Designing custom t-shirts — especially with Real Thread — is a painless (and dare we say fun) process, but it’s not quite as simple as slapping any old design on a blank t-shirt and calling it a day. Well, it can be that simple, but for t-shirts that people will actually want to wear you’ve got to put a little extra thought into it.
Details like the choice of blank are important, as is the color. After all, not everyone looks good in safety orange! One often-overlooked design detail, however, is the actual placement of your design. You see, this is where you develop a true eye for t-shirt design — and a thorough understanding of balance, framing, and all of the other things they might talk about on Project Runway.
Before you go off to spread your wings as a fully-fledged custom t-shirt designer, here’s a 101 course in front and back t-shirt designs — as well as why you might choose either location for your custom t-shirts.
Why Choose Front Over Back (or Vice Versa?)
While it might seem like t-shirt designs are placed at random, there’s a method to the madness. A quick search online will reveal that a good portion of fashion brands favor a front graphic over a back graphic. There are several explanations for this assumed preference. For one: Brands looking to capitalize on a recognizable logo are more likely to slap said logo on the front where it can be seen by all. Secondly, front design t-shirts can be worn under a jacket, sweater, or other lightweight layering piece and still be a vocal part of the ‘fit.
That said, back designs have their own set of perks! Designs adorning the back of a t-shirt can be larger than those on the front, due in part to the way t-shirts drape over the wearer’s back. Further, all-over designs on the front of a t-shirt are far more in-your-face — and therefore much harder to pull off. A popular middle-ground (which we’ll elaborate on later) is a small front chest pocket design with a larger graphic on the flip side. This design is a go-to for Real Thread customers and clothing brands alike, and perfectly demonstrates the balancing act that is t-shirt design.
Beyonce said "to the left, to the left"—but what about the front and the back? T-shirt design is far from a black or white (well, front or back) issue, and there are countless ways to decorate your canvas. Below are a few of our favorites!
Spots Where T-Shirt Designs Can Shine
Front Pocket + Back All-Over
As mentioned above, this balanced design allows you to enjoy the 🎶best of both worlds 🎶by using both sides of your canvas. This vintage-inspired design by The Parks Project perfectly demonstrates why we love this style so much, and is likely to elicit a response something like this: “I love your t-shirt — wait, what’s on the back?! Niceeee.”
Back Shoulder Blades
Want to make sure your custom t-shirt design boldly goes where few others have? Try this spot on for size! Taking cues from both motorcycle club t-shirts and athletic uniforms, t-shirt designs draped across the shoulder blades add a unique quality to your custom creations. This example from moto-inspired brand Chrome Hearts utilizes both the rear shoulder blade and front pocket locations, proving that you can mix and match to your (Chrome) heart’s desire.
When done right, custom t-shirts are a work of art — and with a front framed design, you can put an actual work of art on your t-shirt! This tactic is a favorite of streetwear and fast fashion brands, but Real Thread clients have also seen how this design can level up their custom swag. This design’s calling card is the hard borders surrounding the focal image, but we love to mix it up with wavy edges, spray paint-style bleed, or a circular frame over a square one.
Your custom t-shirt is your canvas, so why not use every square inch to bring your masterpiece to life? Sleeve designs have become increasingly popular in the apparel world, and more and more Real Thread customers have started channeling their inner artiste on both long and short t-shirt sleeves. While we don’t suggest only using sleeves as a canvas for your designs, they can be the perfect decorative icing on your custom t-shirt cake.
Want more custom t-shirt design tips from Real Thread? Drop us a line, and a member of our team (as in, a real person) will be glad to help bring your creation to life.