Marketing & Branding Advice

What to Consider When Designing a T-Shirt for Your Firm


Do you need a branded shirt for your firm but don’t know where to start? If you are designing a shirt for a charity event, a fun-run, a sports league, or some general firm swag, there’s definitely a lot to consider. But designing and producing a shirt shouldn’t be stressful! Here, we break down some key elements to help guide you through the process:

To Brand or Not to Brand

If your shirt is required for a one-time event, it may or may not need to be on brand. However, if it is intended to represent your company long-term, closely adhering to brand standards is advisable. Take a look at these examples and consider what your needs are.

Corporate Swag:

Edelstein provides t-shirts and other branded swag to employees. These types of shirts should strictly follow your brand standards. 

Edelstein T Shirt

Fun-Run/Community Event:

BBK needed branded shirts for a charity fun-run at a conference. To keep the printing cost down, they only used two of their brand colors and the one-color version of their logo.

Bbk 2024 Funrun Mockup

One-off Events:

BBK needed shirts and hats for a softball tournament at a conference. BBK wanted a unique, fun logo created for this one-off event. The softball swag included the firm name in plain, black text on the back of the shirts. The shirts were screen printed and the hats were embroidered.

Bbk Hats T Shirts

Staying Identifiable

Once you have determined your needs and budget, begin with the brand components already at your disposal. Review your established brand colors and logo files (i.e. full color, 1 color, reversed to white, etc.). When you want a consistently branded shirt, always keep your brand standards in mind.

Express Yourself

Designing a shirt provides an excellent opportunity to showcase some extra personality, especially if the shirt is for a fun firm event. Consider themes and motifs that reflect the special event. External factors like location, setting, or season can also be great sources of inspiration for your design. Think about what sets your firm apart and embrace that uniqueness in the design process.


In the example below, this shirt design prominently includes a running shoe inspired by the event.

Fun Run T Shirt 2022 Detail Front


The following year, we designed the shirt with dolphins as a nod to the event location in Monterey, CA. 

Bbk Fun Run T Shirt Artwork Detail

Production Restrictions

Before you start the full design process, it’s essential to be aware of the physical restrictions associated with the production process to ensure you design a high-quality shirt that also stays within your budget.

Color Restrictions

Certain printing techniques, such as screen printing, may have limitations on the number of colors that can be included in the artwork without significantly increasing production costs. Understanding these limitations can help guide color choices and design decisions to ensure the work remains feasible and affordable. 

If your shirt fabric is a color, like the green and yellow shirts shown in the example farther above, you can utilize those colors as part of your artwork by “knocking out” areas of the art to let the shirt color show through. (Note the green and yellow palm trees in the center of the illustration.) You may also need to print a solid area of white ink, as shown on this example, to make the softball and black text “pop.” White ink will count as a color and will factor into the printing cost.

One-color printing is the most affordable option. Generally, additional color(s) in the design will increase the printing cost, sometimes significantly! Similar color considerations apply when considering embroidered graphics over printed ones.

Embroidery can be a lovely way of adding your logo or artwork to swag. Polo shirts, tote bags, and caps are generally made with coarser fabric that doesn’t work well with screenprinting but looks great with embroidery. Embroidery thread comes in more limited color options, so you’ll need to make some compromises if your logo or design uses unusual colors. Also, a higher “thread count” is more expensive but is crucial to capture details in your design. Always ask to see samples before placing your order.

Shirt Style & Color

The shirt style you choose will also impact your design options, especially as the range of available shirt colors can vary for each style. Typically, the more specialized the style, the fewer color options you will have to choose from. You may need to prioritize your preferences to make a selection that best suits your needs. If you need to use your exact brand colors, you will likely need to pick a white shirt. 


Consider the level of detail and complexity in your design, as this can also be restricted by the printing method. Intricate details and fine lines may not translate well in screenprinting and embroidery processes, leading to a loss of clarity in the final product. Simplifying and refining your design to maintain clarity within the limitations of the chosen production method is important for achieving the desired outcome.

Print Areas

Each printer will have specific limitations for the maximum and minimum dimensions of the artwork that can be applied to the product and its placement. Being mindful of these limitations from the outset can help avoid potential design complications later on.

Different possible print areas on a shirt include the front, back, sleeves, and even the sides. Each additional print area typically incurs added costs to cover the additional set-ups. When considering placement options for your design, it is important to factor in these various options to stay within your budget.

Creativity Within Constraints

Designing a shirt for your firm presents an opportunity to create a memorable and impactful promotional item. While branding or printing restrictions may introduce limitations, they can also serve as a catalyst for creativity. Embracing these constraints can lead to innovative design solutions that not only adhere to the technical requirements but also enhance the overall quality and aesthetic appeal of the t-shirt.

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