The Art of Design: How to Create Eye-Catching Apparel Designs When You're Not a Designer

So, you’ve got this awesome idea for a t-shirt design, but there’s one small problem—you’re not a designer. Fear not! At Backstory Prints, we believe that creativity isn't limited to those with a fancy art degree. Whether you’re a small business owner, an aspiring entrepreneur, or someone who just loves to express themselves through apparel, we’re here to help you bring your vision to life. Let’s dive into the art of creating eye-catching apparel designs, even if you’re not a professional designer.

Start with What You Love

The best designs often come from passion. Think about what excites you, what you’re passionate about, and what makes you laugh or smile. Your personal interests can be a goldmine of ideas.

Funny Story: One of our customers, a dentist by profession, created a line of hilarious dental-themed shirts. “Floss Like a Boss” became an instant hit among his patients and beyond. Turns out, everyone loves a good dental pun! 

Keep It Simple

You don’t need to create complex, intricate designs to make an impact. In fact, simplicity is often more effective. Start with basic shapes, lines, and a limited color palette. Simple designs are easier to create and often more versatile.

Example: Think about the iconic smiley face or the “I ♥ NY” logo. These designs are incredibly simple yet instantly recognizable.

Use Design Tools for Non-Designers

There are plenty of user-friendly design tools out there that can help you create professional-looking designs without any prior experience. Tools like Canva, Placeit, and Adobe Spark offer pre-made templates and easy drag-and-drop interfaces.

Pro Tip: Canva is a fantastic tool for beginners. It offers a variety of templates specifically for t-shirts, so you can start with a solid foundation and tweak it to fit your vision.

Leverage Free Resources

The internet is full of free resources that you can use to enhance your designs. Websites like Unsplash and Pexels offer high-quality, royalty-free images. Google Fonts provides a plethora of free fonts to add some typographic flair to your designs.

Funny Story: One of our clients, who runs a cat-themed online store, found an adorable picture of a cat on Unsplash. She added some witty text and voila! Her “Cat-itude” shirt became her best-seller.

Learn the Basics of Design

While you don’t need to be a pro, understanding a few basic design principles can go a long way. Here are some key concepts to keep in mind:

Color Theory

Colors can evoke emotions and set the tone of your design. Understanding basic color theory can help you choose colors that work well together and convey the right message.


Choosing the right font is crucial. Make sure your text is legible and complements your design. Don’t go overboard with too many different fonts—stick to one or two that work well together. 


A well-balanced composition makes your design pleasing to the eye. Use alignment, contrast, and space to guide the viewer’s attention to the most important parts of your design. The rule of thirds is a great guideline. Divide your canvas into nine equal parts and position key elements along these lines or at their intersections.

Get Inspired by Trends

Keeping an eye on current trends can spark new ideas and ensure your designs are relevant. Check out fashion blogs, social media, and online marketplaces to see what’s popular. 

PRO Tip: Use keywords like “current t-shirt design trends” or “popular apparel designs” to get inspiration.

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

The beauty of print-on-demand is that you can afford to experiment without a huge upfront investment. Try different styles, colors, and messages to see what resonates with your audience. 

Funny Story: One of our customers experimented with a series of dad joke t-shirts. The “I’m on a seafood diet—I see food and I eat it” shirt was such a hit that it became the staple of his brand.

Get Feedback

Before you finalize your design, get feedback from friends, family, or even potential customers. They can provide valuable insights and help you see your design from a different perspective.

Pro Tip: Social media is a great place to get feedback. Post a few design options and ask your followers to vote for their favorite. It’s a fun way to engage your audience and get useful input. 

Use High-Quality Images

If you’re incorporating images into your design, make sure they’re high quality. Blurry or pixelated images can make your design look unprofessional. Always use high-resolution images that will print well on fabric.

Hire a Professional (If Needed)

If you’ve got a great idea but just can’t seem to get it right, consider hiring a freelance designer. Websites like Fiverr and Upwork offer affordable options where you can find talented designers to bring your vision to life.

Funny Story: One of our clients hired a designer to create a shirt for a local dog-walking business. The result? A hilarious cartoon of a dog walking a human, which quickly became a local favorite.

Embrace Your Unique Style 

Remember, your design should reflect your unique voice and style. Don’t worry about trying to please everyone. The best designs are those that are authentic and personal.

Example: A local bookstore owner created a series of literary-themed shirts featuring witty book-related quotes. The designs were a hit with book lovers because they were unique and resonated with the store’s niche audience.

Prepare Your Design for Printing

Once you’ve got your design ready, make sure it’s print-ready. This means checking the resolution (300 dpi is ideal for printing), ensuring it’s in the correct file format (we prefer PNG), and following any specific guidelines provided by your print-on-demand service.

Market Your Designs

Creating a fantastic design is just the beginning. To get your shirts into the hands of customers, you need to market them effectively. Use social media, email newsletters, and your website to showcase your designs. High-quality images and engaging descriptions are crucial.

Pro Tip: Collaborate with influencers or run targeted ads to reach a wider audience. The more people see your designs, the better your chances of making sales.


Creating eye-catching apparel designs when you’re not a designer might seem daunting, but with the right tools and mindset, anyone can do it. Start with what you love, keep things simple, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Use the wealth of resources available online and remember that feedback is your friend. Most importantly, have fun and let your personality shine through your designs.

At Backstory Prints, we’re here to help you every step of the way. Whether you’re printing your first t-shirt or expanding your product line, our print-on-demand services make it easy to bring your creative vision to life. So go ahead, unleash your inner designer, and create something amazing today!

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