Category Archives: design resources

Behind the Scenes of a Tee Design


@DieselLaws pointed out his behind the scenes mini-tut about how he created his Run That Baseline Hot t-shirt.

This isn’t a full-on step by step tutorial, more of an overview, but it’s always interesting to me to get a glimpse into how other t-shirt designs do their thang. The most interesting part, and something I learned early on, is the impact some black outlines can have on a design. Takes it from a 5 to a 10 in about as many minutes.

Check the whole thing here.


Color Resources for Tee Designers

You’ve been working on a design in your spare time for 5 days straight… and almost everything is perfect. Everything except the colors. You have 4 different variations laid out in illustrator and keep flipping back between them. You’ve already switched the shirt colors half a dozen times, changed your bright red to something a little darker, and completely nixed the navy blue.

But it’s still not right.

pantonephoto attribute iboy_daniel

As designers, we’ve all been there. Choosing the right palette is sometimes the hardest part of the process. And when you have to throw printing considerations into the mix too (will this need an underbase? do I need to use halftones here?) it gets even more fun.

Over the years, we’ve rounded up an arsenal of color tools on the web that have helped us get better and smarter at picking color combinations for our projects. We’re going to share them here today, and hope they help you, too.



This is our top site when it comes to browsing and discovering new color combos. This is a social site, so hundreds of new colors, palettes, and patterns are added over time by users. The built in rating system lets you easily see the most popular and sorting features allow you to discover new submissions.

Color Hunter


The concept is pretty simple: find an image you like, upload it (or enter the URL), and the site will spit back a palette of the colors in the picture. There’s a ton of different sites out there that do the same thing, but the idea is a great way to get inspiration from what’s around you.

ColorZilla for Firefox


Targeted towards web and graphic designers, I think this is a killer tool for anyone who works with colors. ColorZilla is a Firefox plug-in which allows you to color pick from any web page (including graphics) and find out it’s RGB and hex values.

This is GREAT when you find a fantastic image on the web and want to easily capture the colors from it. You can also bookmark and archive your favorites.

PANTONE Formula Guide


If you’re involved in designing tees for screen printing (as opposed to digital or vinyl), then you already probably know that PANTONE is the grand-daddy of color in print. (Never heard of them? It’s time to get educated!)

When you send a spot color design off for printing, these are the colors that your printers will be looking to match to. Be a superhero and ensure that colors come out exactly how you want by specifying all your colors from the Pantone Coated/Uncoated palettes.

Pick up a color guide to make sure that colors on screen match what you’ll actually be getting. They’re $299 from the source itself, but you can find older ones for less on EBay.

Spyder Color Management from Datacolor


How images look on screen vary wildly from monitor to monitor. Factors like monitor manufacturer, model, user settings and even ambient/overhead lighting all influence color display. So it’s all fine and dandy if your artwork looks great on your monitor, but what if your monitor isn’t displaying colors how they really look?

Color management software + hardware (software-only solutions are entirely worthless) does much to solve the problem. Simple walk-through software combined with hardware that can sense (and adjust for) changing light conditions will improve the accuracy of your on-screen colors in just a few minutes.

There’s a tons of different packages out there at different price points, but we use and recommend Spyder.

Got any awesome color resources you use when designing? Share them below in the comments!


How to Create Exploded Isometrics

Want to create your own exploded [insert object here] shirt like the iphone tee we covered a little while ago?

Well now here’s your chance. The folks over at vectortuts have a great write up of how to create your own isometric art using just illustrator and a whole lot of grids. The author walks you through step by step creation using one of ikea’s popular lounge chairs:


Read the whole article HERE.


316 Textures


316 Graphics has released two new texture packs targeted directly towards t-shirt designers.

The textures, high resolution tiffs, are converted to black and white so whether you’re using Illustrator or Photoshop (or that funny editor out of Canada – yes Corel, I mean you), all you have to do is set the fill.

Wear and Tear Volume 1

Paint Volume 1

Each texture pack is just $15 bucks and includes 15 textures. And as if you needed any more incentive to buy: There’s also a special promotion going on from now until 1/30/09.

With every purchase you are entered to win your choice of a iPod shuffle or a $50 gift certificate! Plus a portion of each purchase goes to charity.


Free Vector Pack

UPDATED 4/28/09:

Mr Vector is FINALLY live! In addition to the freebie vector pack here, check out the official site where our first 10 high quality packs are available for just $9.99 each.

The holidays are upon us and we have just the thing for that hard to buy for Tee Designer/Enthusiast on your shopping list:

A vector pack of useful graphical morsels. It just warms the cockles of my heart thinking about it.

But what’s a good vector pack without a few additional goodies?

You get a shnazzy Mr. Vector logo with every download. (No sharp edges for your little ones to hurt themselves on, we promise.) More than that, you get to hear from Mr. Vector himself, the defender of Apparelville.

But the cheesiness doesn’t stop there folks, because this plug isn’t done yet.

You also get an overly large name for this great Vector Pack. We are proud to present (deep breath)… Super Ultra Freebie Vector Pack Deluxe, Volume I.

Oh, I know what you are thinking, “How could I afford all this awesomeness?” Well fret no longer. Due to the charitable giving of the PCT for Hope foundation, you can get all of this great stuff absolutely free. Yep, take a minute to let that soak in. FREEEEEEEEE!

Preview the Pack:

How can you get started? Well, first you will need to download this vector pack of awesomeness (too bad we already named it or that would have been a great name) and then in the spirit of giving, we hope that you will give us some feedback so we can make more of these packs and so that we can make them better and better.

Listen to Mr. Vector Audio Goodness:

(Which we recorded just for this!)


The SUFVPDV1 (Nice Acronym huh?) consists of mostly random vector images rolled into a happy little package which is in .eps format for all your importing needs.

What are you waiting for? Click the link and get free stuff!


(Did you appreciate this FREEBIE from PCT? If so, please float us!)


How to Make Your T-Shirt Shop Stand Out and Sell More

As web designers and t-shirt addicts we’ve learned a few things about what goes into making a t-shirt shop a killer success. So we put together this article on the details that a lot of people overlook when designing their stores. We hope you find it useful.


1. Use clear, simple navigation.

Why? The goal of a store is to SELL STUFF. That’s it. By removing clutter from your navigation and keeping it simple, you avoid confusion and funnel users quickly to the key areas of your store.


These stores have clear, creative, and to-the-point navigation:

Go Ape Shirts


the Tee Party

2. Use your main page to promote best sellers, specials and products you want to highlight.

Why? Your home page is the best advertising tool you’ve got. It’s the page that visitors (usually) see first. Don’t waste that valuable real estate with boring text welcoming users to your site, or news about your company.

If you have a sale, put it front and center. Find out what products are selling best and create a section to highlight those. If a particular design isn’t selling well, see if some front page visibility can help it do better.

You can include the news and welcome text, just remember it’s not the most important thing.

3. Cross promote products by including links to similar items on product detail pages.

Why? It’s the same idea as putting the Hershey’s syrup at the end cap in the ice cream isle. By suggesting similar or complementary items to users you give them a nudge in the direction of buying something else they might not have seen or thought of.


1. Use photographs of your product instead of graphic mock-ups whenever possible.

Why? People like seeing exactly what they’re going to buy. When you’re ordering something online, you can’t touch or feel the product, so it’s important to give people the next best thing: actual up-close photos. Plus, because screen doesn’t translate perfectly to garment, you don’t get a true picture of how a design looks until you see it on the shirt.

2. If you have printed tags, custom sew-ons, or branding prints in locations other than the main print, show photos of those too.

Why? These are often the details that make a shirt extra special and unique. Showing them off adds value to your product!

3. Show large images of your product.

Why? There’s nothing more frustrating than looking at a design and not being able to see the details of the artwork.

Some sellers, artists especially, are concerned that showing large versions of a design will be an open invitation to theft.

But your know what? Get over it.

You’ll be doing a disservice to both your customers and your bottom line if you give into this fear. Worry about any theft when and IF it occurs; chances are actually relatively slim that someone will put in the necessary work to rip off your design.


Check out these guys for some great examples of good product photos:

Wire & Twine
Large preview image of the shirt on a model, and tons of extra super-large pictures showing all the great details of the print.

Chop Shop
Preview images are displayed in a slide show and include detailed shots of both the actual garment, and the design. Click “see larger image” and you get whisked down to a nice full size graphic of the print.

Wonder how many and what type of images are best for your store? You’ll be safe with the following combination:

  • A preview image (for product listing pages and features on the home page)
  • A medium-sized photograph of each printed location (for bonus points, offer a pop-up zoomed version of each)
  • A large graphic of each print (front, back, sleeve, etc so people can actually see the detail in the print)

If you have them, model shots are also a fantastic way to showcase your shirts because it allows people to see how they actually fit.

Oh, and accepting photos of customers wearing your shirts is a great way to encourage user interaction.


1. Tell people what brand of shirt you’re printing on.

Why? Every brand fits a little bit differently, and you’d be surprised how many people who buy t-shirts know which brands fit them best and have developed a preference. In addition, lots of folks know that an American Apparel t-shirt is going to cost more than one by Fruit of the Loom; use this to help justify higher prices for your goods if you’re using premium brands.

2. Include size charts for all your garments.

Why? This goes back to the same idea that it’s really hard to buy clothes that fit correctly online. Having size charts lets people better judge whether a particular size will fit them. This is good for them because they get a t-shirt that fits the first time around and good for you because you have less returns.

3. Is your garment 100% organic? Made in the USA? Pre-shrunk? Washed by the hands of 1000 angels before being printed? Tell your customers about it!

Why? Anything that’s unique about your garment choice is another aspect that adds value to your products.


Check out these guys for some great examples of good garment info:


The big daddy of t-shirt sites offers so many different brands that they have a page crammed with information and size charts for them all. This link is on every product page.

The link for the size charts is intelligently placed right above the drop down box for size. Clicking launches the chart over the existing content.


1. Offer returns (or exchanges), promote the fact that you do, and provide detailed terms.

Why? It’s just good business and it makes people feel more more confident ordering products from your store. Think of it like this: who would you rather order from? A store that offered returns or exchanges if something didn’t fit, or one that said “Sorry, tough luck?” Be the type of store you’d want to buy from.

2. Have a detailed FAQ and keep it up-to-date.

Why? The longer you’re in business, the more you’ll find that many of your support emails have the same questions again… and again… and again. Save yourself some time and preempt these emails by creating a FAQ for your site to address common questions.


1. Have an “About Us” page and talk about your company. Be funny, be serious, just don’t be boring.

Why? People like stories. By telling a story about your company – how you got started, what your mission is, who does the artwork – you build interest, legitimacy and a connection to your customers.

That connection, by the way, is one of the reasons that indie design is so successful: people like buying things from real people instead of faceless corporations.


Check out these well-written About Us pages:

Completely absurd, but makes you read to the end.

The Ampersand Shop
Written with a designer’s flair and a bit of humor added in for good measure, you learn about both the shop and the folks behind it.

Assault Shirts
A mini history lesson of the company and tons of pics of the people behind lends tons of color to this otherwise black and white site.

2. Start a mailing list and include options to register on your site and as part of the check out process.

Why? Mailing lists are a great way to generate repeat customers. How many times have you ordered something from an online store, only to forget the name of the store after a few weeks?

Use your mailing list to periodically remind customers about new products, special deals, and coupons for your store. This significantly increases your chances of creating repeat buyers.

We recommend icontact to manage your mailing list because it’s easy to use, inexpensive (10 bucks a month), and because we’ve used it too.

Got any other tips that have been useful to you? Share em below!


GoMedia Arsenal Releases New Tee Templates

Go Media consistently provides some of the best stock art resources specifically for t-shirt designers.

Just recently, they introduced a package of blank GUY t-shirts for creating the type of stunning winning mock-ups you see popular artists using when showcasing their designs.

Now, they’ve introduced a version of the templates for the GIRLS:

Once you pick up a set, you should also check out their excellent tutorial on how to create photo-realistic t-shirt mockups.


Gradients and Halftones in Screen Printing

There’s some good conversation on Blake’s post about how to take your t-shirt artwork from good to great.

Jake asked: “What is the best way to blend colors using half-tone patterns that will translate well to screen-printing? Any common mistakes or things designers should be aware of?”

Well Jake, here’s the (really long) answer to that.

Let’s start with a brief explanation of what exactly halftones are:

Basically, halftones are regular patterns of tiny shapes (dots, ellipses, squares are common) that taper out to create the appearance of a color fading (or graduating) to white or another color at the edges.


Take a gradient (like the above left) and render it as a halftone pattern, zoom in a bunch, and it would look something like the above right.

When a screen printer outputs a graphic that contains gradients onto films (which are used to burn screens – which is what the ink goes in), what they’re really outputting are these halftones. If you look closely at a screen printed tee that has gradients, you can actually make out these patterns:


But seen from a distance, it makes a perfect blend. You can see it best on shirts that only have a few colors and are especially ones printed on white:


Printers can adjust the angle, frequency and shape of these dots to increase or decrease the dot size of the halftones. Larger dots = more space in between them, more visible gradient appearance; Smaller dots = less space between them, tighter, smoother gradient appearance.

A lot of this is technical stuff that you never need to worry about as a designer (your screen printing will do all the work with setting up the correct halftones to make your gradients print well) but you can make their life easier by prepping your artwork correctly and understanding a little bit about the process.

Here’s some things you should know about printing gradients:

  • Understand Mesh Size
    The screens used for printing come in different mesh sizes ranging anywhere from 40 to 230. The lower the mesh size, the larger the holes in the screen and the more ink is pushed through to the shirt.Gradients require the opposite end of the spectrum: high meshes that don’t let a lot of ink through (otherwise the little dots all blur together and look like a blob). Not all screen printers have these higher mesh screens required to do gradients, which is why many of them don’t.
  • Be aware of the trade-offs of mixing large solid areas and gradients in the same color
    If you have a color in your design that covers a large of area andhas gradients, the printer is suddenly faced a dilemma. Do they chose the high mesh screen that will print the gradient without blurring (but lay down less ink in the places the color has large coverage)? Or do they chose a lower mesh that will give good coverage to the large areas but potentially blur the halftones.Generally, there’s a decent in-between option, but most printers will opt to preserve the halftones. So you may notice some lighter/sketchy coverage on the large solids.
  • Halftones and Underbases don’t mix well
    An underbase is used when printing on dark shirts to provide, you guessed it, a base for the design to keep the colors from getting absorbed into the fibers of the shirt, and preserve vibrancy. It’s usually a white or light gray, and underlays the entire design (or most of it, depending on the color of the shirt and colors of ink being used). Because you’re covering such a wide area with ink, underbases are generally on a lower mesh screen, which almost never agrees well with gradients… which brings me to our next item:
  • Sometimes your solids and gradients can (and should) be printed separately This generally adds to the cost of printing your design (because most printers charge per screen), but it can be a good solution if you have issues with coverage, or a design that’s going to have a white underbase and gradients that fade from color to the shirt.The solids are outputted on one screen with a lower mesh, and the gradients are printed with the required higher mesh.

And here’s some things you should do with your artwork to make outputting your gradients easier:

  • If you’re working in a vector program, make sure all your colors (including gradients) are in PANTONE colors.
    This includes using a PANTONE white for gradients that go from a color to white. When prepping your artwork, the printer needs to convert all RGB/CYMK colors to PANTONE for output, and they’ll hate you less if they don’t need to go through and replace colors in the 200 objects of your design that have gradients.
  • Don’t flatten your image if you’re designing in Photoshop or another bitmap editor
    This is good advice for any design regardless of whether it includes gradients or not, but it’s significantly easier to split apart the colors of a gradient when they haven’t been combined together.
  • And finally… don’t try and use gradients on highly detailed, small areas of your design
    Remember the dots from the up close picture of a halftone? These dots can only go so small, and in smaller areas of your design it can be hard to concentrate enough of them to visually see any time of transition.