Business Ideas Reviews

How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business in 2020

Written by Mohammad Khaled

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

Disclosure: When you purchase a product or a service through our website, we earn a small commission – read more

T-shirts aren’t only a staple of casual wear, however articles of clothes that often reflect our personalities, interests, and identities.

Because of this, t-shirts have turn into one of the more popular things to make and sell online, particularly for entrepreneurs and artists looking to discover a relatively low investment business to begin.

With the popularity of t-shirt businesses, there’s no doubt you will be going through some competitors. But by building a Brand for a particular audience and creating the sorts of t-shirt designs that your customers need, you’ll find your own success online.

In this guide, we’ll stroll you through every step of the creation process for starting your own t-shirt line and selling in an online store.

How to begin an on-line t-shirt enterprise

  1. Choose a niche to focus on
  2. Source quality materials
  3. Create your designs
  4. Mockup your t-shirts
  5. Validate your designs before you invest in them
  6. Set up an online store

5 issues to consider before you start a t-shirt business

Although the tools and technology are accessible nowadays for designing, printing, and shipping your own t-shirts makes starting up comparatively easy, the difficult half is building a brand to stand out from the competitors. Combine competitors with slim margins and building an online t-shirt company turns into a little harder than it would first seem.

To achieve success with your new t-shirt brand, you have to make the right decisions from the get-go.

There are several crucial parts of starting a profitable t-shirt business. Each of those parts needs to be considered carefully before moving ahead:

  1. Niche: Being more specific will help you stand out as well as better attract and market to the right audience without blowing your budget
  2. Design: The majority of people who are buying graphic tees are looking for designs, graphics, and slogans that connect with them and reflect their opinions and character
  3. Quality: The high quality of the shirts you use and the prints need to be high notch to build a sustainable business
  4. Brand: A powerful, attention-grabbing model is significant within the t-shirt business
  5. Inventory: Will you handle your individual stock to benefit from quantity reductions or use a print-on-demand service to save effort and time

Let’s take a deeper take look at every one.

1. Niche

You hear this term tossed around a lot, however nowhere is it extra necessary to select a niche than within the graphic t-shirt business. One of the most important components in constructing a successful t-shirt enterprise is the flexibility to stand out, and among the finest methods to do that’s by catering to a specific audience or interest group.

Generally, categories like “t-shirts for people who like funny slogans” are going to be too broad to handle in a very developed market. You’re going to want to tighten it up somewhat extra. An example of a more specific niche could be t-shirts with humorous slogans that relate to doctors and nurses, or dog owners as pictured below.

t-shirt with pug that says keep calm and pug onSource: ThinkPup

There are some ways to discover and consider a niche, but to name a few:

  • Visit your potential niche’s subreddits and evaluate the subscriber count and level of engagement
  • Use Facebook’s Audience Insights tool to gauge the size of your niche on Facebook
  • Scan this list of popular hobbies on Wikipedia for inspiration
  • Consider your own interests and the communities you belong to—typically it’s okay to trust your intestine

2. Design

The last thing a customer would want is to see in your catalog is a copy of the t-shirt design found elsewhere. Your designs don’t essentially want to be complex, the truth is, most of the best selling graphic tees are quite simple. However, they do want to join with your audience and stand out.

To guarantee a top-quality print, your design files should generally be at least 300 digital pixels per inch (DPI or PPI), have a clear background, and be giant sufficient to cowl the precise print space of the t-shirt. Just be aware that your actual specs will range relying on the printer and printing approach used (extra on that later).

3. Quality

The subsequent most necessary issue within the success and sustainability of the online t-shirt enterprise is of high quality. You can disappoint someone once, however they won’t allow you to disappoint them twice. A pattern that fades and cracks or a t-shirt that shrinks and rips won’t create raving fans that come back and repurchase.

Higher quality t-shirts might cost extra to produce however can even command higher prices. The final high quality of your t-shirt will depend upon the fabric of the blank t-shirt, printing technique used and correctly preparing your design file.

4. Brand

A powerful, attention-grabbing brand is vital within the t-shirt business. Your brand is a promise that will tie collectively all of your decisions together with your area of interest, designs, and high quality. Building a singular and likable model is necessary for companies in excessive competition industry.

When clients have more choices, it becomes extremely important for an eCommerce enterprise to have a particular presence to capture customers’ attention.

If you’ve chosen a niche that embodies a certain lifestyle, you can incorporate it into your marketing and website to speak to these clients, like in the anime/streetwear example from Sugoi Shirts below.

sugoi shirts instagram as an example of building a lifestyle brandSource: Sugoi Shirts

5. Inventory

When starting a t-shirt business, most people both decide to purchase and hold stock, taking advantage of bulk pricing and local printers, or use a print-on-demand service to take stock management and delivery off your plate. You can also go for a mix of both.

By holding your own stock, you can more simply sell in-person and probably improve your profit margins, whereas, with print-on-demand, you take on a lot much less threat. Weigh the pros and cons before you start, and should you’re not sure, print-on-demand is always a low-investment way to take a look at considered one of your online business ideas

Of course, you probably have the budget for it, you can also invest in your own printer and set up a base of operations.

Sourcing high-quality t-shirts and printers 

Not all t-shirts are the same and never all print jobs are the same. As we talked about above, quality is paramount to your brand and its success, so it’s necessary to educate your self and select your blank shirts wisely.

It could be tempting to sacrifice quality for greater profit margins but you want to think about how the standard will affect the customer’s decision to share your brand and repurchase in the long term.

Choosing a quality t-shirt encompasses a number of components, together with match, sizing, materials, softness, and weight. An amazing starting point for figuring out which clean t-shirt to use is to try T-Shirt Magazine Online’s assessment of among the hottest clean t-shirts for printing.

Once you slender down your decisions, it’s strongly inspired to order samples your self to make an informed final choice.

T-shirt printing techniques

At this point in time, there are three popular methods for printing onto t-shirts. Each methodology has its execs and cons, and can partially depend upon how a lot of time you need to put money into the product creation, in addition to the printing accomplice you select.

Below, we have outlined all three print methods to give you a better understanding of every process. Whether you put money into your own printer or use a local supplier, it’s price understanding how every printing technique works.

Screen printing

screen printer set up at printfulSource: Printful

Screen printing is an old technique that has stood the test of time. As one of the most common methods for printing onto t-shirts, display screen printing can produce sturdy and long-lasting outcomes. However, a labor-intensive preliminary setup means display screen printing is most cost-effective when printing in bulk. Screen printing additionally poses points when it comes to complex designs or designs with greater than 4 to 5 colors as every coloration will increase prices and manufacturing time.


  • Cost-effective for large batches.
  • Volume discounts.


  • Not cost-effective for a number of colors.
  • Can only print easy images and designs.

Heat transfer

heat transfer printerSource: Transfer Express

Heat transfers have also been around for a long time and exist in several forms. You might have seen fundamental warmth switch papers at your local workplace supply store.

Although these make it simple to print your designs from your private home laptop and switch them with an iron, these won’t cut it when it comes to operating a business. The more advanced type of heat transfers are called plastisol transfers and is printed by professional printers on special, high-quality heat transfer paper. The advantage of that is being able to order a stack of prints from your local printer and transfer them to your t-shirts as you obtain orders with a commercial heat press machine.

Heat transfers can produce full-color images onto t-shirts relatively easily and quickly.


  • You can “print” each shirt on demand.


  • Lower quality and less durable than direct-to-garment and screen printing.
  • Large upfront investment into a heat press machine (Few hundred {dollars} to a few thousand {dollars}).
  • The do-it-yourself method means additional time input from yourself.

Direct-To-Garment (DTG)

direct-to-garment printer

Source: Anajet

The direct-to-garment printing process operates much like an ink-jet printer you might have at home. DTG prints ink straight onto the t-shirt and might produce full-color pictures with accuracy.

Direct-to-garment printing produces quality printing on par with screen printing and better than heat transfers. Because it operates just like an ink-jet printer, there are no setup costs, not like screen printing. This means that it’s easy and cost-effective to print small orders.

The major disadvantage of direct-to-garment printing is the lack of volume discount for big orders because it takes the same amount of time to print each shirt.


  • Unlimited coloration choices.
  • High detail accuracy in printed design.
  • Great for small orders or one-offs.
  • No set-up costs.


  • Not cost-effective for large production runs.
  • Generally no volume discounts.

Creating your t-shirt designs

Find the best selling designs and niches

If you’re stuck for t-shirt niche ideas and designs, an excellent start is to look at what else is popular and currently selling effectively.

Below is a list of several common and bestseller pages for among the high graphic t-shirt marketplaces that simply may help you get a better idea of your next niche or t-shirt design.

You may need to think about trying out Google Trends to get a way of the subjects persons are at present interested in.

Hire a designer

Once you may have an idea for some t-shirt designs. You’re going to have to get your ideas actually designed. If you have Adobe Photoshop or related programs you can possibly produce some easy designs by yourself. However, if you’re like most people, you will possibly want to enlist some assist.

There is a wide variety of tools and market places you can use to find a suitable graphic designer to help you with your designs.

Design communities

Dribbble: Dribbble is a great designer community with lots of unique talent. Search for the style you’re looking for and message the designers you want to see if they’re available for freelance projects.

Behance: Behance is another great designer community to check out for your next t-shirt designer.

Freelance networks

Some different nice choices you may also need to try are the more popular freelance networks like Freelancer and Upwork

Buy t-shirt designs

If you’re stuck for a designer, there are also options to purchase pre-made designs. You’ll want to remember that if you choose to go this route, there’s a high likelihood that other people are already selling the design, making it harder for you and your brand to stand out.

Check out t-shirt graphic marketplaces like:

You may need to try common graphic design marketplaces however keep in mind should you plan to sell your t-shirts, you’ll want to purchase a commercial license.

Mocking up your t-shirts

Once you have some final designs, your next step will be to get some mockup images of them on actual t-shirts. Your customers are going to want to actually see what the final design will look like printed on a shirt.

There are a few methods you can get images of your final designs on t-shirts including ordering samples and taking product photography yourself, or with the abundance of t-shirt templates online, you can opt to create a 100% digital mockup like the one below.

t-shirt mockup photoshop file with various layers

Adobe Photoshop t-shirt templates (.psd) are the most common types of mockup files. They allow you to quickly preview how your designs will look printed on a t-shirt. Most Photoshop templates include multiple layers that allow you to change the color of the shirt and apply your own design that will blend with the creases, folds, and contours of the shirt.

Below, we have compiled several resources to help you find the best mockup file for your next project:

If Adobe Photoshop isn’t right for you, you can also use a web-based mockup software that will allow you to do the same thing without having to download and figure out Photoshop.

Another nice possibility for tasks like this is to enlist help from someone on Fiverr. Just search for t-shirt mockups

Validating your designs

Before you invest a lot of money on your new business idea, you should first verify that there are a market and interest in your designs. There are many ways you can go about validating the market for your design ideas.

Some of the popular and more common methods for validating your ideas include:

Personal social networks: Post some of your designs to your Facebook profile, niche Facebook Groups, on Twitter, and other social networks your friends and potential customers frequent. Be careful when asking family and friends, however—their opinions are prone to kindness.

Reddit: Despite the community’s general aversion to marketing, Reddit is still one of the best places to get honest feedback on your designs (which can even translate into sales after you launch). With countless subreddits, it’s easy to discover a highly targeted niche of potential customers and ask them directly for his or her ideas on your designs before launching.

Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding sites have made it a lot simpler to test, validate, and collect cash upfront in your new business idea. Launching a crowdfunding campaign can be time-consuming and requires a great deal of preparation, however, the benefits can be huge, which include fully funding your project before you launch it. If you have a particularly novel t-shirt business idea (say, matching t-shirts for dogs and dog owners), crowdfunding might be for you.

Print on demand: Finally, with eCommerce platforms like Shopify, it’s never been easier to set up a fully functional online store in a matter of few hours to validate your business idea.

Setting up your t-shirt store

sugoi shirts t-shirt store

Now that you have your t-shirt designs in hand, have made your mockups, and validated your idea, it’s time to build your store. As talked about in the validation section, getting set up on Shopify is fast and easy, and you’ll start with a 14-day free trial

There are a handful of t-shirt print-on-demand services that directly integrate along with your Shopify Store as effectively, permitting you to begin taking orders very quickly. These companies will print and ship your t-shirts to your clients on your behalf each time you obtain an order. There’s no want to buy or maintain any stock upfront, making it an effective way to get began. Best of all, if you’d like to use your design on other printable merchandise, such as mugs, and tote luggage, you may have that possibility as effectively.

There are a variety of t-shirts available through the following print-on-demand companies:

Start your t-shirt business today

It’s never been easier to express your creativity through your own online t-shirt business. Whatever niche you select to serve or how ambitious you decide to be with your quality and designs, a t-shirt store makes for a great first business for new entrepreneurs.

Facebook Comments
Trade directory of wholesale suppliers & uk wholesalers
B2B portal featuring importers, distributors, manufacturers and wholesalers in the UK

About the author

Mohammad Khaled

I am Mohammed Khaled, I studied law, and I have been working as a lawyer since 2002.
My passion for eCommerce never stopped, so I read a lot of books and studied some courses about e-commerce and from here I started my journey as an eBay seller since 2016, and during that trip, I did not stop learning, hence I decided to create this blog to share my knowledge with beginners and professionals entrepreneurs.

Leave a Comment