Whether you’re planning to start selling custom t-shirts or looking for ways to scale your existing print-on-demand business, being one step ahead of the current t-shirt design trends is essential.
But there are so many things to consider:
What t-shirt designs are really trending in 2021? What t-shirt colors should you choose? How to create trending t-shirt designs?
To help you out, we’ve summed up the hottest trending t-shirt designs for 2021 with short examples of how you can use them. So, read on and explore our 21 fresh t-shirt design trends below to find the look for your next t-shirt.
Typography t-shirt design trends
1. 3D typography
A perfect example of a t-shirt design trend growing out of modern “can-do” possibilities. This trend is far from being new, but it’s the one that has certainly come with the development of modern technology and new graphic software capabilities.
How to create a t-shirt with a 3D typography design
3D typography can definitely bring some extra depth to any t-shirt design, but you may think that designing 3D elements for a t-shirt is extra difficult. Wrong!
There are a lot of great online design tools that can help you generate basic 3D elements, such as this one from Sculpteo. Another way to design 3D text is Adobe Illustrator. Plus, Adobe has a quick video tutorial to help you create 3D text. So, go ahead and use it!
2. Typography chaos
Every graphic design trend in some way reflects the times we live in. Should I even explain why chaotic t-shirt designs became so popular lately? Neglecting all of the general typography rules and creating literal chaos on your t-shirt—what could be more appropriate for 2021?
How to create typography chaos on your t-shirt
There are no strict rules to follow here. Just try playing with the text and letter alignment, mix the order of words, and come up with your own unique look.
To give you an idea, here’s a quick tutorial from Adobe on how to create basic typography chaos for t-shirt designs.
3. Repeated words
Sometimes you have to repeat something to make your message really sink in. With this trend, you are not only making a point but also creating a well-designed t-shirt. So, if you’re not a very experienced designer, but looking for creative ideas for your t-shirt collection—this design is for you.
How to create a t-shirt with repeated words design
This is one of the simplest t-shirt trends in 2021. Here’s how you can use it:
- Come up with a clear message you want to communicate.
- Choose a compelling font that matches the tone and mood of your message.
- Repeat the message on your t-shirts as many times as you can.
- Change the text a little bit on each line.
4. Bold statements
This t-shirt design trend was born from a need to stand for something important without having to say a word, because we live in a time when limiting in-person contact has become a new reality.
But it doesn’t mean that we have nothing to say because we do. And we have to say it loud and clear, especially if you’re advocating for a cause, political campaign, or social movement.
How to create a t-shirt with a bold statement
Come up with a phrase or sentence that expresses the message you want to share. Keep the design minimalistic and strong, use an easy-to-read sans-serif font, and don’t be afraid to make your text colorful.
Check out this excellent selection of free minimalistic fonts from Canva. Just choose one and start designing new t-shirts!
5. Handwritten text
The year 2021 is all about celebrating individuality. Bring a distinctive tone to your t-shirt designs with hand-drawn text or illustrations—nothing expresses your personality and mood better than a handwritten message.
How to create a t-shirt with handwritten text
The key here is to find a perfect handwritten font that reflects the mood of your message—it can literally make or break your design. Here are 5 free handwriting fonts you can use in your designs right now:
Want to spice it up? Try experimenting with bright colors and adding various trendy hand-drawn design elements.
6. Arched and flipped text
While most of the designers preferred organic blob shapes in 2020, the year 2021 is certainly going to be the year of the refined curve. Applying this trend to typography, or matching the text with the curvy element of your design, easily turns an ordinary t-shirt into extraordinary.
How to create a t-shirt with arched text
Try arching your text to match the curve around a circular or semi-circular image to frame different elements of your design. The easiest way to do this is by using Canva. With Canva’s curved text generator feature, you can transform your text into your desired curved shape and direction for free.
Illustration trends for t-shirt designs
This t-shirt design trend is hardly a surprise. In 2021, custom illustrations have become an excellent way to make any design stand out among the generic blur of heavy graphic elements, a clean look, and minimalistic sleekness.
How to create a t-shirt with a cartoon illustration
Cartoon characters and illustrations aren’t the easiest things to design. But 99designs has the best cartoon t-shirts created by their community of designers. You can use it as a reference point or hire a freelance illustrator to design a unique t-shirt illustration.
8. Geometrical shapes
Using geometrical shapes in contemporary designs is definitely a trend to look out for in 2021. There’s just something surprisingly memorable about creating complex designs out of using simple flat shapes.
How to create a t-shirt with a geometrical shape design
The key here is to try creating an abstract and bold illustration using basic shapes. Check out this free 6-minute Canva tutorial on how to create trendy designs with geometrical shapes and start designing your next t-shirt print.
9. Optical illusion
When you see an unusual or weird image, do you immediately forget about it or spend some time looking at it?
So, apart from just being a revitalized 70s design trend, an optical illusion design can hold the attention of anyone who looks at it. And this is what you’re going for when designing a t-shirt.
How to create a t-shirt with an optical illusion design
Here the rules are very simple—use illustrations that draw attention and make people try to work them out. But you don’t want to overcomplicate the design, so make it appropriate and not overbearing. For example, layer typography is a sure way to create a fascinating t-shirt.
Raise your hand if you felt blue at least once in 2020. Maybe Pantone Color Institute knew something we didn’t when they announced Classic Blue, the official color of 2020 (not the best color, in my opinion).
Luckily, it seems that the brighter times await us with a much more exciting color of the year—Illuminating (Yellow)! And this time Pantone hasn’t settled on just one color and has paired the sunny yellow with a very accessible ‘Ultimate’ Gray.
How to use Pantone’s colors of the year in your t-shirt design
The reason for this being the trendiest color combination for t-shirt designs is its absolute versatility. As you can see in the examples above, the ‘illuminating’ yellow can be layered over the gray, and vice-versa while still being legible.
Check out Pantone’s official web page to learn everything you need to know about the colors of the year and how to use them, as well as other color trends.
To get inspired for this t-shirt design think futuristic cities, robotized environments, space travels, and floating cars. This t-shirt print theme has evolved from last year’s trend for 80s vintage fashion and futurism. In other words, it’s all about looking back at how people thought about the future in the past.
How to create a t-shirt with a retrofuturistic design
Bold imagination, retro typography, grainy and blurry effects, as well as an optimistic view of the future are the primary elements of the retrofuturist style. To make your t-shirt design look more fun try using retro fonts and any type of grain brushes.
Artsy t-shirt trends
12. Psychedelic designs
In 2021 design trends went farther away from realism than ever. The stranger your tees look, the better. Even though visual psychedelia in design goes back to the 70s, it has made a comeback in 2021 thanks to the artist who got bored of everything else.
How to create a t-shirt with a psychedelic design
Think trippy patterns, unrealistic comic characters, visual psychedelia, color explosion, and total creative chaos. And remember to use the classic psychedelic 6 color palette—Middle Yellow (#FFEB00), Vivid Red (#FC0019), Malachite (#01FF4F), Shocking Pink (#FF01D7), Interdimensional Blue (#5600CC) and Turquoise Blue (#00EDF5).
Yet another retro-inspired t-shirt design comes back loud and proud in 2021. Complex tie-dye patterns look refreshing in unconventional colors. Plus, experimental digital tie-dye patterns are emerging as a new method of creating visual texture.
How to use a tie-die in your t-shirt design
One way to use this trend on your t-shirt is to place a tie-dye pattern on a darker background to make the color pop and put a phrase or a slogan over it in painterly strokes. Here’s a free 60 second tutorial on how to create a digital tie-dye pattern for your next t-shirt design.
14. Multi-colored words
Positive energy is something that everyone was lacking in 2020 and is looking forward to in 2021. Nothing screams positivity more than a splash of vibrant colors. Bring more joy to this world by adding some colors to your text-based t-shirt designs.
How to create a t-shirt design with multi-colored words:
This is perhaps one of the simplest design trends on our list. Start by creating your text-based design. Next, select some vibrant and cheerful colors to use as your color palette for the design. Just remember to keep in mind the overall mood of the message, your branding, and the target audience when choosing the colors.
15. Support a cause t-shirt designs
A lot of people around the world have faced challenges and injustice over the past few years. This has created a trend for standing up against inequality and demanding justice. While placing protest messages on a t-shirt isn’t a trend per se, there are so many people, including influencers and creators, who want to stand together against injustice and support Black Lives Matter movements, the Me Too movement, the LGBTQ+ community, etc.
How to support a cause with a t-shirt design
Try to bring more attention to your t-shirt by finding a way to express your message in an unconventional way. For example, try to be more original, and instead of just printing a rainbow flag on your t-shirt show it with color codes.
16. Voxel art
A voxel is a 3D cube, which is basically the 2D version of a 3D pixel. You may have seen voxel art in video games such as Minecraft—it has an instantly recognizable style, somewhat similar to lego blocks. We’ve already mentioned 3D and simple geometrical shapes as super hot trends—voxel art is basically a combination of both.
How to create a tee with a voxel art design
Even though it’s a growing graphic design trend, you need to use a voxel editor and have at least some design background to create voxel art for your t-shirt design from scratch.
In 2020, everyone obsessed over muted monochrome palettes, but it looks like in 2021 the world is ready to take it one step further. There’s a simple explanation for that—dark color palettes used on a t-shirt are much less harsh on the eyes. A design scheme with a dark background helps the text or a logo on the t-shirt pop without causing too much strain on the eyes.
How to create a black and white t-shirt design
Black and white is a design duo that has been with us since forever, and it’s always a winning combination for a t-shirt. To get some inspiration before you start creating your black and white t-shirt design, check out this great selection of striking black and white designs by Canva.
Nature-inspired t-shirt designs
18. Pet t-shirts
Animal-inspired t-shirts are huge in 2021. Nature and the environment is a hot topic right now, and you can see its influence on fashion trends in unexpected ways.
For example, printing pet portraits on custom t-shirts has become a popular trend among celebrities and influencers on social media. Maybe you should go for it too?
How to create a t-shirt with an animal design
You can either feature the funny photo of your beloved pet on the t-shirt or create a hand-drawn design that outlines its body and a few facial features.
19. Floral designs
Yes, I know that floral t-shirt designs sound like a “groundbreaking” fashion trend, but you have to trust me on this one. The idea of mimicking nature, as well as using natural and softer earthy colors, flowing lines, and gradients perfectly fits with the overall trend for delicate and somewhat feminine designs.
How to create a t-shirt with a floral design
Whether you want your flowers to envelope an image or a quote, the options are infinite. But if you’re looking for a best-selling look, consider creating t-shirt designs with photo-real flower prints, watercolor prints, botanical typography, and blurry blooms.
20. Spiritual aesthetics
A well-documented side effect of the present pandemic situation is a longing for nature. That’s why nature, the environment, and spirituality are trending themes now, and you can see their influence on designs everywhere.
How to create a t-shirt with a nature-inspired design
Nature-inspired aesthetics perfectly pair with the overall trend for minimalism. Choose natural, light, and earthy colors and tones, calm gradients, and flowing lines for t-shirt designs. You could also try bringing more attention to your t-shirts by donating part of the income from sales to support nature preservation.
This is one of the sweetest design trends of 2021. Rainbows represent fun, joy, and hope—everything that we’ve been missing for so long. On many t-shirts, rainbow design is paired with a clean and simple typeface that’s either arched along the rainbow or framed underneath as a quote.
How to create a tee with a rainbow design
You can easily style your own rainbow—just choose a color palette that matches your brand, mood, or aesthetics. You can make it the center of your design or pair it with a word or quote to create a unique design for your t-shirts. Don’t be afraid to make your rainbow look funny.
Over to you
Are you ready to create your t-shirt with one of these design trends?
Sellfy is by far the best tool for those looking to create and sell custom t-shirts and merchandise whilst having full control over their print-on-demand business. It requires a small monthly fee, but you get a 100% customizable store, great built-in marketing tools, excellent customer support, and the ability to sell your products anywhere. Plus, it has an effortless setup process.
If you already have a perfect design idea in mind but unsure of how to bring it to life, head over to our article on how to design custom t-shirts.
Are you ready to create your t-shirt with one of these design trends?
Aleksey is a Content Marketing Specialist at Sellfy. He loves using language and the power of words to make even the driest eCommerce topics fascinating. Using his degree in literary studies and passion for the latest trends, he creates well-researched and structured content to inspire other people and help them grow their eCommerce business.