How to Design a Shirt in Photoshop

Posted on September 9, 2023 | Updated on September 9, 2023

Being a graphic designer means constantly experimenting with new mediums to extend your skills and draw in various clients. You can interest more people in your skills if you can provide them with the services they need. That can include crafting posters, creating print ads or learning how to design a shirt in Photoshop. However, you don’t need to consider yourself a graphic designer to start making eye-catching designs.

If you’re a small business owner, you know how tight budgets can get. You might not have enough wiggle room to hire a graphic designer. Thus, it’s essential to learn how to create shirts on your own so your employees have clean uniforms and customers are more interested in buying merch. Here’s a tutorial on creating excellent t-shirt designs in Photoshop, plus why small companies should do so and how to make things work on a budget.

How to Design a Shirt in Photoshop Step by Step

Whether you’re a graphic designer or a small business owner, learning to make t-shirt designs in Photoshop can be beneficial. Here’s how to do so in four easy steps.

1. Create the Design

Naturally, this step will take the longest, as this is when you’ll actually make the design. If you don’t feel comfortable starting completely from scratch, Adobe Express does offer some free templates for inspiration.

If those don’t work out, you can follow various Photoshop tutorials out there to perfect the design. Use the Shapes tools to create adorable clip art without having to go looking for it. You could also insert your own photos and take the background out if you want something more detailed. Of course, there are many other things you can do, such as adjusting the hue of the image or fading it so any words you add stand out more.

When you’re ready to add text, feel free to do it in any color or font you like. Just make sure the writing is legible — customers and employees might giggle at the shirts if they can’t read them or they look like they say something inappropriate. If there aren’t any fonts you like already in Photoshop, you can add more to achieve your desired look. Use the Warp Text tool to add a funky element to your design.

Most importantly, when you learn how to design a shirt in Photoshop, ensure the whole design is cohesive. Can someone read the shirt from a distance? Do all the colors work together? Are the images small, which can make them unclear in printing? Will the hues you chose work with various shirt colors?

2. Add the Design to a Shirt

Once the design is ready, you can add a photo of a t-shirt in the background of the project. You can either use a picture of a model already wearing a shirt or use an image of a shirt lying flat. Using a flat shirt will make making the mock-up easier, but using a person can show you how the design will look once someone’s wearing it.

If your design isn’t transparent and is showing a white background on top of the shirt, don’t fret. Adjusting this is simply a matter of knowing where to look. Go down to the layer window — where you can see all the layers of your Photoshop project — and change the blending mode to Multiply. You can do this by opening the drop-down menu to the left of Opacity.

Now that the background is gone, you can see what the design will actually look like on a t-shirt. Try moving it around and adjusting the size to get the look just right.

While creating the shirt, it could be helpful to poll several designs amongst shoppers and workers to learn which ones they like best. You’ll get a better idea of what people like and discover if something about one of them needs adjusting.

3. Clean Up the Design

After you’ve gotten a bit of feedback, touch up the design to reflect those notes. If people found the font hard to read, make it larger or pick a new one. You can also touch up the image or logo if the polls show it was difficult to make out. Refining it with the Eraser tool or changing the color could make it more visually appealing.

4. Get Quotes from a Printer

Once you’ve finalized the design, it’s time to start looking into printers who can make the shirts for you. Is there anyone who can do it for you locally? Going that route helps minimize your carbon footprint and helps fund other small businesses.

Unfortunately, shopping local can be a bit more expensive. If you cannot fit their quotes into your budget, there are plenty of online retailers that can print shirts for you en masse.

Why Should Small Businesses Make T-Shirts?

If you want your employees to wear a uniform, providing staff with t-shirts can make the workplace feel much more cohesive. Everyone will have a shirt with the same design, which helps staff identify each other and customers spot employees. Having a uniform can improve worker productivity by narrowing down their wardrobe choices, helping them shift into “work mode” appearing as more of a unit. More productivity means more money for your business.

In addition to 59% of employees feeling more positively about their workplace after receiving merchandise, 25% of shoppers feel the same after getting branded items. People love unique clothing items, so t-shirts with your logo or an image relating to your company are sure to catch eyes. Make the designs different from your employee shirts so you can distinguish loyal customers and enthusiastic employees.

People wearing the shirts also provide free advertising. Friends and family who see the wearer often will likely see them wear the t-shirt a few times, prompting them to visit to see what the hype is about. A stranger might stop them to ask about your store, leading the wearer to explain just how much they love it. Typically, it will be your most frequent customers who buy your merch and their glowing word-of-mouth reviews can draw in more buyers.

Do You Need to Use Photoshop for Shirt Design?

Not necessarily. While Photoshop is an excellent tool, it’s fairly expensive for beginner graphic designers and small businesses. Those working in the industry may find the investment worth it, but if you’re only going to use the software to make the shirts, there are a few free alternatives you can utilize instead. Additionally, you could go to a shirt-designing website and make your merch there.

Learning How to Design a Shirt in Photoshop for Your Business

All in all, figuring out how to design a shirt in Photoshop isn’t too challenging. You just need to add a photo and text to a Photoshop project, see how it looks on a shirt, get feedback from your staff and shoppers, polish the design, and find out how much it’ll cost to print however many you’ll need.

While your budget is probably tight as a budding graphic designer or a small business owner, you can design a shirt on the cheap. Then, you just need to focus on printing the design on a quality product people will want to wear.

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About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at

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