by A Small Print Shop

What Makes A Good Shirt Design?

Written by: ASPS Staff


Jack Jordan

Lead Designer

Think It Through!

You want to start working with the strongest, most thought-out version of your idea possible. Really visualize your design being on a shirt. Would you wear it? Try sketching it out on a piece of paper. Make a few variations. Maybe that's when you notice you want to embellish it a little or move some elements around. Think about if you're going to print it on a light-colored shirt or a dark-colored shirt and the way the design might look if the colors might have to be inverted. Look at some of your favorite shirts for inspiration. use the composition of that shirt to help as a guide to making your vision WORK. 

pictured - Rent-A-Pal

Simply Intricate

You want your design to be simple enough that the imagery conveys its message/mood/story very quickly, but interesting enough that it stands out amongst the endless options of shirts in one's closet. It's all about balance. Try cleaning up an eight-color design into a duotone or tritone design. Find a couple of complimentary typefaces to help elevate a simple text-based idea into something more. Shading techniques and texture translate into a really appealing look through the silk screen, just don't go overboard. If your composition is looking too crowded, consider breaking it up with a badge or emblem on the front left chest and show off your artwork with all the room on the back of the tee! Balance. 

pictured - Clever Luck

Know Your Market

Where are these shirts ending up? Who will be wearing them? A clothing brand might want to be a bit riskier with its design to pull off a more unique look or convey a specific style. Whereas a coffee shop might go with something more simple to represent their craft and appeal to the average customer. Design with your end consumer in mind. Every time I go to the thrift store I happen upon a full rack of giveaway tees from a charity/marathon/event slathered in sponsorship logos and 'Impact' font. THIS DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THE CASE! A giveaway shirt doesn't just have to honor the sponsorship. You can design intentionally while still appealing to a broad audience! Maybe take this moment to look at some bad tees to know what you don't like in a shirt design.

pictured - A Good Tee Design by ASPS for Shoes&Brews 

Sourcing a Quality Printer

It's worth doing right. That's something we say here at ASPS because at the end of the day, if we weren't making quality prints, then we shouldn't be printing. I know, I know, "making this all about yourselves, huh?" But it's TRUE! Being A "Small" Print Shop, we aren't just trying to pump out these massive orders so something makes it on a shirt and we get a check. We're carefully looking over every detail of your projects from the second your email comes in, to the moment when Wiley makes sure the tape on the top of the box seals up completely flat without any wrinkles or air bubbles. (He's just gotten so good at it.)  We're making sure your digital art files are set up to print as clean as possible. Todd and Hannah are making sure the inks react to the garments properly and appear solid and vibrant. Dan is inspecting that each screen is properly exposed and ready for action. Taylor P's experience and muscle memory are making sure every shirt printed is as straight and centered as possible. I've seen plenty of great designs printed poorly and when you see it, it SHOWS. So why go through all this effort to make sure your design is good if it's going to end up looking like it was scribbled with crayons? Find yourself a thoughtful quality printer and get those puppies printed up right! 

pictured - Five Iron Frenzy 

Too much to take in? Let us handle it! Ask about our Clean+Simple and Custom Design offerings! Send us an email at

Amethyst Coffee Company

Our Mutual Friend Brewing Co.