9 common mistakes to avoid for your t-shirt designs

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"To me, graphic tees are the most important and expressive format for a designer or person. Your taste in graphic t-shirts speaks volumes about your point of view."

These two sentences could have come from anyone: your Aunt Helen, a fan of gardening in Crocs and ballroom dancing, or even Chad, her son, an expert at skipping school. But here's the thing: these words are from Virgil Abloh, who was the artistic director of Louis Vuitton's men's collections.

This quote underscores it: the graphic tee brings people together, regardless of age, budget, culture. We know your closet is full of them. Yet, we promise, we didn't break into your house while you were sleeping. We're saying this because ours are too! T-shirts with holes in them, T-shirts that look like they date back to the French Revolution, T-shirts that remind us of loved ones... In short, t-shirts that we simply can't get enough of.

It is the goal of all designers to see their clothes become the must-haves of their customers. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but it's probably yours too. Only, before your graphic t-shirts become the success you dream of, your visuals must first follow certain graphic design rules. If not, it will result in mistakes that will put off buyers... Like the nine common mistakes we will describe in this article.

Coming throught!

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Mistake #1: Placing the design in the middle of the t-shirt

You want your design to be symmetrical? That's a nice reflex in graphic design, bravo. Well, you're going to have to lose that reflex when it comes to the placement of your visuals on t-shirts.

Contrary to what we think at first glance, a good placement of visuals is not centered on the width and height of a T-shirt. The result of this type of placement? A print located at the belly. Unless your visual says, literally, "This is where I digest," it won't be ideal. We therefore advise you to rather plan a print located at about ten centimeters below the collar, to be adapted according to the size (for a child's t-shirt for example) and the cut (ordinary, crop top, tank top,...) of the product.

Mistake #2: Neglecting the balance of the composition

Your designs are compositions: clever mixtures of elements (text, images, logo,...) that respond to each other in harmony. If they are compositions, then you are a composer: congratulations, virtuoso that you are. On the other hand, if you want to be Ludwig van Beethoven rather than Lou Bega, a little visual work is necessary in the respect of certain fundamental rules:

  • Leave enough space between the elements so that the visual is readable... ;
  • ... Without spacing them too far apart either, at the risk of the whole thing being disjointed;
  • Place the elements in the reading order (it seems obvious, but sometimes you feel so much in the creation that you can forget the basics very quickly).

It's not easy to take a step back from your visuals, so if you have a friend, a relative, your Aunt Helen or even Chad on hand, don't hesitate to ask for a fresh look at your work.

Mistake #3: Not mastering your choice of fonts

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When you think of a graphic t-shirt, it's not text that comes to mind. And yet... Typography is a key element of graphic design. You just have to look at the crazy success of message t-shirts to realise this! They are everywhere: it's an actual invasion.

At the same time, adding a message to your t-shirt design is a quick and easy way to give it meaning. But you still need to master your typography... Because as usual, there are some rules to respect:

  • Managing the spacing of the font, both between letters and between lines;
  • If there are sentences in capital letters, choose a font that works well in this form (calligraphic fonts are often not suitable);
  • On a single design, combine a maximum of two complementary fonts ( Sans serif and serif fonts for example);
  • Do not use Comic Sans MS ;
  • No, really, do not use Comic Sans MS. This is important.

We know, it can be frustrating to deal with all these graphic design principles. Trust us, it's not a bad thing: they're all there to make sure you get the best out of it!

Mistake #4: Thinking (too) big

"The more you spray, the more you get," said a philosopher. Unless it's an ad with a dubious message - we don't know anymore. In any case, this quote does not apply to t-shirt design.

Your graphic beauties are meant to be seen, yes, but not from the other side of the continent. So we advise you to be moderate in the size of your design and to stay a little bit under the maximum allowed by our customizer, especially when it comes to child size t-shirts.

Two reasons not to print too big: to keep the harmony of the whole, but also to maximize the comfort of the garment. Yes, let's not forget that printing adds a layer to the t-shirt! Thin and soft to the touch, yes, but a layer nonetheless, which will be felt even more if the base product is lightweight.

Mistake #5: Using unlimited color palettes

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Let's face it: working with small palettes of colors is essential. Our printing method, DTG, allows the printing of a fabulous rainbow of colors and just for that, it's a solution we're mega proud to offer you! However, just because you can do it doesn't mean you SHOULD do it. Just think about that time when you were a kid and tried to eat the dog food. It was not good. A visual combining more than 4 different colors , either.

There are many tools to help you find THE winning combo for your next graphic star. This one, for example, will allow you to find the soulmate of a color you've chosen beforehand.
This one will randomly generate great palettes.

Also, don't forget to match the colors of your design to the textile on which it will be printed. A determining factor!

Otherwise, from there, do not brood: we leave you free rein.

Mistake #6: Ignoring contrast

In concrete terms, what is contrast?

It is the degree of difference between the dark and light elements of a set. Let's face it: it's readability's best friend. Here's some photographic evidence:

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Or how to go from "Even with my glasses, I can't see anything" to "Thank you, that's much better".

So it's the contrast that will prevent you from printing white (or any shade too light, for that matter) on a light textile. We sometimes get requests for this type of monochrome printing. Sure, it's original. Except maybe it's original for a reason... Because no one wants people to try to decipher their t-shirts in the street this way:

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Some tools, like this one, are specifically designed to test the contrast between two colors (it was made for online use, but it will give you an idea for your printed products).

Mistake #7: Leaving the borders of a visual as it is

Print on Demand is a system where simplicity is celebrated. Have you ever seen an easier way to launch your brand? Personally, we're dry.

We love simplicity, but to a certain extent. For example, if you choose to base your visual on a photo or any visual with a background, we suggest you twist its main element so that the result is frankly, a lot more on point. See for yourself:

Best ideas for graphic and design tips to better design your printed clothing and accessories.
Finally a design that does Trevor justice.

Not so long ago, removing the background of a design was only within the reach of the most hardened graphic designers. We're talking about those who could spend 2 hours clipping a shape on Photoshop while zooming in at 500% on their visual, their eyes watering. Fortunately, those days are over. Free tools have been created to crop a shape in one click: among them, Photoroom and Removal. It's a whole new world that's available to you.

Mistake #8: Over-design

As we've seen before: it's not good to overdo it. That goes for your choice of fonts, the size of your visual, or your drinking in the presence of your in-laws. It also goes for the elements of your t-shirt design as a whole.

The human eye is designed to recognize a certain number of symbols simultaneously: no more. So keep it simple. Too many ideas, never enough space? Take advantage of this by breaking down a dense idea into several designs... Print on Demand allows you to do this kind of test without taking risks.

Mistake #9: Not centering visually

Here's a fact: sometimes the center isn't the actual center.

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OK, let's explain ourselves: this is what we call the visual center in design. It differs from the geometric center, which is located right in the geometric middle of a visual, as its name suggests. The visual center is based on the main focal point on which the eye will stop when observing a visual.

How to determine this visual center, you ask? You may have guessed it...

There is ALSO a tool for that.

This website will allow you to load your design in order to determine its visual center, as we have done below :

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On the left, visual placed according to its geometric center. On the right, according to its visual center.

The eye will be attracted by the character: the center has been shifted to get closer to it. This is not an easy concept to assimilate, we are aware of that, but this tool should bring you the necessary help to make your visual even more pleasant for the eyes of your potential customers.

Creativity is like our hair when we wake up: it's unique and spirited, but sometimes a little discipline doesn't hurt. Certain codes are important so that you can be understood by your target: the goal of design is that you enjoy yourself, but also that the result speaks to your audience. So design, design in abundance, but do not lose sight of these few golden rules that we just shared with you ... And if you have any doubts, there is only one way to know if the result of a design is really satisfactory: sample orders!

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