Sweet! You’ve joined OnAir’s T-Shirt Design Challenge! Your design is due by Feb. 29, 2016 to be eligible for voting and grand prizes. Now what?


So maybe you have tons of ideas swimming in your head, or maybe you’re stuck. If you’re in the latter category, it can be helpful to start a “brain dump” document – basically a list of all the themes / ideas you could do. The point of this exercise is to just get every possible idea on paper – good and bad! (And believe me, if you do a “good” brain dump doc, you’ll have a lot of bad ideas!)

Keep in mind that the theme of the contest is Clean Air Heroes. Consider these questions:

What does your hero look like? Is your hero a person, animal, alien, or something else? What could you do or say to inspire people to clean our air? Have you got a catchy slogan in mind? A powerful image with lots of color? Or would a monochromatic design serve your message better?

See if you’re inspired by the following clean air actions: riding the bus, walking, biking, public transit, carpooling, not idling, eating local food, recycling or upcycling.

It’s also always fun to check out designs that inspire you. Threadless is a community of t-shirt designers with super original work.

Once you have all your design ideas on paper, start to narrow them down. Maybe pick your top three and ask your family members to vote on their favorite one. Or, if you have a favorite, go with that one!

Hand-drawing vs. Digital Illustration

Now that you’ve picked your design, it’s time to bring it to life! Decide if you’ll hand-draw your design and scan / photograph it, or use a program like Paint or Adobe Illustrator.

When hand-drawing, think about your materials. Pencil drawings tend to look softer, while pen or ink drawings allow for bold contrast. Oil pastels are awesome for rich color and layering – but they are messy and smudge easily. Paint, stamps, and crayons are also options for totally different textures. You can even combine materials – there are no limits!

WikiHow has a great t-shirt design tutorial that guides you through color choice and creating 3D designs in Illustrator and other programs. One tip is to make sure your design is cohesive – it will need to make an impact when seen close-up and from far away! The tutorial even includes tips on printing your design from home if you’re feeling extra crafty.  

For more ideas on what materials to use and how to craft your design, check out Lifestyle YouTuber CharliMarie’s t-shirt design process here:

Uploading your design

Your design is complete! The last step is to upload it to OnAir. Remember you must save your design as an image file (JPG, TIF, PNG, or GIF) rather than a PDF. We can’t wait to see what you create!