What Are The Best Graphic Design Tools For Print-On-Demand Merch?

design tools print on demand

The success of your print-on-demand (POD) t-shirt business is dependent on the t-shirt’s design. However, you need an outlet for your creativity through specific design software and tools.

Yes, there are many free options out there, but the truth is that they don’t offer a rich array of features. So, you’d like to opt for a paid plan.

This is all good and well, but which one should you choose? And more importantly, do you opt for pixel/raster software or vector designs? And what is the difference between the two anyway?

We take a closer look.

What’s The Difference Between Pixels/Raster And Vectors?

If design lingo sounds too technical, don’t worry. We’re here to break it up for you into layman’s terms. When it comes to POD t-shirts and their design, you need to be aware of two things: pixel/raster and vector designs.

In short, pixel/raster images are made up of tiny things called pixels. This means that if you were to enlarge the image, it can get pixelated or blurry. Therefore, pixels can’t be expanded to all sizes without losing some of the quality. Some examples of software that works with pixels include Photoshop, Pixlr, and PicMonkey. Although they were initially created for editing photos and images, not for building images from scratch, they can still be used for your t-shirt designs.

On to vectors. Vector images are made of what are called anchor points. And when scaled up, they never lose quality. This means you won’t need to worry about blurriness and pixelation with these. Examples of vector software include Adobe Illustrator and Affinity Designer. They tend to be much better tools for drawings and illustrations so if you’re artistically talented, these tools are for you.

Design Tool Options To Choose From

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at what’s on offer in this market with some of the most popular paid-for tools.

1. Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop offers a broad array of tools for image editing. They range from social posts to photo retouching, banners to websites, everyday image edits and more. As mentioned above, this software is mainly for pixel/raster images, so if you’ve got photos that you’d like to repurpose, then this could be for you.

Some of the things you’ll be able to do with this software include: touch ups to photos, color changes, and adding layers. However, with the vast range of functionalities offered, you may need to do a course on Photoshop to understand all the tools and options you have. And this can add to the price mentioned below.

Adobe Photoshop comes in several subscription plans, the lowest of which is “Photography (20GB)” at $9.99 per month. The next subscription tier is the “Adobe Photoshop Single App” at $20.99 per month. You can also opt for “Creative Cloud All Apps”, going for $52.99 per month. It features apps and tools including Acrobat Pro, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and around 24 other handy apps to help take your design to the next level.

2. Photoshop Elements

With the slogan of “Turn your photos into works of art”, you can get Photoshop Elements 2022 for US$99.99. Meanwhile, Photoshop Elements 2022 & Premiere Elements 2022 goes for US$149.99. So, what can you expect for this price? Well, some of the most important features include: automatic smart tags and people recognition, adjusting the tilt of a person’s face, open closed eyes, and turn frowns into smiles, whiten teeth, and fix red eye and pet eye. This is especially important if you’re working to redo a photograph and convert it into a design for your t-shirt.

You’ll also be able to remove camera shake and haze that creates blurry pictures, move and scale objects, remove objects and do a pattern brush. Then there’s the ability to replace backgrounds, add shape overlay effects, as well as get double exposure and black and white color pop. (If that’s the look you’re going for with your t-shirt design).

The package further enables you to turn photos into illustrations and paint on up to 100 effects; there are one-touch frames, effects, and textures; you can warp photos to fit any shape, and more.

3. CorelDRAW

Here’s where it gets a bit interesting simply because of some of the free options you can get with CorelDRAW apart from the perks of the paid-for versions. These include 7,000 clipart, vehicle wrap templates, and digital images; over 1,000 fonts; 1,000 high-res digital photos; 600+ fountain, vector and bitmap fills, and 150 professionally pre-designed templates.

It can be used for a wide range of design creation options. These can include creating simple shapes and lines to complex ones for illustrations, clipart, logos, etc.

CorelDRAW comes in several pricing plans, depending on what you’re after.

For example, there’s CorelDRAW Standard 2021, ideal for hobbies or home businesses (much like your t-shirt business), which apart from helping you create flyers and brochures, also enables you to create graphics – the most important for creating t-shirt designs. This one’s priced at $299.

4. Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer is aimed at concept art, print projects, logos, icons, UI designs, mock-ups, etc. It’s not only great for illustrators, web designers and game developers, it can be used by you at home, too! It offers a combination of vector and raster design tools and is priced around $67. When you purchase it, it’s yours as there are no subscription fees.

So, what are some of the things you can do with it? You can handle documents of any complexity; there is no lag working with thousands of objects; you can organize with layer groups and color tagging; and take advantage of live outline view for accurate selections.

You can also enjoy unlimited artboards, savable history with alternate futures, customizable keyboard shortcuts, and multiple file formats (PSD, AI, PDF, SVG, JPG, TIFF, EXR).

Furthermore, there are CMYK, 16 & 32bit RGB, Pantone, ICC profiles, advanced grids, snapping and alignment, linked symbols and constraints. And it works on any device, whether Windows, Mac, or iPad.

5. Merch Informer’s Designer

Unless you plan on going professionally into graphic design, and you don’t mind paying for tutorials and courses, you don’t actually need any of the tools mentioned above. Why? Because they’re just for advanced users and some of them are just plain pricey.

With Merch Informer’s Designer, you’ve got options, and options are good. You can choose from clipart, upload images, or even draw your own items freely – all easy to do with intuitive drag-and-drop features. You can make use of unique, full color vectors with full commercial rights. The latter is already saving you thousands of dollars that you’d have to fork out.

But probably the best part is that the Designer is so simple to use that it makes designing your t-shirt child’s play.  You get access to over a thousand fonts and the ability to create layer templates. These fonts can be manipulated in multiple ways, meaning your design can be even more original. Plus, you can create scalable designs and patterns with a click.

Once your design is ready, you can also use the Single Upload Interface to get your design up and running on Merch by Amazon by hand and then on other print-on-demand services using the automation software, such as Printful, Zazzle, Gooten and others.

The software literally does it all for you.

It goes for $9.99 per month, but it’s bundled with features enabling you to hunt niches, do keyword and product searches, competition tracking, trademark checking, and so much more.

Basically, everything you need to get your t-shirt business flying off the charts.

The Bottom Line

If we had to draw a bottom line for the different design tools, Merch Informer comes out on top. This is because of its vast array of features that are perfectly geared toward your POD t-shirt business.

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a pro or a beginner. The software is extremely simple to use. So, if you don’t know what “bits”, or “RGB” and “CMYK” mean, that won’t be an issue here at all.

You can use the easy-to-navigate software and create the perfect design without any hassle. There’s no need for extra lessons to get acquainted with its usability, and there won’t be an extra cost for other specialized software.

    • I was thinking the EXACT same thing Tomas..REALLY???! SERIO?! But all in all I feel that the main point that they wanted to get across Is that whatever you have , where ever you happen to be on your Merch journey JUST GET STARTED! Take Action…regardless of your level of design skills or even lack there of. Don’t let the tools lead you into NOT Making some key decisions like “planning” , doing research, or even deciding to higher someone to create your designs etc…But to NOT even Mention Ai..? Well Ps can be used for Vector based designs to a certain extent So they did list that Software at the Top of this List.That Being said, “Just DO IT with whatever works for you ” is probably the main takeaway I ‘ve gathered from this as ‘ THE BEST”… would become a very subjective and Personal declaration.

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