What Makes A Great Print-On-Demand T-Shirt Design?

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Getting your t-shirt designs on Amazon and tapping into the print-on-demand business is one of the best ways to make some honest money on the side. In fact, you can turn your Amazon gig into a six-figure business, as you gain experience and improve your sales.

But before you can watch your profits grow, there are a few things that you should acquaint yourself with as a merch Seller; and the most important one is design.

You don’t need to be a professional designer. However, knowing what makes a t-shirt great will certainly help your merch gain popularity on Amazon.

So, without further ado, let’s see what the key elements are when it comes to great t-shirt designs.

The Right Theme

The best Amazon Sellers out there sell t-shirts like hotcakes for two reasons – they know their audience and they know how to communicate with them. Yes, things like colors and fonts matter, and we’ll look at why. But amazing design starts with a clear purpose.

What is your print-on-demand t-shirt trying to achieve? Do you want to make someone laugh? Do you want to create an emotional attachment to your design?

Great T-Shirt designs often use text to convey a message, but you can do that equally well by using imagery. The choice is yours, but the bottom line is that the design must make an impression at first sight, and it must do so for the right target audience.

Good Choice Of Color

Think of a print-on-demand t-shirt as a blank canvas. The picture will only come alive once you add shades and nuances.

One of the most fundamental elements that shape an outstanding t-shirt design is color. Colors can express personality, they can alter moods, and have an array of powerful abilities in the world of design. On t-shirts and other apparel, they play an even more fundamental role.


Because apparel is a form of art that you wear to express who you are, how you’re feeling, and what you have to say to the world. Color choice can dramatically impact your t-shirt sales on Amazon, even if you’ve created the perfect message or piece of art.

Well-Placed Typography

Typography is another vital element in successful t-shirt design. It must be synchronized with your overall concept; and by typography, we don’t just mean the choice of font. It’s also the line spacing, letter spacing, the hierarchy, and how all of this communicates with other design elements.

Some fonts speak for themselves and can give instant signals about what the text is trying to portray. Is the message meant to be funny or serious? Is it targeted at children or adults? We’ll show you how the best print-on-demand t-shirt designs make use of typography.

Knowing The Basics About Composition

Composition is all about how your design is arranged. Regardless of whether we’re talking about t-shirts with images, text, or a combination of elements, a layout composed with precision makes a big difference.

Studying composition in design is a complex matter, but the good news is that you don’t need to dwell too much on the details for t-shirt design. However, you do need to be familiar with the basics.

For example, never huddle your design elements too close and never space them out too far away from each other. T-shirt design, just like any other design, should always be well-balanced and easy on the eye.


Finally, a great t-shirt design stands out with appropriate placement. Your blank canvas or t-shirt, in this case, offers a lot of different placement options. You can position your messaging or art design on the top-left, top-right, on the front, on the back. You get the idea.

Although there are no rights or wrongs here, it’s important to keep your mind on the user. Remember that when the t-shirt is worn, the material can wrinkle up or bunch up in certain body areas.

A certain no-no, for example, is placing the print on the belly area. But let’s not focus on the negatives and see what actually works.

T-shirt Designs That Sell

Here are the designs that are bound to sell:

  • Popular themes like St. Valentine’s Day
  • Colors contrast well and are aligned with the target audience
  • Simple fonts or niche fonts synchronized with the message or theme
  • Compositions where the text wraps the image
  • Centrally placed print, always positioned above the belly

How do we know?

Because we did our research. Let’s go through all of the elements that we introduced earlier and see what works really well looking at Amazon best-sellers.

Top-selling themes

First, there’s the theme. We already know that it’s a vital element of design, but what are the best practices, judging by top-selling t-shirts on the platform?

If you do a basic search on Amazon for top-performing t-shirts, you’ll notice a few themes that reoccur:

  • Movies and TV series (be careful you don’t use IP you don’t own!)
  • Humor
  • Pop Culture
  • Holidays
  • Music
  • Hobbies
  • Animals

The list is certainly a lot longer than this, but these are just a few examples of the best-selling t-shirt themes. Without even looking at colors and fonts yet, you can get the idea that if you want to sell more t-shirts and other Amazon merch, choosing an appropriate theme is key.

There are several approaches but one that works is selecting a trendy topic. Even better, why not combine it with an upcoming holiday or occasion?

The t-shirt that currently makes the most sales on Amazon is the perfect example. It comes with a simple, Star Wars-inspired, Valentine’s Day design and a message “Yoda – one for me”.

Why is this a best-seller? Because it cleverly combines an occasion (one of the most popular ones in the world, to be exact) with perhaps the most eminent movie character of all time – Yoda. And if you’re wondering about the profits, they’re out of this world.

The t-shirt costs $22.99 and has a BSR of 447, with monthly estimated sales of 2,070.

NOTE: You cannot do movie characters you do not own the IP rights to. However, you can see how they laid out their t-shirt design and use the same colors and styles on a unique design not centered around STAR WARS or another brand you have no rights to.

There are a ton of other holidays and occasions that buyers are excited to shop for on Amazon. To sell better, stay one step ahead by being aware of the upcoming holidays and taking advantage of them.

Best-Performing Colors

Next, we looked at colors. When examining the t-shirts that do amazingly well on the platform, you’ll notice that most background colors are either black or navy blue. The design itself, on the other hand, is usually multi-colored. What works really well is a black fabric with a white and red print.

The best piece of advice to keep in mind here is that the design should always stand out. You can use colors to your advantage by doing research on the type of emotions each one provokes. Think about who the design is targeted at and choose wisely.

Let’s go back to our Yoda t-shirt example. The fabric color is baby blue, while the print is a combination of imagery and text, with green and pink tones. The letters are nicely outlined in black to make the message pop up. The design works well because it portrays a gentle feeling and simplicity, with a pinch of sweetness to it.

So, if you want to create top-selling t-shirt designs, think of this example and explore how it relates to your audience and the purpose of your design.

Popular Typography Choices

When it comes to typography, you can’t go wrong by choosing a simple, easy to read font that grabs attention. But you can also stand out with certain font styles that people grow attached to.

We’ll move on from the Yoda example to show you what we mean. The Retro Vintage Bengals T-shirt is another Amazon best-seller, with a BSR of 4,512, more than 500 monthly sales, and a price of $19.98. Its design is extremely simple and it’s all about typography and color. The fonts are vintage, with nice wavy forms, and they’re perfectly combined with red, orange, yellow, white, and blue colors – also the typical vintage match.

Please note that we cannot stress enough that this is intellectual property that you do not own. This is merely to showcase the typography. 

But that doesn’t mean that you have to follow this exact example. You can do some basic research on the type of fonts that work really well for funny messages, love themes, and more.

High-Selling Composition And Placement Examples

We’re now left with composition and placement. T-shirt design is usually either words only, images only, or a combination of both. Each one has made it into the Amazon t-shirt best-seller list so there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing one.

Say you wanted to add a catchy phrase with a playful image on your print-on-demand t-shirt design. A popular way to approach composition is to wrap your image in text. For example, add a few words on top of the image and a few on the bottom. This is exactly what we see on the 10th top-performing t-shirt on Amazon at the moment.

The “I’m not old I’m classic” funny car graphic has neatly separated the text by adding the car image between the lines. It’s catchy, on point, and grabs attention.

Lastly, when speaking of placement, 9 out of 10 best-sellers have the following things in common:

  • The print takes up most of the front face of the t-shirt
  • It’s positioned above the belly
  • It’s centralized

What all of this means is that following the best practices in composition and placement will reward you with more sales.

Mastering T-Shirt Design – The Wrap Up

Now that we’ve looked at t-shirt design examples that are making merchants money, you’ll probably agree that you don’t need to be a design expert to create products that sell. All you need is good research and some basic skills.

Don’t forget that you don’t have to come up with design approaches yourself. You can make your research easier and more successful by using the vast range of tools provided by Merch Informer.

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