Experts Share Top ‘No-No’S for Custom T-Shirts, Including Offensive Language, Excessive Colours, and Hard-to-Read Fonts

Fashion brand consultant Clare Alexander has provided guidelines for designing your own custom t-shirt, whether it’s for a hen-do, business event, or music festival.

The top 10 list of things to avoid also includes using someone else’s image without permission and overcomplicating designs with too many graphics or details.

Clare, who specializes in assisting start-ups, offered her advice to businesses considering merchandise or uniforms, emphasizing the importance of making logo colours stand out and ensuring brand originality.

The insights come from a poll of 2,000 adults, which revealed that 39 percent believe someone’s clothing choice says a lot about their personality. Additionally, one-fifth of respondents enjoy expressing themselves through customized apparel, and 28 percent show support for small businesses through merchandise.

The research and advice were commissioned by Vistaprint, a company that offers customized clothing and accessories.

Clare Alexander, who collaborated with the brand to create her tips and trends, said, “Wearing artwork on clothing is an established fashion tradition, but graphic tees are perhaps the most literal form of this. Through prints, you can express yourself in visual form by representing places you have visited, favorite tunes, television shows, films, or designers. Most graphic tees also serve as a platform for showcasing brands, expressing loyalty for the creators, and it is a unique and modern medium for creative expression and graphic tees make a stylish statement.”

According to the research, consumers would avoid choosing personalized clothing with swear words (50 percent), their own photo (43 percent), and pictures of strangers (42 percent). Other less-preferred options include innuendos (31 percent), phrases or slogans (27 percent), and song lyrics (25 percent).

The most popular personalized clothing item is t-shirts (66 percent), followed by hoodies or sweatshirts (46 percent) and polo shirts (44 percent).

Current trends in t-shirt designs include logos on the front (42 percent) and back (34 percent), raising awareness of social or environmental causes (37 percent), and featuring band emblems (37 percent). However, tie-dye (36 percent), pockets (23 percent), and song lyrics (20 percent) are considered outdated by the polled individuals.

Regarding accessories, customized caps (37 percent) and tote bags (30 percent) are widely owned.

Reasons for owning personalized items vary, with 50 percent indicating events such as hen parties, 45 percent for work purposes, and 27 percent to support small businesses. Other occasions include holidays (22 percent), birthday parties (20 percent), and music festivals (19 percent). Additionally, 32 percent made purchases simply to represent their personality.

Over a third (35 percent) of respondents are willing to spend more money on customized clothing due to its uniqueness (48 percent) and its ability to evoke memories (39 percent).

Younger demographics are more accustomed to owning personalized apparel, with 76 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 68 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds doing so.

One-fifth of all respondents agreed that they are more likely to remember a business if employees wear branded apparel. If they owned a business, 34 percent said they would sell labeled merchandise.

The general manager at Vistaprint’s promotional products, apparel, and gifts business division, Llorenç Sola, stated, “Creating custom apparel, like T-shirts, feels good, looks great, and gives them a chance to celebrate their individuality. When it comes to businesses buying customised items to sell, it can be tricky to get it right and please all their customers, based on style, logo, and colour preferences. We hope the do’s and don’ts list helps both individuals and important business owners when designing their own garments—do your research into competitors before ordering and put yourself in your customer’s shoes when finalising the images and words used.”

Top Design Do’s and Don’ts: Don’t

  1. Overcomplicate designs: Avoid using too many graphics or details. Simple designs are often the most effective.
  2. Use copyrighted material: Ensure you have the rights to any images used to avoid legal issues.
  3. Use too many colours: Stick to a maximum of three colours to prevent your message from getting lost or becoming distracting.
  4. Be offensive: Avoid offensive language, graphics, or images to maintain respect and inclusivity.
  5. Use hard-to-read fonts: Choose easy-to-read fonts to ensure your design is clear and understandable.


  1. Keep it simple: Simple designs with clean lines and bold fonts catch the eye and effectively convey the message.
  2. Use bold colours: Vibrant and bold colours make your t-shirt design stand out and grab attention.
  3. Choose the right style: Consider the fit, shape, and quality of the t-shirt when designing to achieve the desired overall look.
  4. Be original: Use unique designs that avoid clip art or stock images. Consider seeking help from a professional designer if needed.
  5. Stick to current trends: Incorporate current events, pop culture, or trending topics into your design to make it more relatable.

Note: The information in this article is based on the research and advice provided by fashion brand consultant Clare Alexander in collaboration with Vistaprint.

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