The 8 Best T-Shirt Design Software to Buy in 2018

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Designing your own T-shirts used to mean clunky software and sub-standard results, but that's no longer the case. These days, there is a range of software choices for pros and beginners alike, ranging from powerful local apps to online design tools.

These software options make creating T-shirts straightforward and all but guarantee a great-looking result at the end of it. Some online tools even offer printing services (typically on a large range of shirt styles and colors), while others are purely focused on getting your perfect design.

If you're looking to create your own shirts, we've covered a range of different approaches depending on your expertise, how much flexibility you need, and how much you want to spend. From high-end tools aimed to professionals and enthusiastic amateurs to simple online services, mobile apps, mockup generators, and more — there's no shortage of great options.

Our Top Picks

Best Online Design Tool: DesignAShirt

DesignAShirt

DesignAShirt

One of the leading online T-shirt design and printing services, DesignAShirt has designed and shipped millions of T-shirts to customers everywhere. The company's experience shows, with a simple, uncluttered interface that helps even those with no design skills create attractive shirts quickly and easily.

After picking the shirt type, style, and color from dozens of options, creating an attractive design is straightforward. Select from the pre-existing clipart or upload your own photo, add text in any of hundreds of fonts, customize colors, size, and effects like distress and outline, and you're set.

If you can't come up with a design you're happy with, DesignAShirt also offers an affordable concierge service where a product consultant does it for you. Despite the name, T-shirts aren't the only option — hoodies, caps, polos, and more are also available.

With its simple tools, free 10-day shipping, and competitive pricing, DesignAShirt is our top pick for an online T-shirt designing tool.

Best for Speed: Rush Order Tees

Rush Order Tees logo

 Courtesy of Rush Order Tees

Creating custom T-shirt designs on the Rush Order Tees site is a breeze. It's fast, easy to use, and offers a solid range of customizable options.

Starting with one of a wide range of T-shirt colors, styles, and manufacturers, the site leads you through a straightforward series of steps so you end up with a design you're happy with. Adding graphics and text only takes a few seconds, and there are plenty of customization options to help you get exactly the look you're after.

With over 50,000 clipart images to choose from, you should be able to find some great graphics for your design. But you have something specific in mind, you can always upload your own graphics instead.

The company's in-house team reviews each design, correcting any obvious mistakes before sending it for printing, and there's both live-chat and phone support as needed. Throw in super-quick delivery options (including next day), and Rush Order Tees makes for a great, speedy T-shirt design and printing service.

Best for Mobile: Snaptee

Snaptee
Courtesy of Snaptee

While most T-shirt design apps and sites work best on a laptop or desktop, that's not the case with Snaptee. Designed specifically for mobile, this iOS and Android app lets you choose from a range of designs uploaded and voted on by the app's users, and then remix them in a variety of ways.

After selecting the design you'd like to start with, the app lets you choose your T-shirt style and basic layout. From there, you can use the design's existing graphic, or upload your own via your phone's camera roll, Instagram, and other sources.

The interface takes a couple of minutes to get used to, but it's straightforward and powerful enough for most simple designs. Tweaking colors, effects, fonts, and more are all handled within the app, and once you're satisfied with the end result, it's simply a case of sending your masterpiece off to Snaptee for printing.

Payment is handled via Apple Pay or Google Pay on your phone, and the company, which is based in Hong Kong, ships anywhere in the world for a flat fee. If you think your design is particularly good, you can share it with others and receive a commission when other customers order it.

Best for Mockups: Placeit

Placeit
Courtesy of Placeit

Placeit focuses on creating realistic design mockups for all kinds of products, including T-shirts. It's one of the easiest and best-looking online shirt design tools we've come across, with hundreds of attractive templates to get you started.

Rather than having a gallery of thousands of unrelated clip-art images to search through, Placeit offers a curated selection of graphics for each section of the template. While you lose some flexibility with this approach, it speeds up the design process and often leads to a better end result.

Backgrounds, fonts, and colors are also customizable, and as you make changes to your design, it's reflected in a variety of lifestyle mockups. Clicking on any of the modeled images yields a larger version, along with several similar alternatives to choose from.

You can also upload an existing design if all you need is the mockup images themselves. Any designs and mockups can be downloaded for a few dollars each, or as part of an unlimited monthly subscription. 

Best for Free Mockups: Printful

Printful
Courtesy of Printful

Unlike Placeit, Printful doesn't charge you to download high-resolution mockups of the designs created with its tools. Usable for all kinds of clothing, along with accessories, posters, and more, it's not as slick as Placeit's tool, but is more flexible.

After choosing your shirt style and color, you can upload your own design or create your own using the company's basic clipart and font options. Somewhat unusually, though, you're not limited to designing just the front and back of your shirts — both sleeves can have text added, along with an outside label.

Once you've got your shirt looking how you'd like it, you can send the shirt for printing or download the mockup files to use how you wish. Printful also acts as a marketplace for you to sell your design, or act as a print-on-demand service if you sell your T-shirts elsewhere.

Best for Professionals: Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator
Courtesy of Adobe

While we'd never suggest forking out for Adobe's high-end graphics software just to design the occasional T-shirt, Illustrator is the ideal tool for creating professional-level shirt designs if you're already paying for it.

The software's focus on vector images ensures that logos and text can be easily scaled up or down to fit on any T-shirt size without a loss of quality. Your design will look just as good on a business card as a billboard, or anything in between, and if you plan on screenprinting your T-shirt design, Illustrator makes it easy to create the layered, spot-colored file your print shop requires.

As with any professional software, there's a steep learning curve that comes with Illustrator, although Adobe does at least publish tutorials complete with sample files to get you started. Dozens of sites also offer templates, free or otherwise, that can be imported directly into the software.

Best Free Design Tool: InkScape

InkScape
Courtesy of InkScape

Can't afford the asking price for Adobe's design tools, but still after something powerful and flexible? Take a look at InkScape, an open-source vector graphic design tool with many of the same features as Illustrator, at zero cost.

While there are no specific T-shirt templates or tutorials included with the software itself, many designers and other users have stepped into the gap, offering their expertise and files for free to the community. As a result, once you've learned how to use InkScape, it's easy to apply your knowledge to designing attractive T-shirts without having to start from scratch.

Available on MacOS, Windows, and Linux, the app lets you turn existing bitmap images into vectors via a tracing function. This enables you to scale the image up and down in size as needed for your design, and export it in the appropriate format for screen printing. If you do need a raster image format such as .png or .jpg, however, InkScape can provide that as well.

Best Alternative Free Design Tool: GIMP

GIMP
Courtesy of GIMP 

Just like InkScape versus Illustrator, there's no need to pay large amounts of money (or indeed, anything) to get a professional-level alternative to Photoshop. Open-source graphic-editing software GIMP has been around for over two decades and has established itself as a viable alternative for serious design work among many cash-strapped designers.

Like other high-end tools, getting to grips with GIMP takes some effort. But if you have a reason to upskill yourself in it anyway, it's just as useful for creating T-shirts as it is for any other graphic design task.

As with the other apps mentioned above, free templates and YouTube tutorials are available to get you started, along with paid courses focused on helping you create good-looking designs and export them in an appropriate format for printing.

Available for MacOS, Windows, and Linux, and with a vast array of editing and layout options for both text and images, GIMP's powerful tools let you create almost any T-shirt design you can imagine.

Our Process 

Our writers spent 10 hours researching the most popular T-shirt design software on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 15 different software overall, screened options from 14 different brands and manufacturers, read over 20 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 6 of the software themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.