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how to start your own t-shirt brand

By Edited Dec 20, 2013 3 5


Getting started with your brand

This article is the first of a series I am aiming to write to help people start up and establish their own indie brand, just as I am also working towards my own brands success. While I wont mention the name of my brand just yet I will aim to help each reader to take action and follow the necessary steps to creating their own t-shirt brand. This article is an over-view to get you going, if there are any specifics that you would like more detail on simply comment below and I’ll do my best to create a more detailed article addressing your questions. 


Creating your brand

first steps

When you first start out creating your brand there are a number of things to consider. The first set of considerations is primarily around your intended market and audience. It is best to write down exactly who your brand is targeting and how you intend to capture their attention. The below points are a good start when thinking about what type of brand you want to create:

  • What market am I targeting? (rocker / punk / street / skater / band)
  • What types of shirts do my targeted audience like to wear?
  • What are my goals? Do I want to just sell to friends and family or do I want to really make it big
  • How much money am I prepared to invest? (this comes into play with screen printing – DTG is usually free to set up)
  • What will my logo look like?
  • Will I keep a consistent style or mix it up?

Software you will need

Relax, there are free alternatives

Before you panic once you see the price tag for some of the premium software packages there are free alternatives that you can use that will do the job. In some instances the DTG sites will allow you to add text to their mockups, therefore if you are looking to create text only designs or catchy phrases there is no need for design software. However if you want to really get creative and make your brand stand out there are two main alternatives for you:

  • adobe - photoshop & illustrator (great software, very expensive)
  • gimp - free

Start with Direct to Garment printing (DTG)

Why? Because its free!

Direct to Garment printing services are possibly the easiest way to kick off your first print run for your brand. The advantage of DTG printing is that you can order an extremely small quantity of shirts. There is also basically no color limits and your design does not need to be perfect. DTG printing is a good way to kick off your brand and get a few t-shirts out there. While you will soon outgrow DTG printing and look to increase your profit margins through economies of scale, DTG printing is still a good place to start off. The sites listed below are extremely easy to use and setting up your own virtual shop is free and takes little time.

  • Redbubble
  • Spreadshirt
  • Zazzle
  • cafepress

Move into Screen Printing

Produce more for less

Moving into screen printing is the goal. Screen printing allows you to produce larger quantities of shirts at a much reduced price (think around $6 per shirt). It takes a lot more planning to move into screen printing as you must ensure that you are using a maximum of 4 colors and that your line work is in good shape. Once your ready for screen printing there are significant advantages that primarily revolve around producing more shirts for much cheaper. 

Create a social presence

talk it up!

Creating a social presence and following is vital for your new brands success. While it can take some time and effort to build up a social presence the tools are free and easily accessible. Below are some of the things you should definitely do for your brand:

  • Create a website / blog
  • Create a facebook page
  • Create a twitter account
  • Link all three of the above together

Keeping active across all platforms is important in order to continually capture your followers interest and keep search engines crawling your sites. Another method is to join forums and blogs  that relate to your brand and create a presence there. The follow on effect should be very targeted traffic coming across your sites. 

Final Comments

As you can see it is possible to establish an online brand with limited to no investment up front. There are so many services out there that cater to helping you establish yourself and your brand. So get out there and start working on your next t-shirt business!

Further Reading

As requested here are some additional articles relating to creating your own t-shirt brand:



Aug 2, 2011 6:40pm
Whoa! I've looked into printing my own T-shirts before, but I never found anything about Direct To Garment printing. That's awesome. Any way to reduce startup costs (or, of course, slash them down to zero) is right up my alley.

One thing I would like to know more about (since you asked) is the technical details of how to use the design software to put my ideas on digital "paper." I'm a programmer, but I haven't delved much into the graphics media side of things yet. Sounds to me like you want to focus more on the business side of things in these posts than the technical, but even a link to any solid tutorials that you've seen/used would be fantastic.

Good luck with the business! I'll be following your posts.
Aug 2, 2011 9:47pm
Hi there nozxman,
Great to see you enjoyed the article! I am slightly more focused on the business side at the moment as I feel graphically I am comfortable with what i can produce, I'm self taught with photoshop and illustrator. Another reason I probably focus on the business side more is the fact that no matter how good your designs are - if you don't have a business mind it will be difficult to get ahead.

I will write up an article on the graphics asap, as I said I'm self taught and will keep the article high level with the right amount of info to get you going. If you are really keen go ahead and sign up at one of those DTG sites, I prefer spreadshirt.com and you can have a quick go at t-shirt mock-ups etc and get a feel for it all.

stay tuned!
Aug 3, 2011 8:04am
This article will definitely help give people a good idea on how and what they will need.
I had a screen printing (at home business) but lacked the ability to do my own artwork. (30 years ago) And all my work was done with light and film on screens.
Things have changed so much since then. I also did ribbons and bands for the princess of the fair and banners etc. Plus photos with a screen. Loved it but still lot of pressure to perform and keep up to a certain schedule. Great info rated up.
Aug 3, 2011 6:51pm
Hi Eileen,
Thanks for the comment, I agree with the pressure to keep up. I've considered buying a home kit and having a go at screen printing - may still do this for very small limited edition runs - but the majority of my prints will definitely come out of a much larger professional screen printing company.
In terms of the artwork did you ever consider outsourcing or collaborating ?
Aug 22, 2011 1:42am
Awesome article.

Great resources, too. I look forward to reading more on this. I think it's a good idea to start with the business side first. Too many people get in over their heads by going at projects the wrong way or just ineffectively.
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