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Blog / Ecommerce platform guide / How to Sell T-Shirts on Shopify in 2024

Ecommerce platform guide

How to Sell T-Shirts on Shopify in 2024

How to Sell T-Shirts on Shopify in 2024
Paula Scerbinina

By Paula Scerbinina

15 min read

In 2024, custom t-shirts are more than just a way to express your personality through clothing. Custom t-shirts are one of the best-selling print-on-demand products, with a market size valued at $4.31 billion

One of the ways to get your share of this market is to open your print-on-demand t-shirt store on Shopify. It’s a beginner-friendly and straightforward ecommerce platform for those looking to start selling t-shirts online.

This article is your step-by-step guide on how to sell t-shirts on Shopify and set your business to success from the beginning.

How to sell t-shirts on Shopify in 7 steps

Shopify is an easy-to-use ecommerce platform where you can create a custom online store and sell your products. 

What’s great about the platform is that you don’t need high upfront investments or advanced technical skills to get started. 

Also, Shopify allows you to connect your store with other apps to maximize your business. For example, you can team up with a print-on-demand supplier. 

Now that you know why Shopify is a handy choice for online t-shirt business owners, let’s dive into how to sell t-shirts on Shopify and stand out in this highly competitive market. 

If you want to succeed with your Shopify t-shirt business, ensure you’re clear on your foundations—your target audience and your product niche. This will allow you to tailor the product to the needs of people who want it and differentiate yourself in the crowded market.  

Identify your target audience

Who are the people you want to reach? Start by identifying your ideal audience’s demographics (age, gender, education, profession, income, and more). Then, go deeper and learn about their needs, values, interests, and preferences so that every element of your business is aligned with them.

Don’t play the guessing game. Seek those people proactively and ask for some market research calls. Another option is to analyze information on social media, forums, blogs, reviews, and other online sources. 

Pick a niche

After identifying your target audience and gathering as much information about them as possible, it’s time to brainstorm your niche.

A niche is a smaller, more specific segment within your target audience that’s (usually) easier to tap into. These people have specific characteristics (unique needs, preferences, or identity) that make buying a particular product or service more likely.

Choosing a niche for your Shopify t-shirt business increases your chance to get higher profits, face less competition, and get a more loyal customer base. However, it’s important to choose a niche with a demand gap. A demand gap is a market situation where the current supply doesn’t meet market demands.

If you struggle with finding a niche, think about your own passions, interests, or experiences. You can also check out our article with 100+ niche market ideas

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While defining your target audience and picking a niche is important, it’s not enough to start a successful Shopify t-shirt business. You need a product that serves your audience, and the first step here is to create a winning design for your t-shirt.

Whether you create your own design or hire a freelancer, make sure you’re crystal clear on your t-shirt design and logo placement (if you decide to showcase it).

Start by researching consumer and t-shirt design trends to align your artwork with the needs of your target audience. When researching, pay attention to what catches your eye and why.

a screenshot of a shirt

Source: Pinterest

Here are some ideas on where to find inspiration: 

  • Social media  

  • Marketplace ecommerce platforms (Etsy, eBay, Amazon)

  • Google Trends 

  • Pinterest, Behance, or Dribble 

  • Art and illustrations (museums, art galleries, and local exhibitions)

  • Nature and sightseeing

  • Coffee table books and design magazines

  • Motivational quotes 

  • Typography

  • Pop culture

Check competitor designs and define your USPs

You also need to back up your design idea with solid competitor research. Study your competitors’ best-selling t-shirt designs to understand what works and how you can set yourself apart. 

Capture it in your unique selling proposition (USP)—a statement that encapsulates why your customers should buy from you, not your competitors. 

To make your USP effective, think about how to solve your customers’ problems so that your solution stays in their minds (and represents it through your design or product).

a diagram of a company

Source: TechTarget

Pick your t-shirt design tool

T-shirt design tools are the easiest way to start the design process—you don’t need to be a professional designer to get an outstanding result. All you need is a powerful tool and time to get it done. 

Printful Design Maker

Let’s start with Printful’s Design Maker—a built-in design software with an intuitive interface to create custom product designs for your tees. It has a mockup generator to transform your design from a 2D image to a 3D product, an extensive library of pre-made elements and images, and many more advanced features to customize your artwork.

a man in a white shirt

Source: Printful

Canva

Canva is a cloud-based graphic design tool perfect for those just starting. It has a simple drag-and-drop interface and an extensive library of fonts, design assets, images, and ready-to-use templates. It also allows you to upload and tweak your own visuals (remove the background, change colors, add text, adjust the position of elements).

a screenshot of a website

Source: Canva

Adobe Photoshop

Thanks to its versatility and powerful features, Adobe Photoshop is known as an industry standard. Its extensive capabilities offer powerful features to level up your t-shirt design so you can edit your photos and professionally create original graphics. Best for seasoned design experts, Adobe offers high-end functionality and almost limitless design options to turn your t-shirt design ideas to life.

a screenshot of a website

Source: Adobe Photoshop

Now, it’s time to decide on your customization method. This important step bridges your ideation phase with your product creation phase. When assessing different kinds of customization methods—consider your design, your tee characteristics, your budget, and your business needs. 

DTG printing

Let’s start with one of the most popular t-shirt printing techniques—DTG or direct-to-garment printing. It’s similar to printing on paper, except that the fabric replaces paper. 

a man standing in a factory

Source: Printful

During this process, the DTG printer sprays the special water-based inks directly on the t-shirt to achieve the desired design in a few minutes. If you decide to handle this process yourself (instead of teaming up with a print-on-demand supplier), this digital equipment needs a significant upfront investment.

Here are the pros and cons of the method: 

Pros 

  • Perfect for small businesses and one-offs

  • Ensures longer-lasting prints

  • High-quality results for complex designs

  • Soft to the touch

  • Perfect for cotton and cotton blends

  • No color limitations (but best for brighter colors)

Cons 

  • Expensive equipment 

  • Needs special care to last longer

  • Not the most cost-effective option for bulk orders

  • Not recommended for synthetic fabrics

DTF printing

Next on our list is DTF printing, which stands for direct-to-film printing. Thanks to its suitability for different fabric types, it’s one of the most versatile t-shirt printing methods.

a screen shot of a sign

Source: Printful

DTF printing involves printing a design on a PET film with water-based inks using a powder that helps transfer the design. Then, the design is printed from the film onto the t-shirt with a heat press machine. 

Because of the specifics of the process, you’ll need to invest in equipment and materials like film and powder to create your design with this method. 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of DTF printing.

Pros

  • Results in detailed prints

  • Allows a vast color palette

  • Works on different types of fabric

  • Great for printing bulk orders

Cons

  • Slower process

  • High investment costs (for machines and materials)

  • Not sustainable (the films generate a lot of waste)

  • Thicker prints (compared to DTG)

Embroidery

Embroidery is a great choice to make a timeless, high-quality, and durable finish to your custom t-shirts. The texture gives your design a 3D effect, making embroidery a top choice for intricate designs, logos, or monograms. 

close-up of a machine sewing a logo

Source: Printful

To create an embroidered design, you must digitize your design (convert it into a digital file) first so the machine can start the work. Then, the machine stitches the embroidered design—its needles and threads create the desired patterns, shapes, and colors, copying the digitized file.

Pros: 

  • Good durability 

  • Professional finishing touch

  • A cost-effective option for multi-color designs

Cons:

  • Not the best option for complex designs with drastic color changes

  • Not recommended for small color elements 

  • Not perfect for most synthetic materials (works best for cotton-polyester blends) 

Sublimation

Last but not least, another popular method for a t-shirt design (especially all-over print shirts) is sublimation, also known as dye or digital sublimation. 

a large white paper on a machine

Source: Printful

In essence, sublimation is the transition of a liquid dye from a solid state to gas under high temperatures and pressure. In this process, the design is printed onto special transfer paper first. After that, heat is applied so the liquid dye can penetrate the fabric.

Pros

  • More colorful designs with vivid colors

  • Durable prints that endure more washes

  • Perfect for all-over print t-shirts 

  • Smooth texture of the prints

  • Best for synthetic fabrics like polyester (not suitable for cotton!)

Cons

  • Slower process

  • More preparation may affect the overall cost

  • Requires more advanced knowledge

  • Not the most cost-effective method for bulk orders

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Coming up with your design is only half the task. You also need to find the best quality t-shirts for printing

While it may seem like all t-shirts look the same, and it doesn’t matter which one you choose, selecting the right t-shirt for your online business is a huge deal that’ll impact it in the long run. 

When it comes to selecting your custom t-shirt, make sure to consider its fabric, weight, and fit. 

Fabric 

The fabric of your t-shirt impacts everything: how your t-shirt looks, feels, and fits. The most common choices for online t-shirt store owners are cotton, polyester, or a blend of these materials.

Let’s start with the most basic one—cotton. This soft, comfortable, and durable fabric will serve your customers for years. However, it might be prone to shrinking and fading when washed repeatedly. 

Next is polyester. Polyester is a great material that retains its size and color for years, but it’s not as breathable as cotton. 

Blended materials ensure you get the benefits of both these fabrics, but these t-shirts often require more delicate care than single-fabric t-shirts.

Weight

The fabric weight depends on its thickness. Usually, there are three possible t-shirt weight types to consider. 

The lighterweight shirts are thin, soft, and breathable, perfect for summer and outdoor wear. The midweight shirts provide comfort at a wide range of temperatures. Finally, there are heavyweight shirts, perfect for cooler conditions and layering. 

Depending on your research about your customer preferences, you can offer them all three or only one option. 

Fit

The most common t-shirt fits are slim, regular, or relaxed. According to your customers’ needs and preferences, you can go with a slim-fit t-shirt—a more form-fitting t-shirt. Or you can choose relaxed t-shirts that are wider (but not baggy) in the chest and waist area. 

In the middle, there’s a regular fit t-shirt—a classic choice suitable for various body types that hugs the body but leaves room in the sleeves and waist. 

Finding a trusted partner to support your custom t-shirt online business journey can help tremendously: you won’t have to take care of your merchandise’s production, packaging, and shipping.

If you’re looking for a reliable dropshipping partner to handle these things while you focus on your business, Printful is a great solution.

a screenshot of a computer

Source: Shopify

With Printful, you have complete customization freedom over the design of your t-shirts and do so much more without worrying about fulfillment and shipping. 

Imagine: more than 300 products, including t-shirts, various design options, automatic order fulfillment, and shipping directly to your customers as the order comes in. All that with no inventory hassle!

And the best thing? You can connect your Shopify dropshipping store seamlessly with your Printuf app in just a few clicks. 

6. Design and optimize your t-shirt store

There are many reasons why so many online t-shirt business owners choose Shopify for their stores. Mainly, it’s because the platform is super easy to set up, use, and customize to achieve the perfect look for your store. 

Start with the basics 

Setting up a Shopify store is very simple. The first step is creating an account and picking a Shopify plan that fits your business’ needs and budget. 

After you’ve come up with a domain name and your store name, it’s time to choose a Shopify theme—a ready-to-use pre-made template for your ecomerce store. There are plenty of options available. If you’re unsure what to choose, you can start with one of the free Shopify themes.

Customize your store to reflect your brand

The great thing about the Shopify theme is that you can customize its layout, colors, and fonts to reflect your brand and niche from top to bottom. 

Think about the things you want to stand out with. Is it your brand story, vibrant colors, product-first focus, or the power of small details (like catchy typography)? Design your Shopify theme according to this. Use your creativity, but don’t forget to make your website user-friendly. 

Add your products 

Now, you can start filling the catalog with your t-shirts. There are two possible ways you can add your products.

 

a black shirt with yellow text on it

Source: Shopify

The first one is adding your custom t-shirts through the Shopify admin panel. But if you’re teamed up with a reliable print-on-demand partner like Printul, you can simply connect your Shopify store with your Printful account. 

When adding your products, don’t forget to pay extra attention to the quality of your images and product descriptions—make these sections work in your favor.

7. Invest in marketing

When you’ve decided on your business foundations, created a design, and made a product you are proud of, it’s time to let the world know about your online t-shirt business and market your product.

Start with a product marketing strategy 

The most effective marketing starts with a solid strategy. In short, a marketing strategy is a step-by-step plan to reach your target audience and turn them into loyal customers. 

It’ll help you be more clear on how to communicate your vision and promote your product so you can reach your goals faster. 

To decide where and how you’ll promote the product, base your strategy on 4 pillars: an analysis of your customers, research on your competitors, your USP, and your goals. 

Don’t be too ambitious or unrealistic when setting your goals—set up a milestone you believe can be achieved.

Optimize your store.

Even if you’re happy with the look and feel of your site, it’s always great to go the extra mile and optimize your visitor’s shopping experience as much as possible. 

It’ll give your store the most significant performance boost, attracting more people, making them stick around, and boosting your revenue. 

You can start with a simple tweak, like adding alternative text for your images to boost SEO, implementing an order confirmation email in your purchase flow, and adding videos to your product catalog so people can take a closer look at products. If you need more ideas, check out our full guide on how to optimize your online store.

Social media marketing 

In 2024, there’s no better way to promote your products than on social media—it’s one of the most cost-efficient ways to showcase your brand, build a community, and generate sales. 

Latest statistics show that there are 4.9 billion people who use social media across the world. Many of them are your target audience, so why not meet them where they are? 

Start by setting up different social media accounts—you can use Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and even LinkedIn. Remember that each channel requires slightly different content, so research the latest trends for each platform to adjust it accordingly. a diagram of a company

Source: The Social Shepherd

Apart from your in-house content, like photos and videos of your t-shirts, you can leverage influencer marketing—a process of finding the spokesperson for your brand to drive your discoverability and sales.

Email marketing 

Unlike social media, email marketing might require some (small) initial investment and more time to get the ball rolling. 

But, the strength of this channel relies on its independence. While your social media accounts might be shut down anytime for no reason, email marketing is a proven way to keep communicating with your audience. 

a group of people standing in a line

Source: Kotn.

Promote your newsletter on social media, use customer contact information from past purchases, or implement a subscription form on your site to collect emails. 

Then, send regular newsletters to your email subscribers to update, inspire, educate, and let your readers know your brand. 

You can also leverage this channel to spread the word about your special campaigns—new product launches, a sale on your website, holiday discounts, and more. 

Website marketing 

Your website is often the potential customer’s first interaction with your brand. So it’s important to know how it looks and feels for them. If possible, ask your friends or family for feedback on your website to help you understand how your first-time visitors experience the page.

One of the greatest things you can do is add user-generated content to your site—customer reviews and testimonials. It’ll build trust in those who are just considering your products. 

Another fix you can do to your website is to ensure it’s SEO-friendly. SEO stands for search engine optimization and is a way for search engines to recognize your products as relevant and show them to more people. To make it work, add relevant keywords to your product names, product descriptions, and web copy. 

Final words

Take the process of starting your custom t-shirt business on Shopify step by step to make it less overwhelming. Start with a clear and strong foundation—niche and target audience—and move forward, one task at a time. 

So, take action—apply the outlined steps and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

author

By Paula Scerbinina on Jan 24, 2024

Paula Scerbinina

Guest author

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.

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.