Creative T-Shirt Design Ideas: How to Come Up with T-Shirt Designs in 5 Minutes

Creative T-Shirt Design Ideas: How to Come up With New Ideas in 5 Minutes
Many people struggle with new creative t-shirt design ideas. But don’t worry. I’ll show you how to come up with t-shirt designs in only 5 minutes.
Many people struggle with new creative t-shirt design ideas. But don’t worry. I’ll show you how to come up with t-shirt designs in only 5 minutes.
The Heidorn Report: Merch Research & Strategy Guide

1. Coming up With Creative T-Shirt Design Ideas

All of us in the t-shirt business would want to create a t-shirt idea that would go viral, right?

Not only will it be good for our bank accounts, it’s so darn good for marketing our business, too.

But viral t shirt marketing is mostly a hit or miss thing which even the best t shirt design research can’t guarantee.

During the conceptualization of your creative t-shirt design ideas, you could be tremendously confident that it would be the talk of the town.

Especially since you’ve researched enough t shirt design ideas and you just know the taste of your market by heart.

However, there are lots of instances that your market would just ignore the creative t-shirt design ideas you expected to go viral.

You really can’t tell for sure that something would sell like crazy until you’re already selling like crazy.

That’s what’s so hard about viral t shirt marketing: you really never can tell for sure.

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will”

George Bernard Shaw

So how to come up with t shirt designs that won’t get lost in the masses and stand out from the crowd?

There are also many t-shirt brands that resort to vulgar artwork just to get attention.

While most of them succeed at it, having that strategy for your tshirt ideas is not sustainable in the long haul.

Anything that gets instant attention fades out really fast.

That just shows that we should not aim for a few good shirts to get celebrity-level attention but for all our shirts to become marketable.

Another difference between aiming for viral and aiming for something marketable is that if you’re aiming for your t-shirt designs to go viral, you want to impress a large audience.

If you’re aiming to make shirts that are marketable, you are trying to make your t-shirt design well-loved by a certain group of people (your niche).

The latter is always better as it’s based on t-shirt market research.

That’s because impressing a certain group of people would likely create loyal fans that will look forward to your next t-shirts.

There’s a saying, “A friend to all is a friend to none.”

Turns out that that quote does not only apply to friendship, it applies to a lot of things including the t-shirt design.

Enough already with my rambling and let’s get to the point.

Here are some ways you can come up with marketable t-shirt ideas in 5 minutes:

The Heidorn Report: Merch Research & Strategy Guide

Whether you make political shirts or not, the news is a good source of inspiration when it comes to finding t shirt design ideas which would make good marketable t-shirts.

Whatever is trending in your market has a big chance of making a good impression when printed on a tee.

Make sure you’re politically correct, though, or your t-shirt business will have a bad rap.

Follow the news and media in order to pick up on trends
Coming up with creative t-shirt design ideas isn’t difficult if you stay on top of the news and follow trends as part of your t shirt research.

If you make shirts for subjects that are too sensitive (war, earthquake in Nepal, Baltimore shootings), make sure it’s something for a cause or something inspiring or else your intentions would be questioned.

Don’t just read newspapers, watch TV, read what’s trending on Twitter and other social media.

Make sure your market is very hyped on a certain topic so that there’s a bigger chance that they’ll purchase your tees.

You’ll have to figure that out as part of your t shirt design research.

3. Know What Your Target Market’s Up To

What are they doing? Where are they going?

You have to be very obsessive in following your market that you’d be better than a detective trying to solve the world’s most notorious criminal case.

Get to know where they hang out, what their expressions are, how they feel, what makes them tick, what makes them shout for joy.

If, for example, you’ve decided to make t-shirts for dog owners, then make sure you’re updated on the upcoming events and activities these dog owners are doing.

“In today’s complex and fast-moving world, what we need even more than foresight or hindsight is insight.”


Is there a dog show coming up?

Is there a campaign against a certain company that maltreats animals?

Are they preparing for International Dog Day or some other occasion?

Then you might want to make shirts for these specific events.

You do not just make shirts for such events like any regular t-shirt company, you use everything else you know about them in creating such tees.

Either way, you shouldn’t have too much trouble coming up with creative t-shirt design ideas.

The Heidorn Report: Merch Research & Strategy Guide

4. Research on What Works and Then Steal It

This is like cheating, but not really.

It’s just a design hack.

Look for the t-shirts that your famous competitors are selling (the ones that sell really well) and use these shirts as inspiration for your t-shirt ideas.

You know what they say that you have to steal like an artist.

That means you do not replicate the t-shirt designs but instead be inspired by them.

However, it also means you need to make your designs much more beautiful than the original.

Research t-shirt ideas that work and then "steal" them
If you’re having trouble coming up with creative t-shirt design ideas then you should conduct thorough t shirt design research on what works and then “steal” the essence of those ideas.

You’ll have to put your own vision in the artwork and create something totally new and fresh out of these inspirations.

Start Googling your competitor now and brainstorm until you finally find those creative t-shirt design ideas.

Just make sure that when you show your competitor’s design and your own version that people won’t say that you’re copying.

If people can tell right away that you’re copying, then you failed.

5. Do Mash Ups

A mash-up is something created by combining elements from two or more sources.

Think of two things that your niche wants to be combined.

If we use the example of the t-shirt line that targets dog lovers, think of top three things that dog lovers are also interested in and get creative.

“You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.”

Austin Kleon

For example, if you find out that there are many dog lovers who are obsessed with Star Wars, you can come up with a design of Star Wars with dog characters.

This is a lame example but I do hope I get my point across.

Just think of possible combinations that could potentially interest your market.

The Heidorn Report: Merch Research & Strategy Guide

6. Wit Will Save the Shirt

All of us want to be funny in our own way.

After all, studies show that girls prefer guys who are funny over guys who are good-looking.

If you really want your shirts to be marketable, one of the tried and tested ways to do it is by finding what makes your market laugh.

If a shirt is funny, it creates engagement which could make the shirt-wearer feel good about himself.

This also has a higher rate of being spread online and by word-of-mouth.

If you get the right humor and the quality of your shirt is good, it would be too hard for a shirt lover to resist.

Again, like everything else on this list, make sure that you get the right kind of funny that your target market likes.

A really nice source with absolutely fabulous and witty t-shirt designs which we like to cite is Glennz Tees.

7. Quotes or Text That Tickle Your Market’s Fancy

Texts, phrases and quotes will never go out of style.

Research what texts your market would love to see on a tee and your shirts would surely be selling like hot cakes.

You might think this is an easy task but finding the right text (with the right word count, content, potential for grabbing attention) and figuring out the right font, spacing, colors, and accents is not as easy as 1,2,3.

But once you get it right and identify those truly creative t-shirt design ideas, you’re guaranteed to sell.

Also make sure that you’re still unique.

Quotes and text are always helpful in coming up with new t shirt designs ideas
Most t shirt market research ends up with you finding various popular t-shirt ideas which are based on quotes and text.

Do your research and find out if your text/quotes have already been printed before and by what companies?

If they one who printed them are quite famous, it might not be a good idea to push through with the printing.

You might encounter serious copyright issues and it’s just not good to sell something that’s already known elsewhere.

8. Offer Customized T-Shirt Designs

No matter how focused you are with your niche, you can never be as focused unless you make custom printed tees.

So if your goal is to become marketable, then offering your market an opportunity to become unique by having their own personalized t-shirt design is one sure way of achieving it.

Your customers will basically come up with creative t-shirt design ideas all by themselves.

The personalization of your tees is as simple as having their names printed on them to having the actual design they want.

If you’re selling tees for dog lovers, you can offer personalization by printing the dog’s tees in the shirt, for example.

People love personalized tees because it makes them feel special and they can give it to their friends and family to make them feel special, too.

Just make sure your designs are not as tacky as most custom tees.

“If everybody is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in the opposite direction.”

Sam Walton

Make your tees look handsome no matter what!

You can come up with all the creative t-shirt design ideas in the world, but there is no sure way of telling whether your t-shirt designs would be marketable or not.

However, if you follow any of these tips, your t-shirt designs will have a much bigger chance of attracting your target market.

When you do these to all of your tees, you will surely master the art of creating shirts that your market will love.

And as time goes by, who knows, you might make one or two t-shirt designs that would go viral.

Obviously, none of these tips can be done in five minutes.

Please don’t feel like I betrayed you!

Every designer should know that making good t-shirt designs take hours to brainstorm but if you follow these tricks, it would take you much faster than the average joe.

If you enjoyed this article, then you should definitely also check out my post on how to create awesome t-shirt designs.

The Heidorn Report: Merch Research & Strategy Guide
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