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Tips for Creating Stellar Designs for Light and Dark T-Shirts

Tips for Creating Stellar Designs for Light and Dark T-Shirts - Threadsy

Nicole Rollender |

Are you ready to take your t-shirt designs to the next level? Discover the power of color selection, harness the potential of contrasting graphics and t-shirt combos, and learn how to choose the right fabric type for vibrant print results. Plus, we’ll unveil pro decorating hacks that will make your designs pop like never before. Get ready to turn heads and leave a lasting impression with your wow-worthy designs!

Top Tips for Designs on Light and Dark T-Shirts

Ready for some practical guidance for placing artwork on light and dark-colored t-shirts? We’ve got you covered with our insider tips on color selection, image and shirt color contrasts, and printing hacks that help you get just the right level of detail and vibrancy in your final product.

1. Choose winning color combos.

If your goal is to create artwork that stands out on a t-shirt, one smart tactic is to choose contrasting colors in your graphics and shirt. For example, if you’ve got a dark-colored dragon in hunter and emerald greens, it’ll really pop on a white or light green t-shirt.

Check out a few color combos to consider as you get started:

  • Black and white: A tried-and-true, and hugely popular combo, many people see black and white as one of the best out there for timeless fashion. Black and white are great neutrals that go with everything and look great on everyone. This combo also has a cool factor that bands love for merch that their fans will wear for years. You can either do a black design on a white t-shirt, or do white artwork on a dark t-shirt. This color combo is crisp and clean – and text and artwork details, linework, and shading will look outstanding. Use black and white for all types of designs, from fun and playful, to elegant and upscale.
  • Blue and white: This combo is a great alternative to black and white. For summer and vacation-spot apparel, blue text or artwork on a white or off-white t-shirt hits the spot for beach- and boardwalk-ready t-shirts.Red and white: Red is a get-noticed primary color that signifies danger, passion, anger and warmth. Whether you print a design or text in red on a white t-shirt, or white lettering on a red garment, you’ve got their attention. This combo is great for statement shirts, staff shirts, team wear and more.
  • Maroon and white: A more mainstream cousin of the bold red design or t-shirt, try a maroon print on an off-white t-shirt for a look that will appeal to more wearers.
  • Yellow and off-white: People love wearing bright whites in summer, but sometimes white whites are hard to wear and keep clean. That’s why choosing an off-white or creamy white t-shirt are great substitutes that still communicate a classic, luxe style. Yellow calls the happy summer sun to mind. Try a darker yellow tone or a buttery shade to call in that classic or retro vibe.
  • Rainbow hues: Designs with two to three colors are attractive – and people want to buy and wear them. Get even more daring by creating a design with all six colors of the rainbow. Multicolor designs work best for sublimation printing, direct-to-garment printing or screen-printing transfers. Choose a light-colored shirt that’s white, off-white or a light pastel. It’s better to choose a t-shirt shade that’s not in your design for maximum visibility.

2. Choose the right fabric type.

If you’re new to t-shirt printing, you may not know that fabrics absorb or reflect light in different ways. That means white and light-colored fabrics will make your design colors more vibrant. Darker fabrics, which absorb light, can make bright colors less vibrant.

Choosing the right fabric color for your custom printed apparel is important, along with the fabric quality. You’ll want to select a durable fabric with a smooth surface for printing, so your beautiful design can weather lots of washes and wears. Here are some tips for choosing the right fabric for your chosen decorating method.

  • Direct-to-garment printing: We recommend looking for t-shirts made from 100% combed or ringspun cotton fabric, with a smooth, fine weave. You can also choose cotton/poly blends or tri blend shirts that have no less than 50% cotton content.
  • Sublimation printing: Generally, polyester t-shirts or poly/cotton blends with no less than 40% polyester content are best for dye-sub. This printing method works best on white or light pastel colored t-shirts.
  • Screen printing: We recommend preshrunk ringspun and combed cotton for a smoother printing surface. If you want to print on a cotton/poly shirt, select a higher percentage of cotton (50/50 or 65/35) to make it easier to transfer the ink onto the shirt.

3. Pretreat dark shirts before DTG printing.

If you miss this key step, you might as well toss out that nice new black t-shirt! The pretreat solution keeps the direct-to-garment ink from “soaking” too deep into your dark garment’s fabric. Otherwise, you’ll get a bad-quality print that no one wants to wear. When you lay down that layer of pretreat solution and/or white ink, you prime your t-shirt canvas for a vibrant, eye-catching design. Look into different pretreat solutions and reviews to see which ones will help you improve your t-shirt graphics quality. Some t-shirts are pretreated for you, which saves you time and gives your white underbase an even better foundation.

4. Use this hack to sublimate dark shirts.

accessories. When you sublimate a dark t-shirt, the ink becomes one with the fabric, but you can’t see it. Some industrious decorators have discovered a cool hack to get around this. Simply place heat transfer vinyl (HTV) as a base layer under your sublimation transfer on a dark t-shirt – resulting in a vivid design on that black t-shirt or tank. While you could use HTV to create a design on a dark tee, use sublimation printing (on an HTV base) when you’ve got a design with lots of colors or you’re printing on a cotton shirt. You’ll find this method is fast and budget-friendly!

5. Print better, eye-popping white designs on dark shirts.

Many screen printers have discovered that using a smoothing screen improves the quality of white-on-dark designs. White artwork on black shirts is hugely popular with consumers – so you want your white ink to be clean, bright and long-lasting. A smoothing screen tamps down the shirt fibers and boosts the vibrancy of the white ink.

If you’re using a machine, try a screen with a 156 mesh count to deposit a healthy amount of ink on your shirt. For DIY printers, coat a 200- or 230-mesh screen with emulsion and expose it without artwork. Then, place it on your press as a blank screen. Use an ink reducer to lower the viscosity of your white plastisol ink. Put gentle pressure on your smoothing screen to flatten the shirt fibers. Flood your design and print another ink layer. When you remove the shirt from the platen, pull up the bottom first so you don’t distort the design. Then, cure your shirt with your dryer. To learn more about these techniques, check out online tutorials to view the technique.

Get Ready to Create Wow-Worthy Designs

Once you’ve got some know-how in pairing artwork and t-shirt shades, you can start building out winning color combos on the right t-shirt fabrics, with our decorating hacks. With these insider techniques, your designs will stand out in your shop and leave a lasting impression.

Shop Threadsy for Retail-Quality T-Shirts

Threadsy is a great online destination for buying bulk t-shirts at wholesale prices. If you’ve been shopping for blank t-shirts from a big box retailer, it’s time to stop. Threadsy offers generous discounts for customers who purchase t-shirts in larger quantities. Our bulk discount program starts at $110, and the savings up to 15% automatically appear in your cart when you bundle your items. You’ll also enjoy free shipping on orders $50 or higher, with always-fast delivery.

Plus, unlike other retailers that tack on fees for everything from orders that don’t meet a certain purchase threshold, to packing your order to processing returns, Threadsy doesn’t do that. There’s no minimum order, returns are free for 30 days, and we’ll never charge you extra money to pack your order. So what are you waiting for? Start shopping and saving on t-shirts in a rainbow of colors to print today, whether you’re a hobbyist or a business owner.