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Why Custom T-Shirts Don’t Have to Be Square


Where custom shirts are concerned, there’s no shortage of cringe. There are plenty of folks out there who – bless their hearts – have no idea what goes into a good T-shirt design. As a result, custom shirts have gotten a bit of a bad rap.

It’s not surprising. As with any other industry, there’s no shortage of chaff to be found on the web. Thing is, you shouldn’t look at those shirts and assume they’re the norm, nor should you follow the belief that custom-printed clothing is only for brands and out-of-touch grandparents.

Fact is if you’ve got a good idea in your head and a decent notion of the person you’re designing a shirt for, it can end up looking downright incredible. That said, there are a few things you should know first. A few basic design principles you should bear in mind.

You can check out this comprehensive piece for a better overview of what you need to know, but in the meantime, we’ll offer you a TL;DR:

  • Keep your core ideas close to your chest, and don’t rush. The best things take time.
  • Figure out color coordination. Understand what colors go together, and what colors don’t. Make use of a color wheel if you need a bit of help in that regard.
  • Understand the basic elements of visual design and the “big four” design principles. These include contrast (putting distinct elements next to one another to emphasize their differences), repetition (drawing attention to visual similarities),  proximity (if distinct elements are close enough together, they’re seen as a single item), and alignment (no visual element of a design should be arbitrary).
  • Know how to make use of positive and negative space.
  • Make sure you choose a decent texture and material for your shirt.
  • Don’t go overboard. Sometimes less is more, especially where visual design is concerned.
  • Figure out your design’s visual hierarchy – where do you want people to direct their eyes first?
  • Consider invoking visual design rules like the Rule of Thirds, the Rule of odds, and the Rule of Space to add a bit of extra spice to your shirt.

Mind you, this is just a brief overview – and by now, you’ve probably worked out what we’re trying to convey here. The reason there are so many bad custom shirts online, and the reason that custom t-shirts have such a bad rap is that designing a good one is hard. It takes a lot of work, dedication, and expertise.

But in the long run, the effort is more than worth it, whether you’re making branded clothing or simply putting together a gift for a friend.


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