How to design a t-shirt with proportions in mind

workerbee

A common workflow for t-shirt design is to open a new Illustrator or Photoshop file, create the artwork, place it in a t-shirt mockup file and hope for the best. Unfortunately this workflow can come at great consequence. T-shirts demand artwork in specific proportions and, if those proportions aren’t considered during the creative process, the final design may not look good on a t-shirt at all.

In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through one way to keep t-shirt proportions in sight during the creative process.

1. Layer setup

Thsirt 1
Thsirt 2

The basic idea is to bring the t-shirt mockup “into the picture” sooner than later and use it as a reference layer in your design program of choice. In this tutorial I’ll be using a free GraphicBurger t-shirt mock-up file.

After opening up the mock-up file in Photoshop, I’ve hidden the sample graphic layer, grouped the entire mockup into a group called “Tshirt Reference”, and created a new group on top called “Artwork”.

The idea is that the “Tshirt Reference” group underneath can be hidden or revealed at anytime to get a better idea of the proportions of the design.

2. Proportion practice

Thsirt 3

The above example shows three public domain designs placed on the mockup, to help you understand t-shirt proportion.

In the first example, featuring a Lynd Ward illustration for Donald Culross Peattie’s 1937 A Book of Hours, it could be argued that the design is too tall and vertically extended for a t-shirt. It leaves some uncomfortable negative space on the sides.

In the second example, featuring a design from Frank G. Carpenter’s Geographical Reader North America, the design could be said to be too horizontal – it has to be overly shrunken to fit the t-shirt.

In the final example, featuring a design from publisher T. Nelson and Sons, the proportions seem to be just right – the shape is almost square, but still vertically-oriented, leaving comfortable negative spaces surrounding the design.

3. Use what you’ve learned

Thsirt 5

By taking what we’ve learned above, I can now create my own basic example. Keep in mind that this type was set directly on top of the “Tshirt Reference” layer. Had it been set separately and then applied, chances are it would not sit as comfortably on the t-shirt.

Conclusion

While the above example shows a rough shape proportional to a t-shirt, it is important to remember that there are no rules. Rely on your own design instinct to discover an infinite amount of proportional possibilities.

The important takeaway is that t-shirt mockups can be used in a way that easily helps to inform design decision and liberates our own creative instinct.

Questions or comments? Post below!

Related articles

Photoshop vs. Illustrator vs. InDesign

Photoshop vs. Illustrator vs. InDesign

From photo editing to typography tools to sound design, the industry-standard Adobe Creative Suite gives creators of all kinds everything they need to create professional work fast—for literally any type of design project. For now, let’s get graphic. Whether it’s creating a logo, designing social media graphics or putting together a brochure, Adobe has created…

Get a grip on cycling jersey design

Get a grip on cycling jersey design

May is national bike month—the perfect time to dust off our frames and settle into our spring saddles. While this time of year speaks most strongly to cycling enthusiasts, it also has a significant affect on the world of graphic design. This is the time of year that cycling companies release their new fashion lines. As…

Current Design Contests

Designers, check out these contests so you can start building your career.
0%