Top 10 Design Mistakes to Avoid When Making A Custom T-Shirt

Top 10 Print On Demand Mistakes To Avoid
To give you a boost early on and save you time going through the nuisances that come with launching a merch store, we’ve listed 10 common design mistakes when designing a custom t-shirt.
To give you a boost early on and save you time going through the nuisances that come with launching a merch store, we’ve listed 10 common design mistakes when designing a custom t-shirt.

Building your own T-shirt empire takes a lot of work.

One of the biggest setbacks of any business is making those annoying rookie mistakes that you can easily avoid, but you never really made aware of.

It’s okay to learn from your mistakes and all, but you don’t really have to. 

Woman wearing specs facepalming forehead with pink background

Designing a custom T-shirt and launching your own print-on-demand business is very straightforward, but making it profitable can be a tedious process.

The slightest mistakes can make a glaring difference in how your store and designs can perform.

To give you a boost early on and save you time going through the nuisances that come with launching a merch store, we’ve listed 10 common design mistakes when designing a custom t-shirt. 

Cheap fabric

Being economic and frugal is good but being cheap is always bad.

When you are starting out, you should always focus on quality if you are to penetrate the market.

Although sub-par products do sell every once in a while, when building a business, it is important to sell something that would get customers to purchase the product again.

Overly complex design

The goal is to have a great shirt and not just have a good design.

Designs with too many details on them will most likely become unfathomable when they are scaled-down to suit a t-shirt, a hoodie, or a mug.

Those little accents will not be visible to the naked eye, they’ll just add noise to the design’s overall texture.

If you really want to push a complex design, make one sample before printing it out in bulk.

Check whether or not it gives out the same impact as you’ve imagined or not.

Copyrighted designs

Some designs are copyrighted and owned by other artists or companies or have trademarks.

You should be careful when using designs you just find on the internet, they have to be free for use.

copyright stamp on a brown folder with paper clips

You can also choose to design your own version of that particular subject.

For example, there’s a popular meme you want to make into a shirt, make a version of that meme with a clearly different style.

Although memes aren’t always copyrighted, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Pro tip!

You can get license-free designs from Threadbasket to easily steer clear of this mistake.

You can try it out for free here:

General sizing

If you buy a “one size fits all” product on Amazon, you’ll see most of the negative reviews are usually due to its size.

This isn’t the case for all “one size fits all” but a good portion of products that use this method do suffer the same problem.

Even offering a standard S, M, L, and XL would do. You can always adjust the sizes later on based on demand.

Too Many Colors

More colors mean more complicated printing.

Complicated printing often means more costs.

This still depends on the method of printing you are using.

If you are press printing your shirts, you might be able to use multiple colors.

However, if you are using the silkscreen process, you might want to limit your designs to 2 or 3 colors.

Take note, more colors could be more expensive for the silkscreen process.

Imbalance contrast

Sizing, placement, and other factors are important when making a t-shirt design.

While a design might look good on paper, it doesn’t always mean it looks good on a t-shirt. 

Here are things you’ll have to put in mind:

  • Sizes

Having a size too small or too big for a design could result in an awkward t-shirt.

Make sure you size your designs in proportion to the t-shirt properly.

  • Proportions

Is your text too big compared to your design? Is the capital letter too big?

Are they too long vertically?

Make sure the design is in perfect proportion before printing it on a T-shirt.

  • Placement

Are you putting the design right in the middle? Is there a design at the back? The placement of your design is also very important. Make sure it is somewhere that is noticeable, readable, and isn’t cut off.

  • Color contrasts

Some colors don’t really work well together especially if they are printed on colored t-shirts. An example of this would be having a pink and orange design on a red t-shirt.

  • Orientation

Make sure the design is printed perfectly on the t-shirt.

There are times that the designs are printed crookedly and although sometimes it isn’t noticeable, other times it results in a wasted merch.

Poor image quality

Some designers save their designs in small pixelated jpeg files, this won’t really do.

Make sure to use high quality large pixelated designs to get the best results.

The key to getting a good custom t-shirt is to have good copies of the design itself.

image of a pixelated design with different colors 2

Make sure to magnify the design to its actual size when designing it.

Do not use a ratio smaller.

You can use a ratio bigger when designing in order to get a crispier result but also do not overdo this.

Common fonts

Using a basic font might be fine in some settings but in other settings, it might come off as cheap.

Most professional designs make their own fonts and letters.

However, if you want to use a font instead of making your own, it would be better to download or purchase a more professional font online.

There are multiple fonts online that are better in quality than those you’ll find on word, paint, or whatever software you are using to make your design.

Outdated styles

Vintage is different from outdated.

The key is to make sure you already have an ideal market in mind.

Making designs without an existing market is a big gamble but sometimes, it does pay off!

There are shirts that have gone viral and have become massively successful by doing something that has never been done before.

In order to gauge whether a design is outdated or not, it is important to check out similar designs and how they are doing.


What type of method are you using?

How big is the design?

Where are you going to source out your materials?

There are a number of things to list down when it comes to cost.

Make sure you know how much you are spending before going into business.

Aside from the business itself, you should also know how much you are spending on a design. I

s a more expensive design worth it?

Will it sell more?

You can’t know what you don’t know. You can’t know about things you have yet to discover.

Jonathan Raymond

All these mistakes may seem simple but they’re usually overlooked, especially by those who are new in the merch business.

Others also don’t realize they’re committing them and are not aware of its implication because as they say, “you don’t know what you don’t know”.

Thank you for reading, and we hope you found this useful. If you have any questions or you want to follow us for more related discussions, follow us on Twitter.

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