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How to create an Iconic T-Shirt Design

There’s a thin line between a rad t-shirt and a Dad t-shirt – and you don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of it.


So, how do you create an iconic t-shirt design? Wonder no more! Here, we’ve handpicked five eye-catching t shirt designs and highlighted what makes them stand out from the crowd, from colour choices to typography, to help you design a unique product that flies off the shelves.


Strap in fashionistas, because we’re about to give you the tee. (Sorry).



1 – The one that does what it says on the tin



As the old saying goes, the simpler the better. And it’s true, sometimes the simplest of designs really are the best. But don’t be fooled into thinking simplicity comes so easily – even the most basic of custom tees need to be well-thought-out and follow some pretty solid rules if it’s to achieve iconic t-shirt status.


Take this Bleecker Burger design for example. These guys really have kept it simple, but it works – this tee is all about the brand. Choosing a stark black t-shirt as a base, they’ve opted for a high-contrast white logo and brand name print for maximum eye-popping brand awareness value. Not too big and not too small, the brand logo has also been placed over the wearer’s left side of their chest as much research has shown that this is naturally where our gaze falls.




2 – The one that packs a placement punch



We can’t stress enough how important placement is. No matter how long you’ve spent on Adobe nailing your custom t-shirt design, if your placement is wrong, it’s never going to leave its packaging. An off-centre graphic is as aesthetically pleasing as Jabba the Hutt; a graphic placed too low is neither flattering nor forgiving – nobody likes a belly print.


To turn heads for all the right reasons, take the time to ensure your design is in the perfect location on your tee. Record label Big Scary Monsters achieve this to great effect on their product above. Their branded graphic is placed loud and proud on the wearer’s chest and is perfectly front and centre.




3 – The one that catches the eye with killer contrast




Want to make the visuals on your product pop? Say hello to high contrast. While contrast is technically classed under the colour choice umbrella, it deserves its own mention as it’s a very specific element of print t-shirt design which can mean the difference between your tee being easily seen or tragically, easily forgotten.


Contrast is literally the amount of visual difference between the lighter and darker colour components of an image. The way the shades you choose correspond to each other determine whether your design is high contrast (with super distinct colour choices) or low contrast (with more subtle yet still clear-cut colour differences). The Gardyloo Theatre promotional tee above absolutely smashes high contrast out of the park. The white text and electric blue logo and graphic pops perfectly against the deep black base t-shirt – there’s no doubt this design caught everyone’s eye at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival!





4 – The one that gets creative with colour




If colour isn’t at the forefront of your mind when tackling your t-shirt design, you better think again, our friend. Colour choices are one of the most important decisions you will make; not only do certain colours have certain psychological effects on people (a trick used by many a savvy advertiser), but they also link your product to your brand aesthetic or artistic style. Us humans are visual beasts – you’d be surprised at just how much of a role colour plays in influencing our purchases.


But beware! Too much colour can be a confusing, clashy and complex thing that distracts the viewer’s eye. Stick to a colour palette of two or three complementary colours – no one wants to wear something that looks like a unicorn sicked up its fruit loops on it. The graphic above displays this artists work brilliantly in shirt form – using a base pale pink, the artist sticks to darker pink tones, a complementary lilac and thick black outline to create a visually pleasing graphic that’s sure to grab attention from the other side of the room.





5 – The one that gets funky with font




If you’re looking to promote your brand, art or band, meet your new best friend – typography! Think of fonts and texts on t-shirt as less of a formal message and more of a wearable expression. Depending on how much text you want to display – and we’d advise keeping it short and sharp – you’ve got loads of scope to play around with fonts and different compositions.


Take this visually compelling band t-shirt from Pulled Apart by Horses for example. Using a high contrast artistic white font against a black background makes their typography pop, begging the viewer to have a read. Plus, the designer has had a little fun and played with the text’s composition, forming the text into a circular shape to add further interest and flair to the custom t-shirt. Rock on!



Explore our full range of iconic t-shirt options and literally spread your message with your chest!

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