Author: tarynalphabroder

Here’s What Separates Amazing Band Merch From the Rest

It’s a regular occurrence for Rich Santo, CEO of Culture Studio, to watch his team take an order of hundreds of thousands of printed shirts for a huge music artist like the Jonas Brothers, Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish or the Foo Fighters. It’s also the norm for his team to print these massive orders and ship them to a concert venue within 48 to 72 hours.

Culture Studio annually turns out 10 million printed garments, a huge portion for major bands in all genres from rock to pop to hip-hop. “We understand the music business and are built for speed,” Santo says. “Everything’s super-fast turn, and frankly, a little insane.”

Breaking into the music merch business isn’t for the faint of heart, and requires special skills to excel in this market. However, if you want to know the ins and outs of working with bands, we asked experienced shop owners to share insider tips on how they’ve become the go-to shops for some of the biggest music artists around.


5 Ways to Wow Your Music Artist Clients

So what does it take to be the print shop that’s with all the bands? We run down five tactics, from choosing the right apparel, to the right on-trend decoration, to being able to function at warp speed.

1. Start with the right apparel.

First, you need to have an understanding of the band and their fans. The demographics for each music genre and band are different, and chances are, you’ll work with bands in more than one genre. If you’re marketing to a rap star’s followers versus a country-gospel group’s fans, you’ll find it’s much more than just the artwork design that goes on the merchandise that’s important. The merchandise itself matters a lot. 

First, depending on the fans’ age and style of music, you’ll choose different types of apparel that will fly off the shelves. Older metal fans will appreciate wearing a regular-fit T-shirt that’s a bit oversize, or a zip-up fleece or a dad cap. Younger fans of musicians like Ariana Grande likely want cropped hoodies, crop tops, tanks and other “younger” styles. 

“Punk and hardcore still like boxier-cut tees, and new age or indie rock want softer, fashion cuts,” says Dylan Gilligan, owner of Upstate Merch (@upstatemerch), which has been serving bands, from hardcore and metal, to hip-hop and Christian rock, for nearly 15 years. (Notable clients include Stray From The Path, Steven Page, Mott The Hoople, Fuel, Icon for Hire and Ryan Sickler.) “You need to understand the markets so you can recommend the right t-shirts.”

Let’s face it—one of the best ads for a band is the fan who still wears that iconic tour t-shirt from 10 years ago. But if the shirt won’t last the test of time, or feels rough and scratchy from the first wear, it’ll get shoved to the back of a drawer. “Bands used to say, ‘Give us the cheapest shirt,’” Gilligan says. “Now they want clothing people will wear over and over. They want a better-quality, fashionable, soft ringspun cotton shirt with a custom neck tag. It’s a whole branding experience. They monetize the shirts that continue to advertise their band for years.”

Santo agrees that bands want to be involved in the creative conversation from the get-go. “They’re going to make money on this merch, so it’s our job to give them fresh ideas,” he says. “We give them cool custom ideas, like a cut-and-sew piece we launched, or we show them a new t-shirt silhouette.” 

Culture Studio has built sophisticated in-house software (also available to other decorators at where they’ve aggregated national inventory from most apparel suppliers and mills into one location. “If someone wants a specific Gildan shirt, even in the tens of thousands, we can instantly see what’s available,” Santo says.



2. Choose wow-worthy artwork and imprinting methods.

If you score a license or contract to print shirts for a major label band, they’ll likely give you the images to print on the merch. But, if you’re working with a newer, smaller band, then they’re more likely to rely on you to do the legwork. You’ll have to flex your creative muscles to give them eye-catching artwork that fits the band and their fans. 

For inspo, look at what other bands in the same genre are doing with their merchandise. These designs may include:

  • Headshots of band members
  • In-concert shots of the band on stage
  • Lyrics/song titles or the band logo
  • Full-color images like album covers or images that evoke the band aesthetic
  • White or color prints on white or black shirts.

Both Culture Studio and Upstate Merch usually receive the artwork they need to decorate the merchandise. “Many top-tier artists have an extensive creative department with the band or label,” Santo says. “They provide a line sheet of artwork and creative direction on the apparel to bring together a collection for their tour or a retail store.” 

However, about 15% to 20% of the time, bands ask Upstate Merch to create artwork. “It’s a good idea to know what’s trending out there,” Gilligan says. “Bands need new and exciting designs to sell merchandise. Otherwise, they won’t make money off it.”

Beyond great apparel and artwork, bands look to your print shop for innovative decorating methods. “We’re doing a lot of foil applications,” Santo says. “Also, loads of mixed media, and hybrid prints where we pair digital and screen printing. In the past, everyone wanted softer discharge and water-based prints, and now we’re shifting to a significant amount of heat transfers. We also do a lot of custom dyes and washes so bands have something unique.”

3. Have a way to work with new bands or artists.

“While some bands will pay upfront, others will be short on cash,” Gilligan says. “That can be challenging for your shop if you’re a fan of the band and want to work with them.”

That’s why Upstate Merch created a blueprint for new “garage” bands getting merch for the first time. The first tier is a less-expensive shirt with a one-color print for an investment starting at $150. “Then we scale them to two designs on a better quality shirt,” Gilligan says. “We step the band up levels because if we help them at the beginning, they’ll stick with us for the longer term, with larger and larger orders.” 

Pro tip: If you’re wading into the band world, it’s a good idea to balance those accounts with corporate or educational clients so you keep your cash flow intact.



4. Be ready for tight, tight, tight turns.

Santo and Gilligan agree that one of the most important pieces of the band puzzle is getting the merch the band needs to the venue on time. With huge orders and tight deadlines, that’s no easy feat, especially if you’re serving multiple band clients.

Founded in 2008, Culture Studio considers itself a technology and logistics company first, since the team has built an enviable system that lets them say “yes” to a 600,000-shirt order that needs to be turned around in 48 hours. When the team receives an order, they can first check for that level of inventory via their software. Then, once a team member has inputted all of the pertinent information (including how many units, number of imprints, where they need to be and when), the software determines how to allocate the jobs. 

Culture Studio has 135,000 square feet of production space located across the country, including in Florida, Illinois and Texas, so the program can assign a number of shirts to a specific press in a certain location. The shop offers additional services, like adding an inside tag, a hangtag, folding and polybagging, which Stokkup takes into account to get the merchandise to the right location on time.

“We’re moving products at a huge scale across the country,” Santo says. “What shines through is our capacity and inventory to satisfy our clients so they make money on merchandise.”

While Upstate Merch caters to new or smaller bands, they still work on tight turn times. For that reason, Gilligan keeps 5,000 black t-shirts in stock. “We can make the screen, print and ship the shirts the same day,” he says. “It’s a huge win for us and the band.”

Here are three tips from Upstate Merch on getting merch where it needs to go on time:

  • Get the shirts there as early as possible. “We aim to get the shirts to the venue two to three days early,” Gilligan says. “Build in time for the weather and carrier delays. The band might be paying you $1,500 for the order, but if it’s late, that can mean a $6,000 loss for them.”
  • Consider delivering to a UPS store near the venue. If you’re delivering a smaller order, send it to a nearby UPS location. “A rep for the band can show their ID and get the merch,” Gilligan says. “That way, there’s no chance of the boxes getting lost at the venue.”
  • Label the boxes well. Gilligan serves artist John Mulaney, who needed merch for 60 concert dates. “We printed the shirts upfront and then packed each box, with the shipping date, concert date, venue and what’s in the box,” he says. “We make sure the band merch person knows how many boxes they’ll be getting and what’s in each.”



5. Decide whether you’ll offer online merch stores.

Online merch stores were a bigger thing for music artists during the pandemic, when people couldn’t attend concerts in person. “We’ve seen a significant decline on the e-retail side since the pandemic,” Santo says. “Now, fans want to be at concerts and in stores to buy merch.” 

Upstate Merch fulfills some online stores for music artists. “The name of the game is warehouse space,” says Gilligan, who uses the “fundraiser method”: setting up the store for free for the artists, stocking shelves with designs and promoting the store. “We make $15 per shirt and the band gets $10 per shirt, since we don’t require bands to buy the merchandise. The band gets $10 per shirt. We also require them to buy back the stock back at wholesale if it doesn’t sell. With a store, you’re taking a chance on a band.”

Your Takeaway

Ultimately, only you know whether or not your shop has the chops to work with bands. Gilligan and Santo both had roots in the music industry before opening their shops, so they knew what to expect from the scene. “This isn’t entirely tongue in cheek: Be ready for a little insanity,” Santo quips. “Everything is last minute, under pressure and at extensive volume. Unlike corporate or retail, everything’s based on an event date. Many buyers will contact you 48 to 72 hours before a huge show with an order for tens or hundreds of thousands of shirts. You need to be prepared for that kind of turn.”




Pump Up Your Shop Profits With Promo Products

To stay competitive, it makes sense to be as much of a one-stop print shop as possible. In this way, you can provide the convenience of supplying all the logoed items an organization might want while ensuring that you’ll be making a profit on these items. 

“Today’s consumers wantand expecta single source for their branded merchandise and promotional marketing needs,” says JP Hunt, co-founder and president of InkSoft.

“This need creates an important monetization opportunity for print shops. By adding promo products to your product offerings, print shops can position themselves as full service, be far more competitive, and reach a larger market and customer base. Upselling and cross-selling promotional products is a powerful way to drive more revenue, profit and customer satisfaction into your business.” 

Let’s break down how to add promo products to your shop today, with advice from the experts.

Why Your Shop Should Offer Promotional Products

Let’s talk about the most obvious reason to add promotional products to your existing line of SKUs. There’s profit to be made for your print shop. “Here’s the basic strategy: Would you like fries with that hamburger?” says Marshall Atkinson, business consultant at Shirt Lab Tribe and Atkinson Consulting. “If you can sell them a t-shirt, you can sell them the tote bag, stickers, water bottle, pens and other hard goods for the event. If you don’t sell those additional products, someone else will.”

Promotional products bring in an average 40% profit margin. If you add promo items to your existing decorated-apparel business, you can quickly increase your bottom line. If your customers are already happy with your printed t-shirts, they’ll love that you’re now a one-stop shopfulfilling all of their logoed products. 

Most businesses understand the value of investing marketing dollars in logoed promotional products. That’s in part because 72% of consumers “believe that the quality of a promotional product is directly related to the reputation of the company.” Plus, while internet advertising is important, surveys show that customers “are 2.5 times more likely to have a positive opinion of promotional products over internet advertising,”

Here are more industry stats that show the power and longevity of logoed t-shirts and promo products, which you can also share with your clients:

  • Most households own an average of 30 promotional products, and 53% of people use a logoed product at least once a week.
  • 81% of consumers keep custom promo products for more than one year, and 40% keep promo items for a decade or longer. 
  • The most popular promotional products today are apparel (28%) drinkware (8.4%), writing utensils (6.6%), bags and wallets (6.3%) and technology (5.6%).
  • 83% of people are more likely to do business with a brand that gave them a promotional product.
  • Nine in 10 people recall the company’s name or logo on the promotional item they received.
  • 89% of the population owns a logoed pen, pencil or another type of writing instrument; 73% of consumers own custom bags; 64% of consumers own customized desk or office accessories; 45% of consumers own personalized umbrellas; and 33% of consumers own customized power banks.



Be More Than a ‘Shop That Sells T-Shirts’

We’ve talked before about becoming more than a print shop that sells t-shirts. To increase your profit while expanding your business, you must be an authority in the logoed products business. If your customers can trust you to select the right mix of high-quality logoed items for them, you relieve them of a huge burden and help them achieve their marketing goals.

You already know there are certain key elements needed to create decorated apparel, like great artwork and lasting imprints, and the same is true for promotional products. “The good news is that you’ll outsource the decoration of these products to your suppliers,” Atkinson says. “Take upfront payment from your customers, and the process is easy.”

Unlike a promotional products distributor who might take more time to peruse industry databases of thousands of promo products, it makes more sense for a printer starting out to have a shorter go-to list of the products the industries they serve most often want. “Just like with apparel though, there are many options when it comes to hard goods,” Hunt says. “Rely on your promotional product suppliers to understand and recommend what products are popular and trending as you begin building your catalog. Carefully curating the array of promotional items you’ll offer will help you sell these items more effectively.”

You’ll need to meet supplier salespeople to create those initial relationships. Ensuring you get high-quality products and partnering with a promotional vendor who understands what you’re doing for your clients is crucial to get the superior result your clients expect. “Develop relationships, because like any industry, there are people who are really good and you want to find them,” Atkinson says. “Choose suppliers you want to work with. Talk among your network to see what suppliers people recommend. A good first step is to order samples and experience working with that supplier.” 

Pro tip: With current supply chain issues, consider in-stock and high-availability items when you’re selling promotional products to avoid disappointing customers.



Here’s How to Select the Right Products to Sell

Atkinson recommends looking at what industries your current clients fit in. The top 10 industries that purchase promo products are business services, education, financial, manufacturing, healthcare, construction, insurance, technology, nonprofits and agriculture. 

Let’s say you serve a lot of gyms and yoga studios. What promo items can a gym, trainers and members use? Water bottles, towels, bags, t-shirts, yoga mats, magnets, pens, car decals and achievement awards for different milestones, to name a few. “Within each product type, find good, better and best options,” Atkinson says. “You should have a plastic water bottle, but also a stainless steel version, for example.”

Here are some of Atkinson’s best suggestions for immersing yourself in the world of promo products to find the right items to sell based on your clients: 


  1. Join a promotional products organization, like PPAI or ASI. You’ll be able to browse product databases to see the most popular items and how much they cost. You can visit in-person and virtual trade shows to connect with suppliers and see what’s new. You can learn more about how the products are decorated as well. Nonprofit organizations like PromoKitchen can link you up with a free mentorship with an industry veteran. “Will you DIY it and struggle, or take advantage of the resources available to you?” Atkinson says. “It’s your choice.”
  2. Order samples, so you get to know the products and suppliers. “When you place a sample order, you get to try out the water bottle to see if you like it,” Atkinson says. “You also build a relationship with your supplier rep, and then learn how the supplier works and if they produce a good product. How long does it take? How does the logo look? Does it stand the test of use and time?”
  3. Charge for the real value you offer. Atkinson has talked to shop owners who spend three hours trying to find a great pen for their customer, and then the customer turns around and orders it from a site like 4imprint. “Develop a relationship with your customer,” he says. “Your value starts with your recommendations. Charge $200 to create that curated products list, and then deduct that fee from whatever the customer orders from you. Putting the time into your recommendations can turn the $2,000 order into a $10,000 order.”
  4. Get your feet wet with smaller, easier orders. “The more you do it, the more experience you get,” Atkinson says. “Some promo orders are very complicated, like developing a fully custom product in a China-based factory. Don’t start there. Work your way up to those orders.”
  5. Focus on a marketing push to let existing and new customers know about your new offering. “When you add promo products to your apparel line, you’re able to design the whole product suite for your client,” Atkinson says. “You can also custom box all the products in your shop and fulfill the orders. The value to your customer isn’t just that you’re sourcing the products. It’s that you’re solving a branding and exposure problem for them. When other people see those logoed water bottles or car decals, they say, ‘Hey, you’re part of my tribe.’”



Becoming a One-Stop-Shop Is Convenient for Your Client & High Profit for You

Companies, organizations, schools and teams: These are just a few of the many clients you can help by being a one-stop-shop for their promotional needs. In fact, most groups are candidates for logoed promo products for customer thank-yous, event swag, tradeshow giveaways, marketing collateral and even higher-end merch for sale. What does a company use when they want to extend their brand recognition efforts while also building a great fan base? Logoed products. And who do they go to for those logoed products? You and your print shop, of course.

The first step is to include promo products as part of every sales call. “Always present promotional products in the initial product discovery process,” Hunt says. “The biggest mistake is only using promotional products as an upsell too late in the process, which can seem like an afterthought to your client.”

Remember, the marketing executives in charge of handling orders for branded products are rarely knowledgeable about artwork requirements, timelines and other specifics needed to accurately order shirts, bags, water bottles, and the like. That’s where it makes so much sense for you, as the designer and creative director, to take charge of all the promotional items a client could ask for, becoming their partner for life.

Starting today, follow these tips from Hunt and Atkinson to hook clients on purchasing logoed promo products from your shop:

  1. Curate promotional products carefully to avoid overwhelming buyers with choices. “Think in terms of offering good, better, and best quality products in the most popular categories,” Hunt says.
  2. Get samples and use samples in your sales process. “At the very least, use product mockups to showcase your customers’ brand identity on recommended products,” Hunt says. 

Atkinson suggests when you think about the lifetime value of a client, say $50,000 over the time you work together, investing $100 to create logoed product samples with their logo on it isn’t an unreasonable investment. “You want to get that client excited about working with you,” he says. “While there are never any guarantees they’ll sign on, I can guarantee you’ll stand out when you try this strategy.”

  1. Use complete branded merchandise in all of your marketing efforts. For example, your shop’s Instagram images should showcase all types of logoed products, not just apparel. 
  2. Focus on merchandising and product relatedness. “Your product mix should seem holistic and related to each other,” Hunt says. “Avoid the notion of a hodgepodge of products. Ask yourself the question: Do these products logically go together? What story and feeling are created for the recipient with the bundle I’m creating?” 
  3. Bundling promotional items is another great strategy for managing and fulfilling online stores for clients like schools and corporations. With this, you can stock t-shirts and hoodies, but also water bottles, key chains, and whatever promo products make the most sense for that audience.


6 Decorators Show Off Their Coolest T-Shirt Designs

Sixty-two percent of Americans own 10 or more t-shirts they wear regularly. That’s why it’s no surprise the ubiquitous t-shirt has reigned for years as the number-one promotional product category. Every year, we love asking some of the most talented decorators out there to share their biggest-selling t-shirt designs, with insider tips for getting those standout results. Get inspired by  stellar t-shirt designs from six shops across the country, as they use a variety of decorating techniques ranging from screen printing to DTG to direct to film.

Tapping Into the Amish Way of Life

Devon Brabenec, owner of Superior Merch, created this “Amish Country: A Way of Life” t-shirt design as part of his shop’s in-house line, available for purchase inside his downtown Ashland, OH-based retail store. This seven spot-color t-shirt stands out in Brabenec’s corner of the country since not many of his competitors create intricate designs. “I wanted to raise the bar and do something that’s different and definitely not boring,” he says.

Pro tip: “Find a great vector artist so you get the best possible artwork to print,” Brabenec says.

Photo credit: Isaac Coffy, Coffy Creations Photography
Photo credit: Isaac Coffy, Coffy Creations Photography


Yes, He’s Really a Gun Drummer (Look at His Tee!)

Brabenec and the Superior Merch team created this “Gun Drummer” shirt design for a unique, up-and-coming YouTuber who makes wild and chaotic “gun covers”—covers of popular heavy metal songs using some traditional musical instruments, and yes, guns. (Check out this YouTube star’s wild cover of Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”)

This head-turning design is a full-color DTG print, but Brabenec plans to transition it to a screen-printed version soon. “This design really sums up the Gun Drummer’s personality and YouTube channel,” he says. “Lots of shops just stick to one- or two-color merch, so this one really pops.”

Pro tip: A metal fan, who happens to be an artist in Poland, submitted this cool artwork that’s now become part of the Gun Drummer’s popular merch line. “Don’t forget to look for and use talent within your existing fan base, when possible,” Brabenec says. 


Photo credit: Isaac Coffy, Coffy Creations Photography
Photo credit: Isaac Coffy, Coffy Creations Photography

The Retro Cool Look of Eco-Friendly Inks



Wizard of Barge created this inspiringly “magical” design, and asked the team at Night Owls Print Shop to put it on a t-shirt. “Gildan Adult Heavy Cotton T-shirts have long been a staple of streetwear and accept discharge ink perfectly,” says Eric Solomon, owner. “We didn’t use any plastisol inks in this print. Just custom-built, Pantone-matched discharge formulas to make each ink color pop.”

Pro tip: Check out the Gildan Adult Heavy Cotton T-Shirt (G500) if your clients want an old school streetwear vibe for their t-shirt style. 



Artist Jay Ryan, who heads up small screen-print shop The Bird Machine, created this Electrical Guitar Co. design and asked the experts at Night Owls to print it. “We used super-soft, eco-friendly, Matsui High Solid Acrylic water-based inks,” Solomon says. “These inks print in thin layers, so you have the softest-possible print, without sacrificing opacity.” 

Pro tip: Check out the Next Level Apparel Unisex Cotton T-Shirt (3600) if you want a soft, lived-in t-shirt (that looks great on everyone) as the canvas for your vintage-looking designs. 


The Pump Truck Design You’ll Wear Everywhere

This throwback design takes vintage inspiration from a 1930s Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine Co. advertisement, designed to promote the company’s “new at the time” pump truck. The company of today wanted its Ahrens-Fox dealers to use these historical-inspired shirts as memorable giveaways for their customers.  

Since Ahrens-Fox no longer had the original artwork, Charles Juarros, owner of Ragged Apparel Screen Printing, worked off a .JPEG image of the ad. Juarros’ team decided against recreating the image into a vector format, since they wanted to keep the stylized look of the 1930s drawn art. “We used Adobe Photoshop to enhance the provided graphic as much as possible, while maintaining the look of the ad,” he says. “Retaining the rough vintage look makes the printed design extra cool.”

Then, the team separated the artwork into three screens using Separation Studio, and printed them at a 61-degree angle and 55 dpi.  The inks used were all from International Coatings. “We used Legacy White for the underbase, followed by 6143 Dark Grey and 726 Gold,” Juarros says. The screens were all tensioned at 30 newtons, using Newman Roller Frames with 230 Saati Hitex mesh. The screens were coated with Saati Textil PHU emulsion with a 1-over-1 coating using the coater’s round edge.

“A lot of printers focus on what occurs on the press, since that’s where we physically see the image come to life,” Juarros says. “However, if you focus on perfecting what happens before you go to press, everything falls into place when you put your screens on press. Pre-press is really where your wow-worthy image is born.”

Pro tip: Starting with good artwork is essential. “In this case, we were challenged by limitations of the older artwork,” Juarros says. “We could have recreated it completely, but that would have detracted from its authenticity.’  

Pro tip: Pre-press is arguably the most important part of the screen-printing process. “It’s simple: Create good screens,” Juarros says. “Account for all your variables, like proper tension, good reclaim procedures, coating techniques, as well as maintaining proper humidity levels to allow your emulsion to dry properly. These all play an important factor in the final outcome of the print.  Paying close attention to the details of the pre-press process will make you a better printer, as your t-shirt deigns stand out from the crowd.”


Direct-to-Film Fish Are a Great Catch

Year-round fishing resort Dale’s on Lake of the Woods chose The Visual Identity Vault to host a merch webstore for their resort. “We change up the designs for the seasons,” says Tanya Doyscher, owner and graphic designer. “These two designs are brand new to the resort for the summer season. Dale’s loves having new options for merchandise for their guests!”

Doycher used direct-to-film (DTF) printing for these designs, an imprinting technique that quickly has become a favorite of many of her clients. “Dale’s especially loves the colors DTF produces as well as the soft hand,” she says. “The colors of these two t-shirt designs are absolutely gorgeous and will be a hit with their guests. We expect the fish design to be a huge seller; the other benefit of that particular shirt is the resort’s contact information on it, so it doubles as a sales tool for Dale’s.”

Pro tip: Find a DTF vendor that has knowledge, experience and a proven track record. “This process is easy to do wrong since it requires several steps, as it’s being printed, dried/cured and powdered, or adhesive-applied,” Doyscher says. “Some companies convert aftermarket printers without understanding the science behind it and then when prints fail, it looks bad for the seller. Then, there are issues with the vendor/seller relationship.”

Dosycher encourages shops interested in DTF printing to do their due diligence and find a supplier or two that has a proven track record, as well as a backup plan if their machine has issues or goes down. “Also, understand that not all machines and materials have the same pressing instructions, so if you’re using multiple vendors, pay special attention to instructions when completing your projects,” she says.


t shirt designs


Don’t Be Afraid of Hustling, or Text-Based Design

The years 2020, 2021, 2022 and beyond are the years of the statement t-shirt. People love wearing motivational messages and their beliefs on their favorite tees. Misti Money, owner of 6Money’s Creations, created this supportive “The Dream is Free, The Hustle is Sold Separately” message t-shirt for a women’s expo. “We created this design to encourage attendees to stay focused on their goals,” she says.

For a super-soft, long-lasting tee, Money chose the Bella + Canvas Ladies’ Relaxed Heather CVC Short-Sleeve T-Shirt (6400CVC) in Navy. She used a silver heat transfer for the text. “The shirt and transfer colors complement each other well,” she says. “The silver gave the design a bit of a sheen, which made it eye-catching for people who saw it.”

Pro tip: When you’re working with a text-based design, choose fonts that complement each other to make the image interesting. You can incorporate a shape, like a box, into the design. Opting to increase the font size of the main word brings the focus to the core part of the message. “Don’t be afraid to mix and match fonts,” Money says. “Doing that can make your text-based design stand out.”


A T-Shirt-of-the-Month Club With Nonstop Killer Designs

Money creates new t-shirt designs for her 6Money’s Monthly T-Shirt Club, which hundreds of happy member women have joined. They love receiving attractive and inspiring t-shirt designs 12 times a year.

First up, this “All American Woman” t-shirt arrived just in time for the July 4 festivities, but recipients enjoyed wearing it throughout the year. When creating this screen-printed design, Money first reviewed the heathered shirt color and texture. “I chose a shade of blue that would coordinate best with the shirt color and text-based design,” she says. “Using navy blue and white really brought my vision for the shirt alive.” This design could also be reproduced with heat transfer vinyl.

Pro tip: Keeping the “All American Woman” design simple, but using varying font sizes helped balance this design. “I love how the three simple stars and the line gave interest to the design, but didn’t detract from the message,” Money says. Using harmonious fonts, and knowing when to use a readable script font, is always a good rule of thumb when creating any design with text.



Money takes into account the month and season she’s creating a particular design for, so in this case for March, she wanted to inject some spring thoughts. “March makes me think of fresh flowers and new life,” she says. “Using complementary colors as well as several different styles of flowers and elements helped this shirt come together. The ‘Live Happy’ message also fits perfectly here as an uplifting thought.”

Pro tip: When you’re conceptualizing a t-shirt design, think about when and how your clients will wear it. While this particular design is a longer one, Money knew it was perfect for March weather. “Most of my club members layer their tees with cardigans and the design works well with that styling,” she says. “Using various floral colors also allows my customers to change up the look of the shirt, just by adding different accessories or layering pieces.  It also can be worn on a casual trip to the greenhouse or dressed up for a girls’ night out.”  


Money created this inspirational, distressed design for the warmer months. If you use heat transfer vinyl, think about how much distressing you put on the design. “You don’t want several little cavities that need to be weeded,” she says. If you have the ability to screen print or even use another printing style such as white toner printer or DTG-style items, you can add more distressing. “You want to make sure that the roughed-up areas don’t take away from the readability or the overall look of the design,” she says.



Money created this “Small Business Owner” design for her Lady Boss T-Shirt of the Month Club. When she’s designing, she takes trending designs and colors into account. “Currently the Southwest look is super popular, so I decided to give it a try with a simple message for my small business owner members,” she says. “Finding a way to incorporate retail trends into something as simple as a font is a great way to make a statement and have your designs stand out.”

Pro tip: Using her iColor White Toner Printer, Money wasn’t limited to what type of garment she  placed the design on. “I was excited to find a heathered sunset tee that vibed with all the colors and design elements for the tee,” she says.


Out-of-the-Ordinary School Spirit Design Template

Money created this “Pirates” design for a local school’s spirit wear shirt. “We create one design template, and can quickly change it out for any school mascot and colors,” she says.   

The 6Money’s Creations team used an easy-to-read front but added interest to the design with lines and the school mascot. “By creating a slight slant, we make the design stand out from a standard straight chest logo,” Money says.

Pro tip: Create a t-shirt design that you can easily adapt to different school names, colors and mascots. By using a slanted design that’s different from the average chest logo, your shop will get a reputation for bringing some extra edge. “When we create templated designs for our spirit wear, we make them stand out from more ordinary designs,” Money says. “It’s also great to build designs that can quickly accommodate a color change, so you can appeal to additional schools using their unique colors.”



A Spirit Wear Design That Transcends

Money’s shop created this “Patrick Henry” design as school spirit wear. “Fans of all ages took advantage of the design because it was timeless, and it’s a design that can be worn to multiple school events, because it isn’t sport or group specific,” she says.

This vibrant design was created using a flock heat transfer material, which has created dimension and interest to the design.  We also left a space between the two mediums we used, allowing the sweatshirt fabric to show through, giving the design an extra color,” Money says. 

Pro tip: When you’re in the planning stages for a client, think about what color apparel the design will sit on. “This will help you decide if you want to use the feature shown here, allowing the shirt shade to become part of the design,” Money says. “For the Patrick Henry shirt, it works well. You can use a two-color design, but give it the appearance of three colors.”

Pro tip: Using different types of media helps create an eye-catching design. “The flock we used added dimension to the design, and is also soft to the touch,” Money says. “Texture is trending right now, and this was a way to uplevel my products for my customers.”



We Love Small and Long Dogs, to the Moon and Back

Meg Paxton, owner of and, creates whimsical t-shirt and bag designs for The Teenie Weenie Store, a shop for small and long dogs and their favorite people. Paxton uses high-quality, full-color direct-to-film (DTF) transfers to produce her designs. “Buying the machine wasn’t right for me at this time due to upkeep,” she says. “However, using our in-house heat press and the film is quick and easy, and the designs look great.” 

Paxton absolutely loves being able to come up with her must-have designs, send them off electronically and get them back in the mail in about 72 hours. “With direct-to-film printing, you can literally go from design creation to shirts for sale in 72 hours, all depending on shipping times,” she says.

Pro tip: Finding the right DTF film printer for your shop is the most important consideration when you’re starting out. Prices and quality of films vary by the vendor you use, so do your homework. “Playing with your heat press to get the correct time and heat for your environment is pretty direct and easy to figure out,” Paxton says. “Knowing your times and temperatures is the other important part of the equation.”