Get ready to fuel your creativity with the freshest 2023 t-shirt design trends!
This year is going to be about the love for art, self-expression, boldness, and vibrant, cohesive colors.
As an online seller, you must keep up with what’s happening in the world and culture. Creating trending designs can be a valuable strategy to expand your ecommerce presence and increase sales.
That’s why our design team here at Printful made a list of the hottest t-shirt design trends. You can refer to our list when you need some inspiration to create new products.
Plus, we’ll give you a few design tips for each trend to spark your imagination. Let’s jump right into it.
We’ve been touring the ’90s fashion memory lane for the past three years, and this year, there’s a fun twist to it.
Based on what we’ve seen on runways, in 2023, there will be a lot more novelty which goes hand in hand with this year’s overarching theme of creative expression. This year’s novelty can be described as whimsical, highly unusual, and unique in expressiveness.
The fashion world is paying homage to the aesthetic that thrives on mockery and critical contempt. Sounds a lot like kitsch.
The Oxford Dictionary of Art defines kitsch as “art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way. . .”
Basically, kitsch designs might be objectively “ugly,” but anyone can appreciate its lowbrow style.
It’s right up the alley for the younger generations who often express themselves on a balanced scale of sincerity and self-aware, humorous irony.
If you want to make kitsch t-shirts, save your pursuit for sophistication on other design projects. Instead, find inspiration in all the good stuff that the ’90s represented. If you have no memory of this decade, tap into the media and explore posters, mood boards, and graphics on ’90s apparel.
Allow your design to be a patchwork of joyful visual codes that reference the era’s nostalgia. You can’t go wrong with using Comic Sans, floral patterns, geometric shapes, lively colors, and even Nickelodeon-inspired illustrations. The “weirder” your design is, the better. This is your mantra.
To achieve that specific ’90s kitsch look, pay attention to the ’90s color palette. After two decades of saturated and vibrant hues, the ’90s grunge scene popularized more subdued, moody ones. Note that colorfulness is still an important part of this trend.
If you’re not sure where to start with the design, why not explore our ’90s clipart?
Just to show what you can find in our Design Maker, here’s a kitschy compilation of our design elements.
Source: Printful’s Design Maker
You’ll find more than 300 clipart collections as well as 550 background graphics, 175 colors, and 3,100 Quick Designs, all for free to use.
If you’re interested in spirituality and esoterism, and you also use social media like Instagram and TikTok—chances are you’ve run into astrology, manifestation, and the New Age spiritual practices. This trend spiked in popularity on social media in 2020 and is still spreading fast. The post-pandemic seems to bring in authentic, feel-good, self-care vibes, kind of like what Pinterest is predicting for this year.
The spiritual and esoteric t-shirt trend can be easily adaptable to many styles. It can be dressed in love and light vibes, psychedelic and geometric symbolisms, and even in dark aesthetics that give off a witchy energy.
To give you an idea of what people search for on Google—here are some keywords from this January, 2023, as found on our SEO platform, Ahrefs.
Monthly search volume, USA
Zodiac sign shirt
Evil eye t-shirt
Sacred geometry shirt
You can incorporate these keywords into your product designs as well as in the titles and descriptions. This way, you’ll have a higher chance of directing the flow of new customers to your store.
To get more inspiration for product designs, you can visit Etsy and search “spiritual t-shirt” or try looking up something like “esoteric t-shirt” on Pinterest. You can also take this list of keywords and use them to look through your social media platforms. Chances are you’ll find someone sporting a design you’ve never seen before.
Spiritual and esoteric designs will often incorporate elements like sacred geometry, celestial symbols in vector graphics and illustrations, zodiac signs, nature elements, eastern religion symbols, and Wiccan elements.
Seed of life sacred geometry symbol
Modern spiritual and esoteric design elements
Hamsa—an important religious element of Hinduism
|Source: vecteezy||Source: freepik||Source: pixels|
Most of the time, spiritual and esoteric designs hold some type of meaning that’s recognizable by these belief system practitioners.
The colors for these designs can be on any spectrum—from black and white to vibrant and saturated.
Speaking of trippy designs, 2023 has already started strong with the psychedelic t-shirt trend, as these designs are on full display in fast fashion stores.
Source: Pull & Bear
Visual psychedelia dominated graphic arts and fashion between the late ’60s and mid-’70s. It was the age of artistic fluorescence, anti-war music, and exploration of altered states of consciousness.
The unrest and turmoil of today play out in politics and the economy. And this, coupled with the climate crisis, is making everyone, especially the younger generations, more stressed and anxious. Roughly 45% of Gen Z and Millennials feel stress and anxiety on a daily basis.
There’s now a strong pull towards creative authenticity as an outlet for expression, including escaping reality through psychedelic aesthetics and vibrant colors that hint at experiences beyond the visible, tangible world.
Just like the spiritual and esoteric leads us into the getaway between imagination and reality, there’s undoubtedly something in the new psychedelic movement that echoes a similar direction. Knowing oneself and reaching for unity and inner peace is what people strongly gravitate toward in turbulent times.
Some common elements include swirls, paisley prints, intense colors, free-flowing lines, kaleidoscopic patterns, and eye-catching graphics. References to peace, love, nature, and other positive messaging in groovy typography also play a big part in the psychedelic t-shirt design trend.
Take inspiration from these keywords and create a design that would make someone exclaim, “whoa, that’s trippy”.
By the way, tie-dye shirts are closely related to the psychedelic trend, and they’re still riding the popularity wave in 2023.
Joe Cocker performing at Woodstock
There’s an Oversized Tie-Dye T-Shirt in our collection that you can personalize with a groovy embroidery design.
Typography shirts can be ingeniously creative. This is a type of digital art form—with different letter shapes and spacing. The designs can be impactful, humorous, beautiful, and, well, be any other adjective you intend them to be. In fact, the letter fonts alone can hold recognizable meanings. Just to illustrate their power, designers from all backgrounds collaborated to create a diverse typeface (design or style of the letterforms) called “DIVERSITY” in hopes that they can serve as a symbol of allyship for brands, businesses, and individuals.
Bold and decorative typography trend is going to be popular in 2023 because there’s a growing demand for solid and structured font styles. And because 2023 will be fiercely creative and expressive, there’s a shift toward more experimental font styles featuring unusual shapes, variable fonts, and cut-out-style fonts.
For the 2023 trend, you can understand “bold” in two ways. Your typography can be daring, just like the designer and activist Katherine Hamnett’s work was in the ’80s. She used large and bold t-shirt designs to create impactful slogans. Bold can also simply mean strong and vivid. You can accentuate your graphics and illustrations or create pure typography designs using decorative fonts.
If you’re new to typography and not yet comfortable creating your own—our Design Maker currently has 712 fonts. Play around with the ones you like and try the arc, outline, and shadow tools. You can also mess around with typography designs for free using Canva.
When choosing a font, take into account the other trends of this year. For example, this year, Spotify’s Wrapped campaign featured heavy typography paired with bright saturated colors that played a big part in the ’90s nightclub flyers, music videos, and magazines.
See how the number interacts with the text? That’s funky.
Source: Spotify Wrapper campaign
Translate this idea into your t-shirt designs. When you’re creating bold and decorative typography, focus on not only strong but also expressive lettering. Think how the forms and colors of the design accentuate the message you want to convey. This way, you’re telling a story to your customers and people love figuring things out and taking in the meanings.
Flexible, lively, illustrative fonts with an animated nature show a desire for more experimentation as we begin to embrace cultural uncertainty . . . or possibly because the ’90s nostalgia reminds us of childhood play and exploring the outdoors.
Thom Browne channeled the spirit of punk on his Spring/Summer 2023 runway show. Heavy eye makeup, black lipstick, and the overall air of rebellion tells us that the punk aesthetic is flowing into the mainstream fashion this year.
To truly understand the punk aesthetic, it’s important to look at its roots.
The punk style acted as a “theater of provocation” in the ’70s, as in, the style is tightly intertwined with a lifestyle of non-conformity. Over time, tattoos, piercings, metal studs, and spiked accessories became commonplace elements of punk fashion. Everything that was punk was calculated to disturb and outrage.
You can tell it apart from other alternative styles by the way punk expresses particular views and moods like:
Not “selling out”
Anti-sentimental depictions of relationships
. . . and a healthy dose of anger
Back in the ’70s, punk fashion was seen as deconstruction and a cultural waste by the mainstream culture. The US hardcore punk scene embraced this label leaning away from fashion trends and often dressing in plain t-shirts and jeans. To this day, punk hasn’t changed much and still loves to be rough and noisy.
Well, that last sentence is only partly true. You’re probably tasting irony in the fact that punk, with all its anti-messaging, is being flipped around by today’s fashion couture. The times are changing, and punk’s rebellious foundation is laid out on catwalks whether the subculture representatives like it or not.
We may have lost sight of what it means to be punk, but the impressive and edgy look has made an undeniable print on today’s fashion and society.
If your store has an alternative streak to it, don’t overlook this t-shirt trend, as it has a lot to offer. The punk aesthetic design can be a visual code of any bullet points mentioned before. It can be clumsy collages of mixed media, disorderly fonts, newspaper clippings, and anything else that evokes the essence of the style and the powerful, raw liveliness of it.
You can find modern punk design inspiration by looking up punk fashion designers. For example, Vivienne Westwood, an English fashion designer, shaped punk fashion and dictated the aesthetic canons of the movement we still know today.
Source: Vivienne Westwood t-shirt on Ebay
Again, punk fashion is deemed to be more of a lifestyle than just a way of dressing. There are no true punk style stores because true punk clothing is made DIY style.
Surrealism is the balance between the rational vision of life and the power of the unconscious and dreams.
Surrealism designs in 2023 will serve as experimental escapism.
As technology advances, and we start to see more AI art and discussions about the Metaverse, designers in 2023 are pushing their creative limits and taking us to mesmerizing and unimaginable landscapes.
In the past, the surrealism movement represented a reaction against what surrealists saw as the destruction wrought by “rationalism” that had guided European culture and politics in the past and that had culminated in the horror and absurdity of World War I.
Surrealism became an avant-garde movement in art and literature that sought beauty in the unexpected, the uncanny, and the unconventional.
The major spokesman of the movement, André Breton, said that surrealism was a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in “an absolute reality, a surreality.”
Surrealism artists and authors believe that life has meaning and you can find its logic by unlocking visual and verbal symbolisms in the chambers of the unconscious mind.
If you see picturesque surrealist scenery in your dreams, you have exceptional imagination, but it’s even better if you can incorporate symbolism into works of art in the waking world.
To find inspiration for surrealism t-shirt designs, look into the works of artists like Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Leonora Carrington, and Man Ray. They created imagery by juxtaposing unlikely forms onto unimaginable landscapes.
If you observe their paintings, it seems like the artist put together things that at first don’t make sense. The art piece is like a dream—it makes sense emotionally but not logically.
Your t-shirt design doesn’t necessarily have to be a new piece of avant-garde art, but by getting familiar with the ideology and the art style, you can find out how to translate these ideas into your graphic designs. You’ll achieve a successful surrealist design if you let your imagination flow without trying to create something with any certain intent.
Tip: Surrealists will often use automatism to create their pieces. Automatism is a method of art-making in which the artist suppresses conscious control over the making process. When creating a surrealist design, try creating something without putting any thought into it and see what comes out.
You can also use a public domain website to find surrealism pieces that are not protected by intellectual property laws (copyright, trademark, or patent laws). That way, you can take works of art that you like and recreate them into your own unique designs.
Let’s be honest, most of us who have smartphones and computers have way more screen time for entertainment than the recommended 2–4 hours per day. Our lives are deeply intertwined with the digital world and, in 2023, designers and artists are merging the digital illustrations with photography.
That might have sounded somewhat dystopia-chore but this trend is actually focused on joy and whimsy.
The mixed media trend is all about brilliant colors, lovely illustrations, and fun patterns that emphasize the contrast between disparate elements.
Mixed media designs like these evoke a sense of wonder and stimulate the imagination, reminding us about how much creativity and magic we have within our minds.
Creating mixed media t-shirt designs means utilizing more than one medium to create the design. They can include various illustration pieces, blotches of color, snippets of patterns, and multiple layers that, in combination with a photo, make up something fresh and exciting. Your design doesn’t have to have a photo, though. Mixed media can mean:
Hand-drawn illustrations combined with digital elements
Collage of photographs and graphic elements
Watercolor paintings combined with typography
Embroidery and screen printing
3D designs and elements with flat graphic design
Multi-layered designs using transparencies and overlapping elements
Tip: Pinterest is fantastic for discovering mixed media designs and art pieces. We suggest creating Pinterest boards for this trend and all the other ones you like in this list.
Now’s your time to go and channel your inspiration into new and trendy custom t-shirt designs!
Last bit of wisdom: if you’re struggling to come up with t-shirt design ideas, we recommend a tactic (with a rather unflattering name) that’s often used by writers—the brain dump.
Just sit down and start designing whatever comes to mind. Don’t think about any specific ideas or techniques, just allow your random feelings, ideas, and subconscious thoughts to flow onto the page. This way, you’ll learn to unleash ideas faster, without critique. Then, later on, you can organize your designs and create something you feel satisfied with. And voilà, you have your design!
SEO Content Writer
Lilija is an SEO content writer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.