5 Tips to Help You Design the Best Custom “Quote” T-shirt

Quote t-shirts or shirts with sayings on them are fairly common requests for custom shirt printers. Such shirts can be used for myriad purposes, from expression of humor to declaration of a political opinion. Whatever your purpose in designing a custom quote t-shirt, though, there are some fundamentals to keep in mind if you want to come up with a good design. We’ll be going over them here.

  1. Don’t overload the design.

It depends on your purpose, of course, but generally, most people having a custom quote shirt done want the focus to be on the quote itself and the message being conveyed. While accompanying graphics and surrounding embellishment can definitely add to that, too much of those can also detract from it.

There is a fine line between ornamenting your letters and swamping them. If the design gets so busy that even you realize you take more than a second or two to find the quote, you may want to remove some of the ornamentation. Let the letters take center stage again.


  1. Try to pick an easy-to-read font.

While there is definitely something to be said for the ornate types of lettering, there is also a strong case to be made for simpler font styles.

Most quote shirts, if you notice, use plain, easy-to-read fonts, often ones in the sans serif or even all-uppercase styles. This is due to the familiarity of the eye with these letter styles—it makes them easier to read at a glance.

This does not mean you cannot choose the more highly embellished fonts, of course. You just need to take care that the words themselves do not become a struggle to make out. The ideal for most quote shirts is to have most of the words recognizable in the first few moments of viewing: you might as well render them in code if they take longer to read than that.


  1. When doing your own custom shirt design, convert your text into line art.

This is one of those practical tips that can be of great utility once you send your design to the printer.

When you send a digital shirt design to a printer, there is always a possibility that any text elements you made in it will be in fonts unavailable to him. Even if you both use Photoshop to access that digital design, for example, you cannot expect his copy of the software to have all of the fonts yours does—whether because he does not download add-on packages with new fonts, because his version of the program is from a different year, etc.

If this is so, your printer will likely render your text in one of the fonts available to him instead… and that may not be a font you like. To prevent font issues from messing up your design, convert all of your text to line art before sending it to your printer. This will turn the letters into drawings in the shape of letters, even if they look exactly the same. As drawings, they will no longer be dependent on the available font set for their shape.


  1. Contrast is good.

Much like with signages, try to pick colors that offer strong contrast (this refers to both the background or the shirt and the text or letter color). There is a reason black and white get used so often in quote shirt designs.

This hardly means you should limit yourself to neutrals, of course. You can go for bold contrasts like yellow against blue or vice versa. You can also go for multi-colored lettering.


  1. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Something people tend to assume is that a quote shirt has to have the letters printed on the front or back of the shirt as though they were on a regular book’s page. Not so! You can experiment with other placements if you like, from ones that wrap the entirety of the shirt. Other options include starting from the shoulder, wrapping around the collar, then snaking down one side of the shirt. The possibilities are endless.

That having been said, you need to make sure first that your printer can handle these sorts of unusual designs. Not all printers have the means to do all-over printing, for instance, in case that is what you require.

If your printer is unable to deliver on that score, you still have other forms of design experimentation open to you. Consider coming up with a customized t-shirt design where the quote is done in the calligraphic art style, for instance. In this case, the shape and placement of the letters relative to each other should supply their own decoration—an example would be a calligraphic rendition of Blake’s “Tyger, Tyger” written so that the letters create the outline of a tiger.


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4 responses to “5 Tips to Help You Design the Best Custom “Quote” T-shirt”

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