How to Design a Classy Typography POD T-Shirt in Canva
In this tutorial you’ll learn how to design a classy typography t-shirt for Print-On-Demand (POD) in the popular graphic design app Canva. We’ll focus on modifying one of Canva’s pre-designed templates, since this is a quick way to learn the basics. If you’re an experienced Canva user with a Pro account, you can use the design tips and basic workflow in this article to create your own Canva t-shirt template.
Before you start, let’s look at why designing typography tees in Canva is ideal for POD design beginners.
Typography T-Shirts: Best for POD Beginners
If you’re an artist or graphic designer, you probably have plenty of ideas for elaborate graphic tees. But creating new artwork from scratch, or optimizing and uploading your existing work, can be both labor and time intensive. In contrast, when you start with typography-based t-shirts, you can get comfortable with your POD company’s design specifications and interface, test your market, and even get your first few sales. This is because:
- Buyers love typography t-shirts. Many of the best-selling t-shirts on Amazon and Etsy feature text-only slogans with no additional graphics. Niche markets are always out there for funny, provocative, clever or cute quotes on t-shirts. Those markets are always growing because they tend to be repeat buyers for new sayings.
- When words are the design, your potential buyer has fewer reasons to say “no.” If the graphic on a shirt contains colors or images that someone doesn’t like, that can kill a sale. Simple designs that are “just words” make the purchase decision much easier.
- Beautiful fonts are everywhere. Typography today is so nuanced, your choice of font can create a mood, make a fashion statement, and even add a new layer of meaning to the words on the shirt.
- Designing with typography is cost-effective. A quick Google search will yield hundreds of fonts that are free for commercial use. In addition, Canva’s license agreement has you covered. And if you get your fonts from Creative Fabrica, both the Subscription and Single Purchase licenses allow commercial use.
- You can quickly make many variations of one t-shirt by swapping fonts. A slogan shirt that says “Tough As A Mother” can be morphed into dozens of variations using script, serif, sans-serif, block, display, calligraphy and vintage fonts, or combinations thereof. This allows you to create a well-stocked POD shop quickly and test many “looks” to determine what your audience will buy.
And if you’re building your POD business as a side hustle while juggling work and family obligations, designing in Canva has one great advantage over Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer: Canva is fast and responsive whether you’re using a top-of-the-line Macbook Pro or a $250 Chromebook. Even if you’re on a tight budget, a Canva Pro account won’t break the bank, and it allows you to quickly create designs whenever you have a few minutes. All you need is an Internet connection.
Now for the first step: get your POD company file specs.
Before You Begin, Get Your POD-Specific Design Dimensions
There is no “industry standard” t-shirt design template, and image requirements can vary greatly from printer to printer depending on their sublimation processes. For example, let’s look at the t-shirt pixel dimensions from some of the most popular POD companies. As you can see, the specs vary widely:
- Amazon Merch: 4500 x 5400
- Printful: 3600 x 4800
- Redbubble: 2400 x 3200
- TShirtGang: 2200 x 3000
- Printify: 4500 × 5700 (You’ll need to adjust the length down, since Canva’s maximum image length is 5500 pixels.)
So before you start, get t-shirt graphic file specifications from your POD company.
Why is getting this right so important? When your design is all typography, adjusting the file dimensions will require you to resize and reposition the text. So to avoid fiddling around and re-working, create your design with the pixel dimensions recommended by your POD company.
A Note About Canva’s “DPI” Limitations
Most POD companies require you to submit transparent PNGs of 150-300 DPI for t-shirts. Yet Canva’s DPI (Dots Per Inch) is set by default to 96 for PNG images, and you can’t increase it. Downloading your design as a print quality PDF won’t help, because PDFs don’t preserve transparency.
A few POD interfaces will automatically resample the DPI when you upload your design, but most others — notably Amazon Merch — will throw an error message. What to do? Luckily, there’s a simple workaround, and it’s free.
Use the DPI converter offered by the video editing site Clideo. No sign up required. Just upload your design, set it to 300 DPI, click the button, and download your shiny new high resolution file. The tool preserves the original dimensions and transparency and is currently free with no limits: https://clideo.com/dpi-converter .
Of course, if you’re on a Mac, you can use Preview’s Tools > Adjust Size and resample. Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer can also do the job. But if you want something quick and easy, with no use of system resources, the Clideo DPI converter just works.
Ready to start designing? Let’s go!
Step 1: Open Canva and create a new design
Log into your Canva account and click the “Create a design” button in the upper right of the screen.
Ignore the suggested designs (even t-shirts), and click the “Choose Custom Size” button.
Type in the custom width and height. This design will be for TShirtGang, so we’ll enter 2200 x 3000. Then click “Create new design.” A new blank canvas will open.
Step 2: Choose a typography-based template
Canva automatically displays a template pane on the left. Scroll through all the available designs if you wish, but since we’re looking for a typography-based design — something with few to no graphical elements — we’ll save time by typing in “Typography T-Shirts.”
While some templates will have swooshes, icons, symbols or other simple clipart style graphics, Canva does a pretty good job of filtering the results to show font-based designs.
Now scroll down and look for something that has visual impact, is easy to read, and fits your target audience. We’re going to design a “Tough As A Mother” shirt, so we’ll look for a template with a slightly feminine look. This one ought to work nicely:
DESIGN HINT: Try to avoid designs with straight lines or boxes. That’s because even the best quality t-shirt printer could have trouble aligning a box or straight line perfectly. Most POD companies will replace a misaligned shirt for free, but why risk customer complaints or bad reviews?
If you want to embellish your typography tee, Canva offers plenty of basic elements such as curved ribbons, arrows, swashes, symbols, and icons. If you have a Creative Fabrica membership, you can search for graphics that are targeted to your niche audience and import them into Canva with a Pro account.
And yes, we’ve chosen a design with a box! But we’re going to remove it in just a moment.
Step 3: Save the template with a unique file name
Now click the template to open it. In this case, the template offers both a front and back design. We are only printing on the front of the shirt, so we will click on the front design only. Canva will automatically load it into your blank design.
Now we’ll delete the box and the type inside it. Click on the box and hit “delete” on your keyboard. NOTE: The box and the text inside will need to be deleted separately.
You’ll end up with this basic design.
Now you can modify this design to your heart’s content!
But before you go any further, it’s time to rename this file. Click File in the upper left menu. A new pane will open. Click the pencil icon next to the “Untitled Design” name.
Now delete the old name and add yours. Give your design a logical name, so you can find it in your Canva account later, after you’ve created hundreds of wonderful designs! Don’t forget to hit enter after you have typed it in.
HINT: Canva automatically saves your work as you go along. No need to manually save.
Now you can modify with your own special touches.
Step 4: Make the design your own with creative modifications
First, highlight the text and change it to your slogan. Canva’s text boxes operate similarly to text boxes in Microsoft Word or Powerpoint. So you’ll need to do one text box at a time. Change the first text box:
And now the second text box:
So far, so good! While this is a nice design as is, it could be made much more “t-shirt friendly.”
First, let’s look for a more assertive but feminine font for the first three words. Click the font box in the upper left.
A font selection pane will open. You can click the little arrow to scroll through all kinds of font styles.
Let’s look at some handwriting fonts. Click “Handwriting” and scroll down to find something you like. When you click on a font option you’ll see a preview right inside your design.
Let’s select Lifelogo, which has a nice hand-drawn feel while still being very readable.
Now you can try a nice Canva feature: drag any corner of the text box to automatically resize the text. Make it just a little bigger.
Time to look for a Calligraphy font for the word “Mother.” To do that, click on the “Mother” text box > click the font box > type “Calligraphy” in the font search box.
Joshico looks like a nice font. Let’s click on it to try it.
That’s a good choice, but we definitely need to do some resizing! First click on the corners of the text box and pull them inward to make the font smaller.
Then click the vertical edges of the text box to center the smaller text.
HINT: For best readability — and durability after washing — don’t choose fonts with extremely thin strokes or terminals (serifs) or excessive ornamentation. The words will be printed on fabric, and elaborate fonts with very thin serifs often don’t hold up well.
Finally, let’s move all the text up a little. The best POD companies will eyeball your file and use their experience when deciding on the placement of your design. Still, most typography t-shirt designs look best when they start several inches below the neckline. You can give your POD company a nudge in the right direction by placing the type higher in the frame.
Basic keyboard shortcuts work in Canva, so click anywhere on the canvas, then hit Control+A (Windows) or Command+A (Mac) to select all the elements. You can then drag them all up with your mouse, or nudge them slowly using the arrow keys.
Now let’s add a small graphical element. How about a heart? Click “Elements” in the left-hand menu bar. A pane will open with lots of different types of elements. “Heart” is one of Canva’s most popular options, so you’ll see a pre-populated option at the top. Click it.
Now you can choose from a wide variety of heart-shaped elements. Let’s select a hand-drawn doodle heart. It appears on your canvas when you click it.
Now let’s change the color. Click on the heart, then click the colored square in the upper left.
A color picker will open. You can choose one of the preselected color chips, or select your own using the multicolored picker. We’ll choose the magenta.
Why don’t we use the same magenta for the words “Tough As A.” When you select the text, the text color box will become visible. Click on it.
This will open the color picker pane on the left. Let’s select the same magenta we used for the heart. The text color box and your design will reflect the change.
A purple-violet for the word “Mother” would coordinate nicely with this design. Let’s repeat the process above by clicking the “Mother” text box and choosing a purple for the text color.
Hmm, perhaps a darker violet would look better? Click the text color selector again, then click the custom color palette chip. This will open a color picker. Click the little circle and move your cursor to preview the color change in real time.
Let’s choose a darker purple. Looks good!
Step 5: Download your design as a transparent PNG and upscale.
Most POD companies require you to submit transparent PNGs for t-shirts. So when you download your design from Canva, you need to make sure the background is transparent.
Canva doesn’t have a transparent background option for the canvas color. But that’s okay. With one click, you can download your design without the background. This is actually a very nice feature, because you can work on your design with any background color — such as black for a black t-shirt — without needing to change to transparency to download.
Just click the Download button in the upper right of the screen and make sure you check the “Transparent Background” box.
The image you have just downloaded is 96 DPI. to convert to 300 DPI, go to the Clideo DPI converter.
Now upload your design. Be sure to select 300 DPI before you hit the “Convert” button.
When Clideo is finished, download the new file. Don’t worry about the black background. It simply indicates that the transparency was preserved.
Upload the 300 DPI design to your POD company. Here’s what TShirtGang’s mockup of a women’s shirt looks like after uploading the design to their platform.
Nice! Try making your first five t-shirt designs using this simple template modification technique, and you’ll soon be ready to make more elaborate typography designs.