If you think that a T-shirt is just a garment, you’re wrong. The T-shirt has already become something like a Guild mark or item with the heraldic symbol. Look at the T-shirt print, and you will know a lot about its owner: Is this a comics fan or person who likes cats?

With the T-shirt, people can tell the world about themselves, so the T-shirt is a popular and promising low-investment business for entrepreneurs, artists, and fashion influencers.

If you are interested in how to start a T-shirt business, you should be ready to face competitors. 

We prepared a step-by-step guide that will help you to find your target market and gain success in online sales. 

Where to begin your online T-shirt business?

If you already have the idea of your business, you can start selling with Shopify right now! The creation and development of your unique T-shirt brand can be a fast and low-cost process.

Shopify provides its users with a lot of relevant features and applications, so you can find the most suitable dropshipper or T-shirt printer and connect them with your web site. If you need to integrate your Shopify store with third-party solutions or enhance its work with special applications, you can turn to our dedicated Shopify specialists. After these actions, you will get a fully functioning store and will be able to begin to serve your customers.

5 questions to answer before you start your T-shirt business 

Selling printed T-shirts sounds simple with all these modern tools for design, printing, and shipping. The problem is that there are a lot of entrepreneurs who think so too. Also, don’t forget about the slim margins. That’s why, it is crucial to create a recognizable brand that will differ from your competitors. 

So, there are 5 questions the answers to which can define the future of your T-shirt business from the beginning.

#1. What is your niche?

The niche will help you to identify your target market, understand their needs, and create proper advertising without wasting time and money.

#2. What kind of design can you offer your customers?

People who buy T-shirts are looking for something special that will highlight their individuality and preference. 

#3. What about the quality of your T-shirts?

If you want to gain more loyal customers, you should be sure of the quality of your T-shirts and prints. 

#4. What would be your brand?

The proper and interesting brand is important for every kind of business, especially related to printing T-shirts.

#5. What will be your workflow?

It is about inventory: you can deal with your own inventory and get a volume discount or turn to print-on-demand service and save your time and money on warehousing.

Let’s explore it in detail.

#1. What is your niche?

Finding the niche is the key moment in creating your T-shirt printing business; it influences the design, advertising, and the technique of printing. So, you have to choose your audience and try to understand what they need.

“People who like funny pictures, mems, and writings” can’t be your niche; it is too blurry, and your store will get lost among the same ones. You should clarify your offer: “T-shirts with funny texts for a couple or a sweet tooth, etc.”

You can use one of the ways to find your nice:

  • Check subreddits to spot your potential niche: this way, you can forecast the scope of your target market.
  • You can estimate the size of your future Facebook customers with the help of Facebook Audience Insights.
  • You can find your inspiration with the Wikipedia listing devoted to the most popular hobbies.
  • Trust your inner voice and focus on your communities, interests, and subscriptions.

#2. What kind of design can you offer to your customers?

When we talk about T-shirts design, there is only one rule: it should be original. It does not matter how simple or difficult your print will be; it should be interesting for your audience.

In addition to the original idea, your prints should be of high quality. To meet this requirement, they should have a size of no less than 300 digital pixels per inch, a transparent background, and should cover the print area of the T-shirt. 

#3. What about the quality of your T-shirts?

The design and quality of T-shirts are closely related. Your customers will not return to your store if they are disappointed with the quality of your goods. Discolored print or T-shirt that has shrunk in the washing machine doesn’t give you loyal customers.

The quality of your T-shirt depends on its material, printing technique, and design.

#4. What will be your brand?

Your website, products, and marketing strategy should represent one style and one idea. So, a powerful and original brand is very important for the T-shirts industry. Your brand should highlight the quality and a certain lifestyle, something that makes your store unique.

#5. What will be your workflow?

At the beginning of such a business, you can buy goods at bulk prices and store inventory, use print-on-demand service, or mix these options.

With your own inventory, it will be easier to sell in-person, but, using print-on-demand service, you can minimize your risks. It is a low-investment way to verify your business idea in ecommerce.

Choosing quality T-shirts and printers

As we previously said, you shouldn’t skimp on the quality of your T-shirts, even if it is tempting, but think about customer retention. When you choose a T-shirt for your business, you should take into account its fit, size, softness, material, elasticity, and weight. Order some samples and test your future product yourself before buying a consignment.

How to choose an appropriate technique?

There are three most popular ways of T-shirt printing. So, let’s consider their benefits and drawbacks and analyze how much time it takes to print a T-shirt. This knowledge will be helpful, no matter if you use your own printer or work with a local supplier.

Screen printing

Screen printing is a well-known time-tested technique that can bring you good, long-lasting results. This way of printing is characterized by labor-intensive initial setup and money and time savings due to printing in bulk. 

It will be a complicated process if you want to print a multicolored picture, because every color increases costs and the time of production.

Benefits of screen printing

  • Profitable for a large number of goods
  • Volume discounts

Drawbacks of screen printing

  • Non-effective for more than 4 colors
  • Supports only simple prints

Heat transfer

It is also an old and popular way of printing. You can print your pictures with the help of your home computer and transfer them to the T-shirt with an iron. A more advanced kind of heat transfer is named plastisol transfers. In this case, you print your image using a special high-quality heat transfer paper.

You can order a stack of prints from your local printer and transfer them with the help of commercial heat transfer.

Benefits of heat transfer

  • You can get colored prints easily and quickly.
  • You can print each T-shirt on demand.

Drawbacks of heat transfer

  • Such printing has low quality and is less durable than other types.
  • A heat press machine needs large investments from several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
  • “Do-it-yourself” approach takes a lot of your time.


Direct-to-Garment printing process works like your home inkjet printer. Since DTG prints ink directly on the T-shirt and can make colored pictures with high precision. DTG makes colored printing and screen printing better than heat transfer. You don’t have to spend your money on its setup, so you can print small orders in a simple and cost-effective way.

Printing of every T-shirt takes the same time, so you don’t get a volume discount when you have a large order.

Benefits of DTG

  • There are no color limitations.
  • Printing detalization is high. 
  • There are no setup costs.
  • It suits small orders.

Drawbacks of DTG

  • There is no volume discount.
  • It is non-effective for large production cycles.

How to create a T-shirt design?

Find the most rentable solution

If choosing your niche and ideas for design is a problem, you can check products that are popular now. You can visit these well-known resources for printed T-shirts to get knowledge and inspiration.

Also, it is a good idea to check Google trends to find what interests people. 

Hire a designer

After you decide on the theme of your T-shirts, you should create a design concept. If you know how to use Adobe Photoshop or other similar programs, you can create it by yourself. Alternatively, you can use special tools and platforms to search for an experienced graphic designer.

  • Dribble is a popular design community with talented designers. Choose the needed style and drop messages to designers whose projects you like.
  • Behance is another well-known community where you can find your designer.
  • Freelance Networks: you can search for a freelance designer on Freelancer or Upwork.

Buy ready-made T-shirt design

If you can’t find a designer or create a design by yourself, you can buy ready-made projects. But in this case, you should take into account that the design which you choose can be already used by your competitors.

You can check these graphic marketplaces devoted to T-shirts:

You can also search for designs on common graphic marketplaces; yet, for this, you should buy a commercial license:

Build the mockup of your T-shirt

When you finish your work with designs, you should build the mockup of your product and give your customers an example of a ready T-shirt. You can do this in several ways: 

  • Order samples and take real photos,
  • Use T-shirt templates and render images online. 

Adobe Photoshop T-shirts templates (.psd) allow customers to check how the chosen design will look like on a T-shirt. A lot of Photoshop templates provide several colors of the T-shirt and show realistic folds, contours, and creases of a T-shirt. 

You browse for T-shirt mockups here:

If you don’t work in Adobe Photoshop, you can use special software that doesn’t need Photoshop installation:

How to validate your idea?

Every new idea should be validated before you invest your money in it. At first, be sure that your products will be in demand. You can check this in several ways.

Personal account in social network

You can post some of your designs on your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and ask your followers what they think about your ideas. But you should be ready that your friends’ reaction will not be objective, as they want to support you.


With the help of various subreddits, you can find a certain niche and ask your potential target market about their opinion before you launch your sales. As practice shows, Reddit is still the best place with real customers’ feedback.


You shouldn’t be afraid of starting a crowdfunding company. Though it can take a lot of time and requires a lot of preparation, crowdfunding allows you to test and validate your idea and also to collect money for launching your business. To get success and financing in crowdfunding, you should demonstrate an interesting and original idea, for example, the same T-shirts for pets and their owners.


You can use Shopify 14-day free trial and integrate print-on-demand service in a simple and convenient way. By doing this, you can validate your idea and find customers online. You will get a complete online store with a lot of features for your successful T-shirt printing business. 

We hope our step-by-step guide inspired you for actions to start a T-shirt business. Feel free to leave your comments below if you have any questions!