Custom screen-printing

Customize Your College Group: Tips On How to Design Your Own T-Shirt

Are you involved in a student spirit group and proud of it? Do you want to show your pride and encourage others to join?

You can talk it up all you want, but word of mouth alone just ain’t gonna cut it. You need something that will grab peoples’ attention — something that will make them want to ask about your group.

One of the best ways to do this is to design your own t-shirt. If you’re not a designer, you may now be wondering…

How Do You Design Your Own T-Shirt?

Don’t worry. You don’t need to be an art major to take on this project. It’s actually pretty simple.

We’ll break it down for you here.

1. Determine What Your Design Will Represent and Why

After all, the purpose of the design is going to determine the design. If you have a rockin’ spirit team at UC Berkeley, you’ll obviously have different needs than, say, the Biotechnology Club at UC Davis.

So write out a list of the key themes, styles, and characteristics you want your shirt to convey about your group. Think about the following questions:

  • Is our group playful or on the more serious side?
  • Are we whimsical, edgy, or conservative?
  • Do we want to convey luxurious or sensible?

Once you have your answers, allow your design to grow from them. When you put this sort of focus on your t-shirt design, it will go a long way toward delivering the purpose of your group without your even having to say a word.

And if you’re trying to promote your college group, it’s a good idea to get a logo. A logo is one of the most effective ways to make your group recognizable. And you can easily incorporate it into your t-shirt design.

Even if you aren’t promoting your group through a t-shirt and just seeking a sense of solidarity with the other members, a logo is like the visual version of a secret handshake.

2. Educate Yourself on Printing Options

Yes, there’s more than one way to print a t-shirt. We’ll take a look at the three main options.

Screen printing is probably the most well-known and has been around for a long time. With this method, your printer makes original screens of your design — one in each color. This is a reliable and affordable option for quality bulk shirts.

If you’re looking for more durability though, you may want to consider vinyl printing. With this method, ink is traded in for vinyl graphics that are applied through heat transfer. The graphics have texture and stand out.

The newest option is direct-to-garment (DTG). Also known as print-on-demand, an ink jet printer actually prints directly on the fabric. This allows for highly customizable designs with serious detail and a lot of color.

3. Know Your Budget

If you don’t have a lot of dough to work with, just know that it’s still possible to get some pretty cool t-shirts. But be aware that the more special features you want — such as embroidery — the more you can expect to pay.

You’ll also need to figure the number of t-shirts you wish to print and put into your budget. If you have a large order, you’ll probably want to stick with screen printing as vinyl and DTG can get pretty pricey. Also, keep in mind that the more colors you use, the more expensive it will be.

Speaking of colors…

4. Play with Color

Once you’ve determined your design, you’ve got your logo and you know which method you’re using, you can begin to really delve into the colors you want to use for your design.

First, you’ll need to pick a color scheme. It’s crucial to consider how certain ink colors in the design will appear against the color of a shirt. In other words, don’t forget about the basics of color contrast.

For example, if you choose a lighter-colored shirt, you’ll either want to avoid pastel colors or outline them in a darker color. Otherwise, they’ll blend right in and it will be difficult to read or see from a distance. By the same token, be careful using darker colors on dark shirts.

Remember that just because your design looks good on the computer, the shirt color can sometimes distort the actual ink color.

Once you’ve infused your design with color, you can add dimension by using a color that is the shade of the color beneath it. This will make it pop.

5. Strongly Consider Your Fonts

The fonts you choose can speak volumes about your group. So do you go serif or sans-serif?

Well, if your group leans toward a more classic feel, then choose serif or script fonts. Sans-serif fonts, on the other hand, convey something that’s more modern.

Sure, you want to choose carefully. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun with it too. If you’ve got a strong or funny message to convey, you might choose something that’s a little loopy or has some flair.

For example, a straight-laced font wouldn’t be ideal for a group like the Food Science Brewing Club at UC Davis. And while you wouldn’t necessarily have to swing completely in the other direction for a group like Aerospace SAE at UC Berkeley, you would probably want a more conservative font.

Ultimately, your group will have to decide.

6. Pick Your T-Shirt Type

It’s tough to say if there’s actually a standard T anymore. There are so many different options when it comes to t-shirt types.

Long-sleeved or short-sleeved? Crew neck or v-neck? Crop top, henley, or tank?

Take your completed design and try it out on several different styles. You might be surprised to see that certain styles will work better with your design than others. And certainly, the size of the shirt is going to affect how the design looks as well.

Once you’ve got these all laid out, round up the members of your college group and take a vote. Design your t-shirt now.

7. Get the Correct Files to the Printer

You’ve finally got the perfect design and the right shirt style. Now you just need to make sure you have the design in a vector format (such as an AI, PDF or EPS file) and the correct Pantone or CMYK color codes for the printing company so that everything turns out just as you planned.

Soon enough, you and the members of your special college group will be flaunting your swanky new T’s. Easy as that.

Ready to Get Started?

Even if you don’t have the confidence to design your own t-shirt, you can always hire a designer or get some help from an art major.

After all, you want your design to rock!

And if you already have your design in place and are ready to go, then contact us today so you can speak with someone who can help you get started on your screen printed order.