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T-Shirt Design Software

When starting a t-shirt business there are a lot of decisions to make. The equipment has to be chosen. The marketing has to be created. The shirts must be chosen. It’s a lot. There are so many decisions to make that it will take some time to get a clear hold on the vision for the business.

One of the decisions to make is how to create the designs for the shirts. It is possible to outsource the artwork, however a business can run into copyright issues with these methods. Unless a release is signed for the artwork the business will have to continue paying for the artwork over and over. This can get quite expensive. Even purchasing the artwork outright can get quite expensive. 

Ultimately the business will want to use design software to create the artwork. The question is which design program should they use. There is a lot to consider when choosing which program to use. How long will it take to learn the program? How much does it cost? What resources are available to help learn the program? 

We’re going to take the mystery out of this situation by detailing some of the top programs. We’ll cover everything needed to know. So let’s get started.

Adobe Photoshop

This is the most popular graphic design program in the world. So many industries use this program because of how robust it is. Photoshop is an image editing program so it is used to make high quality photos. What the program does not do is create vectors, and vectors are primarily used in screen printing. What can be created are what are called scalable vector graphics (SVG). This file type is just not as editable as a normal vector. For this reason Adobe Photoshop is not a great option for screen printing. 

It would be an excellent choice for direct to garment printing. It has the ability to create images with fine details and lots of colors. This is perfect for direct to garment printing because the printers can handle high detail images with many colors. DTG printers are great for printing photos which Photoshop can accommodate.  

Photoshop is a program that uses a concept called software as a service (SAAS). Which means that the software is not purchased outright and loaded onto a computer. A user pays a monthly fee to use Photoshop and then  download the latest version of the software onto a computer. Because of this, it can constantly be updated which means that the user will always have the most recent version of Photoshop. Currently there are three types of pricing for Photoshop. The user can purchase the Photoshop monthly subscription for $20.99/mo. There is an option to purchase Photoshop and Lightroom for $19.99/mo. This is mainly meant for photographers. Then there is one other option which is to purchase a subscription to all of their programs for $52.99. This includes over 20 desktop and mobile apps. If given the opportunity to purchase the third option then that is the best option, because it includes some great software that includes Illustrator which we are going to discuss later in this article. 

The final thing to know about Photoshop is that there is a steep learning curve. The product has been on the market for a long time and keeps getting more robust year after year. The product has a ton of features. This means that it will take a long time to understand the program. This can be alleviated by taking a course on Photoshop, however that course will probably only cover the basics. There are many advanced features in Photoshop. It can take years to become a Photoshop master. 

Adobe Illustrator

When it comes to screen printing, most screen printers use Adobe Illustrator. The reason is because Illustrator uses vectors as its main image type. When screen printers ask for artwork from clients they ask for vectors. The reason is that vector graphics can be resized without loss of detail unlike a photo. Which means that if a client brings a vector and the shop needs it to be much larger then it can be scaled up to the desired size and it will still look the same. The images can be used with DTG printers as well.

The pricing for Adobe Illustrator is very similar to the pricing for Photoshop, however Adobe only offers two prices for Illustrator. They offer the individual plan for $20.99 or the All Apps plan for $52.99.

The learning curve for Adobe Illustrator is slightly less than Photoshop, but there is still quite a bit to learn Illustrator. It will take a lengthy amount of time to get up to speed with this program. 


This software has been around for a long time. It is one of the most popular vector creators on the market. CorelDraw has a lot of tools for designing. Editing photos, laying out pages, and illustrating vectors are all some of the great features of this software. It is also great for editing typography. With so many features it could take some time to get up to speed with this software. As far as price is concerned there is a one time payment of $299 for the software. 


Inkscape has so much to offer the beginner screen printer. Inkscape handles editing of vectors. The user will be able to manipulate the artwork and create new objects as well. This is a definite rival for Adobe Illustrator. The best thing about InkScape is that it is free. It is open source software which means that it can be downloaded and used free of charge for whatever purpose the user wants. 

There is a learning curve to this software. It takes some time to learn the software, and the worst part is that there are not a lot of resources for doing just that. There are some tutorials on YouTube as well as a few courses on Udemy as well. 

GraffixPro Studio

This software has a lot to offer. It can manage orders, generate quotes, manipulate artwork and so much more. It is not as robust as Photoshop or Illustrator and is mainly meant for DTG printing. Because of these factors it has a shorter learning curve. It won’t take long to get up to speed with the software. This software was built for t-shirt businesses. Pricing for the product is somewhere between $850 and $900. It is a standalone product and the user only pays once. 

The Final Word on T-Shirt Design Software

There are even more options for designing t-shirts than the ones listed in this post. Our collection highlights some of the top programs. In our opinion the best option for designing t-shirts is Adobe Illustrator. It can be a costly option, but it really is the industry standard when it comes to creating vector graphics. Most t-shirt designers love Adobe Illustrator. If you have the budget for it, we recommend purchasing the entire collection of apps at the higher price. It will give you great tools for creating videos and print pieces along with the vector graphics. If you don’t have the budget for it, then at least opt for the standalone version. To get up to speed on the program we recommend taking a course at a local community college. You will find many of these around the country.

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