How-to make a great t-shirt (Part 1)

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New Adventure 2.0 by Winterrr

Welcome, so you want to get started on the super fun part... Creating original and awesome work, ready to be uploaded to your very own Redbubble profile?

It can seem a little daunting to begin with, so to lend a helping hand we have created this guide which covers many of the design related questions we get asked regularly.

This guide (Part 1) will cover the following questions:

What graphics & editing software do I need?
What is a PNG File?
How do I make a transparent background?
How do I upload my file?

Part 2 covers:

How do I create horizontal/landscape oriented images?
Where can I position my design on the shirt?
How do I check where my design is positioned?
What are vector graphics and raster graphics?
Can I use gradients and halftones in my design?
How will my design print?


What graphics software do I need?

You can use any graphics software that supports PNG files. We recommend Adobe Photoshop (which can cost a bit of cash) or GIMP (which is free!). Recently a free to download version of Photoshop CS2 was released, so if you lack the cash but prefer Adobe there is a third option.

Other popular graphics programs which support the PNG format include Photoshop Elements, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Photo-Paint, Pixelmator, Inkscape (another free one), Paint Shop Pro, Pixel image editor, Paint.NET and Xara. We have also found some super helpful tutorials online either on blogs or Youtube. At the bottom of this FAQ is a list of some of our favourites.


What is a PNG File?

We ask for t-shirt designs to be uploaded as 8-bit PNG files. This is because PNG files are the smallest file size you can use with transparency (i.e. – your transparent background), and results in quicker, easier uploads.

PNG files can only accommodate RGB colours, however our printers print your tees in CMYK. The best way to get the most out of your design is to create the image in CMYK and convert it to RGB just before you save your document. Depending on what graphics software you are using, this should be easy to change. Photoshop you will find these settings under image > mode. In Gimp you will use File > Export To. If you would like some more technical information about PNG files there’s a good guide here.

The importance of using the CMYK colour spectrum vs. RGB when designing are highlighted at our "How will my design look when printed?" guide.


How to make a transparent background

One of the most unique and exciting design features of designing for tees in a PNG format, is that you can utilise transparent backgrounds. This means that your image does not necessarily have to fill the entire dimensions of the tee. You can have the colour of the tee appear through or surrounding the image. Some examples can be seen below:


Screen_Shot_2014-01-31_at_2.26.51_PM.png Screen_Shot_2014-01-31_at_2.21.20_PM.png Screen_Shot_2014-01-31_at_2.21.02_PM.png 'Hearty Khaleesi-o's' by drawsgood

When creating a new file, it needs to be 3200 (height) x 2400 (width) pixels in size, 8-bit, with a transparent background in RGB format. We recommend using Photoshop or Gimp (which is available as a free download). This is what your settings should look like in both programs if you are creating your own document:

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Placing an existing image or an image from another software program?

You can often copy and paste images between programs. This will depend on whether the two different software programs are compatible. If you are unable to paste your image this way, you may need to save it and import it into the existing template. It is usually much easier to work this way than to take an existing image and try and apply the properties of the template to the document.

To import an existing image into your template in Gimp, select File > Open as Layers. To do the same in Photoshop, select File > Place.


Transparent Backgrounds

It is very important you work with a transparent background. A transparent background looks like a grey and white checkered box. If you flatten the image or fill the whole background up with black or white it will be printed on your t-shirt.

Tip: If you are saving your document at any stage and you are asked to flatten layers, choose ignore.

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How to remove background colour

This is a particularly handy thing to learn about if you are working with photos in your t-shirt design. There are a number of ways you can remove background colour in Gimp, Photoshop and other graphics software programs. This can take a bit of practice so you may need to have some patience. Here’s a couple of tutorials demonstrating tips for removing background colour. If these don’t suit what you’re trying to achieve, get on Google and Youtube and have a hunt around for others. There are lots of different tutorials out there.

  1. Removing Backgrounds in Gimp
  2. Removing Backgrounds in Photoshop

Another option in Photoshop is to use the Select > Colour Range option if you want to remove all trace of one particular colour from an image.

Saving your file

Then all you have to do is save it as a PNG file which can be done using the "Save For Web" function in Photoshop and should appear in your drop down options on the saving dialogue box in Gimp. If you do not see the PNG file option in your drop down options, check your settings under Image > Mode (in Photoshop and Gimp) to make sure you have the file set to RGB.


Uploading Your Design

To read all the ins and outs of uploading work to your Redbubble profile, head on over to a more detailed FAQ over here. If you are already comfortable at uploading new work to Redbubble, why not continue on to:

How-to make a great t-shirt (Part 2)