i found this over at a competitors site, but i thought it was very relevant to here and to other sites as well so i am reposting – (DBH staff – feel free to delete this if you think this is a bit too much of advertising of one of your competitors – thats not my intention but i would understand if you guys werent cool with it):
10 Tips To Winning T-shirt Design Contest Sites!
June 08, 2009
As an artist, t-shirt design contest sites can be a great way to expose your art to thousands of people, build a name and a strong fanbase for yourself, and even make money doing it! There’s tons of these contest sites out there, from the big boys at
Threadlessto our very own ShirtFight!But how do you go about approaching these sites, and more importantly…how do you win? I decided to put together a list of the top 10 tips for winning at pretty much any t-shirt design contest website, from the perspective of a site owner. I hope you enjoy the article, and good luck in your future submissions!
1. Survey your surroundings
Before you even begin drawing or brainstorming ideas, take a close look at the website you are going to submit to. What’s the overal “vibe” of the site? Are the tees for sale focused around being funny, witty, or ironic? Are they full of fun bright colorful designs, or are things more dark and subtle? Look at what’s being offered and try to fill the blank in this sentence: “This site pretty much specializes in selling _____ style t-shirts”. Now of course variety is the spice of life, but you want to make sure that whatever you are about to design is going to at the very least be a good fit style-wise with the rest of the site’s offerings.
2. Think outside the box
Ugh, don’t you just hate that phrase? But it’s so true…everyone likes a refreshing new idea, especially when it comes to cool t-shirts. It takes more than slapping a funny movie quote on a tshirt nowadays, and with the ever growing popularity of unique t-shirts, you really have to up your game to make something new and interesting. Does your idea have a twist that differentiates it from the others, something special that would make people take notice and say “oh man what a great idea, I need that!”
3. Think like a customer
This is a tough one, because naturally you only consider your own tastes…but you have to put yourself into the mind of the customer. Human nature is a funny thing…in general, we all want to express our individuality, yet we constantly seek approval from others to validate ourselves. There’s a very specific “comfort zone” that the majority of people try to reach, and this zone applies to fashion probably more than anything else! T-shirts themselves are widely accepted by the general population…we all know how they look and fit and feel when you wear them. People then choose how to express their individuality through what is printed on the tee itself. But here again you have to keep this “comfort zone” in mind…if the design is too bright or too crazy/controversial, the general masses won’t feel comfortable wearing it, and therefore they won’t buy it.
I know what you’re thinking…“Well gee, what’s the fun in creating “safe” shirts? That seems so boring!” Keep in mind that the comfort zone varies between different groups of people. Graphic t-shirts are typically purchased and worn by the younger generation, so they may be more comfortable wearing brighter colors and wilder designs. Just remember than even younger folks have the desire to stand out, yet fit in with the crowd.
Also it’s a good idea that the design can be self explanatory. They need to tell the story themselves…it helps the customer understand the design, and therefore gives them more comfort that this is the right shirt for them. When other people see the shirt, they too will be able to understand the design…instant peer approval! Isn’t it nutty how that works? smile
4. Think like a website owner
While the business models may vary between design contest sites, they all operate essentially the same way when it comes to choosing the winning t-shirt. They rely on the community votes to give them an idea of which shirts are the most popular, and then they take those on the top of the list and put their “business man” hat on and start asking the businessy questions like printability, cost, etc. We’ll go over those in just a second, but just know that the final final say rests in the hands of the website owner. If they think that your design is a better fit than the other submissions for their site (Tip 1), is clever/intelligent/unique (Tip 2), and is something that will have mass appeal to their customers (Tip 3), then you win!
5. Good art does not necessarily mean a good t-shirt
Let’s say you go to the Louvre in Paris and see the Mona Lisa. It’s a breathtaking piece of art. Then you look over to your right and you see a tourist walking around with the Mona Lisa printed on the front of his t-shirt. It’s not quite as amazing when someone is wearing it, right? That’s because great t-shirt art is a specific genre all its own. When creating your design, you have to ask yourself “how would this look on a shirt?”, or more importantly “how would this look on a guy or girl walking around in the mall or on the street?” Remember, people are looking to wear things that help define and express their personalities to the world. They are looking for the shirt that’s “them”, that they will grab to wear every time it’s clean, and sometimes even when it’s not (don’t look at me like that, I know you’ve done it too!!) They’re looking to you to provide an awesome shirt to wear, not provide awesome art. T-shirt contest winners act more like fashion designers than graphic designers!
6. Think like a screenprinter
I have a printer friend who said to me “all we’re doing is pushing plastic paint through holes in a screen”. And he’s right…while there’s been real improvements in t-shirt printing technologies, it will never match the capabilities of Photoshop, Illustrator, or even good ol’ Pen and Paper. Assuming that your design would be printed using traditional spot color printing methods, imagine breaking up your design into different “stencils”, a separate stencil for each color you are using. Halftones can be used to provide different shades of a color when doing spot color printing, but unless you are doing full color process printing (which typically is only done on white shirts), you want to keep this “stencil mentality” in your mind.
7. Make every color count
I’m going to talk about color count from two perspectives, from a business and an art point of view.
Printers charge a base price for their shirts (based on quantity of shirts printed), and then charge extra per color. This is because for every additional color introduced into the design, a new screen has to be created (this costs money), and more ink will have to be used (yup, more money). And while cost is not the primary factor when determining who to print…if there were two cool t-shirts that were equally popular with the community, but one used 8 colors while the other only used 3…chances are the one with the lesser colors will be picked for printing. Remember you can “cheat” a bit and use the color of the t-shirt as one of your design colors!
But this “less is more” color concept isn’t just about the dollars and cents…a truly great design has every line, shape, and color picked for a reason. Sometimes having too many different colors lessens the awesomeness of the design. Remember, you are designing for a t-shirt that someone will wear and walk around in public. So just because you can use loads of color doesn’t mean you should.
8. Presentation is key!
So you’ve come up with a sure-fire winning design, and you upload it to the contest site of your choice (might we suggest
ShirtFight? hehe). You upload one image of the design and give it a title “My submission” and a description “yeah here’s like my sub hope u liek it”. You put all that time and effort going through Tips 1 through 7, and then just slap it up on the site? Tsk Tsk!
Give it a good name, something awesome sounding. Have it reflect your design’s vibe. If you made a funny t-shirt, give it a clever name. For the description, tell the voters how you came up with the idea, how you designed it, etc. If you don’ t a good story, make one up smile
Then get that design on a t-shirt! Going back to Tip 5, people are interested in buying a shirt, not a design. Use a program like Photoshop to place your design on a t-shirt (
psst, we even have a submission kit with pre-made templates in all the American Apparel colors for you to use!)
You spent 99% of you time and effort making a great tee design, don’t blow it in the presentation!
9. Get people to vote on your design!
Ok! The design is looking great and sitting on the site, ready for comments and votes. Don’t just stand there, tell everyone you know! I’ve heard a lot of artists say “Oh I’m just no good at whoring out my designs”. Listen, you just submitted something that you know in your heart should win. You put your blood, sweat, and vectors into it! It’s not whoring for votes, it’s announcing your creation to the world! And it’s really not that difficult:
Got a blog? Post about it
Got Facebook or Myspace? Post a link or send out a bulletin.
Got Twitter? “Yo, Let Me Twitter Dat”
Do you have any friends or family? There’s this thing called Email you know…
plus there’s Emptees, DeviantArt, BeHance, etc etc to post about your t-shirt!
As I mentioned before, all t-shirt design contest sites depend on the community vote to tell them which shirts are the most popular. So get out there and get people to vote for you!
10. Never give up (and never stop drawing)
At the end of the day, many will enter and (usually) only 1 will win the ultimate cash prize. In the event you didn’t win, don’t beat yourself up about it. Look at who won, and see if you can surmise what they did to win. Run that design through this Top 10 Tips checklist…did they do everything on the list? What can you do next time to be better than that guy?
That’s the great side benefit of contest sites, if used right it forces you to constantly get better and better with your illustrations. I’ve already seen quite a few artists on
ShirtFightwho’s work has really really improved over the weeks. Plus even if you don’t win the contest, you are still getting your artwork seen, admired, and critiqued by hundreds (or even thousands!) of people…people that are interested in buying cool t-shirts created by artists just like you! You just can’t beat that kind of direct and honest feedback. Many contest sites allow you to link back to your portfolios and blogs. Imagine someone says “oh wow I really dig their work, let me go see what else they’ve done!”. CLICK! You just got visitors to check out all of your work.
I hope this helps you all out, if you have any questions, comments, or tips of your own post them in the comments below!
heres the original link from where this was taken from: http://www.shirtfight.com/blog/entry/10_tips_to_winning_t-shirt_design_contest_sites/