Advice for New T-shirt Designers: DBH Artist Interview Series

What advice would you give to a first time t-shirt designer? Creating art for apparel can be a first for anyone (and quite a challenge), whether you're brand new to design or a seasoned artist. Should they follow t-shirt trends? What artistic techniques should they try? Should they promote on social media websites? We asked our DBH artist community and they were more than happy to respond, with great tips on following trends and being true to your artistic style.

Don't forget the DBH Forum is a great place for artists to ask questions and receive feedback. Check back soon to see our next artist question for a chance to get featured!

"Research the latest trends to get inspiration and get a feel for what is trending. I use Pinterest to keep an inspiration board for myself whenever I need a little extra help designing. I also check out daily shirt aggregate sites like Teemagnet to see what type of designs are being chosen. Also, do something you are passionate about in your work because your feelings towards the subject matter will show in the art." - CrowsNevermore

DBH Artist: CrowsNevermore
# of Designs: 18
Specializes In: Detailed vector illustrations of warriors

"Honestly, new artists should play to their strengths. Find out what you are good at (through practice and critique) and run with it. It might be difficult to find your footing in the beginning, but the more designs you make the stronger your foundation will become. Once you have mastered your strengths, start to spread out creatively and push the limits of your abilities. Most importantly, remember to take time to enjoy your successes and learn from your mistakes because every idea has the potential to become a new opportunity." - Lighthouse

DBH Artist: Lighthouse
# of Designs: 8
Specializes In: Abstract space-inspired pieces about journey

Find the groups that already love the design you are going for (e.g. Sherlock, Doctor Who, Supernatural). There are already massive fans and yes they see a hundred of these designs, but they might just see yours. Also MASHUPS, people love them, and if you can find two that are not usually put together, that's even better. Lastly, look at trends or upcoming tv shows (e.g. Hannibal) or movies (e.g. GOTG) these will give you surges, especially if the show is on hiatus but not cancelled (Superwholock)." - SarahBevan11

DBH Artist: SarahBevan11
# of Designs: 8
Specializes In: Typographic pop culture pieces

"If you notice a particular style blowing up across stores, and you think you could do it, try to work it (or elements of it) into your next design. The biggest step is working out a style for yourself. Mess around with other mediums a little, find something you like, and then come back to shirts. If you've got a unique style, your audience may be smaller, but they'll be more loyal. Make sure that you're proud of your designs. I know I wouldn't want to look at my store and see a bunch of stuff I wouldn't be caught dead in. Look at your designs and ask "Would I wear that" If the answer is yes, you're good to go." - CmdrButts

DBH Artist: CmdrButts
# of Designs: 41
Specializes In: Abstract and geometric galaxy patterns

"What I've learned about trends: getting on the "trend bandwagon" can oftentimes get you printed quicker than any other random design might. Trends come and go so the ability to work quickly is always a factor when designing for "trends". Never be afraid to ask questions if there is something you don't know about the industry. Keep in mind that not every artist is forthcoming with information, especially to a beginner. But if designing is your passion then keep asking questions, practicing your techniques, develop your own style that stands out from other artists, and be diligent. The t-shirt industry is not the easiest of industries to break into and it can take years to gain a substantial following." - OfficeInk

DBH Artist: OfficeInk
# of Designs: 31
Specializes In: Art nouveau mixed with hello kitty and pop culture characters

"I think one should start by taking part in different competitions, it'll really teach you so many things. Never get upset by rejection, I know it hurts but every rejection will push you to do some research regarding designs. There are so many great tutorials available for designers, you can really learn so many things and develop your style too. You really don't need to follow trends. Be You. Following a particular trend limits your creativity. Never hesitate to try new things." - Famenxt

DBH Artist: Famenxt
# of Designs: 39
Specializes In: Asian-inspired patterns, pop culture favorites and wild patterns

"When it comes down to it, the key to it all is personal satisfaction. Never try to sell work you've made that you don't like yourself. If not selling anything sucks, then selling mass amounts of a work you hate (however unlikely) can be a living hell. Even if a trend is marketable, if you don't like it, don't do it. Success can sometimes be worse than failure." - KenTackett

DBH Artist: KenTackett
# of Designs: 10
Specializes In: Abstract vector illustrations based on body parts

"I would have to say that this formula always holds true: you have to love the product you create. Think of a t-shirt that you would want to wear. Everything you design may not be golden, but it takes those designs to help as stepping stones to a better technique. Not every wonderful art piece will transition onto a piece of clothing, so sometimes one must adapt. So, make something you love and show it off as loudly and shamelessly as possible. There is nothing more amazing than walking down the street and seeing someone with your design on their shirt." - ieIndigoEast

DBH Artist: ieIndigoEast
# of Designs: 39
Specializes In: Humanistic sketches and cool pop culture characters

Need some other getting started tips? Here are some DBH Resources for you:

Artist Resources Forum Post on Design Tips for Apparel DBH Design Guide and Downloadable Templates

And of course, put your questions right here in the comments!

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