The Basics

To maximize your profit, your design should be limited to either the front of the shirt only or the back of the shirt only. Printing on both sides is an extra cost, thus reducing your overall profit. “Full chest” and “full front” designs are the most popular print locations [diagram below]. When designing, consider popular t-shirt colors in retailers. Black is a great option for light color designs, and heather grey is a good alternative if your design is mostly dark colors.

Things to Avoid

When choosing ink colors, less is more! Represent charges on a ‘per color’ basis, so, your profits will decrease with the more colors you have in your design. A good rule of thumb to stick to is 1-4 colors total in your design.

Unless it is crucial to your design, color gradients should be avoided even if they are only comprised of two colors. They will not be printed as two colors. In order to achieve the gradient effect, it requires more tones between the two starting colors and will add cost to your shirt design.

Making your design stand out

When using a combination of vector graphics and text, it’s important that your text is visually separated from the design. Your customers will only see your shirt design in your ad for a brief amount of time, and you want to make the biggest impact possible. The quickest way to make your text more legible when over-layed on a graphic is to apply a stroke. However, this tends to look bad on even the most basic typefaces.

Although it takes a little longer, offsetting your type paths (as well as other design elements!) creates a cleaner, more professional look.


To Offset Type:

Convert the text to outlines
[Type -> Create Outlines]

Create the offset path
[Object -> Path -> Offset Path]

You can play around with the settings to achieve different looks, just as you would with the stroke settings.

Having a strong vector image incorporated into your design is often one of the key selling points of a t-shirt, since it immediately grabs your customer’s attention. However, more often than not, your vector graphic will be black. How do you make this stand out on dark color shirts?

You can either invert the object (by changing the fill color to white) or create a halo around the image. Inverting colors is a great way to quickly prepare a vector for printing on a dark shirt, however, if the linework of the vector is very detailed or has realistic shading, it is better to create a halo around the image. The halo effect is achieved by offsetting the path, just like with text. You may need to fill in empty path areas after creating the halo if your vector is large or complex.


For very complex designs, you can stack halos to enhance graphic for layering, by using the offset path option repeatedly.

In the example below:

First Halo: Black, to thicken the border of the original image
Second Halo: Green, so that our newly created border is visible on a black tee.
Third Halo: Black, so that the bones are visible against the green circle.


Stacking halos is a great way to separate design elements without adding multiple colors!

Prepping for Print

In order to prepare artwork for print, we need to eliminate any colors in the design that are the color of the shirt, leaving only the ink colors.

There are many ways to do this, here is one method:

Expand all strokes to solid paths by selecting all artwork and going to ‘Object -> Expand.’

Select all artwork again, and then use the ‘Divide’ option in the Pathfinder Tool to separate the artwork into individual elements. If your pathfinder panel is not on your default toolbar, you can access it via ‘Window -> Pathfinder.’

Delete paths that are the color of the shirt, and any empty fill paths. If you have a lot of areas of unwanted color, select one area, and go to ‘Select -> Same -> Fill & Stroke’ to select all other color segments that are the same fill and stroke.

Use the Pathfinder tool to ‘Add’ paths of the same color together.

Saving for Print

Represent supports .svg’s (vector files) as well as high resolution .png’s (raster files). To save your Adobe Illustrator file as a .svg, simply “save as” .svg. You will be able to scale this larger or smaller within the Represent design tool. Vector .svg files are the preferred file format for screen printers, since it allows us to get the most crisp line edges and fine details.

You can also save your file as a .png if you prefer to work in Adobe Photoshop. Represent does NOT allow you to scale your design larger in the design tool if you use a .png file. However, to make sure your file is at print ready resolution, all you have to do is make sure your canvas size is at least 4000 pixels wide (or 12” wide at 300 dpi). Make sure your design is also on a transparent background (NO WHITE BACKGROUND). Once your file is ready to save, go to “save for web…” and save it as a PNG-24. This option is a preset option under the “Name:” dialogue box.