How to Create Custom T-Shirt Designs

So you’ve come up with your brand idea, created an account with Kin Custom, and set up your shop. Now what? If your next question is “how do I create designs?” this next blog post is for you. We’ll go over how you can create your own designs, where you can find ready-made designs to sell, and, as a bonus, where to go to create unique custom logos.

Jump To…

  1. How to Create Your Own Designs
  2. Where to Get Ready-Made Designs
  3. Hire a Freelance Designer

How to Create Your Own Designs

Part of the joy of working with a custom print-on-demand company is that you get to bring the design ideas, and we bring them to life on a t-shirt. If you want to create your own artwork, we recommend using a design software, like Photoshop.

However, if you need a simpler, less expensive design option, there are several great free Photoshop alternatives. Here are some of our own favorite design tools:

1. Adobe Photoshop and Creative Cloud

Compatibility: Windows and Mac (works best for Mac)

We’ve gotta start with Photoshop because what would a guide on design tools be without it? Adobe Photoshop is the leading photo and raster graphics editing software worldwide. It has almost any capability a graphic designer would ever need, including digital painting, graphic design, web design, video editing, 2D and 3D image editing, and more.

Creative Cloud gives you access to 20+ desktop and mobile apps for design, photography, web, video, UX, 3D and AR, and social media planning, including InDesign and Illustrator.

For the advanced designer, Photoshop is the ultimate tool. For the beginner, the Photoshop interface may seem a little overwhelming. Luckily, if you still want to create your own designs, but aren’t ready to make a significant investment, there are other free, user-friendly options.

photoshop interface with white square pattern and black boo

2. Photopea

Compatibility: Windows, Web Browser

The Photoshop of web-based applications, Photopea comes with many of the same advanced pro design tools as Photoshop–and it’s completely free to use. You can also upgrade to premium for an additional $9 a month to use Photopea ad-free and with more undos (60, as opposed to 30 in the free plan).

It can handle most standard file types, including Sketch, GIMP, and Photoshop PSD files.

photopea interface with yellow plaid pattern square

3. GIMP

Compatibility: Windows, macOS, Linux

Gimp is a popular, free open-source alternative, compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. Gimp contains a full range of tools in a user-friendly design interface, including image retouching, color correction, and cloning. It’s also compatible with nearly all file formats.

4. Pixlr

Compatibility: iOS, Android, web browser

If you’re looking for a simple photo editor with a sophisticated interface, Pixlr is the way to go. Pixlr is a free app available for iOS, Android, and as a web app that features over 600 effects, overlays, and burdens.

little girl dressed in black shirt, red cape and red bow for halloween

Where to Get Ready-Made Designs

If you don’t have a design background, there are thousands of online resources to help you get started, but what if you just want to sell designs without creating? You’ve got options, too, and here they are:

1. Upload Default Patterns in Kin Custom’s Creator Studio

Our Creator Studio design tool contains several pre-designed default patterns you can easily upload to any product. Simply log in to Creator Studio, select “Create,” and then our default patterns will appear!

You can also use our Text Editor to add a very simple graphic or logo.

tshirt design tool with the word pose

2. Sell Pre-Designed Merch through Kin Custom Premier

With Kin Custom Premier, you have the option to sell pre-designed products at wholesale price. Choose from over 3,000 shoes, t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts, activewear, swimwear, accessories, and more to add to your Kin Custom shop or major sales platform (i.e. Shopify, Amazon, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Bigcartel, Weebly, and Squarespace).

product page with models

Note: Any products sold through Kin Custom Premier must be sold under the Kin Custom brand logo. No white label options available.

3. Get Royalty-Free or Paid Ready-Made Patterns

Can’t find a design you like at Kin Custom? There are plenty of royalty-free images, patterns, and designs that you can either sell as is or edit to your liking on third-party sites.

This is a particularly useful option if you a) don’t have a design background, b) want to use ready-made patterns, and c) want the option to use your own brand logo, instead of Kin Custom’s.

Keep in mind that, if you opt for a paid pattern, you may need to buy a commercial license to start selling it on your apparel. Here are a few paid options:

  • Creative Market: the premier platform for ready-made, community-generated designs, graphics, and other creative assets. Since it’s paid, you’ll need to figure out which commercial license you’ll need to start selling on products.
  • Etsy: if you already sell on Etsy, you can also use it to find more patterns, designs, and graphics. Be sure to look at the terms and conditions of buying Etsy patterns for commercial use. Some sellers may allow you to use their designs for personal use, but not for mass production or print-on-demand.
  • Shutterstock: Shutterstock has tons of royalty-free photos and vector images. You can upgrade to their Enhanced License to begin selling commercially.

Hire a Freelance Designer

You may decide that you want to outsource your t-shirt design. Sites like Fiverr and Upwork are great places to find qualified freelance designers.

Conclusion

There are lots of options for creating the perfect design, and we hope that this guide gives you a sense of how and where to get started. If you have any more questions, feel free to submit a contact us form. We’ll get back to you within 24 hours or by the next business day.

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