The Ultimate Guide to T-Shirt Artwork


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 on 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 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 achieve the desired color outcome


In conclusion, creating custom artwork for t-shirts can be complex, but it’s essential for delivering 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 mean 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 for producing 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.


About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!