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Lesson 4: How to Start an Online T-shirt Store


Now that you’ve started your store and laid the groundwork for your business, it’s time to stock it with great-looking t-shirts.

Below you’ll find links to free image editing software, beautiful fonts, and extremely affordable images you can use to create unique, t-shirt worthy designs—without any previous design experience.

If you’d rather buy your designs from established artists, you’ll also learn where to buy or commission finished, print-ready designs for as little as $5.

But first…

What Makes a T-shirt “Good”?

Unfortunately, there’s no universal standard for a “good” t-shirt design. But as a rule of thumb, big fonts and simple graphics work best since they can be seen from far away.

To get a sense of what types of t-shirt designs are purchased most often, check out the “best-selling” categories of popular t-shirt marketplaces:

  • Zazzle
  • Busted Tees
  • Threadless
  • Bewakoof

After getting a sense of what makes an attractive t-shirt design, it’s time to break out your sketchbook.

Creating Your Own Designs

First, install either GIMP,, or Sumopaint—three free alternatives to Adobe Photoshop. You can find dozens of great, introductory walkthroughs for these programs on YouTube.

To help you get started, here are a few places to find free (or very affordable) fonts, icons, and graphics:

  • 1001fonts – free selection of fonts that can be used commercially
  • Noun Project – icons and graphics that can be used commercially
  • Graphic River – art and intricate graphics
  • Creative Market – fonts, t-shirt templates, and graphics

Getting design resources at a discount

We’ve partnered with design resource providers to give course attendees exclusive discounts on fonts, graphics, and t-shirt designs.

It’s all included in our bonus pack, which you can access by claiming your extended 30-day free trial of Shopify using this unique page and selecting a plan.

Once you’ve selected a plan,submit your store’s URL using this form (you don’t need to remove your storefront password or open your store to the public). Delivery usually takes between 24-48 hours.

From here, your job will be to put these great fonts and images together to create attractive t-shirt designs for your niche. Everything from in-jokes to funny puns are fair game, so get creative!

Before you get started, watchPrintful’s video guide on how to make design files suitable for printing.

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Buying Your Designs

Not everyone is artistically inclined—and that’s okay! If you’re not creating your own designs, here are some of the best places to buy them:

Option 1: Marketplaces ($)

This is by far the cheapest route, and a great way to get your store up and running quickly.

Keep in mind that many t-shirt design sellers on marketplaces often use templates which they customize for each sale, so it’s possible that other products may eventually wind up resembling yours.

Get started on these t-shirt graphic marketplaces:

Fiverr ($5 and up): Fiverr is a great place to get custom-designed t-shirts, especially if you’re on a budget. There are dozens of talented, highly-rated designers available to bring your slogans or design ideas to life. If necessary, pay a little extra for print-ready, high-resolution images.

T-Shirt Factory ($10 and up): A great resource for attractive, high-resolution imagery and t-shirt designs. Since everything here is pre-made, you might be able to find designs related to your niche which you can use to quickly expand your product catalogue.

Designious ($15 and up): Many of these t-shirt designs can be tweaked and customized in the design software you installed earlier, so try adapting some existing designs with new text related to your niche.

Option 2: Freelance Networks ($$)

Freelancers will work with you personally to create unique designs according to your exact vision and specifications. They’re more expensive, but are often worth it. Try popular networks likeFreelancer and Upwork.

Option 3: Design Communities ($$$)

Dribbble and Behance are great designer communities with lots of unique talent. Browse around for art that catches your eye, and message designers to see if they’re interested in working with you.

Don’t forget to claim your exclusive invite to our private Facebook group for t-shirt merchants. Join now to chat about lessons, learn from other students, and stay motivated!

Action Items

Download a free design program and some resources from the websites listed above, then try to come up with a few t-shirt designs related to your niche. This is where you get to be really creative, so have fun with it!

What’s next?

In our next lesson, you’ll learn how to make your t-shirts buyable through your online store and automatically generate realistic mockups.

If you need guidance and support from us, fill in the contact form below

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