7 Reasons Your T-Shirt Designs Suck (And How to Fix Them)

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Miroslav Novohradsky
Founder of NechEmpire

I'm Miroslav, a passionate graphic designer, Etsy seller and AI enthusiast. At NechEmpire, I'm here to share my knowledge and skills. I want to turn...Read more

T-shirt designer!

I know you’ve been working hard and coming up with cool graphics and hilarious sayings for your t-shirt line.

You’re on all the top print-on-demand sites, hustling on social media like a madman.

But sales just ain’t happening, am I right?

You start questioning everything – your skills, your passion, whether this t-shirt thing was just a pipe dream after all.

Well, here’s the tough love truth bomb: your designs likely suck.

Ouch, I know that stings! But stick with me here…

The good news is, that having sucky designs is actually an easy fix once you understand what you’re doing wrong.

The hard part is accepting that your “brilliant” creations may not be so brilliant in the eyes of potential customers.

But I’m here to help you course correct.

In this article, I’ll break down the core design principles you need to master to start pumping out bona fide bestsellers.

Once you get these concepts, you’ll be able to critically analyze and elevate your work from dull to dollar-making dynamite!

The 3 Main Design Categories

Reasons Your T-Shirt Designs Are Bad

There are 3 main categories that t-shirt designs fall into: graphics only, text only, and that graphics + text combo.

Within each category, there are certain titanium-clad principles you need to follow for your design to be a certified hit-maker.

The goal?

To create something undeniably attractive to your target audience.

You want people to see your design and instantly think “Shut up and take my money!

So here are the 7 core principles you need to plaster all over your brain:

  1. Funny: Using humor is an easy way to trigger those impulse, emotional purchases. If your design makes someone laugh out loud, they’re 100 times more likely to bust out their credit card.
  2. Relevance: Your design has got to speak directly to that specific audience. It should make them think “Oh man, this was literally made for ME.” Dudes who love fishing ain’t gonna buy a t-shirt about knitting.
  3. Placement: Good lord, get the placement right! Use guidelines like the rule of thirds to get balanced, centered designs that fit the t-shirt canvas like a glove.
  4. Visually Pleasing: Listen, this ain’t subjective art class crap. If most people think your design is uglier than a mud fence, then it ain’t visually pleasing.
  5. Limited Fonts: One font is ideal, two absolute max if you do it skillfully. Any more than that and you’re just being a distracting amateur hour.
  6. Simplicity: Could you communicate that same core message or emotion in a simpler way?
  7. Color Harmony: Use colors strategically, not like a Color-Me-Crazy kindergarten project gone rogue. Too many clashing hues and you’ve got a serious case of visual mess on your hands.

I know what you’re thinking – “But, these principles seem so obvious!”

You’re not wrong. They are obvious.

But that’s the thing – creators get so emotionally attached to their crappy ideas that they can’t see the forest for the trees.

You’ve got to kill those babies without mercy if you ever want to make it in this racket. It’s nothing personal, just business.

My challenge to you is this: go back and look at each of your current t-shirt designs.

Reasons Your T-Shirt Designs Suck

Get brutally, undeniably honest with yourself in assessing them against those 7 criteria.

Which ones are truly, objectively great? And which ones are stinking it up like a grotesque amount of flaming hot garbage?

For any lackluster designs, it’s time to roll up those sleeves and get back to the drawing board. Simplify, simplify, simplify until you’ve got something clean and punchy.

Solicit some truly unbiased feedback from people who fit your demographic before re-releasing anything new.

As you create future designs, etch those 7 principles into your brain like they’re scripture.

Don’t just judge your own work – you’re too close to see its ugliness.

Get outside opinions from people who’ll tell it to you straight.

I know it requires an amount of courage to make those tough decisions.

To set your ego aside and accept that your art might not be Picasso-level quite yet. But mastering these core principles is a guaranteed way to kickstart some legitimate t-shirt sales and cash money in your pockets.

No more awkward silences when you tell people about your t-shirt business.

No more change rattling around in your pockets as you pay for your coffee with nickels. By following this advice, you’ll be rolling in so much dough from t-shirt sales that you’ll need to hire a team of people just to fan you with bills.

BONUS FOR YOU: Unleash your potential as a print-on-demand entrepreneur with this free guide – download now!


Special Etsy Bonus (for new shops only): Use this link to Get 40 Free Etsy Listings.


Alura – The all-in-one platform for selling on Etsy. Start with a free account and explore all the features you need to start, run, and grow your Etsy shop. Try the free plan.

EverBee – Similar to Alura, but with a focus on new sellers who need simple researching too. Try the free account.

Sale Samurai – Another research tool, but with one of the cheapest subscriptions on the market. See more.

Graphic Designs:

Kittl – A fantastic place with highly professional templates, that can be edited and used for print-on-demand. In my opinion, it is a go-to place for any person, who wants to make money with print-on-demand on Etsy. Try Kittl for free.

Another of my favorites is Creative Fabrica. They have millions of cheap graphics that can elevate your t-shirt design.

When I sell my designs on t-shirts or other POD products, I always vectorize them. This makes them scalable without losing the quality. For that process, I use Vectorizer which is powered by the latest AI technology.


If you are serious about selling your designs on t-shirts, mugs, and other products, you must list them on the biggest marketplaces, such as Etsy. To do so, you must connect your store with a fulfillment company, two of the best being Printful and Printify.

Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, NechEmpire may earn a commission if you click through to make a purchase.

Personal picutre
Miroslav NovohradskyFounder of NechEmpire

I'm Miroslav, a passionate graphic designer, Etsy seller and AI enthusiast. At NechEmpire, I'm here to share my knowledge and skills. I want to turn your design passion into a successful online business.

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