Over the past 15 years, I have designed hundreds of apparel graphics and printed thousands of garments. There are so many things to think of when coming up with a great design for apparel printing. Believe me, printing on apparel is in no way the same as printing on paper through an awesome digital printer! As a matter of fact, the design process can vary depending on the color and type of fabric that you are planning on printing on. 

As an artist who sells my designs on apparel, I have learned (sometimes the hard way) a few techniques, that I now use as a guide when getting ready to design a great product.  Below are a few tips you can use to help you design your next favorite shirt!

The first thing that I think of before getting into designing for apparel is my budget. Is this a product that I need to have multiple screens made up to print? The more colors in a design, means more work to produce, and that always means more money for production. Can I get away with a simple one or two color design?

Next thing to consider is the garment type and color. Am I designing for a dark or black garment? Usually that means there will have to be an under base print, unless I am planning on a distressed look, or printing with discharge inks. This is when I consider the "Hand" or feel of the design once it is printed onto the garment. Am I printing on lightweight or heavy weight garments? 100% cotton or a blended garment.  If I am designing for a lightweight garment, I want to stay away from a thick multi-layered print. If I want to use discharge inks, then the garment must be 80 to 100% cotton. 

Sizing for design is important too, when designing for apparel, I always ask my clients or myself, will I be printing women or kids apparel? If so, I want to size my artwork for those styles too. You don't want a design to look great on a men's large, but not fit on a women's or kid's shirt. 

Using the garment color within a design is another great way of getting a little more out of my designs. If you know the color garments you are going to print on before you get down to designing, you can use those garment colors within your design! 

Design Sample No.1

Design Sample No.1

The above design was made with the idea of printing onto a heavy weight 100% cotton garment, with water based inks. I used the color of the garment for the image elements to save money on the project, rather than printing another color as the elements over the yellow. 

Design Sample No.2

Design Sample No.2

The design Sample No.2 was made with the idea of printing on a blended lightweight garment with a polyester friendly ink. With the design so big, I did not want a heavy "Hand" to counter balance the lightweight feeling of the garment. 

I hope this article helps all you designers out there! I will continue to add tips and tricks to this article as I think of them, so maybe bookmark this page for future reference. 

So what are you waiting for? Get going on that awesome new apparel design!