Taking the first steps on your journey towards printing your first custom T-shirts designs can be daunting, and while we’ve got your printing and shipping sorted, finding inspiration and guidance for your first designs can be particularly tricky. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources out there that can help your designs thrive and grow into something really special.
Here we’ve compiled a range of tools, resources and inspiration sources to get those creative juices flowing, hopefully lighting the fire that gets you designing and marketing your t-shirts like a pro.
1. Fashion and T-Shirt Archive Fashion Books
Many books brilliantly demonstrate how brands, record labels and designers throughout history have mastered the art of producing incredible T-shirts. Indeed, some of the biggest brands today have built their entire following on the back of some super-iconic T-shirts. For particularly good T-shirt eye candy check out ‘Supreme: Downtown New York Skate Culture (2010)‘ which highlights the masterclass that is Supreme’s ability to flip mainstream cultural references into must-own streetwear. The ‘Stussy Archive Retrospective (2016)‘ is another must-read for anyone looking to enter the world of T-shirt design. Stussy could almost be considered the Godfather of streetwear tees, and this books goes a long way to showing you why. If books are your thing, checkout our full list of the best books about T-shirts.
2. Design Manuals and Ad Archives
Now call us old fashioned, but there’s definitely something to be said for reworking the lo-fi aesthetic of decades gone by. If you’re not familiar with Standards Manual then we suggest you rectify this soon – it’s a smorgasboard of amazing retro and vintage design; the thinking and techniques behind which are timeless. Take a look at Ad Archives for a rolling source of retro brand advertising, every ad featured is a stunning example of amazing typography, design and photography. Dig around and saturate yourself with great promotion.
3. (Good) Events
Now if you want to get a better idea of what makes a great design, then art fairs, forums and lectures are a sure bet. Design festivals such as London’s ELCAF and It’s Nice That’s ‘Nicer Tuesdays’ offer the perfect opportunity for you to call in and take a look at the work of today’s brightest new designers, all in an informal and non-intimidating environment. Run a small record label? The Independent Label Market is hands-down one of the best places to get a feel for great merch. These events can also offer you the chance to chat to independent creatives about their practice, and you may even find an artist to collaborate with on a new T-shirt design. Not in London? These events have brothers and sisters all over the globe and some creative searching will uncover the local gems near you.
Technically not a resource, but collaboration should be a much-used tool in your toolkit, it certainly is in ours. We pride ourselves on being a platform built on collaboration, and T-shirts are the perfect canvas for it. Look at sites like Fiverr to help you connect your brand with designers, or better still, go straight to the source – a polite, respectfully crafted message dropped into your favourite artist’s DMs asking about their availability and normal payment rates can work wonders. Not only will you unlock some great designs, but collabs are a great way to extend your promotional network.
5. Typography Libraries
For a unique and extensive selection of high-quality typography available to buy and download online, head to PangramPangram, typoswiss, typeroom or The Designers Foundry. Not only do these online libraries curate the most sought-after independent type designers from around the globe, but it’s all online in one manageable space that’s immediately accessible, making your job even easier.
6. Design, Arts and Culture Websites
How better to understand good design then by following the output of the world’s best creators, by the world’s best curators? There is a plethora of incredibly informed design and culture websites out there, all staffed by wonderfully talented writers with a sole purpose of showcasing the best creative work by the best global talent. Look for names like AIGA, Creative Review, It’s Nice That and Design Week. If you’re looking for design insights in a T-shirt context then don’t skip our own editorial platform The Block featuring tips and insights direct from T-shirt designers in the front line.
7. Adobe Creative Cloud
On a more functional level your software can make a difference. This is nothing new to the experienced designers out there, but we recommend you use Adobe CC software such as Photoshop or Illustrator, or really any software which allows you to create optimum resolution PNG pixel and vector-based files. It’s important when creating pixel-based designs on Photoshop that the resolution is set to 300dpi, to avoid blurriness, which will detract from your designs. If you want to create vector-based designs, Illustrator is a great tool to use, and again, make sure that the resolution is at 300dpi.
8. Pantone Colour Finder
It’s key to think about the colours at play when designing your T-shirt artwork, and to be able to ensure colour is perfectly translated from digital design to ink. We’ve selected the best colour tool out there: the Color Finder from Pantone. Enter a Pantone Number, colour name, or pick the colour that you are looking for, and the Pantone Color Finder will help you decide the rest.