Our 2020 t-shirt design trends are here and the start of a new decade has brought in some of the best trends yet. We’ve studied all our favorite designs from the past year to help you get ahead on all of the newest trends in custom apparel.
Explore the 20 new t-shirt design trends for 2020 below and see how you can get the look for your next t-shirt creation.
Colorful rainbows have become quite a popular image to use on t-shirt designs! Rainbows evoke joy, hope, and wonder, making them the perfect image for almost any type of t-shirt. Many designers have paired a bright rainbow with an inspirational word or phrase that ties into their cause or mission.
Design the Rainbow: Stylise your rainbow in a unique way, with unique colors that match your aesthetic or branding. Let the rainbow image stand alone, or add a word or quote to bring extra meaning and inspiration into your design.
2. Animal Portraits
With the rise of Animal influencers on social media, we’ve seen a new trend of large animal portraits on shirts, in the likeness of the pet celebs they’re meant to celebrate. Designers create large, stylized portraits of dogs, cats, turtles, cows, and more! This is a great design idea if you are the parent of a pet celebrity, or if you’re designing merchandise for an Animal Rescue or Conservation Organization.
Get the Look: Gather source photos of the specific animal you plan to illustrate. Work off these photos to create a vectorized illustration that can be easily screen printed on apparel, tote bags, and more.
3. Artwork on Shirts
Popular artists are moving their creations out of Instagram and onto shirts! Artists select work that’s been a fan-favorite on social media and translate that into a printable apparel design.
Get the Look: If you are an artist, look through your portfolio or Instagram feed to find your most popular work. Select a piece of artwork or illustration that can be easily translated to screen printing. This means you might not want to choose artwork with lots of gradients.
Mountains can be symbolic of challenges, setting goals and achieving them, or simply being outside in nature. The beauty of mountains and the many ways they can be visually represented makes them a very popular imagery choice for apparel.
Get the Look: Whether your mountains are intricate and lifelike or whimsical and stylized, they are sure to make an awesome start to a t-shirt design. Pair your mountain imagery with text that inspires or ties into what you are making the shirt for extra impact.
5. Retro Typography
Designers are throwing it back to the 60’s and 70’s with retro fonts in psychedelic colors. Using a groovy font in a funky color is an easy way to create a simple graphic tee that is easy to pair with other accessories. With a simple and retro graphic tee, you can dress your look up or down.
Go Groovy: Once you’ve selected your phrase, check out a free font site to find some typography inspiration. Or, step up your game by hand drawing your words with retro inspiration! And don’t forget to add color. Reds, yellows, and pinks are great go-to’s for this type of retro tee.
6. Delicate Florals
Flowers are beautiful and can be represented in so many ways, but they also carry a broad array of symbolism as well. Flowers can stand for growth and beauty, or a fresh start. But they can also just be added ornamentation to frame words or phrases that hold the most weight in the design.
Flower Power: Create your floral design to be the main focus of your t-shirt, or use flowers to add an extra element to a typographic t-shirt. Wrap the flowers around the words in your artwork to create a more flowy, organic feel to your design. You can also draw a more complex design making flowers the main focus, and add smaller text around it or under it.
7. Bold Statements
Sometimes your t-shirt just needs to say what it needs to say, boldly and clearly. Creating a simple t-shirt with a word or phrase that gets your point across can sometimes be all you need on your merchandise. This approach works really well if your apparel is advocating for a cause, political campaign, or social movement.
Say What You Need to Say: Find the perfect word or sentence that communicates what you hope to communicate with your community and the world. You can keep your shirt minimalist and straightforward by writing your text in a sans-serif font or have fun with bright colors and bold letterforms. You can even use hand-drawn text for a more intense look.
8. Inspirational Words
We’ve seen a rise in t-shirt designs lately that simply and beautifully encourage the wearer and anyone who sees the shirt being worn out and about. Inspirational quotes are no longer just for iPhone wallpapers and dorm room walls. They can now go anywhere by being printed on custom apparel.
This design trend is especially popular in the adoption community. They’ll often design their shirts to feature a popular adoption saying that resonates with their families adoption journey.
Inspire the World: Think of the message you wish to share with the people in your community, whether they’ll wear the shirt themselves or see it worn by others. What does the world need to hear?
9. Off-Register Prints
Taking a queue from screen printing on paper, this look of coloring outside the lines is a classic way to add interest to an illustration. Blobs of color lie off-alignment from the lines they are meant to fill in. This style has roots in ‘60’s pop art.
Think Outside the Lines: Create a line drawing of an object or letterforms that you wish to feature in your design. Once the outlines of your design have been laid, go back in and add shapes of color behind the different letters and objects, but do it in a way where the shapes are underlaid a bit off from the lines.
10. Rainbow Words
Add interest and energy to text-based designs by making the letters a rainbow of colors. While these example images are both more playful and feminine, you can change the mood of the shirt by refining your color palette used for the letters.
Create a Full Spectrum of Color: Start by creating your text-based design. You will likely want to use a bold font to help with legibility once the colors are applied. Next, select a handful of colors to use as your color palette for this design. You will likely want to think about the mood of the design, your brand, and the intended audience of the shirt when picking your colors.
11. Geography Designs
Many t-shirt designs on Bonfire are being created for Campaigns for a specific event happening in a geographic area. Whether it’s a world map, country outline, or city marked on the silhouette of a state, it’s very popular to reference a location with its outline.
Make Your Mark: There are many ways to illustrate a state or country outline. You can have your geographic area be a solid color or an outline filled with text or images. You can mark a specific location or path of travel, or use words to add more context to the geographic shape.
12. Abstract Drawings
Organic, abstracted forms make for compelling t-shirt designs and can stand alone or be combined with text. Some of our most popular abstract drawing shirts use a mixture of colorful and creative strokes and lines to make their design stand out.
Express Yourself: Abstract designs do a great job of expressing more emotional and inner feelings rather than using visual references from the surrounding world. Try designing your shirt with shapes and lines that represent what you’re trying to convey. Then add color to make it more eye-catching.
13. Oversized Back Prints
Oversized prints on oversized products are all the rage, especially with the Gen Z and VSCOgirl crowds. Screen printing your design in such a large way is a great option for designs that are more intricate and detailed or designs that are meant to look premium in that L.A. street grunge way.
Make it Big: Print your design as big as you’re allowed to on the back of your products, and balance the design of the garment by adding a small pocket print to front of the item with your brand name or a smaller design that ties into the back of the shirt.
14. Left-Aligned Text
Aligning your text to the left side of the shirt is a great way to stylize your design while keeping a minimal aesthetic. This technique works well with text-only designs, because it adds some intentionality to the text placement. But it’s also a fun way to integrate text into a more dynamic and illustrative design.
Make Your Statement: A text-based design like this is most successful when you’ve chosen a strong and emotion-filled phrase. Once you’ve selected your words, simply choose a font that matches your aesthetic, and align the type to the left.
15. Repeating Text Designs
Say it a little louder for the people in the back. Repeating your message is a surefire way to get your point across. It will make the desired impact, and result in a well-designed shirt at the same time. This t-shirt design idea is perfect if you aren’t super design-savvy, but still want to create a trendy tee on your own.
One More Time: Select the bold message that you want to communicate. Then, simply pick a compelling font that matches the tone and mood of your message and cause, and then repeat it. You can also use text where part of the message changes a little bit on each line.
16. ’90’s Vibes
The dream of the 90’s is alive and well, with neon colors, geometric shapes, and MTV vibes abundant. As Gen Z’ers and Youtubers create merch for their subscribers and followers, they tend to look to the 1990’s for design inspiration.
Throw it Back: Take a look back at the content and imagery of the ’90’s to get inspiration. You’ll likely lean on bright colors or primary colors, as well as basic shapes and zig-zaggy doodles.
17. Plastic Bag Vibes
The iconic white and red “Thank You Thank You Thank You” bag has been a point of inspiration for years. The poppy and familiar design makes it easy to emulate and transform into artwork for almost any message.
Transform Your Message: As you can see from the examples above, your text can communicate almost anything. Borrowing the text treatment of the Thank You bag is mainly about using a white product as your base and using repeating lines of red text.
18. Pocket Print Designs
The “pocket” printing location is incredibly popular this year. Influencers and other members of the Bonfire selling community created small logos or designs and printed them on the front of their tees. Pocket prints are a great way to promote your message in a subtle, yet impactful way.
Get the Look: Choose your design, and shrink it down to about 4 inches in width and height. Place your design on the top right corner of the t-shirt when designing it in the Printiful's Design Lab. Remember to make sure your design will be readable when shrunken in size.
19. Handwritten Typography
You can never go wrong with hand-drawn designs or fonts. Your hand-drawn letterforms can have a range of different moods, so it can be funky, retro, bold, or delicate. The flexibility you have when you draw your own lettering makes it a great choice for almost any t-shirt you’re designing.
Ditch Helvetica: Because of the diversity in font styles, the first step of designing your tee is deciding what type of mood you want to evoke with your text. Then start playing around with making that design more interesting by using fun colors, adding lines or other design elements around the letters.
20. Tiny Text
Some creators decided that less is more, by creating shirt designs that only feature really tiny text. These minimal and stripped-down designs say just what they need to say and nothing more.
Say it Small: Choose the word or phrase you want to put on your apparel, and select a simple, minimalist font. Place your text across the chest, or as a pocket print. Shrink your text down to only be a few inches tall.
2020 is just almost over, and we cannot wait to see what our community of creators are coming up in 2021. Follow us on Instagram to stay up to date on the latest trends and see what others are creating. Spotted a trend not mentioned here? Let us know!