As the original design t-shirt industry in the United States continues to flourish, reaching a revenue of $586.8 million in 2021, there has scarcely been a better – or more profitable – time to start a t-shirt business.
Seasons may come and go, and fashion trends rise and fall, but t-shirts are here to stay. Everyone – young or old, big or small, short or tall – enjoys wearing lovely custom t-shirts and expressing their personality through them.
T-shirts are a fashionable commodity that won’t force anyone into bankruptcy. With the right design and reasonable pricing, finding customers will be easy. After all, the humble t-shirt is no stranger to the world of fashion.
In this article, we’ll learn how to successfully start a Shopify t-shirt business by covering all the bases – properly identifying a target audience, correctly choosing a niche, creating a tasteful design, and wisely picking a reliable t-shirt supplier.
Step 1: Identify Your Target Audience
If you want your Shopify t-shirt business to bloom, identifying and understanding your customers is vital. By doing so, you can focus on those who are most likely to visit your online store and make a purchase.
As we all know, customers are the foundation of any business’s success. In order to launch your business right, start by asking yourself these simple questions:
- Who are my potential customers?
- What are their interests?
- How big is my target market?
By having a clear idea of the people you want to reach, you’ll be able to tailor your t-shirt designs specifically to the needs, interests, values, and preferences of your audience.
An easy way to begin the research is by gathering information from social media, forums, blogs, product reviews, and other online sources.
In short, go where your potential customers are interacting with each other and sharing their opinions.
Step 2: Pick a Niche
After you’ve figured out who your target audience is, it’s time to pick a niche. With a properly chosen niche, a Shopify t-shirt business can earn higher profits, reduce competition and stand out from the rest of the industry.
Although definitions may differ, a niche is a smaller and more specific – often untapped – group within a target audience. This group of like-minded people has its own identity, needs, and preferences.
A niche can be anything – true crime, small dogs, big cats, mountain camping, and so on. Anything, really.
As usually is the case, passion is the key to success. If you’re unsure of what niche to pursue, start with what’s close to your own heart.
When it comes to launching a thriving online t-shirt business, tapping into your audience’s passions is the fastest way to win them over.
If you’d like to learn more, our in-depth article explains how to correctly choose a niche, lightly touches on niche marketing strategies, and gives some examples of niche business ideas.
Step 3: Make Your T-Shirt Designs
Although picking a niche is one of the most important steps in starting a Shopify t-shirt business, it’s only half the battle. Without a winning design, your business won’t get anywhere.
If you’re worried about whether you need artistic experience – don’t. As daunting as it may sound, creating your first design is not as difficult as you may think. With the right tools, resources, and advice, anyone can do it.
Whether you want to make your own design from scratch, use ready-made designs, or hire a freelancer, here’s how to go about it.
Make Your Own Designs
In the world of t-shirts, design is everything. The more you prepare, the better. As always, market research is key.
1. Come Up With a Winning Design
The best place to draw inspiration, of course, is the internet. You can start by exploring sites such as these:
- Pinterest. Pinterest is a visual discovery engine often called “The Home of Inspiration”. With billions of pins on the site, you’ll always find some great ideas to spark inspiration.
- Behance. An online platform with a focus on showcasing the work of creatives. If you like a particular designer, you can reach out and get a quote for a custom design.
- Dribbble. A social networking platform for digital designers. The site serves as a design portfolio platform, jobs, and recruiting site.
However, only use these sites as a starting point to create your own one-of-a-kind designs. Never plagiarize a design or claim it as your own. Try to strike a healthy balance between inspiration and copycatting.
2. Learn the Tips and Tricks of Graphic Design
A Shopify t-shirt business can’t be successful without unique designs. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at designing, here are some graphic design tips.
- Define your purpose. To get the most out of your designs, make sure that they align with your customers’ interests and values. A strong brand has a purpose – reflect it in your designs.
- Pick colors wisely. The colors of your design can evoke emotions, inspire reactions, and determine how your t-shirt is perceived. Try to avoid clashing of colors – two to three is a good amount.
- Choose proper fonts. The text should be easily readable, clear, and visually appealing. Be conscious of your font choice – it can convey certain ideas and evoke unintended emotions. Try to use no more than two fonts.
- Scale your fonts. By scaling fonts, compositional features, or shapes, you can make the design of your custom shirts appear more dynamic, impactful, and exciting.
- Use graphics. Whether you decide to keep it simple and let your new t-shirt brand speak for itself or use illustrations, shapes, and other graphics, it’s up to you. However, it’s far easier to leave a lasting impression with visuals that catch the eye.
- Align objects properly. If you decide to go with graphic tees, make sure to align all design elements properly. By giving your design a bit of visual order, it’ll look more structured, presentable, and harmonious.
If you do everything right, nobody will notice. If you do it wrong, everyone will see that something’s not right with your t-shirt design.
3. Use a Graphic Design Tool
With a variety of tools to choose from, designing can be a fun, exciting, and rewarding experience. If you choose the right software, it’s an incredibly easy process.
Let’s take a look at some of the options you can use to create high-quality tees.
Pixlr is a free, cloud-based photo editing and design tool.
This tool is easy to use and has various editing features. If your t-shirt design needs only a few touch-ups, it’s a wonderful tool.
Anyone can use Pixlr for t-shirts, web posters, and social media designs.
Canva is a cloud-based graphic design platform and tool.
Canva is easy to use and enables anyone to design anything from t-shirts and logos to posters and social media graphics, and other visual content. If your Shopify t-shirt business needs a design, Canva is the tool for you.
Unfortunately, the free version has minimal features. The paid version allows you to download images with a transparent background, and has additional templates, and other practical features.
Adobe Photoshop is a graphics editor. In the world of photo editing software, it’s considered a gold standard.
Photoshop is a powerful software that’s used for photo editing and creating original graphics.
Sadly, it’s not free and comes with a steep learning curve. While learning the basics isn’t hard, it can seem confusing at first. If you’re interested, Adobe offers free tutorials.
Another simple option is to use Photopea – a free, web-based graphic design software that’s similar to Adobe Photoshop. A good option for those who only dabble in graphic design every now and then.
Of course, this isn’t by any means a comprehensive list, but it should give you an insight into the wide variety of options available.
If you’re interested in creating a best-selling design from scratch or websites that offer print-ready designs, our article – Create Your First Design: Graphic Design Tips for POD – offers a wide variety of information, resources, and advice, so you can create, or simply buy, your first design with ease.
Use Ready-Made Designs
If you want to save time, trouble, and effort, you can always use websites that offer various print-ready designs.
Let’s take a look at some of your options.
Creative Fabrica is a marketplace for digital files like designs, graphics, and fonts.
If you’re after print-ready designs and a good deal, this site sells t-shirt designs with a full print-on-demand license, which means you can design and sell products with their artwork without any limitations.
However, please note that you should always carefully read the licensing agreement.
A digital design library for graphic design, print, fashion, and other creative projects.
If you’re looking for an easy way to get designs for your Shopify t-shirt business, Designious is a good place to start, and our article explains how.
As always, carefully read their licensing agreement to steer away from any trouble.
These ones are on us. All of our designs are 100% free and print-ready.
You can use them on t-shirts right away – they are under Creative Commons license with commercial use. If you like, you can modify them to suit the needs of your Shopify t-shirt business.
With our Shutterstock integration, you can create your first design without any effort. It provides you with near-unlimited print file options.
In a few words, this integration allows you to use and customize images provided by Shutterstock, which can be published to your preferred eCommerce platform or marketplace at no up-front cost.
Whenever you sell a t-shirt with a design from Shutterstock, the Printify production cost will contain a small fee, which goes to Shutterstock. Click here, to learn more.
Make Your Own T-Shirt Today!
Hire a Freelancer
If you already have an idea for a certain design, but don’t really have the patience nor the skills to bring your vision to life, hire a freelancer.
By using freelance networks, you can find qualified t-shirt designers quickly, check their portfolio, and get in touch, if you think their style would fit your t-shirt brand.
Let’s take a look at some sites you can use.
- Fiverr. A popular marketplace for freelance services. Simply type in their search bar “T-shirt”, and you’ll see around 16,323 results. Pick your favorite artist, explain your idea, and you’ll soon have a unique design for your t-shirt store.
- 99designs. A go-to marketplace for graphic design services. With the options to hire a professional t-shirt designer or run a t-shirt design contest, it’s an easy way to get your designs just right.
- Upwork. Upwork is the biggest freelance marketplace in the United States. After a little bit of portfolio browsing, you’re sure to find the right talent for the job. Always make sure to test the freelancer to check their skills.
Our short list of freelance networks is, by no means, exhaustive. With a simple Google search, you can find many more.
If hiring a freelancer sounds like the right option for you, our in-depth article – How to Find and Hire the Best T-Shirt Designer – will provide you with some valuable insights, help you navigate the market, and find the talent you need.
Step 4: Select Your T-Shirt
While it may seem an easy task, selecting the right t-shirt for your online business can be a bit challenging and confusing. Why? Well, although t-shirts may seem very similar at first, upon a closer look, you’ll see that not all t-shirts are created equal.
When it comes to choosing a quality t-shirt, make sure to consider the following.
- Fabric. The fabric plays an important role in the way the t-shirt looks, feels, and fits. To learn how to choose the right fabric for your business, take a look at our T-Shirt Fabric Guide.
- Weight. While heavy t-shirts are perfect for colder conditions, they wouldn’t be that much fun to wear during a summer heatwave. Although the weight might seem irrelevant to some, it’s vital for managing expectations.
- Fit. The fit of a t-shirt can help your customers look and feel their best. Whether you choose classic, slim, or regular fit, make sure it suits the needs, and preferences, of your customers.
This list, however, is not exhaustive. Check out our guide – How to Choose a T-shirt – to learn more about t-shirts, their styles, and how to pick the one that’s right for you.
If you decide to use a print-on-demand service such as Printify, the whole process is much easier – every t-shirt in our catalog has a detailed description with all the information you need.
Take a look at any of these categories and see for yourself. All of them are full of blank shirts you can customize to your heart’s content.
Step 5: Mockup Your T-Shirt Designs
All right, now begins the best part – creating mockups to view how the final design would look in real life.
Although there are several ways to mockup your designs, let’s go the easy route and use Printify’s free Mockup Generator. With just a few clicks, anyone can create realistic mockups of their t-shirts and see how they would look once printed.
Yes, it really is as easy as it sounds, take a look. In little over three minutes, you’ll find out how to upload your design file, add multiple layers, and text, and bring the vision of the perfect t-shirt to life.
What’s more, once all is done, you can use these mockups on your social media accounts and online store. After all, the same way a t-shirt isn’t complete without a design, a Shopify store isn’t ready without realistic mockups.
Whenever possible, try to order samples to view the final product and see whether you’re happy with all the details.
Start Selling T-shirts Online Today!
Step 6: Validate Your Design Ideas
Whenever you start a t-shirt business, never forget to validate your designs. However brilliant they may be, they might be easily misunderstood by your customers. Validation is vital if you want your t-shirt designs to succeed.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways to validate your ideas.
- Family and friends. Although prone to kindness, if asked to provide honest feedback, family and your inner circle of friends is one of the best ways to validate your designs and get advice on whether alterations are required.
- Social media, online communities, and forums. Whenever your designs are ready, post them on relevant Facebook groups, Reddit’s subreddits, and elsewhere your potential buyers frequent. They’ll find, and help you fix, flaws in your design.
When posting online, don’t forget to watermark your designs, so that nobody steals them.
- Print on Demand. In a way, with print-on-demand service, none of the methods above are necessary. Without the worries of inventory management, you’re free to add several t-shirt designs to your Shopify store and validate them by seeing which sells best.
Never be afraid to ask for feedback. Sometimes it’ll be rubbish, others – worth its weight in gold. Whether you like the response or not, never underestimate its value. Even if the feedback contains only a grain of truth, it’s worth looking into.
Step 7: Start Selling T-Shirts Online With Shopify
If you’re looking for an eCommerce platform that’s easy to use, customizable, and affordable, Shopify is the way to go.
Setting up a Shopify store is very simple. In short, anyone can do it in a few simple steps.
- Pick a Shopify plan. With Shopify, you get a 14-day free trial. You don’t even need a credit card to register. However, when the trial expires, your account will be frozen until you pick either Shopify Basic, Shopify, or Shopify Advanced plan.
- Get a domain and name your store. A domain is a web address to your t-shirt store – an equivalent to the physical address. Shopify provides a free domain name, but buying a custom domain is much better.
- Choose a theme. The way your Shopify store looks matters, especially if you’re a small business. With Shopify, designing your online store is easy – they offer 17 free and 78 paid themes you can customize to your liking.
- Add t-shirts. When all is set up, you can add products through the Shopify admin panel, or – if you plan on using Print on Demand – simply by connecting your Shopify store to Printify either from your Shopify app or from your Printify account.
If you’d like to learn more, our article provides an in-depth look at everything mentioned above, briefly touches on Shopify marketing, Shopify SEO, and much more, guiding you through the whole process step by step.
If you want your t-shirt business to succeed, you’ll also need high-quality products. This is where we come in to help.
With Printify’s print-on-demand and dropshipping service, anyone can easily integrate with Shopify and start selling their own custom t-shirts on one of the biggest eCommerce platforms in the world.
Whether you need just one or two hundred, integrating with Printify is one of the easiest ways to sell t-shirts on Shopify. After a customer buys from you, we will print, package, and ship directly to their doorstep.
With over two million merchants worldwide trusting our service, your Shopify t-shirt business is in good company.
Start Your Own Shopify T-Shirt Business Today!
Shopify T-Shirt Stores for Your Inspiration
As we all know, theory is one thing, but reality is something different altogether. Let’s look at some of the best Shopify t-shirt stores to see what a successful store looks like.
While t-shirts are big sellers, there are plenty of successful Shopify stores selling all kinds of products. If you’d like to expand beyond t-shirts, find inspiration by exploring the best Shopify store examples.
Shirtwascash is a brand with a strong visual identity. By offering one-of-a-kind, quirky, and fun designs, Shirtwascash stands out immediately.
They sell t-shirts, hoodies, leggings, and swimwear.
Their website, although complex, leaves a stunning impression. As soon as the page loads, customers’ attention is caught by colorful, weird, and thought-provoking designs.
TeeFury is a store unlike any others. This online store was created by a group of artists with a shared passion for limited edition t-shirts.
They sell a wide variety of creative pop culture t-shirts with funny slogans and designs. To cater to a wider audience, TeeFury offers various collections, such as Anime, Gaming, Horror, Movies, and many others.
Their store instantly attracts attention by leveraging the fear of missing out – two new designs are released for sale every 24 hours, and if you fail to buy before the time runs out, you lose the chance to get them at a discounted price.
Surfside Supply Co. is a t-shirt and beachwear store for those who enjoy the beach, comfort, and ease.
They sell an extensive selection of t-shirts, hoodies, swimwear, and casual clothing for all occasions.
Surfside’s website is simple, clean, and minimalistic, neatly showcasing its products with beautiful imagery.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re wondering how to sell shirts on Shopify, Printify can be of great help. We offer a seamless Shopify integration, allowing you to use the combined power of Shopify and on-demand manufacturing to start a t-shirt business.
If you want to find out more about Shopify, our in-depth article explains everything one needs to know, including how to pick a plan, register a domain, choose a theme, and much more.
It depends. When picking a theme, keep your ideal customer in mind. By evaluating your individual business needs, you’ll be able to make a better decision.
Here are a few of the best Shopify themes for a t-shirt business.
If you want to find out how to choose a Shopify theme that’ll bring profit to your online business, our article explains everything you need to know.
Although there is no exact number, you should always try to follow general practices and update your store whenever you add a new product, make changes to your brand, or when you’re simply not happy with the look of your online store.
Whatever changes you make, always try to improve the browsing experience of your customers.
Although starting your own online business may seem challenging at first, selling shirts on Shopify is easier than you think. With a little preparation, some handy tools, and sound advice, anyone can do it.
Armed with this article, powered by Shopify and a desire for success, you can embark on a rewarding entrepreneurial journey and start your own business with ease.
Start Your Own Online T-Shirt Business Today!
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