Switching your print on demand supplier? Get in touch with us here

1. Eight best t-shirt design software options

T-shirt design software: 8 Top options & how to choose

T-shirt design software can help you turn your creative vision into compelling designs that sell. Design and fabric quality are among the most crucial selling points for t-shirts. The right software can help you improve the quality of your designs and speed up the process of creating them. You can use software to enhance hand-drawn designs with inking, colors, and special effects or create designs from scratch. Your design software can be one of the most valuable tools in your artistic toolkit, enabling you to create high-quality designs in your style that customers would love to wear.

But with so many design software options on the market, how do you choose? In this article, we'll help you evaluate your options by guiding you through eight top t-shirt design software solutions and their pros and cons. We'll also suggest six criteria to consider when choosing t-shirt design software. Finally, we'll answer some t-shirt design software FAQs.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • T-shirt design software solutions range from freeware to premium packages for professionals.

  • Some t-shirt design software uses vector graphics, best suited for editing images such as digital paintings and logos. Other solutions use raster graphics, best suited for photo editing.

  • When selecting a design software, consider cost, ease of use, design capabilities, templates, integrations, and customer support.

  • Gelato integrates t-shirt design editing tools with ecommerce workflows and platforms.

Eight best t-shirt design software options

Eight best t-shirt design software options

In no particular order, here are eight of the top software options for t-shirt design available today:

  1. Gelato

  2. Adobe Illustrator

  3. Procreate

  4. Canva

  5. Adobe Photoshop

  6. CorelDRAW

  7. Inkscape

  8. GIMP

We'll look at features, pricing, pros, and cons for each app.

1. Gelato

Gelato is a print on demand service that lets you print customized images on t-shirts and other products for sale on ecommerce sites. It includes a design editor that lets you edit imported designs and images before printing. It is ideal for t-shirt design editing, although it only includes basic editing features geared toward the need of POD ecommerce.

Key features
  • Ability to import images for editing.

  • Access to millions of stock images from Shutterstock.

  • Layers management tools.

  • Text box tools.

  • Pre-configured layouts.

  • Customizable settings let you display tools such as grids, guides, and bleeds.

  • Warning messages for low-resolution photos.

  • Mockup Studio tool, available with a Gelato+ subscription, lets you personalize and download mockups and provides realistic product previews for both creators and customers.

  • 3D rendering previews are available for products such as mugs.

Pros
  • Designed for editing t-shirts and other customized POD products.

  • Integrates custom t-shirt designs into ecommerce workflow through one service that handles your design process, production, ordering, and shipping.

  • Cheaper than other design software.

  • Easy to use.

  • Includes access to millions of beautiful photographs and images with no upfront costs.

  • Ability to preview custom t-shirt mockups.

  • Integrations with ecommerce platforms and marketplaces such as Shopify and Etsy.

Cons
  • Limited design features geared toward basic editing.

  • No t-shirt design templates are included.

2. Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is today's leading graphic design software suitable for most t-shirt design projects. However, it is relatively expensive. To a degree, the other products reviewed here generally can be considered alternatives to Illustrator.

Key features
  • Adobe Illustrator uses vector graphics, which are based on mathematical coordinates and retain the same resolution when resized.

  • Professional design tools, including a complete set of digital brushes and pencils and pens, shape drawing tools, advanced color options, layers, and alignment grids.

  • Illustrator has partnerships with many font designers, enabling it to offer an extensive library of professional fonts. Users also can create fonts with custom slants, widths, and weights.

  • Illustrator can be used with Android and iOS mobile apps, Windows and macOS desktop devices, and iPads.

Pricing
  • Annual subscriptions are billed monthly, starting at $20.99 a month for Illustrator alone.

  • $54.99 a month bundled with Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps.

  • Lower prices are available for annual prepaid subscriptions, while monthly plans cost more.

  • Free trial available.

Pros
  • Vector-based graphics maintain resolution at any scale, which is ideal for editing computer-generated digital art.

  • Full range of graphic design tools.

  • Professional font library with prearranged licensing.

  • Custom font capability.

  • Customizable workspace.

  • Cloud-based storage library.

Cons
  • Expensive.

  • Cloud-oriented, only available for desktops with Creative Cloud All Apps plan.

  • Large files often crash.

  • It is not geared toward beginners.

  • No native t-shirt design templates.

3. Procreate

Procreate is a digital painting tool designed for iPad users. It uses raster graphics, composed of pixels, and loses resolution when images are enlarged.

Key features
  • Works on iPads and iPhones.

  • Procreate Pocket version for iPhones.

  • Functionality extended when used with Apple Pencil.

  • Raster-based graphics lose resolution when resized, most suitable for images taken from photos.

  • The brush library allows you to use or modify existing brushes or create your own.

  • Automated tools to quickly draw shapes or add colors.

  • Advanced color controls let you select virtually any color or match colors.

  • Four default native fonts, plus the ability to access hundreds of fonts built into iPads.

  • Professional effects options.

  • Supports touch-based power move shortcuts.

  • Valkyrie Engine enables fast painting at 120 frames per second.

  • Animation Assist creates time-lapse captures of paintings from the first stroke to the last.

Pricing
  • $12.99 flat fee to download on iPad.

  • $5.99 for Procreate Pocket on iPhone.

Pros
  • Inexpensive, with no subscription fees.

  • Easy for beginners, but also suitable for professionals.

  • Full range of professional design tools.

  • Extensive font options.

  • Suitable for both iPad and iPhone use.

Cons
  • It only works with iPads or iPhones.

  • Raster graphics don't retain resolution when resized, are unsuitable for logos, and are best for editing photos.

4. Canva

Canva is a photo and video editor designed to make it easy for beginners to create graphics for social media posts. It includes free and premium versions.

Key features
  • Raster graphics.

  • Imports JPG and PNG files.

  • Drag-and-drop editor.

  • Over 250,000 free templates.

  • Over 1 million free graphics and photos.

  • Over 100 design types for social media, letters, presentations, and other media.

  • Ability to see design mockups on images of shirts and posters and order printable apparel, flyers, and mugs for gifts or business.

Pricing
  • Free version includes basic features, templates, graphics, photos, and design types.

  • Pro version $119.99 per year per person for access to additional features, templates, stock graphics, cloud storage space, and support.

  • Team version $149.90 per year for the first five people.

Pros
  • Free version available.

  • Easy to use for beginners.

  • Extensive libraries of templates and stock images.

  • Ability to upload own fonts.

Cons
  • Can't trademark logos or graphics created from Canva stock libraries.

  • Must pay a one-time licensing fee to remove watermarks on images created from Canva stock content.

  • Limited to importing JPG and PNG images.

  • Limited design tools.

  • Raster graphics are not suitable for logos.

  • Some features only work in online mode.

5. Adobe Photoshop

As the name implies, Photoshop is designed as a photo editing tool, although it can edit other graphics or create digital paintings. It uses raster graphics, in contrast to Illustrator's vector-based graphics.

Key features
  • Raster graphics.

  • Uses proprietary file formats with support for other file types.

  • Professional design tools, including a complete set of digital brushes and pencils and pens, shape drawing tools, advanced color options, layers, and alignment grids.

  • Advanced photo editing tools for special effects.

  • Extensive library of licensed fonts.

  • Photoshop can be used on Windows and macOS desktop devices and iPads.

  • Photoshop Express is available for Android and iOS mobile devices.

Pricing
  • Annual subscriptions are billed monthly, starting at $20.99 a month for Illustrator alone.

  • $54.99 a month bundled with Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps.

  • Lower prices are available for annual prepaid subscriptions, while monthly plans cost more.

  • Free trial available.

Pros
  • Full range of design tools.

  • Professional font library with prearranged licensing.

  • Custom font capability.

  • Customizable workspace.

  • Cloud-based storage library.

Cons
  • Expensive.

  • Cloud-oriented, only available for desktops with Creative Cloud All Apps plan.

  • Not geared toward beginners.

  • No native t-shirt design templates.

6. CoreIDRAW

CorelDRAW is a vector graphics editor that can serve as a digital painting tool and a photo editor.

Key features
  • Beginner version and home business version work on Windows. Professional version also works on Macs, iPads, and the web.

  • Vector graphics.

  • Easy tracing of bitmap images to vector images.

  • Compatible with BMP, PNG, JPG, GIF, and HEIF file types.

  • You can exchange files with Illustrator.

  • User-friendly.

  • Versatile drawing tools for creating lines and shapes, applying colors, adding fills, and changing transparencies.

  • Advanced photo editing tools.

  • Page layout tools.

  • User-friendly text tools with text effects options.

  • Object docking tool for managing drawing elements.

  • Over 200 templates are available in the cloud library.

  • Access to thousands of free clipart images.

Pricing
  • $129 for a beginner version with essential digital painting and photo editing tools and support for up to 10 file types.

  • $299 for the home business version with support for up to 70 file types and over 2,000 creative assets.

  • $269 a year, $22.42 a month, or $549 lifetime purchase for graphic design professionals version with support for up to 100 file types, over 7,000 creative assets, and additional features.

  • Free trial available.

Pros
  • Doesn't require a subscription.

  • Download or DVD installation options.

  • Vector graphics retain resolution when resized.

  • Ability to exchange, import, and export Illustrator files.

  • Full range of professional design and photo editing tools.

  • Access to templates and clip art.

Cons
  • Expensive.

  • Internet connection is required for installation and access to certain features.

  • Not geared toward beginners.

  • Royalty-free content is only available for home business and professional versions.

7. Inkscape

Inkscape is a free, open-source vector graphics editor. It provides professional quality, but it is not for beginners. Inkscape can be viewed as a free alternative to Illustrator, with many of the same features and core functionality but less advanced tools.

Key features
  • Vector graphics.

  • Available for FreeBSD, Linux, macOS, and Windows.

  • SVG file format.

  • Ability to embed and trace raster graphics.

  • Tools for creating vector shapes by drawing or selecting them.

  • Bezier curve drawing.

  • Color selection, editing, and effects tools.

  • Text writing and editing tools.

  • Layer and transparency management tools.

Pricing
  • Free.

Pros
  • Free.

  • Vector graphics retain resolution when resized.

  • Flexible text editing tools for logo creation.

Cons
  • Not for beginners.

  • SVG file format is better suited to digital display than printed display.

  • Not designed for photo editing.

  • No templates included.

8. GIMP

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free, open-source raster graphics editor. It is designed for image editing, but many creators use it for drawing. It can be viewed as a free alternative to Photoshop.

Key features
  • Raster graphics.

  • Available for Linux, macOS, and Windows.

  • High-quality photo manipulation tools.

  • Basic drawing tools.

  • Customizable toolbox.

Pricing
  • Free.

Pros
  • Free.

  • Supports most common file formats and hardware.

  • Excellent photo editing capability.

  • Can be used for basic drawing.

  • Customizable workspace.

  • Can generate images for editing in Inkscape, Illustrator, or other programs.

Cons
  • Not for beginners.

  • Raster images do not retain resolution when resized.

  • No templates included.

Choosing t-shirt design software: Six top considerations

What should you look for when selecting t-shirt design software? Some priority items include:

  1. Cost

  2. Ease of use

  3. Design capabilities

  4. Templates

  5. Integration

  6. Customer support

Here's a brief rundown on each item:

1. Cost

The tools reviewed above range from freeware like Inkscape and GIMP to expensive premium packages for graphic design professionals, such as Illustrator and CorelDRAW. Look for a solution that fits your budget.

2. Ease of use

Ease of use

Some apps, such as Gelato's design editor, are beginner-oriented and user-friendly. Others, such as Illustrator and CorelDRAW, have professionals in mind. Consider your skill set and the learning curve required to use any software you're thinking about getting.

3. Design capabilities

The software reviewed here includes apps with basic design capabilities and platforms with a full range of professional tools. Some apps use vector graphics that make them suitable for editing drawings and logos, while others use raster graphics that are better for photo editing. Look for a solution that meets your design needs.

4. Templates

Templates

Some solutions come with free templates and image libraries. Whether you're using your own t-shirt design or looking for resources of inspiration, this may be a factor to consider.

5. Integrations

Several integration considerations come into play when selecting t-shirt design software. You'll need to consider the device, operating system, and file types you need to be supported. Canva is designed to integrate with social media sharing. Gelato integrates with ecommerce workflows and platforms. Consider the integrations you need when selecting software.

6. Customer support

Customer support

Customer support availability is another issue to consider. Freeware solutions and basic packages tend to offer little support, while premium packages may offer dedicated support. Consider the level of support you expect to require when choosing a software solution.

Design, create, and sell beautiful custom t-shirts with Gelato

T-shirt design quality can be a decisive factor in the success of your ecommerce business. Choose a solution that fits your design needs as well as your budget. We've reviewed solutions that are geared toward image editing as well as photo editing, and we've included freeware options as well as premium ones.

If you're designing t-shirts for ecommerce sales, you'll want to consider Gelato's design editor and print on demand service. Gelato makes it easy to edit images you design, get them printed on high-quality t-shirts, and sell your products on leading ecommerce platforms. Sign up for a free trial today to start designing your own custom t-shirts with Gelato's sustainable, premier print on demand service.

T-shirt design software FAQs

Which software is best for printing t-shirts?

If you're looking for the best software solution for your print on demand tshirt business, look no further than Gelato's design editor. We may be biased, but for a good reason! Create your product designs with access to millions of stock images, graphic images, and image filters included with your Gelato+ subscription. Once you've perfected your design, you can generate beautiful product mockups to showcase your products on your storefront.

Which Adobe software is best for printing t-shirts?

Adobe Illustrator is best for creating digital designs and for t-shirts that use designs based on computer graphics. Photoshop is best for editing designs based on photos. Illustrator offers more flexibility for fonts.

Is Canva good for t-shirt design?

Canva can be useful for t-shirts if you have original designs, have simple editing needs, or are designing shirts for non-commercial purposes. But if you want to sell your t-shirts, remember that you don't own the copyrights if you use Canva's stock libraries for graphics or logos to create your designs. Additionally, Canva's content licensing agreement does not allow you to sell stock images on t-shirts as-is without your own original modifications. Canva stock images come with a watermark you must pay a one-time licensing fee to remove.

Is t-shirt design profitable?

Designing and selling custom t-shirts can be an excellent way to earn a profit if you have eye-catching designs, access to quality fabrics, and a good business plan. T-shirts are a popular ecommerce item, and there's a high demand for customized shirts. To turn a profit, you'll need a solid business plan that lets you keep production, inventory, and shipping costs low. Gelato's print on demand service handles production, inventory, and shipping for you so you don't have to pay these costs upfront, helping keep your t-shirt business profitable.

Share:

Next steps

Start selling products with Gelato