T-Shirt Artwork | Creative Designs for Custom Tees

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What are the essential elements of a successful Graphic Design

  • Today at Northwest Custom Apparel in our Print Pro workshop Steve, our graphic artist. Discusses artwork tips and tricks and file requirements for different printing methods.
  • Vector artwork is the best file format for all printing methods. It can be generated through CorelDraw or Illustrator and saved as a .cdr, .ai, or .eps file.
  • Customers often send JPEG or PNG files which are not ideal for printing. But PDF can be used if saved as an editable file.
  • PNG has a transparent background, while JPEG has a background. PDF can be used as editable Vector art.
  • When working with customers, it is best to start by asking if they have Vector artwork and then work down the list of file formats.
  • Screen print and embroidery require Vector artwork to separate colors and create crisp designs.
  • It may be difficult to get the root file of the artwork from customers as they often don’t have access to it.

Common Mistakes To Avoid While Creating Print-Ready Artwork

Specific Pantone color or RGB value that we can use as a reference to match the color accurately? It would be helpful to have that information upfront so we can avoid any color-matching issues or additional revisions due to color discrepancies. Alternatively, we can also provide a Pantone color chart or swatch book for the customer to choose from so they can have a more accurate idea of the color they want.

How do you match colors accurately in t-shirt printing

As someone who works in the custom apparel printing industry, I know that color matching can be challenging for customers and printers. Here are some tips to help make the color-matching process go more smoothly:

  1. Use a graphic standard: A graphic standard can be a Pantone color or a specific shade that is used by a company. This can be helpful for printers to match the color accurately.
  2. Understand thread limitations: While printers may have a range of thread colors, matching a specific shade may not always be possible. If a customer wants a particular thread color, they may need to purchase a minimum quantity for custom dyeing.
  3. DTG vs screen printing: DTG printing uses CMYK and can print 16 million colors, whereas screen printing has more limited color options. When it comes to screen printing, it’s important to match as closely as possible using the available ink colors.
  4. Be realistic: It’s important for customers to understand that color matching is not an exact science, especially with screen printing. While printers will do their best to match colors, it’s not always possible to get an exact match.

By following these tips, customers and printers can work together to create custom apparel that meets everyone’s expectations.

Understanding Color Matching in Custom T-Shirt Printing

In custom t-shirt printing, color matching is crucial to ensure that the final product meets the customer’s expectations. However, matching colors can be a challenge, especially when dealing with specific Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors. The PMS color system assigns a unique code to each color, making it easier to match across different printing processes.

While it’s possible to match PMS colors in both Direct-to-Garment (DTG) printing and screen printing, it’s easier to achieve an exact match with screen printing. DTG printing is designed to mix colors and produce up to 16 million shades through CMYK color mixing. While it’s possible to tweak the saturation and other settings to get as close as possible to a specific PMS color, it’s not always guaranteed.

Essential Elements of a Successful T-Shirt Graphic Design

Creating successful t-shirt graphic designs requires careful consideration of different design elements. The composition of the design is essential, and the focal point should be what the design is trying to convey, such as a logo or message. Colors should be well-balanced and work together harmoniously.

Additionally, the font, overall look of the design, and balance of the composition all come together to create a successful t-shirt design. While it’s an art form in itself, designers can find useful tutorials on platforms like YouTube to learn more about graphic design and how to create successful t-shirt designs. Effective communication between the customer and the printer is also crucial to ensure that the final product meets the customer’s expectations.

Tips for successful t-shirt graphic design

  • Keep the composition balanced
  • Choose a clear focal point
  • Ensure colors work well together
  • Choose a legible font
  • Consider the size and placement of the design
  • Communicate clearly with the printer about design specifications
  • Use resources such as YouTube tutorials to improve your skills

Understanding Color Matching in T-Shirt Printing

  • Pantone Matching System (PMS) used for screen printing
  • DTG printing can print 16 million colors through CMYK mixing
  • DTG may not be able to match PMS colors exactly
  • Screen printing is better for exact color matching
  • Communication with the printer is crucial to achieving the desired color outcome


In conclusion, creating custom artwork for t-shirts can be complex. However, it’s essential to deliver a high-quality product that meets the customer’s expectations. Effective communication between the customer and the printer is crucial to ensuring that the artwork meets the customer’s needs and is produced efficiently. A detailed intake or revision form can help the customer. Provide all the necessary information upfront, reducing the need for costly revisions.

When it comes to color matching, the Pantone Matching System is an industry-standard tool that helps printers match colors precisely. However, limitations in the number of ink colors available for screen printing. Meaning that it may not always be possible to achieve a perfect match. DTG printing, on the other hand, offers a wide range of colors. But may require some experimentation to achieve an exact match for specific PMS colors.

In terms of design, a successful t-shirt graphic requires a balanced composition. Appropriate use of colors, and a clear focal point. YouTube is an excellent resource for learning more about graphic design and software such as Photoshop and CorelDRAW.

Overall, understanding the complexities of custom artwork. For t-shirts is essential to produce a high-quality product that meets the customer’s expectations. By following best practices for communication, color matching, and design. Printers can ensure that their customers are satisfied with the final product.

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Antonio Massey

Production Team: Folder

Antonio Massey recently joined NWCA in June of 2022. His role on the Production Team has greatly improved our processes and productivity. Antonio is always willing to lift heavy boxes or help his co-workers during busy times. In his free time, he enjoys playing with his dog and mastering video games.


Alicia Wada

Shipping Clerk

Alicia Wada is passionate about helping her co-workers at Northwest Custom Apparel in any way that she can. She works in our Shipping and Logistics department. Alicia, who goes by Ali, has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. She lived in Japan for ten years and recently brought her family to America in 2019. She is interested in learning crafts and textile art from around the world.


Erik Mickelson


Erik Mickelson’s position as Manager is more than a job, it’s a passion. It’s always fun and exciting because he enjoys marketing, computers, and coming up with innovative ideas to help NWCA grow. He majored in accounting and finance at Washington State University, graduating in 1996, and returned to school to obtain his Master of Business from WGU, graduating in 2016. Erik continually strives to advance his education through podcasts, audiobooks, and industry tradeshows. He is married to a remarkable and caring wife named Wendy, a Registered Nurse, with whom he shares his many hobbies and a love for the outdoors.



Ruth Nhoung

Production Manager

Ruth Nhoung is our Production Manager and Northwest Custom Apparel is lucky to have her. Thanks to her vast knowledge of machine embroidery and dedication to creating a comfortable and supportive work environment, the production plant runs smoothly and customers are pleased with our work. She is a loving mother and grandmother and enjoys spending quality time with her siblings. She says, “I love everything about Northwest Custom Apparel: the people, the atmosphere, the work, and the customers. I love what I do and I embrace all of NWCA’s core values”.


Steve Deland

Art Director

Steve Deland has been our amazing Artist since 2017. He loves working at Northwest Custom Apparel because he appreciates the goal-oriented, progressive-thinking management style. He is most passionate about his art, which includes scroll saw woodwork, and his five grandchildren.



Taylar Hanson


Taylar Hanson is a highly acclaimed Saleswoman at Northwest Custom Apparel. She has a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles from Washington State University. “Go Cougs!” The best part of Taylar’s job is getting to work with longtime customers who trust us to do the best work and take care of their needs. She is passionate about appreciating nature, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.


Nika Lao


Nika Lao is very knowledgeable in how the business is ran because she began as an Embroidery Machine Operator and has worked hard to become the excellent and personable saleswoman she is today. She enjoys the stress-free environment and the many chances to connect with her co-workers over potlucks, BBQs, and bowling parties. Nika is a proud sister of two highly successful brothers and can boast mastering three languages herself: Khmer, Thai, and English. She is an avid camper, enjoys going to farmer markets, and loves cooking.


Bradley Wright


Bradley Wright has been a vital team member of NWCA since 2017. As our accountant and knower-of-all-things, Bradley is proud to work closely with his wonderful colleagues. He studied at the University of Washington. These days he dedicates his free time to his new house.


Dominic Nguyen

DTG Operator

Dominic Nguyen recently joined our Direct-To-Garment department. He says he loves the family work environment at Northwest Custom Apparel. In his free time, Dom likes to listen to music, hangout with friends, and play video games. He comes from a very big family which can be very chaotic at times, but is always exciting.


Sothea Tann

Production Team: Trimmer

Sothea Tann recently joined the Production Team in 2022. She finds Northwest Custom Apparel to be a good working environment with helpful and friendly staff. In her free time, Sothea spends quality time with her family and, overall, focuses on a peaceful and happy lifestyle.


Brian Beardsley

DTG Supervisor

Brian Beardsley has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. He is our DTG Supervisor. Brian loves that he gets to work with high-tech machines in a fun atmosphere. He has a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. He said, “I always wanted to create visually interesting assets in a variety of mediums”. In his free time, he enjoys building and painting models, playing video games, designing, and playing his guitar.


UT Tri Tran

Embroidery Machine Operator

UT Tri Tran loves Northwest Custom Apparel so much that, although she has already retired after a long career in machine embroidery operations, she is happy to return part time. She says, “I love the family style work environment and how everyone shares food, laughter, and fun on a regular basis.” In her free time she is dedicated to living a healthy and peaceful lifestyle with her friends and family.



Embroidery Machine Operator

BunsereytheavyHoeu, who goes by Theavy, won our Operator of the Year in 2021. She takes on many roles in the production team. She says, “These are not my co-workers, these are my family! I cherish all the memories we make together”. When she goes home to be with her family, she makes the most of her time with them by holding family get-togethers and even karaoke competitions.


Sreynai Meang

Embroidery Machine Operator

SreynaiMeang is a hard-working Machine Operator. She is most passionate about helping people. Sreynai, who goes by Nai, likes to exercise in her free time and talk with her family in Cambodia.


Kanha Chhorn

Embroidery Machine Operator

Kanha Chhorn has been an Embroidery Operator with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. She is delightful and always makes everyone smile and laugh. Kanha takes on additional tasks that allow us to exceed our customers’ expectations. In her free time, she can be found at her local temple or spending quality time with her family and friends.


Savy Som

Embroidery Machine Operator

SavySom is one of our Machine Operators who is passionate about embroidery and sewing. She enjoys working at NWCA because of its flexibility. She has two teenage sons and loves spending time with her family on the weekends.



Embroidery Machine Operator

SorphornSorm has been a Machine Operator since 2011. One of her four sisters works here as well. Her other relatives are in Cambodia. In her free time, Sorphorn studies English, listens to music, and enjoys exercising.


Jim Mickelson


Jim Mickelson, after a successful career with a major oil company, founded Northwest Embroidery in 1977. This was the first commercial embroidery in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, Jim has become the guru of embroidery never refusing to answer a question or offer advice to his fellow embroiders. Jim and his wife Leeanna raised four wonderful children who went on to successful business careers.

Northwest Custom Apparel
Northwest Custom Apparel
152 Google reviews
Janice Herron
Janice Herron
Love their amazing customer service! From ordering over the phone, through email, or in person at Northwest Custom Apparel, everyone is very helpful, and very nice! Always! We have been ordering our apparel for our local small business through them for many years! Thank you Thank you!
Morgan Pero
Morgan Pero
Excellent people, products and customer service!
Drew Halverson
Drew Halverson
Great product offerings/results, swift communication, and helpful staff. Highly recommend!
Tim s
Tim s
Northwest Custom apparel always does great work! We have been a customer for over 25 years and are always satisfied with the products we get!!
NW Custom Apparel treats us like we’re their only customer! Everyone is always so friendly and helpful. They’re great!
Randy Birch
Randy Birch
We us Northwest Custom Apparel for our work shirts and they are incredible. The staff is super friendly, the quality of workmanship is outstanding and they stand by the work they do. I love this place.
Heidi Christiansen
Heidi Christiansen
The company I work for has been buying custom apparel for the team members for years now. We love working with NW Custom Apparel because the process is easy, delivery is timely, and materials are high quality. Anytime I’ve ever had an issue, they’re quick to resolve it. We’ve purchased both embroidered items and DTG graphic tees. We’ve purchased blankets, shirts, jackets, hoodies, etc. Everything ends up looking super professional, and our team members always have positive things to say. Ally is always there at the warehouse with a smile and a friendly greeting when I pick up materials. She is so helpful and respectful. Taylar is a wonderful customer service rep. I’ve sent her some complicated orders—like 20 different items with all different colorways and styles or 150 items with three different styles—and she is so good at getting everything just right. I plan to continue purchasing from NW Custom for high-quality custom apparel.
Hoa DeBusk
Hoa DeBusk
Have used them for years. Knowledgeable team that is always so helpful in recommending options or creating designs. Great quality too for embroidery or digital prints. Very happy with them as a vendor.
Stacey Perez
Stacey Perez
We use Northwest Custom Apparel for all of our professional embroidery needs for the orthodontic office I work at. They do great work, are quick and have never missed a deadline. Highly recommend if you need any custom apparel needs.