tshirt art
September 15, 2006 4:01 PM   Subscribe

What makes a good tshirt design? What to avoid?
posted by b33j to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you printing them yourself or having them professionally printed? Are you planning to submit it to Threadless/etc? There's limitations, as far as the size and amount of colors that can be used, but it depends on what you're going to go with it.
I, personally, really hate the witty joke-on-a-shirt shirts, but they are obviously popular don't take that too seriously. If you choke a smurf, what color does it turn? I put the fun in funeral.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:10 PM on September 15, 2006

An odd question. Not sure what you're driving at.

Look around the web, search for tshirts or tee shirts. There's a huge amount of them out there now. One popular trend I've noticed is having a design printed off center, or on the side, or flowing all around the shirt. even up on one shoulder. Not my cup of tea, but it is popular these days.

Lots of retro stuff out there too. I think the kitschy retro stuff is really played out. I prefer something pretty tame myself... I'm boring I guess.

I think if you're designing a shirt, think about the customer who wants to buy it. Take that into consideration more than anything.

If you're designing one for a giveaway, like for a walkathon or something, err on the side of restraint. A more low-key design is likely to be appreciated by more people over something garish.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:19 PM on September 15, 2006

From a practical standpoint, avoid too many colors. Screen printers (I don't know about online shops) charge per-color.

Also, don't make your design the whole length of the shirt. Try to keep it on the top half. Unless you're totally skinny, your belly distorts/hides the design, which only draws attention to your belly.
posted by mkultra at 4:36 PM on September 15, 2006

If your design has elements that are different colors that must be aligned precisely, that can be difficult to screen.

Also, designs with lots of distinct colors are a pain, since you need to do each color separately.

But almost anything is possible, given enough money and/or time.
posted by smackfu at 4:38 PM on September 15, 2006

Yes, I've looked. And the question was deliberately broad.

What are the characteristics of good t-shirt design? Is it minimalist, with a reduced colour palette? Is it elaborate? Are there printing considerations?

My design is for a distance education university assignment. The work we have done to date has not address tshirt design at all, but palettes, line, shape, texture, colour, dynamics, visual hierarchy, emphasis and scale, etc.

I was wondering if there was something special about tshirt design that I should know before I start this.

No, I don't want you to do my homework. I want to do my homework, and I want to do it the very best I can.
posted by b33j at 4:45 PM on September 15, 2006

sorry if that sounded snarky. was a response to first two posts.
posted by b33j at 4:47 PM on September 15, 2006

I believe very large prints are more masculine, and have a great visual impact. I own several and am always getting complemented on them. Especially this one and this one.
posted by JackarypQQ at 4:59 PM on September 15, 2006

The more limited the palette, the easier to make it striking and good-looking instead of muddy.

If there are words, make them big enough to read (both in terms of character size and line weight of the font).

Look around on Threadless and Cafepress. Especially good would be sites where you can see the shirts on an actual human body. Notice what you like and don't like. Which designs stand out for you? Which ones are too busy to be memorable? Which ones succeed in conveying their message; which fail?

Remember that older people will have different tastes in t-shirts than university students, so if you shirt is for something like the Support The Symphony Fun Run, it should trend more toward what the older folks will like. If it's for Magic Mama's Hot Surf Wax, the opposite.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:34 PM on September 15, 2006

(i am an older person AND a university student)
posted by b33j at 5:50 PM on September 15, 2006

I would say simple, bold, and if possible, clever. T-shirts aren't exactly the sort of thing people puzzle over--they glance at them and say "oh, that's funny" or "what does that mean?" You want to shoot for the former of those.
posted by tellumo at 6:01 PM on September 15, 2006

It depends on your goal.

If you're running a business, then a good design is one that sells shirts.

If you're trying to get a message across, then a good design is one that best makes the point.

etc. In any case, I'd say the determination of whether it's a good design is measured by the effect on the intended audience, not by some analysis of the design alone.
posted by winston at 6:31 PM on September 15, 2006

I would suggest looking through the t-shirt design submissions on the Threadless web site. People vote on the designs and, at the bottom of the pages, comment on them. Most of the comments are just basic 'I like it' or "I don't like it' but often you'll find reasons given which, when referencing the design being critiqued, may help you with some ideas as to what works and what doesn't.
posted by General Zubon at 6:32 PM on September 15, 2006

I tend to avoid shirts with difficult-to-read text across the breastline. I've put up with enough leering mouthbreathers staring at my breasts that I would rather not have the feeling that I'm encouraging the little bastards, y'know?

Speaking of breasts, if you're designing a shirt that women might wear, don't forget to consider the variety of women's anatomy. A design that places something big and round right over a boob always looks very stupid, imho, when worn by a busty woman. (It might in theory be possible to make a nonstupidlooking design like that, but I haven't seen it yet.) That off-center trend can backfire pretty badly that way.
posted by sculpin at 7:54 PM on September 15, 2006

It has to be simple. Stand away from it. Does it look good? Does it have good form? Does it have impact when viewed from 10 yards away? Many's the time I've wanted a t-shirt that an organisation has to offer but it's been too detailed, too much information.

EG: NASA had a great, plain "NASA meatball" logo t-shirt (blue circle, red "jet-vee", white "orbit"). I had one, wore it out, tried to get another. Now they've got all sorts of writing round the outside, extra detailing, lots of fiddly bits. Fergit it!
posted by TiredStarling at 11:31 PM on September 15, 2006

Thanks very much. A lot of great answers which have really changed the direction I'm going in.
posted by b33j at 2:30 AM on September 16, 2006

Abstract, no words. Less is frequently more.
Threadless has a lot of good stuff and a lot of stuff that is way too busy. This is too busy, this is not.
Avoid large solid designs that will require inking over a full area. They don't wear well, they don't breathe, they look really bad on women especially.
posted by ch1x0r at 12:28 PM on September 16, 2006

« Older 2007 Jetta?   |   The door won't close. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.