Using the right t-shirt design software is crucial if you want to start designing some impressive custom t-shirts.
In this article, we’ll explore 15 software options for t-shirt design, taking into account the pros, cons, and pricing. Whatever your previous experience or design skills are, this list will help you find the best tool for your needs.
Without further ado, let’s dive into our top 15 t-shirt design software options for 2023.
Let’s start with Printful’s own tool: the Design Maker. It comes with the built-in Mockup Generator, allowing you to transform your design from a 2D image to a 3D product.
Using our Design Maker, you can easily play around with your t-shirt design—from choosing the best t-shirt for printing to switching up the colors to adding text (in more than 791+ fonts!) and creating patterns.
You can also upload and customize your artwork or take pre-made images and clip art from the extensive library.
The beginner-friendly interface makes it an excellent choice for design newbies. Suitable for DTG printing and embroidery design, the Design Maker enables you to add new designs you create to your print-on-demand store immediately.
There are just a few limitations. First, you can’t download your design without your Printful account. Second, the design options are slightly more limited when compared to professional software.
Printful customers can use the Design Maker for free (and it’s free to get started with Printful).
Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard many professional designers rely on. This design software offers rich capabilities for t-shirt design, like background and object removal, layering, coloring, and more.
Available for desktop and iPad, Photoshop also features integrations with many artificial intelligence-powered tools to speed up the creation process.
Photoshop’s advanced editing tools and integration with Adobe Creative Cloud (which gives you access to other Adobe products) ensure almost limitless design options to create and enhance your t-shirt design.
Adobe Photoshop might be a good investment if you’re a seasoned design expert, but it’s a complex program that can take a long time to master. Beginners will need some training (like taking a class or a buying tutorial) to take full advantage of its high-end functionality.
Photoshop offers three monthly plans, ranging from $19.99 to $54.99. All plans come with a free 7-day trial and include Photoshop for desktop and iPad.
While Photoshop is a pixel-based photo editing software, another Adobe product, Illustrator, is an application for vector graphic design.
With robust software like Adobe Illustrator, you can precisely control every aspect of the design process to create crisp, flawless visuals.
When Photoshop and Illustrator are integrated, you can create a vector graphic using Illustrator and place it into an image of a blank t-shirt using Photoshop.
Illustrator includes many built-in assets and tutorials to help you with the design process. In addition to advanced vector drawing tools, Illustrator can turn your hand-drawn art into a vector format.
Illustrator might take you some time to master. In addition, the app is quite resource-intensive, so it’s likely to work slower if you run multiple programs simultaneously.
Like Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator follows a subscription model with monthly plans starting at $20.99/month for desktop and iPad.
Known for its simplicity, Canva is a popular graphic design tool that suits every experience level.
Canva operates as a drag-and-drop tool with an extensive library of fonts, design assets, images, and ready-to-use templates. Plus, you can upload your own visuals, remove the background, and change colors, text, and the position of elements.
When it comes to t-shirts and other products, Canva allows you to not only create and customize designs but to order and print them as well.
Besides being considered one of the most beginner-friendly design tools on the market, Canva has another advantage: every pre-made element is copyright-free.
For professional designers, Canva might lack some advanced features. For example, there’s no option to blend designs or get picture-perfect alignment (other than manually). And the number of templates and other design assets for free version users is limited.
You can choose between a free version with basic features and a premium version with more design elements. The premium monthly plan is $12.99/month (or $119.99/year) for individuals.
As free photo and graphic editing software, GIMP has many useful features for designing t-shirts on a budget.
As open-source software, GIMP is available for most operating systems and can be modified and enhanced by its users.
Besides its core functionality, GIMP has various plugins that extend its capabilities.
With GIMP’s rich collection of tools, you have everything you need to tweak stock graphics or create your custom designs. The program supports many different file formats, including those that work best for t-shirt printing.
As for its cons, the tool lacks more dedicated tech support and is considered hard to learn. Even for pro users familiar with similar tools, it can be confusing and counterintuitive at first. Also, GIMP is mainly a raster (pixel) graphics program and has relatively limited support for drawing and editing vectors.
GIMP has no download fees—its advanced tools and features are free.
CorelDRAW is a downloadable vector graphics editor that also supports pixel-based image editing.
CorelDRAW comes in a rich family of products. What you choose depends on the extent of your previous experience and your needs.
For graphics enthusiasts and hobbyists, CorelDRAW offers CorelDRAW Essentials and CorelDRAW Standard. For graphics professionals, there’s a fully-featured Graphics Suite package.
CorelDRAW’s features and in-app guidelines are well-suited for designers of all skills. It’s incredibly versatile for editing photos and making vector graphics like logos, illustrations, and typography. On top of that, CorelDRAW’s perspective effect was made for the print industry—you can use it to create realistic, detailed t-shirt designs and mockups.
That said, CorelDRAW is quite an investment and is priced higher than other market alternatives. Its cheaper products are also limited to one operating system only (Windows) and have fewer features.
CorelDRAW can be purchased through a one-time payment (for the Essential and Standard packages). The Essential package costs $142, while the Standard is priced at $389. Its most complete package, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, costs $851.
Similar to GIMP, Inkscape is an open-source vector graphics editor which can also help you design t-shirts.
As a free software alternative to other high-end design solutions, it’s tailored specifically for vector imagery and features many built-in tools.
Apart from a dedicated community, which continues to help improve and develop the software, the tool contains comprehensive written and video tutorials to ease the learning curve.
Compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems, this tool is a go-to for zero-cost t-shirt designing.
The native support for standard file formats in Inkscape makes it easy to export files that are well-tailored for printing. Plus, you can turn your pixel images into vector images.
However, Inkscape may handle design projects less sophisticatedly than its paid alternatives. And it operates in the RGB color mode (used for digital purposes) rather than the CMYK (best for printing).
The Inkscape software is an excellent pick if you are looking for a cost-free upmarket software alternative for designing t-shirts.
Similar to Canva, Design Wizard is a drag-and-drop design tool.
With affordable pricing, an intuitive interface, and little to no learning required, Design Wizard can support and ease your design process. The tool comes with thousands of pre-made elements, which you can tweak to your liking.
In addition to offering a vast collection of ready-to-use design assets like fonts, clip art images, and design elements, Design Wizard features drag-and-drop functionality, which makes it ideal for beginners.
Although you can personalize every element, the design options and libraries aren’t as expansive as other tools. In addition, you can only download the files in PNG, JPG, or SVG formats.
Design Wizard offers a free version with essential features and premium (annual or monthly) subscription plans Pro and Business.
All premium plans come with a 7-day free trial. After that, the Pro plan will cost you $9.99 a month, while the Business plan is $49.99 per month.
Source: Design Wizard
Sketch is a popular app for Mac users that focuses on vector graphics. While it’s wildly known for its powerful capabilities in digital design creation, you can also use Sketch to create stunning t-shirt designs.
This software ensures a smooth design workflow and lets you take advantage of an extensive plugin ecosystem.
Sketch has a large collection of both simple and advanced design tools and elements. It also supports pixel images, allows importing and exporting files from other graphics software, and offers a real-time collaboration feature.
Despite this, Sketch isn’t designed for print projects and doesn’t produce print-ready files. To solve this, you may need another tool (like Adobe Illustrator) to adjust the Sketch file and make it ready for printing. For less tech-savvy individuals, this could be a challenge.
Sketch comes with a free 30-day trial. After that, you can purchase one of two plans starting at $10 monthly or get a Mac-only license for $120.
Figma is a more accessible alternative to Sketch, available on Windows, Linux, and macOS. A beloved tool for UI/UX designers, it also works for t-shirt designs.
Figma’s seamless real-time collaboration function makes it great for teams working on t-shirt designs. Plus, everyone can see the changes instantly.
Figma operates in a cloud-based environment, meaning you don’t need to download anything—all your work is happening online.
But this makes Figma unavailable offline. And, since Figma is more oriented toward UX design, it doesn’t offer templates for t-shirt design.
You can choose from Figma’s generous free plan or various paid plans that start at $12/month and provide extended features and additional collaborators.
The Affinity Suite offers a set of apps for macOS, Windows, and iPad.
It includes Affinity Designer—a vector graphic design software that includes vector drawing, typography, image editing tools, and other robust features to create t-shirt designs and other print projects.
The balance between Affinity Designer’s capability, performance, and relatively low price, makes it a strong competitor to other expensive subscription software. The interface of the tool is clear and well-organized.
As for the cons, the tool doesn’t include the option to convert pixel images to vectors. Another drawback is that the program doesn’t work across multiple operating systems.
Affinity Designer can be purchased with a one-time payment starting at $18.49. The price depends on whether you use macOS, Windows, or iPad.
inkXE is an online product design tool that works as web-to-print software. Made for POD businesses, it supports all printing methods, from DTG and screen printing to sublimation and embroidery.
This design tool includes image and text editing, a ready-to-use artwork collection, layering, hand drawing, 3D preview, and more.
Apart from designing your custom tee, you can also use it for other print products.
Apart from online access, inkXE offers a backend admin system for modifying the tool’s functions and capabilities according to specific business needs.
While it’s ideal for POD businesses looking for an integrated solution to help customers design their apparel, inkXE isn’t really suitable for individual users because of its focus on serving larger enterprises. And it’s extremely expensive compared to other tools in this list.
This software has one-time payment plans starting at $2999.
Primarily designed for the creation of digital sketches, paintings, illustrations, and animations, Procreate is made for a unique t-shirt design with a hand-drawn touch.
If you’re an illustrator at heart, you’ll love its touch-responsiveness, extensive brush library, full color, font control, and 3D model painting features.
This tool is probably the best for hand drawing. You have 200 customizable brushes on hand and can even create your own.
Available exclusively on iPad and iPhone, Procreate has limited accessibility to users with other devices and operating systems. Also, you may need an Apple Pencil to get optimal results out of this software.
Procreate for iPad costs $12.99 on the App Store. Procreate Pocket, built for iPhone users, costs $5.99. Both solutions require a one-time purchase only.
Placeit is an all-in-one in-browser design platform for creating t-shirt mockups and designs (and more). It’s easy to navigate, as the interface is organized into self-explanatory sections and categories.
Placeit offers an intuitive design experience with an option to start with pre-made templates or to upload and edit your own design. It has a vast collection of mockups for men’s, women’s, and kids’ t-shirts.
Placeit’s extensive library of templates, super simple interface, and no installation setup streamline the design process. Plus, you have a live preview feature and can create your brand kit.
But in comparison with other professionally-oriented platforms, with Placeit, you have just a few options to modify the elements. Also, you can’t download the design for free or choose a format other than PNG (even with a paid plan).
Placeit offers a subscription-based plan for unlimited access to its design assets, which starts at $9.99 a month. You can also purchase a single design starting at $2.95.
With so many t-shirt design software tools available, choosing the right one might seem challenging. But it doesn’t have to be.
Just think about your needs, budget, and level of design experience. These parameters will guide you to the best choice. See what fits you best, get inspired by some cool t-shirt design ideas, and you’re on your way!
What’s your favorite t-shirt design software? Lets us know in the comments.
A free-spirited creative with a psychology and marketing background, Paula spends her days creating stories for brands and individuals. Her heart belongs to writing, mental health advocacy, and beach volleyball.