How to Design Your Own Shirt with Popular Icons

The great thing about custom shirts is that there is literally no limitation when it comes to adding stuff to the design. Whatever you feel is appropriate for the design can be added, if you can edit the image to include the element in question. One of the most popular sources of shirt design are […]

shirt The great thing about custom shirts is that there is literally no limitation when it comes to adding stuff to the design. Whatever you feel is appropriate for the design can be added, if you can edit the image to include the element in question.

One of the most popular sources of shirt design are popular icons like Doctor Who, Bugs Bunny, and all of these pop culture figures from TV, cinema, books, etc.

But if you have not been designing shirts before, you may not have a good idea of how to integrate pop culture icons into a custom tshirt design. We are going to discuss some techniques here so you can develop your own approach to designing an appealing and interesting Design Your Own Shirt.


The techniques

  1. Broad layout – In broad layout, you are going to choose a pose of the icon and place it conspicuously on the canvas. A really good example of this would be the Mickey Mouse shirts being sold for adults.

Mickey Mouse is magnified and covers the entire front of the fabric. The background is either white or black, and Mickey Mouse’s colors are deep and rich.

The high contrast approach is done to make the design less childish looking and more appropriate for older wearers. The broad layout is the easiest, but because the design takes up so much space you have to be really mindful about the quality of the colors in the design.


  1. Small layout – In small layout, you will place the chosen icon near the center of the shirt, but you will only take up a small space (no larger than 25% of the total fabric available). Small layout is cool because it invites people to look closer at the details of the image/s in the design.

The downside is if the image is highly detailed, people won’t be able to see the details from afar. If you are printing on a polo shirt with a pocket, you can also put the small layout icon on the pocket are if you want to be really minimalistic.

When is small layout a good idea? Small layout is a good idea when you don’t want the custom design to be too loud or expressive, but at the same time you still want it to have a certain tone and attitude.


  1. Modified coloration – With modified coloration, you are going to take the original image that people recognize and transform it to something else completely with the help of modified coloration.

If you want another word for this process, think Instagram filters. Instagram filters do the exact same thing – they adjust the spectrum of colors in the image, making it brighter, bluer, warmer, etc, depending on the filter that you are using.

If you have knowledge about image editing software, you can do it there. If not, you can download a mobile image editing app on your Android or Apple device and do the editing from there. The great thing about mobile image editing apps is you can load a large image and still get the same results.

Image editing has really gone a long way since the early 2000s when you had to have technical knowledge to adjust images directly. But now, software can do that for you, based on preset parameters or image filters.


  1. Pastiche – A pastiche or montage is combining several images into one larger image. The idea here is you are going to create a completely new kind of image harmony using images that are only tangentially related to one another.

The really swell thing about using a pastiche is that you have virtually unlimited options and you can combine different kinds of elements to see the resulting affect. If you are feeling highly creative and artistic, this would be a good time to test your mettle in making original art.

If you want an example of an artistic pastiche, check out the album covers from the vaporwave genre. Vaporwave is considered a ghost music genre, because it eludes all forms of classification. It lampoons consumerism.

As a result, vaporwave album art often includes symbols like palm trees, Greek statues, dolphins, presidents, and the like. It doesn’t make sense if you look at just the individual elements, but if you look at the album art as a whole, you’re going to get what the artist had in mind.


  1. Movie poster layout – For people who truly adore the pop culture icons that they want to design unto their custom shirts, the movie poster layout might be a good idea. The idea behind the move poster layout is simple.

That instead of putting just one or two objects on the shirt, you are going to take a memorable scene from a book, story, movie, or TV show and reinterpret that in your design.

The easiest way to do this of course is to just take a screen capture of the scene in question and remix it for your personal use. Remixing is fine in this context.

shirtOr if you want a more personal touch to your art, you can combine the scene with some text. Another way to pay tribute to your favorite movie, book, or story, is to reinterpret the scene using your own art.

This can be done in a variety of ways: sketching, lampooning, or a complete reinterpretation using objects that are completely different from what can be seen  in the original image. Consider the scene from Forest Gump where Tom Hanks is sitting in the park with a box of chocolates.

Some people have reinterpreted this scene with text and a picture of a box of chocolates. Others have chosen to focus on the bench in the park. There are so many ways to pay home to pop culture – you just have to get into the details and make it work for you.

We are sure that you are going to come up with something stunning in the end. And when you’re done designing, simply upload your work to the custom shirt website of your choice and you’re ready to order your custom shirts.