It used to be that a business owner looking to churn out a new line of t-shirts would have to contact a specialist designer. That is, someone with a decent portfolio, a reputable qualification, or at the very least a decent amount of experience in the field. With the advent of various design “contest” sites on the net, a huge database of user-generated t-shirt designs are now readily available and a fraction of the price that a designer might charge for a single shirt.

However, free-lance shirt designers haven’t bitten the dust just yet. As many potential clothing manufacturers are finding out, in the world of user-generated content you always get what you paid for, and often less!

First though, lets look at the at the positives.


  • Gives young unrecognized talent and opportunity to gain recognition and earn money. A naturally gifted 15-year-old would likely find it tremendously difficult selling his/her designs at that age with no art qualification, experience etc. 
  • The designs speak for themselves. If something is mesh backpacks highly ranked on a contest site, it’s because people like it; obvious proof of commerciality.
  • Absolutely massive variety of shirts of all types to choose from.
  • Easy to find a look that suit’s a specific brand or occasion. People create all these designs for fun. A trained professional designer may very well be sick of his work and simply producing what he can get away with.

Sounds great! What could possibly go wrong? Well….


  • People create all these designs for fun. The majority of the shirts are designed by someone who, in the nicest possible way, doesn’t know what they are doing, especially from a professional design perspective.
  • Just because it looks good on the net, next to a ton of other ‘original’ shirts, that doesn’t mean it’s going to look good on the rack in Topshop… or even on a human! 
  • Many of the top ranking shirts involve a rather complex piece of artwork. It definitely wows the members, but might make for a rather ‘busy’ shirt. Additionally much of the detail will be ruined if the manufacturer wishes to print in a more economic fashion.
  • Printing designs isn’t always a straightforward process. Clients have reported buying designs from contest sites for a low fee, and then being forced to pay several times that again at the print shop just to get the colors fixed!

In my humble opinion shirts designed for fun should be made for fun. The DIY design sites are an awesome place to get an original looking shirt (if it prints ok), yet, at the moment, are only a very small threat to the business real designers.

By admin

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