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Misprint Monday: Bad Art

Maybe it is because we do a great deal of creative and difficult printing, or maybe I was a jerk in a past life and this is my karma, but for some reason I get to see a whole lot of bad art for t-shirts. The worst of it often is not only bad, but it comes from people that think they are being creative.

I made up this art, but actually I received something extremely similar to this baseball design recently but there is no reason to embarrass the actual company that produced it.

This can be printed, but at a tremendous cost, and in my experience nobody ever wants to pay that real cost so it is better to just say no or convince the customer to make a simpler version that will honestly be just as effective as a wearable shirt in the end.

So what is wrong with this design?

  1. As enticing as it is to make a concept that works on the front and the back of a shirt, people do not experience other people that way. You see the front or the back and so if seeing both sides is important to conveying the concept it doesn’t work. So designs that go over the shoulder or around from one side to the other are not really experienced that way most of the time.
  2. It seems like somebody that wants these type of designs always wants a small quantity and they want from XS to XXXXL. They want the design to go to the shoulder but they want some words on the chest. Two things are wrong with that. One is that for every size of shirt the distance from the chest to the top of the shoulder varies. The second is that if you want to line up the shoulder and line up the chest as level, you cannot do it. Human beings sew the shirts and even on the same sizes of shirts the both the distance of the shoulder to chest and the angle of the top of the shoulder to a line straight across the chest will change on nearly every shirt.
  3. So many people show me things that go top to bottom. One problems is that this is too far to print on almost all presses, and secondly it is unnecessary. You can usually fade the print up near the shoulder and it gives the impression of going over the shoulder and what do you really need except the impression? As for the bottom, what about people tucking in the shirt? Also if you fade the shirt a couple inches from the bottom I guarantee that when someone wears the shirt it will look nearly identical to actually printing all the way off the bottom. Then of course there is the same problems as listed above, that the distance changes with every size of shirt, and then even changes as much as 1.5 inches because tolerances are not that great on t-shirts so getting a print from top seam to bottom seam is a real struggle.
  4. Think about what actually will happen with the designs that wrap around under the arm pits. A shirt is not worn with your arms extended out like a scarecrow, normally your arms relax at your side and cover all the brilliant graphics you might have wrapped around the side.
  5. This particular design would be very difficult to print with discharge ink, so it will require an underprinted white ink. This shirt will weigh about five pounds after it is printed because of all the ink that will go on it. And of course the designers also pick some flimsy featherweight soft shirt that makes it even more appalling to put this giant print on it.
  6. So what if you do deliver what this person wants on the shirt? It would require numerous prints, all the tricks required to print so the bleed off the bottom doesn’t make a mess (that’s a whole other article,) special work at the top of the shoulder so the print wraps from front to back, special locating of the prints so the front and back line up. If you printed this with eight screens, you would then probably need four versions to hit all the sizes, so 32 films and screens, and no matter how careful when all was said and done probably a reject rate of 8 to 10%. Even for 500 total shirts you would need to pay over $20 a shirt to have them printed. If you used an all-over press they charge a premium and even an all-over press would have difficulty with the ball that prints around the side of the shirt. If you tried to belt print the shirt you get all kinds of folds in the print and the registration between colors is tough and you also still would have issues with that ball that goes around the side. So, in short, extremely expensive no matter how you go about it.

So if you stupidly decide you can print this shirt and then you give the customer the price, they will think you are ripping them off with such a high price. So then they are both angry and they won’t do the job and you wasted your time figuring it all out.

So, just say no you can’t do it unless they want help redesigning the shirt.  Next Monday we’ll take a look at possible ways to get this effect but with a printable design.


  1. Very well!! Bravo with your explanation.
    Just say No or convince the customer to change up the design is the best real Solution. Thanks.

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