One of my biggest concerns when I got started in the T shirt business was how I was going to actually make the designs. I knew I couldn’t draw and wasn’t sure how much money it would cost me to have an artist make my visions in to a design for me. One of the first things I did was to purchase Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, now these are expensive programs but Adobe has an education discount that I took advantage of. I wasn’t in school, but if you have a child in school, elementary through college, you qualify for the education discount which made the Adobe Web Premium CS4 suite around $599. That is a huge savings off the $1200 retail price I was finding, and it includes a lot more than just Photoshop and Illustrator. But this article isn’t about Adobes suite of products, the bottom line is you can design t shirts with numerous low cost or even free programs. Gimp is a program that I haven’t personally used but hear great things about and it’s free. So do some research on what’s available out there as far as programs go, but don’t think you have to spend a lot of money, there are the low cost and free options available to you.
I discovered early on in my career that I would have to either spend money for a graphic artist or rely on text heavy designs. Well, I have primarily focused on text heavy designs and had great success with them. I have to date purchased two designs from graphic artists that cost me a total of $70, so that isn’t too bad. The great thing about text designs is the amazing amount of fonts available to you on line. You can get hundreds if not thousands of amazing fonts that are free for commercial use! Make sure you check the fine print on the fonts you download to assure that they are commercially available at no cost.
So lets say you go the route I did and you are looking to create funny sayings on shirts. All you need is your free or low cost design software with the fonts you like downloaded and start your process. Let’s say you wanted a simple catch phrase on your shirt that says “Guys Dig Me!” I know, it’s generic, but you’ll come up with something much more clever. You could simply type “Guys Dig Me!” in to your design software and then play around with different font styles to get something that looks like what you want. You can play with the text size, style, even the size of the stroke to fatten up the letters if you like. Centering your text is also a good idea with a t shirt unless your script is long enough that you need to margin it to the left.
So what if you want to go a step further and put a shovel on your shirt? Can you draw a shovel? I can’t! Another option available to you is to do a search for free vector art images if you are using illustrator, or just free images of shovels. Be careful that you don’t steal someones design! There are plenty of low cost options for artwork out there that you may decide to invest a little in your design, but if not, it’s alright to do text only designs, they sell!
A brief word on vector images. Adobe Illustrator produces vector graphics and they are great to work with because no matter what size you blow them up to you retain your image quality. If I were to blow up that shovel picture in a different format like JPEG it would lose it’s quality the larger the image gets. This usually doesn’t present a problem on t shirts unless that original shovel picture you have is really tiny.
So if you are artistically challenged like I am don’t worry, you have options in this business and can make really awesome designs for your shirts. Powerful, low cost graphic programs are available to help you with your designs. Starving artists are loading amazing graphics you can purchase cheap on line. Now is definitely the time for the non-artistic t shirt designer to get somewhere in this business.