How To: Make a T-shirt Design in Photoshop
If you want professional-grade T-shirts, you need to use a professional-grade program.

Design Master

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A T-shirt can be the most fun and relaxed part of your wardrobe. A T-shirt  also can make a statement, promote an event or be given as a present.

Rather than paying someone to design a T-shirt for you or limiting yourself to the ready-to-print designs, this tutorial will teach you how to design a T-shirt on your own in Adobe Photoshop CS5.


Start your design by sketching or making notes. Think about the end goal and what resources or images you will use.

TIP: Look for inspiration online. I found these on BustedTees.com. You can find some really interesting ideas in terms of color combinations and use of text.

How to Make a T-shirt Design in Photoshop 1


Do some research, online and through friends, to find a quality T-shirt and T-shirt printer.

When choosing the type of T-shirt, think about who will wear it — men, women or children? In what kind of climate will the shirt be worn? How many T-shirts do you plan to make? Keep these things in mind when you're picking your printer, too.

TIP: To help picture the final design, use a picture of the actual T-shirt to lay out your design.


If you are not using your own photo or design, make sure you select a public domain image, which is free, or you can purchase a stock photo or design.

TIP: The image must be 300 DPI for high-quality printing.

How to Make a T-Shirt Design in Photoshop 2


Open Photoshop and, depending on the size you want your design to be, make the appropriate selections.

How to Make a T-shirt Design in Photoshop 3


Go to File>Place. When the window appears, find the photo or design file on your computer and click place. The image will then appear. Click on the move tool at the top of the left toolbar. A window will ask if you want to place the image. Click place.

How to Make a T-shirt Design in Photoshop 4


Double-click the image layer on the layer palette to pull up the Layer Style menu. Here you can add shadows, glows, gradients or borders (stroke).

TIP: You can also select image and adjustments to play with the color of the photo.

How to Make a T-shirt Design in Photoshop 5


Add any message or writing you would like on the shirt by selecting the text tool on the left toolbar and clicking anywhere on the canvas.

With the text highlighted, you can use the menu at the top to change the font, font size or font color. Keep in mind the color of the text should stand out against the background it is placed on and the font should be easy to read.


For T-shirt designs, printers usually request that you create outlines on any text you use. To do that, select the text layer in the layer menu and go down to Type and select Convert to Shape.

TIP: Once you convert the text to a shape, you can no longer edit the text, so double-check your spelling and grammar, making sure the text says exactly what you want it to say.

How to Make a T-shirt Design in Photoshop 6


Before ordering a large quantity, have a sample or two made to be sure neither you nor the printer need to make any kind of adjustments.

If you want a smaller quantity, you may choose to print the design and iron on to your shirt. Larger projects can be sent to a T-shirt printer. Generally, the more shirts you order, the smaller the unit price.

TIP: If you choose to have a shirt screen printed, I recommend you use professional software and ask the printer how to prepare the file.


Designing your own T-shirt can be a fun project. It is a great skill to learn for celebrations, gifts or your business. For the best results, be sure you check and double-check your work, use high-resolution, non-licensed images and high-quality T-shirts from a reliable T-shirt printer.

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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:

10 Comments

  1. tried to do this, couldnt get past step 6. what the heck is a layer

    • Kristi Maddox (Printaholic.com)

      Good questions, Adam. Layers are what the different elements of your design lay upon. In other words, they are like transparent sheets that have a particular element on it, allowing the designer to stack multiple elements together and edit individual elements all at the same time. Adobe has a great tutorial on layers if you need more information.

      Hope that helps! Good luck!

  2. is i better to try and create a shirt yourself or just hand it off to a pro? I am not that great at photoshop

    • Kristi Maddox (Printaholic.com)

      h8_fog, I am confident that anyone, no matter what level of design experience they have, can create a great t-shirt design. However if you do not want to try it yourself, or do not have the resources, many of the online t-shirt printers offer great online design tool and templates to help. Check out our t-shirt printer rankings to find the service that will work best for you: http://www.printaholic.com/templates/t-shirts/

  3. Hi thank you for this tip. It is really helpful. I am editing my own design for my t shirt. But when I am trying to convert to shape the text. It doesnt work. It always says like this, “Could not complete the convert to shape command because the type layer uses a faux bold style” Please help me to fix this problem. Thank you.

  4. Kristi Maddox (Printaholic.com)

    Danielle,

    So glad we could help! For you specific issue, I believe if you go to Window > Character and deselect the “faux bold” option in the Character Panel. After that is deselected you should be able to convert the text.

    Hope that help! :)

  5. How do you know the pictures is 300dpi if your getting the image from google images?

  6. Kristi Maddox (Printaholic.com)

    Great question, Leon!

    There are a couple ways you can find out depending on what operating system you are using.
    On PC:
    - Right click on file and click Properties
    - In the Properties window switch over to the Summary tab
    - Under Summary tab click on “Advanced” button
    - There’s a list of information about the file including DPI

    On Mac:
    - Open image in Preview
    - On the Menu Bar > Tools > Show Inspector
    - Shows a list of information about the file including DPI

    Hope that helps!

  7. Hi I want to design my own tshirts using Photoshop. How would I then print the designs I make on Photoshop on to blank tshirts? I want the print quality to be good so they don’t fade or lose colour quickly after a wash. How would I do this? And what printer would I need?

    Also how do you judge the size (step 4) to fit on to a t shirt?

    Thankyou

  8. Kristi Maddox (Printaholic.com)

    Al,

    Great question. My suggestion would be to check out some of the t-shirt templates that some online printers offer on their site. For the most part, these are easy to use and do not need an extra program like Photoshop. Plus, you can quickly order and get sizing information all in the same spot.

    Hope that helps!

    Kristi

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