Although fashion is a competitive industry, it’s never been easier to give yourself a headstart with print-on-demand services. You design the shirts, then a supplier prints and sends them to your customers.

You can use the time you save on packaging and shipping wisely by creating a brand to market to the masses. But how do you get started on your on-demand journey?

This guide discusses how to design shirts and sell them online, which includes:

  • Branding
  • Designing
  • Selling

How to develop your t-shirt brand

When it comes to fashion, the business behind the clothing is essential. Your brand is the identity you present to the public, and you want your customers to identify themselves with yours.


When you build a new brand, it’s helpful to communicate your values through a story that people will remember. Your narrative could focus on you (the founder), a specific style of fashion or an aim for the business.

For example, for every shirt sold, you’ll plant a tree. So your brand story could be that you want to protect the planet, while you disrupt the fashion world.

Your story will help you explain to people who you are, and you can use it throughout your marketing. For example, if you seek to break down gender stereotypes then use non-binary models and unisex products.

Name and logo

In addition to your narrative, reflect it in your primary brand elements. Your name and logo are the first things the public will see or hear, so make sure it gives the right message.

With so many brands competing in the industry, stand out with something special. A brand with a USP (unique selling point) offers something that customers can’t get anywhere else.

How to design shirts and sell them online


Aside from your brand, the other main thing you offer is your unique graphics on your clothing. So when it comes to how to design shirts and sell them online, you need to be able to bring your ideas to life.

There are two leading graphic design platforms that you could use, and your decision may depend on the level of experience you have.

Professional (Illustrator)

A favourite among professional designers, Adobe Illustrator, is incredible software. It helps you create illustrations, logos or images. The number of tools available to use make it a great option.

Illustrator can be daunting for beginners with so many components, but there are thousands of YouTube tutorials available to help you create whatever you like.

The most likely problem is the cost; it’s £19.97 a month for the single software or £49.94 if you also want the other Adobe apps like Photoshop (which lets you modify images).

Beginner (Canva)

The solution to the cost of Illustrator and a more straightforward platform for beginners is Canva. Free to use, and you can start instantly with less tools but more ease.

There is a pro version for £99.99 a year, which lets you use millions of stock images, video, and graphics (made by others to use freely). The pro version also provides you with additional tools, but still not as many as Illustrator.

The major difference between the platforms are the image files. Illustrator creates vectors, which retain their quality whether scaled down to a keyring or up to a billboard. 

Canva produces raster images that will pixelate if you enlarge them too much. You have to create designs at the size to fit each purpose each time.

For shirts, that may not be much of an issue. But if you use Canva to create a small logo, it could start to look pixelated if you put it on a large poster.


It’s crucial to get your visuals and branding out there, into the public. The next stage of how to design shirts and sell them online, is to create a storefront and link it with a supplier.

Storefront (Shopify) 

To sell t-shirts, you need a website to display your designs for your customers to order. Shopify is the leading platform for creating online stores, and its simple to integrate with a print-on-demand service.

Customers pick your design, pay you, and the order is sent to a manufacturer to make and ship. The purpose of Shopify is to make that process simple, instead of you manually placing orders to the supplier every time.

The cost to use Shopify is £24 a month, but it also provides 24/7 support and offers progress reports about your store. It’s a site builder like any other, so it gives templates and tools to help you put it together.

Manufacturer (Printful) 

One of the best businesses to use with your Shopify site is Printful. Add their app to your Shopify to link one account to the other.

It’s the most straightforward option because Printful has a close relationship with Shopify. Once you get going, the manufacturer handles your printing, inventory and shipping.

They offer a variety of blank shirts to use with your design which include:

  • Crew neck — standard shirts
  • Eco — environmentally friendly
  • Athletic — breathable sportswear

Ready, steady, grow

Once you have a storefront and manufacturer in place, it’s time for you to gain sales for your business. You can look for ways to market your brand and show people what you have to offer.

Your store is online so social media is a great avenue to consider, because you can easily direct people from one platform to yours.

For more information, see: How to grow a dropshipping business.

Manage costs quickly and on-demand with Countingup

Graphic design software, online storefront platforms and potential marketing all require you to spend money. These are worthy investments that could help you create a successful clothing brand, but only if you keep on top of those costs.

Countingup is a business account with built-in accounting software, and the app features expense categorisation, which can automatically sort those costs into convenient labels. You can stay aware of your money and avoid any surprises.

Get started for free.