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The Impact of T-Shirt Design Color Combination

Custom Color T-Shirts

Last Updated: 09-27-2021

What does your T Shirt Color Say about your organization?


Put the Power of Color to Work in Your T-shirt Designs


Creating effective and cool t-shirt designs can be fun and easy, especially if you follow our helpful tips. Like any artistic endeavor, a good t-shirt design hinges on how well you leverage the power of shape, text, and, most importantly, color to elicit a desired emotional response. Your designs don't have to be intricate or ornate to be effective. A simple t-shirt design, with only a few carefully chosen colors, will impact the public eye much better than an intricate, overly busy image.

The crucial elements to consider are t-shirt color and the print colors used in the design. Think about how the color combination complements or contrasts on the finished t-shirt. Here are some basic design tips on how to make the best t shirt design color combination choices, choose colors for design elements, and a basic primer on color theory and the power of colors in creative t-shirt design work.

Understanding how color works in custom graphic t-shirt design and creating a positive emotional response, will empower you to create your own iconic and classic t-shirt designs. More importantly, your designs will work better to get your message seen and shared.



One of the simplest ways to create an awesome t-shirt design is to remember that opposites attract. Assuming you want to design a shirt where people can clearly see what's on the shirt, contrast is extremely important. If the shirt is a dark color, you want to print with a light ink color (see the example above). Conversely, if the shirt is a light color you want to print with a dark ink color (white shirt + yellow ink = not good combination). Because your screen is lighted, it may give the appearance that the colors will work well together when in reality they don't.


During our proof process, we will make corrections, so if we see that you've selected a color combination that isn't ideal, we'll bring it to your attention and change it to what would provide the best contrast at the same price :)


It is crucial to us that your printed shirts make an impact .... so we want the people who see you wearing them to be able to read your very important message :)


Now that you have a clearer idea of which colors to combine for a better final product, it's time to pull up your sleeves and start putting together your design. Make sure to use great contrasts between garment color and design color so your art is easy on the eyes.


Put the Power of Color Combinations to Work!!!


Some Basic Color Theory  

Think about this for a moment. How do you pick an image for your designs? How do you choose the shirt color? You'll usually pick what you like or what makes you feel good. Part of your decision happened because someone designed the t-shirt color with careful use of color theory. Here are some terms and concepts that can help you create better designs.

  • What is color?
  • Basic color types
  • Chroma, saturation, intensity, and value
  • Contrasting and complementary colors


What is color anyway?

Color is all about light waves and how the human eye perceives that part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Visible light is just one small aspect of the radiation emitted by the sun and other stars.

The light from the sun is all the colors of the rainbow mixed together. We see different colors because some colors are reflected when the sun's light shines on a t-shirt, a toy, or some other object. Every color strikes the object but only certain colors are reflected back. The others are absorbed. A red ball looks red because that's the color of light reflected back in to our eyes.

The color white contains all the colors of the spectrum. Light shining on a white t shirt reflects all the colors back and we see it as white. Black shirts look black because black objects absorb all the colors of light hitting them. An object that doesn't reflect any light back in to your eyes always looks black.


The Color Wheel

The color wheel is a concept developed by Isaac Newton in 1666 AD to show the different colors of light and their relationships to each other. Red, yellow, and blue are the three primary colors and all the rest are secondary and tertiary colors made by combinations of the three primary colors. Use the wheel to pick t-shirt color combinations that complement or contrast to create your own award winning t-shirt designs. Start by choosing a shirt color as your background. Then you can choose colors that contrast or complement the shirt color to create your desired effect.

Color types and choosing t-shirt color designs

The color of your shirt is your canvas. Choice of t-shirt color provides the background for all the rest of your work. Understanding the basic color types can help you make t-shirt color choices and design elements with impact and emotional appeal.
Monochromatic color schemes are effective for t-shirt design. Using only differing shades of the same basic color creates designs that are clean and attractive for daily wear. This works well when you have a complex design but don't want the shirt to look chaotic or overly busy.

Using adjacent, or analogous, color combinations is an effective way to make shirt designs that have a bit of pop without looking too loud. These are colors that are close to each other on the color wheel. Adjacent mixes of color containing red, for example, like pink and purple or orange work together well.
Complementary Color Wheel Explainer
Complementary colors are another effective color combination for a dope t-shirt design. These are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Complementary color combinations are Red and Green, Orange and Blue, Yellow and Purple... These combinations are effective and can be seen everywhere. Take orange and blue, for example -- both the Knicks and the Mets take that complementary color combination to the top. 

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