Starting Your Own T-Shirt Line

Starting Your Own T-Shirt Line

Header for starting your own t-shirt line


One of the most common calls we receive is from customers looking to start their own custom printed t-shirt line. Here are some helpful tips to get your project off the ground.



 1- Keep the Printed Designs Minimal 



Think about what you see in retail - most designs aren't elaborate with lots of colors. Well-made graphic design elements are minimalistic and are often created using 1 or 2 print colors. Consider the Nike Swoosh and Disney Mouse Ears. What do they have in common? Both are simple, instantly recognizable as stand alone icons, and commonly displayed in 1 color.


Simple logos and graphics displayed in bold primary colors are easily reproduced and will cost a lot less to print. Simple designs are also easier to remember and identify. They require zero work for the potential customer to absorb what they are seeing.

* Consider this: the average consumer decides if information is useful or valuable in seconds.

Complex logos are hard to understand, often forgotten, expensive to reproduce, and rarely appreciated for the piece of art they were designed to be.



 2 - Use Custom T-Shirt Colors that sell at Retail 

  • The best-selling solid shirt colors are deep/dark colors: Black, Charcoal & Cardinal.
  • Heather Colors: anything that is Heather and trending towards a warm color will sell better at retail than bright cheerful colors. Exceptions here are Blue and Red Heathers. Keep in mind Heathers are not solid colors; they will be a cotton/poly blend.
  • Start with 1 shirt color per design.



 3 - Choose Custom Shirt Styles that Sell at Retail 

  • Retail customers prefer soft, lightweight styles.
  • Anytime you see Ring-spun - that means soft. (If it's not described as ring-spun, it means it isn't as soft).
  • Thick, heavy t-shirts aren't popular in retail right now.



 4 - Have Fun with Your Custom Designs! 

Next on our list is conveying enjoyment, happiness, or positivity. Having fun, telling a joke, or being less serious are excellent ways to make your brand approachable, easy to be around, and trustworthy.


Use graphic elements & text effectively to convey fun and positivity. This type of messaging makes the customer feel welcomed.


 Consider these examples: 

  • Nike's Swoosh and slogan: "Just Do It". The logo icon conveys movement and action.The message is motivating and makes exercise fun. Customers are eager to be part of the culture.
  • Disney's Mouse Ears and Slogan: "The Most Magical / Happiest Place on Earth". The logo icon is childlike, happy, and playful.  The message is powerful and compelling, with massive appeal -- after all, everybody wants to be happy.



5 - Next Step: Brainstorm Custom Shirt Ideas 

Take a deep dive into the service or product you provide and explore how it will connect with your potential customers.


  • What are the motivating factors for a customer?
  • How do you make their lives better, easier, or safer?
  • How does your team interact with customers, each other, and the world around them?
  • Why you, and not your competitor?


If you think that your product or service isn't fun, force yourself to flip the narrative from boring, mundane, or serious to a narrative that's lighthearted. This exercise will help you to define and articulate why you matter.


Evaluate Your Custom Tee Research and Discovery: 

  • Take the #1 benefit you think your customer values most.
  • Take the #1 feature you believe sets you apart.
  • Combine the benefit and the feature into a few words.
  • Use a simple graphic that ties it all together.



6 - Final Step: Create a T-Shirt Design That Works For You


Space matters text


Left Chest (by the heart): Small Area

Make this work by using only the most essential information.

A logo and a few words is the best strategy. Resist the urge to add phone numbers or web addresses. it is more likely to hurt you than help you. Less is Better.


Long Sleeve T-Shirts means Sleeve Prints: Small Space

Make this work by using minimalistic messaging that covers the important information. Slogans or web addresses are ideal for sleeve prints.

Custom t-shirts with sleeve printing designs make it easier for customers to remember your brand at a quick glance.


Full Front or Full Back: Large Space

Make this work for you by using the most important information from your discovery.

It is not necessary to fill the entire space, instead use the space to create separation between image and font design elements. This approach makes it easy to absorb the message and provokes interest to continue wearing your t-shirt line.


This is where you build a connection to your brand; by answering the most important questions:

  • Why you?
  • What does the customer get?
  • is your line simple and fun?


You can totally do this!