5 T-Shirt Design Mistakes Only Amateurs Make

If you’re a novice T-shirt designer, you’re bound to make a mistake or two.  But they can be avoided, too. We can help.

Everyone has been a novice at one point or another – and everyone’s made mistakes that, further down the line, they look back on and cringe. T-shirt design is no different. There’s a ton that can go wrong in the design process, and a ton of mistakes you can make with the potential to outright tank an otherwise great shirt.

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Don’t worry – you don’t need to learn from those mistakes in order to avoid them. Instead, you can do a bit of homework. You can learn to recognize the pitfalls you might blunder into as an amateur, the better to skillfully avoid them. That’s where we come in.


Here are a few of the most common newbie mistakes where T-shirt designs are concerned – and how you can avoid falling prey to them.

Too Many Fonts Spoils the Message

Generally speaking, if you’re going to be using written text, you should stick to two different fonts – three at the absolute most. Any more than that, and your shirt’s going to end up being downright painful to look at. See, the thing is, you’re presumably trying to convey a message with this design. Using too many fonts distracts from that message.

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“Having a clear, formatted design is crucial and so it’s important not to use too many different fonts within a piece,” writes Craig Minchington of Creative Bloq. “You want your type to look consistent so don’t confuse the viewer by layering your page with lots of varied typefaces.As a general rule, try to stick to two different fonts and use the different font weights to differentiate and highlight areas.”

Tone-Deaf Design

If you’re a twentysomething designer, you might be tempted to throw together something that you specifically think is super cool – something you yourself would wear. And if you’re designing for people in your own demographic, that’s a great approach. If, however, you’re distinct from your market, you’re probably making something that’ll fall flat.

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“Are you designing for male or female, young or old?” asks the Creative Bloq staff. “At the end of the day you’re designing a product that you want people to wear. Like a good marketer would do, write down the exact person you want to attract to your design – who they are, what they like, what other brands they like and go from there.’

A Distinct Lack of Checklists

Especially if you’re new to the field and have enjoyed some early successes, it can be tempting to think you know everything – to believe that mistakes are something other people make. That’s a dangerous belief to hold, however, and one that lends itself all too well to a host of errors. For each project you work on, have a checklist of things you need to do, and a few extra pairs of eyes to look over your work for evidence of mistakes.

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Copycats Never Prosper

This one should go without saying, but you should never copy someone else’s design. Not only does that almost never work, it’ll also open you up to a potential lawsuit. Yet, especially for those new to the field, it can be tempting to look at the established greats and ape their work.

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Thing is, did any of those greats do that?

Trying to Say Too Much

Last but certainly not least, don’t try to say too much with your shirt. Have a core message in mind, and design it around that. Making things too busy or complex will likely see you end up with a garish shirt, one that completely misses the point of the original message.

There are other mistakes you can make as a designer, mind you – this is just a primer. The most important thing you can do is be willing to learn. At the end of the day, that’s really all you’ll need.

Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.