Shirt Design Process

As professional graphic designers we take our customer’s shirt design projects seriously and our shirt designs have turned into marketing campaigns, used on other promotional products, and become the new logo for businesses and organizations. Each customer design project is unique so we work with our customers to understand their creative project and determine the exact details that make sense for their project. While all creative projects are different we follow the same general guidelines.

Customer Communication
We begin each shirt design by gaining a thorough knowledge of our customer and their project guidelines, timelines, and budgets. We ask questions we listen, and we gather applicable logos, text, icons, and fonts. In order to create quality visual communication, we benefit from detailed verbal and written communication. We request that we are working directly with the ultimate decision maker(s) – whether that is the director of marketing or the owner’s cat. We don’t rely on sales people to sell our designs to our customers and we don’t want any middle cat to misinterpret our visual communication or the goal’s of the decision makers. Like the telephone game, the more people in the middle, and the less likely the truth will be told. Once we understand the truth, we write up a project overview so we all know where we are starting from and the creative direction we are headed. Send us an email to begin communication on your next creative project.

We do our best work, build the best relationships, and create the happiest customers when we start with detailed communication. Included in that conversation is establishing your creative budget, or providing a custom quote for our creative process to produce your custom shirt design. We begin designing your shirts once we have an approved design commitment.

Brain Storms
Our ideation process turn brains to hurricanes! The conceptual designs can start in many ways, sometimes we come out of customer conversations with a specific creative direction to start our creative process and sometimes we leave the initial conversation to do research and develop ideas, marketing slogans and sketches and strategies. We know that good ideas transcend to good design and together they drive your marketing, your customers, and your sales. We always want our customers to start the creative process with good ideas even for something that can seem as simple as apparel graphics. In the end, who knows where that t-shirt design may end up!

Custom Illustration
Custom illustration can help separate your apparel graphics from the competition just like it separates us from the screen printing shop down the street and the average t-shirt designer. Illustration can come in all mediums, it all depends on the needs of the individual project. We may begin on the computer or we may begin with the micron illustration pens, pencils, gouache, spray paint, pen and ink, camera, or mixed media materials. While there’s a lot we can do in graphic design programs we also take pride in the abilities of our hands, eyes and minds working together to form a series of lines, dots, scratches, scribbles and drips that create a cohesive, and completely original illustration. Of course all illustrations are then scanned into our professional design programs, cleaned up, re-sized, colored, tweaked, textured, where text is added and designs are finalized. Custom illustration takes a good amount of skill, time, and customer commitment. Most custom illustration projects will require an art budget starting around $250.

Sometimes custom illustration is a necessary part of achieving our customer’s project goals. If illustration is included in your design quote, we’ll begin your illustration by creating sketches. Once we have approved sketches, we move forward to complete illustrations using the styles and media appropriate to achieve the project style that we’ve previously discussed.

Digital Design
Depending on the complexity of your shirt design, sometimes we start with a pen but often we can skip the illustration process and go straight to the professional design programs. If we start with digital design we are probably working in a vector style with shirt design elements, text and copy as discussed in our initial project overview. If you have provided us with elements we utilize those but we can also incorporate elements from our own image library and choose from thousands of fonts. While digital design can be quick, quality shirt design can also be complex. Email us to discuss your project and determine the best shirt design process for your project.

If your project began with a hand-drawn illustration, your design project will move to the computer where we spend editing, finishing and designing your illustration in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. We use Photoshop to tweak and clean illustrations and turn photos into digital screen print illustrations. We typically use Illustrator to design, choose colors, add text, add arrange elements and add textures. We work in Illustrator to finalize our customer’s designs We know that vector designs are the cream of the crop so your artwork almost always ends up in vector format. Vector graphics are ideal for most types of graphics because they can be re-sized infinitely without loosing quality. We’ve created designs for t-shirts that our customers later use on billboards, signage, or on promotional products.

Customer Approval
After we’ve created designs that we’re excited about, we provide our customers with design options and or mockups for you to choose from. Generally our customers are pretty excited to see their art options and because they’ve been a part of the initial creative process we generally find that we after the first set of proofs we are close to completion of the creative project. At this point customers may choose one or more designs to move forward with or request specific revisions. We continue with revisions to finalize your design, while working within your creative budget. With a completed design we email over a color proof for your final approval. Design details, print locations, shirt colors and ink colors, and other print details should be confirmed and approved before we move to printing. Once we have your order approved, payment is received and we’ve finalized all garment styles, colors, sizes and quantities, we create your artwork color separations, order your garments and move your order to our print schedule.

Our print schedule runs pretty smoothly, typically shirts are printed in 10-15 business days after all details are approved. If we have any questions along the way or any issues arise (like a shirt is out of stock) we email or call you with our suggestion(s) on how to best move forward. If you want any more information on our shirt design process, email or call us to discuss your project.