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Got the burning desire to launch an online clothing store? Want to start a successful side hustle with print-on-demand? Brilliant. If you have the will, all you need are the right tools to get you started: an ecommerce platform and a print-on-demand provider like Printful.
Another crucial thing you need is an idea. After all, if your customers don’t like your designs, you’re not going to sell anything. And figuring out how and where to get t-shirt design ideas is sometimes the hardest part.
If you’re looking for custom t-shirt design ideas, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, you’ll learn where to look for design inspiration, how to bring your ideas to life, and where to find ready-made custom t-shirt designs you can sell.
Now, let’s get started.
Before you get to designing, think of who you’ll sell to and identify your niche. Your designs should appeal to your audience.
If you’re having trouble finding a niche, think of what you’re knowledgeable about. Hobbies, events, specific interests, or anything else that has the potential to draw the attention of a community can become your niche market.
You can make a list of your interests and then further dissect each topic to zero in on the right one:
We have a list of more than 100 niche market ideas to help you find yours.
You want to hit the sweet spot. If your niche is too broad, you won’t be able to target it effectively. Too small, and you won’t have enough buyers. Always ask yourself whether you can earn a profit with a specific niche.
Bottom line: you need to know who you sell to.
Let’s say you’re passionate about cats and want to target other cat fans. That’s a good start, so here are some questions you should start answering:
You can then build an online community around your niche, generate engagement, and start discussions. Get an understanding of what resonates with your audience through polls and comments, where they can share their thoughts.
With a direction and ideas in mind, it’s time to create your custom t-shirt designs. This is easier said than done, so first, ask yourself what’s trending in the design world right now? You want your store to be fresh and current.
These days, practically anything has the potential to become an overnight sensation, just to be forgotten a few days later. In other words, most trends have a very limited life cycle. Nevertheless, some trends have withstood the test of time and are making a comeback this year.
Pop art emerged in the mid-1950s in the UK but rapidly caught on in the US. And it’s as relevant today as it was nearly 70 years ago because it illustrates a bright, colorful, and satirical take on consumerism.
Here’s a list of things that you can draw inspiration from to create pop art designs:
Pop art designs don’t have to be funny, but it doesn’t mean you can’t use humor in your designs. Don’t shy away from memes, for example. They’re a massive part of internet culture and, integrated into a design, are fun and stylish.
Pop art looks great on a t-shirt and, depending on your design, could be striking as an all-over print. You can check out our Design Maker and see which option you like better.
The 1960s is the era most famously associated with tie-dye designs. The anti-war movement created high demand for flashy clothing as a form of defiance from authority. More recently, many people have turned to tie-dye to pass the time during the pandemic.
As a result of this resurgence in popularity, fashion brands like Dior and Stella McCartney were adding tie-dye designs to their collections by the end of 2020. Fashion retailers like SPRWMN, HUF, and Zara have also capitalized on this trend.
As a business owner, you have the chance to jump on this trend, too. Check out our tie-dye catalog to see what you can add to your collection.
What are popular tie-dye items to add to your store?
Remember that tie-dye tees look great as a stand-alone product but you can also add embroidery to achieve a more embellished look.
Given its increasing popularity, 2022 is the year to look at custom embroidery as a business opportunity. The possibilities are endless, and embroidery gives ordinary products a luxurious feel. In addition, it’s remarkably easy to create an embroidery design.
For a quick and effortless design creation, use our Design Maker. You can choose from a vast range of clipart and Quick Designs and add text. One of the biggest benefits of using Design Maker is that no additional digitalization is required. Plus, when creating a design there, you’re automatically complying with our embroidery guidelines.
If you want to create a design yourself but you’re just starting out, know that a little goes a long way with embroidery. For your embroidered design to come out just right, follow our embroidery guidelines. For example, because of how embroidery machines work, small details and gradients don’t translate very well, but you can have lots of fun with solid shapes and color blocking.
Want to create a design yourself but don’t have anything particular in mind? Check out our diverse collections for inspiration. Our design team is constantly working on new collections. There’s a clipart for space, blooming flowers, various cat breeds, and comfort foods, just to name a few.
Before getting started, watch this video for some crucial pointers:
Sidenote: We also offer inside and outside label customization with direct-to-garment printing for embroidered t-shirts for a more personalized look.
In our increasingly fast-paced world, many of us turn to nature to recharge our batteries, be stimulated, or seek comfort. Nature can be both nurturing and calming, but also energizing. It can also be a fantastic source of inspiration.
The natural world is bursting with gorgeous colors, mesmerizing shapes and patterns, and powerful emotional cues. What better reference to turn to for t-shirt design ideas?
Here are some popular nature-related themes you can use in your designs:
To complement the nature theme, you can pick out one of our eco-friendly t-shirts to add to your store. These t-shirts are made from organic and recycled materials and are part of an effort to be kinder to our natural world.
Sidenote: We encourage you to think of nature-inspired designs not just from the perspective of graphic design but text, too. Lettering on t-shirts has been very popular (and lucrative for business owners) for the last couple of years, with this year being no exception.
The beauty of selling t-shirts with print-on-demand is that there’s very little risk. Since you’re printing everything on-demand, you don’t have to spend money on bulk printing designs. If a design doesn’t sell, just remove it from your store. Or if you notice a new trend, add it to your store and see how it performs!
Worst case scenario, you lose on time and effort you invested in creating the design. At best, you have a new, best-selling product on your hands.
In this course, you’ll:
Interested in more ideas? Our in-house team of designers has created a video covering some of this year’s best trends for print-on-demand:
If you’re already a design pro, then you know how to create your t-shirt designs. Get started in Photoshop (or these photoshop alternatives).
But if you’re not a designer yet, executing your ideas can be a challenge. Luckily, you’ll find plenty of help online.
I’ll start with the no-brainer. Printful has a robust Design Maker with sample graphics, fonts, illustrations, clipart, and symbols that are free to use.
If your design idea is simple, then you’ll likely find everything you need to bring it to life right here. We walk you through it in our video tutorial about how to create designs in our Design Maker.
You don’t have to create a design from scratch. You can find royalty-free designs, photographs, and fonts that you can sell as they are, or edit to make your own. Remember the collage style design? You can find a royalty-free photo and add your own design element to it.
Some image sources may be paid, and if you’ll probably need a commercial license to sell designs on t-shirts. If you print through Printful, you need to hold the rights to your design, so do your research.
We recommend that you stick to the designs you create yourself. But if you want to explore paid options, here are a few resources to check out:
It’s easy as ever to connect with a freelance designer. Here are a few websites where you can find one:
We cover how to find a t-shirt designer in another blog post!
T-shirts are universal—almost everybody owns at least one. So this is a great product to start with. Here is advice on how to pick your t-shirt and create a design.
The style of t-shirt you choose depends on your niche. Is our audience interested in an affordable basic? Then opt for a Gildan. Are they style-oriented? Then go with a fashion-forward Bella-Canvas.
Other key factors to consider:
You can learn more about how different shirts fit and feel to help you choose the right one for your store in this video:
Pay close attention to Printful’s print file guidelines before creating your designs. They’re a little different for each product, but these are basic rules to follow:
Use our Design Maker’s mockup feature to get an idea of how your product will look, but remember that what you see on screen won’t always look exactly the same when printed in real life. Order samples at 20% off to test your designs before selling them to customers.
Learn More: 32 Hoodie Design Ideas to Get You Inspired
It’s easy to start selling t-shirts online. All you need is an idea, a niche that’ll love it, and the readily available tools to get you going: an ecommerce platform and print-on-demand provider. With this blog post, you have the tools to find your niche and create a design.
We’ll even help you take it one step further by giving you free t-shirt designs. Use them as they are, or add some unique elements with our Design Maker!
What designs are you selling on your store?
SEO Content Writer
Karlina is an SEO Content Writer specialist at Printful. As a firm believer in attitude over aptitude, Karlina gives her 100% whenever she works on something new. Karlina spends her free time reading, traveling, and doing yoga.