How To: Make a 3D T-shirt Design
Don't be a square. Create a 3Delightful shirt for any occasion!

Design Master

Quick Tip: Need beautiful shirts printed ASAP? Check out our reviews of the best T-shirt printing services. Prices start at just $8.65/shirt!

With the right tools and a little creativity, making a cool and stylish 3D T-shirt is not hard at all! In this tutorial, we will show you how to make your own 3D T-shirt in Illustrator CC – from creating the artwork to putting it on your apparel.

Don’t have Illustrator? The great design tools from these online shirt printers will work just as well!

Launch Illustrator and create a new blank document. Make it 8.5 inches by 11 inches and vertical-oriented. Choose a high resolution of 300 pixels per inch for printing.

Step 1 - Creating a new document.

Using the pen tool, start drawing the shape of your artwork. If you have a reference image, you can place it into the new document, lock its layer and lower it’s opacity a little. Then you can trace over it with the pen.

You also can use shape tools, such as ellipses and polygons, to build your artwork. With selection, group and direct selection tools, along with the various features anchor point tools, you can manipulate the shape to fine-tune its contour.

TIP: Choose a striking color for your art. Nothing ruins a good design like a flat, boring color scheme.

Step 2 - Shaping the artwork.

Once your basic art is complete, you can turn the 2D shape into 3D with the 3D extrude effect (Effect>3D>Extrude & Bevel).

In the Extrude panel, change the various settings for the perspective and degree of extrusion you prefer.

TIP: Looking at the preview will help you see how your changes affect your art before applying the effect.

Step 3 - From 2D to 3D.

You can now add a drop shadow effect to make the art even more tridimensional.

With the ellipse tool, draw a squashed ellipse under the art. Choose a black to white radial gradient for fill, adjusting the shape of the gradient with the gradient tool and lowering its opacity to make it subtler.

TIP: Be creative with your extra effects, but always keep the end goal in mind. Don’t add anything that will ruin the 3D look!

Step 4 - Additional effects.

You have two options to transfer your art to the T-shirt. If you have a good inkjet printer, you can do it at home with transfer inkjet paper – check your printer’s model for compatibility.

If you don’t or if you have to print a number of T-shirts, it will be more convenient to let a professional T-shirt printer do it.

TIP: There are several high-quality online printers to choose from, like UberPrints and Design a Shirt.

Step 5 - Bringing the art to the T-Shirt.

In a project like this, the most important thing is your idea. You can start your project creating a flat artwork, and then add that extra dimension to make it really pop!

The 3D effect works both with simple conceptual designs or for displaying logos and other specific graphics on your apparel.

Edited in Illustrator CC.

About the Author
Kristi Maddox is a master of graphic design, on-site design and ordering, and is the go-to for template and design tool usage.
Kristi and the team order print jobs from every major printer to test quality, value, customer service, and more. See their reviews here:


Be the first to leave a comment!