Welcome

Welcome! You’ve arrived to the design section of Teespring University. Here, we’ll provide you with all the tools and resources you’ll need to bring your awesome idea to life. But before delving right in, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.

Remember: the key to designing a perfect tee is understanding your audience. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out our audience section before moving on for tips on how to find and define your audience. This prep-process will prepare you to design an awesome and resonant idea that people are really going to love and wear. For the rest of you are already up to speed, let’s get started!

Introduction

Creating an amazing t-shirt design does not have to be a complicated process. With simple, free tools available online you can create something funny, poignant, beautiful or totally bizarre.

You can be successful on Teespring regardless of your prior design experience. So don’t worry! We aren’t here to try and give you a four-year education. We aren’t here to try and teach you how to create the most complex or most unique design possible. Rather, we’re here to help you think about who you are selling to, what they’d like to wear, and how you can design something that resonates with them specifically.

Simple sells. So does complex.

We see a lot of amazing and intricate designs sell on Teespring. More often, we see really clear and simple ones. There is no right answer to design, and you do not need to be an expert to make something awesome!

Here are examples of two shirts that have both been extremely successful on Teespring. ICE UP SON and THIS IS HOW I ROLL, on the left, are good examples of simple designs that were marketed to the right audience at the right time. 

A brief history of time and tees

T-shirts are called t-shirts, brilliantly, for their shape resembling the letter “T”.

They came into common usage in the US sometime around the Spanish-American war when the Navy began issuing them as standard undergarments. In the early 40s printing began appearing on t-shirts.

And by the 1950s, heartthrobs like Marlon Brando and James Dean were modeling it and turning heads. The t-shirt was rapidly adopted as an American standard.

The beauty of the  t-shirt is it can be a way to wear memories, a fashion item, a canvas for self-expression, or a public forum for announcing allegiances, feelings, and beliefs.

At Teespring we want to empower everyone to be able to design and sell their own tees and other merchandise. In an effort to make it even easier, we want to walk you through the steps to creating a great design, regardless of any prior experience.

Powerusing Teespring's designer

New to Teespring? This is the perfect place to start. In this section, we’ll bring you up to speed with how to utilize text, simple images, and colors to create an awesome tee design using only Teespring’s designer. 

The beauty of this section is to show you that you can make huge statements without saying much at all. In fact, many iconic and fashionable tees are simply words printed boldly on cotton.

FONT

If your tee is text-based, then choosing the right font is the first step. 

A simple message, word, or phrase can be accentuated, made funny, made classic, made whimsical, made anything -- simply based on the font you use.

In the Teespring Designer, you have the option to play around with a number of different fonts which will allow you to elicit a variety of feelings with your design.

COLOR

After picking your font, the next step is deciding what color you want your text to be, while keeping in mind how the color will look against the garment itself. Feel free to go crazy and explore. Just keep in mind that certain colors (and color combinations) have preexisting connotations to specific feelings, moods, or even brands. Think of how the San Francisco Giants are associated with orange and black, or Facebook with blue.

In fact, you can more effectively make your point by playing around with existing color associations. For instance, you can make your text feel soft, unimposing and comforting simply by using more warm, pastel colors. Conversely, you can create a “popping” effect by pairing colors from opposite ends of the color spectrum.  To learn more about ‘complementary,’ ‘analogous’ or ‘triad’ colors, we encourage you to experiment with Adobe's Kuler color wheel.

If you really want to create a stir and give in to your creativity, try breaking existing associations. What would happen if you took your text, design, or idea and used the opposite color of what you had originally planned? What emotions and feelings would arise?

Note that when using Teespring you are limited to using 10 colors in your design.
We screen print our designs, a method which produces an incredibly high quality print. However, such high-quality printing does limit the number of colors that we can print upon one garment. The more colors you choose, the more expensive it is to produce. Therefore, whenever possible, we recommend sticking to 1-3 colors for each design.

GRAPHICS

Using graphics is also a great place to start for inspiration. Start with something you know, create something simple, then mix things up. Create something new and funky.

TRY THIS

First, pick a single word that speaks to you. Then:

Color - Pick a base color for your shirt or for your word. Eyeball it on Kuler and find its complementary color. See how it looks on the shirt. If you don’t like it, try looking at the analogous or triad colors.
Font - Now look at the design with one font from each of the sub-sections in Teespring’s designer (Popular, Foreign, Grunge). How does it look?
Artwork - Find a piece of art that works in conjunction with your chosen word. Drop it in. How does it look?

Take your time to be creative; don’t rush! Let yourself play. See what happens when you pause your critical eye for a moment.

Designing outside of Teespring's designer

Welcome! This section is for you if you already have working familiarity with design based programs like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, or you simply are looking to understand new ways to import images and create designs outside of the Teespring platform. All the information is here, just pick and choose what’s most relevant to you. 

To make sure we’re all on the same page here, let’s first go over some important basic info about using Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape [the free online equivalent]. 

vector vs. raster graphics

Now that you will be importing your own images to Teespring’s designer rather than using the imagery that pre-exists, you should be aware of the type of image you are using. Importer images will always look best as a vector file, as opposed to a raster one.  As a rule of thumb, it is always better to use vector-based graphics when designing a tee -- or anything printable for that matter. 

What are Raster Graphics?
Like digital photographs and Photoshop documents, raster graphics are made up of thousands of tiny squares: pixels. They look great at their original size, but they become grainy and “pixelated” if that size changes. On a shirt the pixels can come out printed as rough edges. Raster graphics are typically found in .JPGs, .PNGs, .GIFs, .PSDs, and .TIFFs.

What are Vector Graphics?
Vector graphics use points, lines, and curves instead of pixels, allowing them to scale at any size. They will not lose quality when they are enlarged or printed. What you see on your computer will resemble exactly what will be printed on your shirt. They can be created in Adobe Illustrator or on Inkscape.

Notice there is no pixelation of the scaled Vector graphic, its clarity is maintained perfectly.

If you have an existing image with a white or solid background, use Photoshop to remove the background with the magic wand tool or by selecting and deleting it. Save the new image (with the transparent background) as a .PNG to ensure an easy upload into our designer.

If this sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t worry about it too much. You don’t have to use a vector graphic to create a successful tee; it’s just a helpful tip to make your image prints as true to your design as possible. Plus, Teespring has your back if you can’t do it yourself.

Fonts from outer space

Now, let’s take a look at some classic fonts that are unavailable in the Teespring designer (i.e. from “outer space”), but can still be downloaded, installed, and used for your Teespring campaign.

You can download fonts from Google Fonts, which allows you to alter your specifications for size, weight, slant and thickness to get to the font that’s right for you. Dafont allows you to pick from an extensive selection of font categories. Once you download a font you have to install it. To install on the latest versions of Mac and PC you can simply open them up and click “install.” For older operating systems, simply drop the file into your fonts folder.

The below five fonts are available in standard font packages available in the Adobe Suite.

 

Keep in mind, there are many, many free fonts available to download online. To entertain yourself as you wait for your new fonts to download, we recommend taking this quiz to find out what font you are.

More Advanced Color

Creating your design from scratch using Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, or Inkscape? Awesome. And exciting! The first thing you should do is set your workspace to CMYK instead of RGB color. You can do this on the "advanced" menu when you create a document or by clicking "document color mode" in the file menu. On a computer it’s a miniscule, unnoticable difference, but it is best for our printers and will help keep your final print looking as sharp as possible. 

Now, it’s probably good for you to have some basic colors in mind already before getting started. For ideas on how to best choose, check out our basic color section to learn more about basic color strategies, including information on color associations, color contrasting, and color compliments. 

Once you have some basic ideas, let’s make sure you’ve got your eye on the ball. Begin with the base shirt you’d like to choose (just pick one from the designer). Now take a screenshot of the shirt and select a patch of the tee. On a mac do this by pressing COMMAND + SHIFT + 4 and on a PC you can use the Snip tool. Open the image in Photoshop. With the eyedropper tool you can get the exact hex (color code) value that you’d like to use. Check out the step-by-step process by watching this video.

Once you’ve picked up the color you want with the eyedropper tool, you can then drop the value into the center of the Adobe Kuler tool to find the complementary, analogous, or triad colors to use for your text, art and other aspects of your design.

Graphics and Templates from Outer Space

Vector Graphics

You can find some awesome vector files on Freepik and The Noun Project. They both have powerful search features and huge libraries of simple, royalty-free graphics. If you open the SVG files from these sites in Illustrator and save them as EPS files, you can preserve the quality of the images that will print on your shirt.

All artwork submitted to Teespring in raster format will be subsequently and automatically vectorized to make them t-shirt ready. While they still look great, the final product will be a traced version of what you provide us with and will be subject to slight inconsistencies as a result. 

Templates

Not sure what a template is? Don’t worry, you’ve already seen plenty of them. In short, a template is a starting file just one step away from completion. One classic example is the ‘KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON” template. Originally designed as a British World War II propaganda poster, the template has been appropriated by the public and is now frequently used by a variety of different audiences. Hence the beauty of the template: it can be infinitely reapplied for specific personalizations. 

Templates are an easy way to layer your own ideas on top of a pre-designed image that consumers are already familiar with. For example, the graphic design firm Experimental Jetset created the famous A&B&C&D template seen above, which has been used countless times by third-party designers. 

Other popular templates include the up-and-coming “Some (Zoops) (Zip), Real (Zoops) (Zap)” format, or the “Some People Call Me (Zoop), But the People Who Matter Call Me (Zap).”

Need some template inspiration? There are some great services that will generate designs for you, like the Keepcalm-o-matic, which produces (what else?) custom “Keep Calm And Carry On” graphics.

Keep in mind, while you’re allowed to be inspired by other designs you see either on Teespring or elsewhere, it’s important to ensure your work is completely original.  To use another person’s intellectual property without their permission would qualify as infringement, and can have serious legal consequences.

Creative Appropriation

While plagiarism is big no-no, creative appropriation, like Che Guevaras tees and Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” tee, are a different story. You too can create such images by mastering the Threshold Effect in Adobe Illustrator. You can apply the Threshold effect in Adobe Illustrator to photographs or images which exist in the public domain or to which you own the rights (Note: Shepard Fairey did NOT own the rights to that Obama image and faced an enormous lawsuit as a result).

To apply this effect, open a photograph in Illustrator. Navigate to: Window > Image Trace > Click on the Image > Mode: Black and White or other ones you can experiment with. Play with the advanced settings, add more paths and corners for more detail. Remove paths and corners for a fuzzier image. If you find settings that produce an effect you like, you can save the presets so you apply it again for a different image. Click “expand” to turn the image into a vector file. Now you can add it to a shirt.  Check out this video for a step-by-step tutorial.

Designers may sometimes use protected imagery from existing brands when creating their own original artwork. This is 100% legal, so long as the new artwork contains substantial enough changes as to not infringe upon the copyright or trademark associated with the image. 

You must be exceedingly careful about this. Please see our Copyright section if you have any doubts about the legality or validity of your design.

Layering Thematics

To come up with new niched designs, consider mixing together different elements like flags, text, images, maps, and emblems. You can often find flags or state seals available for use on Wikipedia.  State outlines are also available in our designer via the Noun Project. If you want the files to work from, visit their site.

Transferring Complex Designs to a Tee

This chapter will bring you up to speed with the nuances behind preparing high-quality designs for screen printing. In the screen printing process, it is common for colors to slightly shift, edges to morph, and other small changes to occur. The below tips and strategies will help ensure your screen printed designs come out exactly as you have designed them. 

Color Precision

When designing, make sure your colors are contained in the Pantone Color Matching System. This way, designers and printers can “color match” specific colors by a specific number and ensure that your design will look exactly the same at every place it is produced, regardless of the equipment used. Technically, while using Pantone could potentially limit your palette, the company’s 1000+ colors makes this highly unlikely. 

Remember, our designer only allows a maximum of 10 colors on a white shirt, and 8 on a colored shirt, due to the limitations of screen printing. Photographs can contain thousands of colors, even when they look grey or monotone the gradients and shading can cause them to contain many many tones. 

Advanced Imagery

Vectorize your files to make sure that the printed versions come out exactly as you designed them. You can vectorize your art or designs in Inkscape or Vector Magic by tracing them.  For many designs the difference is negligible, but when the quality of your image is a top priority this is an important step to take. For a tutorial on how to go from a raster to a vector image, check out this video

If you are an artist or designer who is not familiar with vectorization, you can also easily and inexpensively hire someone online to vectorize your images from a site like oDesk.


TRY THIS

Color — Choose a base color for a shirt and screenshot it. Find the hex value and complementary, analogous or tertiary color in Kuler.
Font — On Google Fonts, provide the specifications for a font that you think would be good for your specific shirt design. Think about what kind of statement you are trying to make. Download the font and then write out your words in Illustrator. Place the screenshot of your blank shirt in the document as its own layer. You can then view the design on top of the shirt to see what it looks like.
Image — Pick an image from the Noun Project and download it. Open it in Illustrator and drag it into your design space with 
your words. Alter the color to see how it looks. Now try picking a 
photograph of a person and applying the Image Trace effect. 
Play with the number of edges, colors and other elements to see the 
variability and power of what you can do to the image.
When you are happy with your colors and images you’re all set to put it on a shirt! You can take out the shirt image layer you dropped in and crop the frame. Then save your file as a .PNG and you are ready to upload it.
 

Goal of 1

Goal of 1 makes tipping your campaigns so much easier! Continue reading to learn more about how to access goal of 1 for your next campaign.

What file type is required?

You can access goal of one using any of these file types: PNG/JPEG/JPG/GIF. However, keep in mind your artwork needs to meet a minimum threshold for quality to access goal of 1. For US campaigns, this means that the image should be greater than 120 DPI at the scale of print. And for EU campaigns, this means that the image should be greater than 300 DPI at the scale of print.

What is DPI? DPI stands for dots per inch and refers to the physical dot density of an image when it is reproduced as a real physical entity (e.g. on a shirt). Monitors do not have dots, but do have pixels so a closely related concept is PPI or pixels per inch.

In order to ensure a high quality print, Teespring asks that your image meet a minimum DPI threshold after you’ve adjusted it to the size you want for print. As you adjust your image on Step One of the Composer, you’ll see these visual cues letting you know what DPI your image currently is.

What happens if my image doesn’t hit the minimum DPI requirement? If your image doesn’t hit the minimum DPI requirement, we prevent you from continuing to Step 2 in the Composer. There are 2 things you can do:

  • You can size your image down until it hits the right DPI threshold
  • You can upload a higher resolution image

Are full color designs eligible for Goal of One? For US campaigns, any high quality PNG upload will now be eligible for Goal of One regardless of colors in the design! This means that any image that meets the minimum 120 DPI at the scale of print will now be eligible for Goal of One and you no longer need to have exclusively vector graphics. This goes for EU campaigns as well, just make sure to use PNG design files with a minimum 300 DPI.

More about Vector Art

 Vector art is created using vector illustration software programs such as Inkscape, DrawIt or Adobe Illustrator. These programs use mathematical equations and geometric primitives (points, lines, and shapes) to create designs that can be scaled to fit a printing screen for example, and won’t lose their quality or resolution as the image is expanded.

This is an example of how raster artwork vs vector artwork appears when it is enlarged or resized for printing

This is an example of how raster artwork vs vector artwork appears when it is enlarged or resized for printing

Examples of raster graphics are photographs and designs made through programs like Adobe Photoshop, GIMP and Corel Photo-Paint. While these designs can appear to have a high resolution, for teeshirt printing purposes you will need to use vector graphics.

Things to remember when using Vector Graphics

  • If you usually purchase tee designs from a designer make sure that he or she gives you the design file in the .eps vector file format
  • Design files should not be larger than 10 MB
  • To maximize profit per item limit design to 1 to 3 colors
  • Make sure your designs are made using a vector editing program, like CorelDRAW or Adobe Illustrator.

DON'T FORGET!

If you have vector graphics you can update any campaign to have a Goal of One; just contact campaigns@teespring.com and be sure to include the campaign URL and vector artwork file in your message. 

 

How to Convert JPG and PNG Files to EPS for Goal of 1

Video 1: Using Vector Magic

The first design tutorial includes a step-by-step guide on how to convert any JPG and PNG image into a vector EPS image by using an online software called Vector Magic. Vector Magic is a program that is both easy to learn and quick to convert images and can be tried out completely free for two vectorizations.

Video 2: Using Inkscape

In this tutorial, you will learn the quick and easy process to take the SVG saved from Vector Magic and remove the background color in Inkscape (a free vector program). This tutorial also shows how to save the image from Inkscape as an EPS and then upload to Teespring so the campaign can have a goal of one.

 

Goal of 3 and Beyond: Do I need to use Vector Graphics?

In order to launch campaigns with a goal of 3 or higher you do not need to use vector graphics...however it is always recommended if possible. Ideally non-vector designs should be at least 3000x3000 pixels and feature a resolution of 300 DPI. You are able to launch campaigns using other types of image files like PNGs and JPGs; make sure that your design features a transparent background.

Example of a PNG file with transparent background

Example of a PNG file with transparent background

Example of how PNG file with transparent background will appear in the composer

Example of how PNG file with transparent background will appear in the composer

Getting Inspired

You made it! Awesome. At this point, you may still be feeling a little overwhelmed, but don’t worry too much. Let the information you’ve read digest a bit and then take a crack at a new design. Remember that the key to creating an awesome design is understanding the audience that ultimately will wear it. So let’s start there.

Tips on getting inspired:

  • Think about your audience and what they want.

  • Decide whether you want to create a shirt with text, graphics, or both.

  • Take time to creatively brainstorm using the different techniques above.

  • Need inspiration? Check out the inspiration gallery below!

  • Stuck? Something feels off about your design? Check our our Universal Principles of Design Chapter.

  • Need a walkthrough example using all the techniques? Check out our Walkthrough Chapter.

  • Want to hire a professional designer? We have resources.

Now that's it! Get going! You got this!

Remember, if you need some help, don’t hesitate to reach out at support@teespring.com. We’re in the business of your success, so we’re always here to help.

Inspiration

Harrington.jpg

Universal Principles of Design

Hey. Something feels off? Scroll through these basic principles of design to help gauge where your image may feel off. It can also be very helpful to experiment with different design principles and see how that affects your design and what it transmits.

balance

A sense of equilibrium.

proportion

The consideration of parts in relation to the whole.

contrast

Variety of color and texture that allows the viewer to differentiate elements.

Economy

Simplicity. Stripping the design to only what’s necessary for clearest communication.

Direction

The way the design guides you through viewing itself.

Emphasis

Design elements can be arranged to highlight the important pieces.

principles_emphasis.png

space

The elements of the design are imparted with the above qualities based on how they are situated in space, how much room they have, and how they are placed in relation to each other.

Please keep in mind while designing: Teespring’s designer only allows a maximum of 10 colors on a white shirt, and 8 on a colored shirt, due to the limitations of screen printing. Photographs can contain thousands of colors, even when they look grey or monotone the gradients and shading can cause them to contain many many tones.

Walkthrough Design Examples

Creating a design using Teespring's designer

Let’s say that you’re making a simple design to raise money to help protect Manatees. You plan to donate all of the proceeds to the Save the Manatee Club. Because you aren’t affiliated with the organization directly you cannot use any of their branding or logo without their permission. That’s okay, you can still help generate awareness for their cause just with text.

Pick a shirt color and style
Light blue on a Hanes Tagless Tee is nice and alludes to the sea which is fitting for a Manatee
themed design.

 
Add your text and pick a complimentary text color
Write a simple statement on your shirt that relays your message, in the case of this example,
“Save the Manatee” Pick a darker blue from the designer. Now the shirt “pops” a bit. Great!

 
Pick one of Teespring’s fonts
Permanent Marker is a bold, handwritten font that speaks to the grassroots nature of this
cause. Add a slight rotation for some more visual interest and drama.

 
upload-artwork.png
Now, you’re ready to launch!
As one last tweak, you could rotate your text slightly to add more visual interest. Additionally,
you could look for an image to spice things up a bit.

 
Go to freepik.com and find a matching graphic
Search for “Manatee” and chose the graphic you like best. You have a few options for how
you can download it. You can use a PNG in the Teespring designer and the background will
be transparent, so it won’t interfere with the shirt.

 
Upload your artwork
You can now upload your Manatee PNG directly onto your Teespring shirt in the designer. If you want to change the Manatee’s color, you’ll need more sophisticated software like Photoshop, Illustrator or Inkscape. It’s not too difficult, but for now, stick with a black graphic.

 
 
Your shirt is finished!
You may want to rearrange your text to make room for your graphic but otherwise go ahead
and launch it! If you want to add colors to your Manatee (and maybe a font you can’t find in
the designer), see the next section.

Creating a design using illustrator

You like the font that you found in Teespring’s designer, but you think you can find a more “oceanic” feeling one. You also like your Manatee graphic, but you decide you want it and the text to be yellow.

With a few simple steps you can make the image you want in Illustrator.

Find an appealing font
Find free fonts on Dafont.com, Google Fonts or on one of the many other font websites. On
Dafont.com for example, browse or search by keyword and find a font that appeals to you.
In this case, you choose a font called Pacifico.

 
Download and install your selected font
You can open the downloaded file and install the font by using Fontbook on a Mac. On a PC, open Fonts by clicking the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Appearance and Personalization, and then clicking Fonts. Click File, and then click Install New Font.

Compose the type and artwork to create your design
Type “Save the Manatee” in Illustrator, and pick a color that you like. You can return to Freepik and retrieve the SVG of the Manatee. Then open it in Illustrator and paste it into your document. Apply the same blue to the Manatee by using the Eyedropper tool and picking up the color on the text.

 
Create outlines and save your graphic as an EPS file
Before you make this into a shirt, you need to outline it so the text becomes an object. In Illustrator’s top bar you hit SELECT > ALL. Then choose TYPE > CREATE OUTLINES. If you save the outlined version as a transparent EPS it’ll be all t-shirt ready!

 
Upload your artwork to Teespring’s designer and start selling!
Compared to the beginner version of our shirt, we had a lot more control over the creation of the elements of this shirt, such as the font and color when we manipulated the image in Illustrator.

Creating an Advanced Design

With vector graphic skills, you can take your shirt to the next level. You can pick up design knowledge from a variety of sources online. Try Tuts+ or Lynda.com for some tutorials on Illustrator, Photoshop and basic design principles.

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Design Templates

Looking for a design framework? Click here to download our gallery of templates, customizable in Photoshop and Illustrator!

Hiring a Professional Designer

General information

If you’re new to design, sometimes it’s easier to hand your design idea over to a professional designer. To ensure that the design you pay for is the one you imagined, we recommend that you come into the agreement with a clear and specific idea for your design. Prior to your first meeting, take a moment to jot down:

  •  The idea for your shirt. Be as specific as possible, and feel free to bring a rough sketch. (Stick figure models are okay!)

  • The style you’re aiming for. Feel free to find photos and images of ideas you like, so that you can give specific advice to your designer. (“I want something like this!”)

  • The colors you want included

  • Any type fonts you like

  • The type of t-shirt you’d like it printed on (light, dark, white, grey)

The more details you can provide your designer, the more more he or she will appreciate it and be able to deliver you the best possible final product!

Recommendations

Although Teespring doesn’t officially partner with any freelancer sites, we’ve heard good things about the following companies. Each gives you access to designers with a broad range of experience. At each site, you can post a description of your project and your budget, and available designers will reply back to you. 

When working with freelance designers, you’ll want to ask for a vector file “.eps cs5 format,” with a clear background. Once you have the design you can upload it directly on our website.

  • Freelancer.com - A website that aggregates people who are specialists in their field (such as graphic designers!) looking for additional work.  You choose the hourly rate you’re willing to pay.  

  • Craigslist - You can post your design concept and the rate you’re willing to pay to craigslist under the “Art/Media/Design” gigs.  

  • Fiverr – A website where you can find people willing to create designs starting at $5!

  • ODesk – A website to hire freelancers. You can either pay someone a flat fee or an hourly rate to create your design.

  • Behance - A website that lets you hire creative freelancers.  Click “Post A Job” to get started. Though more expensive than the other options, the site also yields substantially more design submissions to choose from.

As you decide who to hire, keep in mind whether a designer’s past work is a good fit for your needs, and how quickly he or she responds to your messages. Communication is key to getting a great, final product! 

Resources

Inspiration

Creating a Design

Learning design