Whether it’s your first time designing a t-shirt, or you’re new to design all together… this is for you!

At ICON Printing we’ve spent a decade at the centre of London’s creative industries, printing t-shirts for everyone from WeWorkBoiler RoomGoogle, Topshop and the Tate.

We field countless queries about t-shirt design – if you want some more guidance – take a look at our step-by-step guide of how to get your merch printed – or just give us a call. For now, we’ll walk you through some of the top software programs for designing a t-shirt – and if you’re looking for a budget option, check out our picks of the best free t-shirt design software.

Adobe Illustrator

Part of the Adobe Suite, Illustrator is one of the most commonly used programs amongst graphic designers. Working in vector graphics (which is what we need for screen printing or embroidery!) means you’ll be able to create multi-dimensional, layered illustrations, logos, and typography. The downside? The price tag.

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is also part of the Adobe Suite, however as it’s not a vector program it has different uses. With this program, you’ll be able to edit high-quality images and create unique photo effects. In addition, you can create on line work as you would on Illustrator, however keeping in mind it will not be vector (which means it won’t be suitable for a screen print, however DTG printing will be possible). The downside? Again, price tag.

blank t-shirts for printing

For more tips for getting the most out of the t-shirt printing process read our guides on screenprinting, DTG printing, CMYK vs RGB file types and fonts.


CorelDraw is a free downloadable program making it a great budget option for beginners. As a vector graphics program, you will have lots of freedom with designing and gain many of the same features as Illustrator without cashing out before you’re ready. The downside? If you’re new to design, this program isn’t specifically for t-shirt designs so it can take some time getting the hang of things.

Graffix Pro Studio

Created specifically for designing t-shirts, this program is very easy to use and a great option for beginners. The downside? While it will make things nice and simple, this also means you are quite limited with what you can do on the program. Unfortunately, this one comes with a price tag.


Our last recommendation is another free vector graphics program. It works pretty similarly to Illustrator and again allows you to create a range of multi-dimensional graphics suitable for screen printing and embroidery. The downside? It can’t handle very large files as compared to Illustrator.

Want to learn more about the t-shirt printing process?

If you’ve found this guide useful and want to learn more about the t-shirt printing process and how to get the most out a printing job, have a read through some of our expert guides, covering everything from screen-printing to branding, from in-depth features to quick tips and tricks. Here’s a selection of some our favourites: