Expert reveals the 10 dos and don’ts to designing the perfect custom T-shirt

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The rules to obey when it comes to custom T-shirts.

Experts have revealed the top ‘no-no’s when it comes to custom T-shirts – including offensive language, too many colours and hard-to-read fonts. Fashion brand consultant, Clare Alexander, has shared the rules of designing your own tee, be it for a hen-do, business event or music festival.

The top 10 list of things to avoid also includes using someone else's image without permission and overcomplicating things by using too many graphics or details. Clare, who specialises in helping start-ups grow, offered her advice to businesses considering merchandise or uniforms, including making your logo colours stand out and that the brand is original.

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The insights come after a poll of 2,000 adults found 39 per cent agree someone’s choice of clothing suggests a lot about their personality. A further fifth like to express themselves through customised apparel and 28 per cent show support for small businesses via merchandise.


The perfect T-shirt

The research and advice were commissioned by Vistaprint, which offers customised clothing and accessories. Clare Alexander, who worked with the brand on creating her tips and trends, said: “Who doesn’t have a favourite T-shirt?

"Wearing artwork on clothing is an established fashion tradition, but graphic tees are perhaps the most literal form of this. Through prints, you can express yourself in visual form by representing places you have visited, favourite tunes, television shows, films, or designers.

“Most graphic tees also serve as a platform for showcasing brands, expressing loyalty for the creators and it is a unique and modern medium for creative expression and graphic tees make a stylish statement. There has never been a better time to start your own customised t-shirt brand and accessibility to resources has never been more easy - all you need is a laptop and an idea to get started.”

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The research also found consumers wouldn’t choose swear words (50 per cent), a photo of themselves (43 per cent) and pictures of strangers (42 per cent) for personalised clothing. Others wouldn’t opt for innuendos (31 per cent), phrases or slogans (27 per cent) and song lyrics (25 per cent).

T-shirts are the most popular item of personalised clothing people have owned (66 per cent), followed by hoodies or sweatshirts (46 per cent) and polo shirts (44 per cent). Current trends for tee designs were revealed as logos, both on the front (42 per cent) and back (34 per cent), spreading awareness of social or environmental causes (37 per cent) and band emblems (37 per cent).

But tie-dye (36 per cent), pockets (23 per cent) and song lyrics (20 per cent) on T-shirts are styles of the past according to those polled.

Celebrating individuality

When it comes to accessories, customised caps (37 per cent) and tote bags (30 per cent) are widely owned. Reasons for having ever owned personalised items were for events such as a hen party (50 per cent), for work (45 per cent) and to support a small business (27 per cent).

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Occasions Brits have bought or worn such items for included holidays (22 per cent), birthday parties (20 per cent) and music festivals (19 per cent). Others made the purchase simply to represent their personality (32 per cent).

 More than a third (35 per cent) are willing to spend more money on customised clothing, because it’s unique (48 per cent) and evokes memories (39 per cent). When it comes to age, the younger demographic is more accustomed to owning personalised apparel – with 76 per cent of 18 to 24 years old and 68 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds doing so.

A fifth of all respondents agreed they’re more likely to remember a business if employees wear branded apparel and if they owned a business 34 per cent would sell labelled merchandise. Of those polled via OnePoll who are employed (66 per cent), half of them agreed having a customised uniform would make it easier and quicker to get ready for work and 38 per cent would be proud to wear apparel representing their employer.

Llorenç Sola, general manager at VistaPrint promotional products, apparel and gifts business division, said: “Customers and businesses alike deserve to represent themselves in any variety of ways, from celebrating occasions, selling merch, or making staff look good and consistent.

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"Creating custom apparel, like T-shirts, feels good, looks great and gives them a chance to celebrate their individuality. When it comes to businesses buying customised items to sell it can be tricky to get it right and please all their customers, based on style, logo and colour preferences. 

“We hope the do’s and don’ts list helps both individuals and important business owners when designing their own garments – do your research into competitors before ordering and put yourself in your customer’s shoes when finalising the images and words used."

Top design do's and don’ts:


  1. Overcomplicate things: Don't overcomplicate your design with too many graphics or details. Often, the simplest designs are the most effective
  2. Use copyrighted material: Avoid legal trouble by making sure you have the right to any images you may use
  3. Use too many colours: It’s best to stick to a maximum of three colours as that way, your message won't get lost and your design won't become too distracting
  4. Be offensive: Steer clear of offensive language, graphics, or images when creating your designs. Make sure to keep things respectful and inclusive for everyone
  5. Use hard-to-read fonts: It's best to avoid using fonts that are hard to read, as this can make your design challenging to understand, even when viewed up close.


  1. Keep it simple: Sometimes the simplest of designs are the most effective ones - use clean lines and bold fonts that are easy to read and catch the eye
  2. Use bold colours: A bright and bold colour scheme can make your T-shirt design pop and grab people’s attention
  3. Choose the right style: The style of T-shirt can affect the overall look of your design so make sure to consider the fit, shape and quality before you start designing
  4. Be original: You want something unique that stands out so avoid using clip art or stock images that have been seen before, and if you're not confident in your design skills, think about outsourcing to a professional designer to help you create a killer design
  5. Stick to current trends: Think about incorporating current events, pop culture or trending topics into your design as this will make your T-shirt design more relatable
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