How A T-Shirt Comes To Life (A Step By Step Guide)

I was talking with Adam on what to do an article about and we came up with the idea of what goes into making a shirt. It may seem simple and straightforward, but the process is anything but.

First, so you trust my article is legit, I do run a clothing/tshirt company called Rethink. Second, if you check out my shirts you will know they are anything, but run of the mill.

In theory it is simple, idea, art, mock ups, print, promote, sell. A ridiculously simplified theory, for the full details and interesting anecdotes keep reading.

Lets start with Idea:

I usually get questions on where I get my inspiration. I almost think people believe, I sit and stare and wait for inspiration. Sometimes I get it from happenings in my life. The super soaker shirt came from me saving a super soaker from the trash at my girlfriends house ( Who throws away an original super soaker?). Others come from car rides reminiscing about that time we I got a Chinese cookie without a fortune and got pissed and demanded a new cookie from the owners. I’m not super creative, so sometimes I do cheat and just grab a piece of art that’s already done… but not that often.

Choosing the correct artist:

This one may be the most difficult and easy. Some times my mind comes up with an idea that so exactly fits the artists it isn’t a question. Other times though my companies uniqueness in using only college artists hinders me so much in this process. Finding a college artist who has a online portfolio showing he can execute an idea is super difficult. So, lately I have been changing my habits and getting ideas while perusing the portfolios of these college artists. Also, in choosing artists I love seeing someone who has drive, initiative and a fun lifestyle. Finding someone who has a lifestyle that fits with Rethink is awesome and really important. That being said I made some mistakes early on in who I worked with, but lately every artist I have worked with is AMAZING and usually surprises me along the way.

Now to making the art:

This is also not a cookie cutter step. Each artist is different and requires different levels of monitoring and direction. Grant Tucker for example, our process after an idea is usually an hour-long AIM conversation of him shooting down ideas till he finds one he knows he will tear up. Other artists like Zack Davenport I have an idea I know he will dominate and I shoot him an email. All that matters here is that I choose the right artist and support them in the manner I know they need. Whether that be time, direction, reference photos or multiple emails.

Mock-ups:

As many of my twitter followers, close friends and artists know, I am so damn indecisive, cue grant hating me for asking a shirt to be mocked. I spend quite a bit of time finding a good color shirt and right color inks. Its always scary though since nothing created on a computer can look the way it does in print. Knowing what to expect from a mock up in the real world has taken some experience and is a steep and expensive learning curve.

Printing:
Yeah, not my thing. I trust the professionals to do it. Its important to pick the right one though, some suck and others just make the shirt look so awesome.

Promote:
Here is where I usually turn things on heavy. I will tell my girlfriend ( live together), I have shirts coming in today, I will see you sometime tomorrow afternoon. I take all the photos, edit them, create copy for the site, and get everything in the store. Then its rousting all the awesome bloggers , IATT included, to try and carry my story. From there its all about hitting social networks and trying to get the shirt into the hands of people who have the eye of the crowd.

Sell/Ship:
Yeah you buy my shirt that started as an idea I had while taking a shower and listening to Pandora. Then I ship it to you and try and find something your address/name/order has in it that I find interesting and comment on it. Whether it be me wearing that shirt out to the bars the night before, or us having the same name. Some guy got the story of how a girl tried to type on the typewriter shirt at a bar on his packing slip one time.

That’s pretty much it. The rest is me worrying and fretting. I hope you enjoyed this article and an insight into my process.

And if you would like check out my brand Rethink at: www.rethinkclothing.com


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  • Weezma

    I definitely enjoyed this! How much do you pay the artist on average per design?

  • anthony

    The promote section you wrote, only discusses with only online promotion. Are there other ways your promote?

  • Payment of the artist really determines on a ton of factors. If you are interested in working with me shoot an email to me. Thanks for the interest!

  • zackdavenport

    Thanks for the mention Andy, great read!

  • Definitely, but I think the promotion section is a whole other animal in itself and just hit the stuff I am best at.

  • Definitely, but I think the promotion section is a whole other animal in itself and just hit the stuff I am best at.

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  • Good article. As a new t-shirt owner myself this process can be tedious and a little stressful but I LOVE everybit of it.

  • Leo

    Looking for a good T shirt designer! someone shoot me an email asap! thanks [email protected]

  • Leo

    do you still design? can you send me an email. [email protected]