are among the most popular designs and done right, can be a designers dream with easy, fast and profitable results. But often it can be easier than it looks. What are the secret tricks the pros use?
As well as having some great words to use in the first place, making great slogan tees comes down to observation and application of all parts of good typography: That means choosing the right font, font weight, character spacing, line height, use of caps, punctuation with an aim to get a balanced, clean design.
The best way to get good at typography fast is to learn to look at the arrangements of words (the way they’re laid out) in detail.
Choosing the right font
The font is the most natural place to start and maybe the most fun bit. First of all, ask yourself what the vibe of your t-shirt is going to be. Are we making a cute, happy slogan tee about cats? A kooky handwritten font like Moon Flower gives a friendly, cuter feel. If the t-shirt is about impact and statement, for a hard-hitting style a bold, capitalised font like Couture or Bebas Neue is more appropriate.
Generally sans serif (simpler, less fancy) fonts are best for slogan t-shirts.
People need to be able to read them in an instant and the words need to look natural on the t-shirt. Joined up letters or fonts with fancy serifs just don’t work as well. You can find loads of fonts to try and use at Dafont.com and other similar websites*
*Not all fonts on font repository websites are totally free for commercial use: Pay close attention to usage rights and make sure you only download and use fonts that are genuinely free to use, as you might land yourself in legal trouble.
Choosing the right words
Once you’ve found a font that fits your style, it’s time to get the words in the design refined to be as concise and punchy as possible.
With a slogan t-shirt design, you only have a split second to get your message across – use the minimum number of words for the best results.
The aim is to remove words that don’t add to the meaning.
“If I had to choose between my cat versus going on a date, I’d choose my cat” might become “Cat or Date? Cat every time.” – for example. Sometimes this is the hardest bit.
If you can, try and add something clever, like a play on words to bring your design to life in the mind of the customer. “Cat Addict. Help Meowt”
Laying out the words
Now we’ve got a font that fits our style, and some words that will make a great punchy and clever slogan design, it’s time for the bit that gets overlooked the most, in the finishing touches, and this is where typographers set themselves apart from the rest.
The aim of typography is to lay out the words in the font in a way that is pleasing to the eye. Really we’re looking for the words to form a balanced shape in relation to each other in the lines of text, and the letters within individual words to be balanced and aligned correctly.
Fonts come with character spacing that is generalised so that all letters work together. Pro t-shirt designers fine-tune this spacing, and the line height, so that it looks perfect.
Here’s a before and after of adjusting character spacing. At first glance, the word “meowt” looks fine. But looking again closely, the spacing between the letter o and w gives the word an odd balance, almost like there’s a gap in the middle. It’s just the nature of fonts. If you think about it, some letters are thin and tall, others wide and short, and how close they stand next to each other would normally depend on what the shape of the letter they’re standing next to is. But fonts can’t do that, so they make do with an average sometimes. And that means you get some odd results like this.
In Photoshop, clicking window > character gives you the character editing window, where you can tweak character width for individual letters in your design. You can see that this makes the word a lot neater, and professional.
Sounds like nitpicking? As slogan t-shirts are so minimal, the details like character spacing and line height become noticeable. If you find yourself saying “it just doesn’t look quite right somehow” it’s worth investing time in your typography.
So you’ve got your font, your slogan and laid out your words and letters beautifully. The next thing you need to do is be brave: Sometimes it can feel too easy, or that you haven’t done enough “designing” with slogan tees. But it’s okay, so long as you get the next bit right: Merchandising. This is where you put your slogan design on your products to make it look amazing, and get people to want to buy it. Put your slogan tee on a great model using the handy Magic Photoshoot tool, as your photography will really bring the design to life, and write an awesome product description for your product page.
Let the model and the description sell the product, and remember sometimes less is more in design. The simple slogans often sell more than the detailed graphic design masterpieces – as care has been taken with typography and merchandising.