Writer TShirts

by TessaSchlesinger

by Tessa Schlesinger.How designing writer tshirts evolved into designing a few different things. Learn your own process for designing tshirts by learning how I learned to use mine.

Designing writer tshirts (or anything) is an evolving story. One starts out with one bright idea that works - or not. Add a little something here, twist a little something there, and soon, ideas grow exponentially. So take the thing you love the most, design something around it. Add a dollop of time, stew in some other facets of your life, and soon, you've got a stunning creation for your portfolio. Take your cue from how I found the designer inside me. Once you've got the design, you set up your very own tshirt store (see how I did mine on Zazzle), and you're away to join the magical land of successfully selling your own brand.

My First Brilliant Idea of Designing My Own Writer T Shirt

I couldn't find one, so I thought I'd design a tshirt

I don’t know about you but have you ever noticed that despite there being an enormous community of writers in the US, it’s not often one finds a pretty tshirt with the word ‘writer’ on it. I’ve been looking for one for years, and found that whenever somebody referred me to a place where I could buy myself some writer tshirts, that the offending tshirt would have the name of an organization attached to it. Being of a somewhat independent mind set, I simply did not want to be connected to a writing organization. Then at San Diego Comic-Con International, I saw this awesome tshirt. It said in big, bold black letters, “WRITER.” I was sold. That was exactly what I wanted. So began my journey into designing tshirts for writers.

My Very First Plain (and Serious) Effort

Be careful what you wish for. The tshirt design might not quite be what you hoped for.

Completely inspired by what I saw at the con, i immediately set about designing my very first tshirt as a writer. I carefully chose the nicest print font I could - and it took a while - but it didn't look quite right. So I added a bold dash, and it looked much better. I looked around for someone to do me a once off tshirt, found one, ordered it, and then wore it. I was quite pleased with it and got some good   conversations going about the life of a writer. Soon enough, however, I realized, it just wasn't me! It just didn't tell my full story.

Of course, that's true for any design process. You design what you think you want. Once you give it feet and see the real thing, it doesn't quite look the way you thought it would look. That's okay. You soon find that as you think about it and ask yourself what is missing - color - shape - movement - it comes to you in a flash. That's when you 'fix' the design. The reward is an inward burst of applause and an outer garment you love.

So here's a picture of my very first serious writer tshirt

Click on the tshirt to see various types of tshirts the design is on.

My Glamorous Self Wants Something Prettier

I have to confess to you that, like most artists, if one is artistic in one area, one is generally artistic in another area. So it is with me. And I love beautiful things. I really wanted my writer tshirt to express a little bit more about me. It was all very well people coming up to me and saying, "I see that you're a writer. I have this book I've been writing..." 

I thought I'd like a more serious response - like "I really love your tshirt! Where did you get it?" 

Isn't it strange the way the mind morphs?

In any event, I promptly set about to redesign my tshirt and came up with something that was absolutely dead perfect for me. In fact, it combined the best of both worlds. This time, instead of the above opening line, I now received some compliments - and we even got around to discuss some writing. In addition, by the way, I added a tote bag. You have no idea how well that went down with people around me. I was even stopped in the streets to ask where I got them! Big Smile.

So you've done your first design and it's taken a while to come up with your second design, but you've got it now. Whether you subtracted a color or added one, added a shape or changed your existing design, it's better than the first one. You're on your way to becoming a tshirt designer. If you're a writer, you've probably put a unique spin on it with your fabulous way with words.

One of my very favorite writer tshirt designs

This tshirt design has been an enormous hit. I always get compliments when I wear it.

Love my Writer Tote Bag

It was the tote bag alongside the tshirt that brought the many compliments!

Some Serious Inspiration Arrives

Now my mind starts playing word games

I don't know if you love compliments about your clothing, but I was set up for a life of wanting them when I was thirteen years old. This was because I went to boarding school at that age, and my mother went out and bought me a designer wardrobe of clothing. I went through five years of schooling and received compliments for the way I was dressed every single afternoon when we were allowed to change into civies. At South African schools, by the way, one wears a uniform to school. Nobody wears their own clothing. So that's why we were only allowed to change into our clothes once school was over for the day.

In any event, I set about looking at some more writer tshirts with matching tote bags and came up with these - below.

So by now you understand that it's not a case of instant brilliance when it comes to design. It's really a process using what you know in an unusual way. 

Every writer has a writers' circle

Of course, you have a writers' circle! Most writers do. Wearing the tshirt and the tote to my writer's circle got me some lovely comments.

Writer's Circle Tote Bag

This writer's circle tote bag often got me great compliments. At some point I have to do different colors because I've been asked for them.

Writer's Block Tshirt

Um, yes. I actually do get writer's block on certain days. Then, out of the blue comes a wizard of inspiration. So I put a circle and a triangle in my design to remind me that blocks do go away! And, no, I never did a bag for this one.

Evolving as a Tshirt Designer - Doodle Artist

My doodling instincts kick in.

I love to doodle, and have been doodling almost as long as I've been writing. For most of my life, my doodles went from pen to paper to the trash can. Then about four years ago, my daughter completely freaked out at me because I kept throwing them away. She is a costume artist (speaking at a panel again at San Diego Comic Con International 2012) and pretty much got straight As for all her art at college. She kept telling me my doodles were art and that I shouldn't be throwing them away. 

I have to confess that thought stunned me, and just to see if she was right, started drawing in public places. The long and the short of it was that people really loved it. I was amazed. Now I don't throw away my doodles anymore.

So the bright idea occurred to me to combine my tshirt designs with my doodle art. This is what followed.

Okay, so now you're on stage four. This might be two or three months down the road or it might be twenty four hours down the road. It doesn't really matter what the timing is; it's just the process that matters. The process is the same, regardless of the time factor or the content.

Doodle Art Comes to my TShirt Designs

One of my best ever designs for a tote bag

Morning After the Night Before Coffee

This has always been one of my favorite doodles.

Also one of my very favorite tote bags

Photography Joins the Party - My Photos on TShirts

So now I'm a professional photographer? Not quite...

Like a lot of people on the planet, I enjoy photography. I would not dare to put myself in the class of any professional photographer, though. Still, every now and then, a completely brilliant snap arrives and I am gobsmacked sufficiently to fall in love with it. I haven't got many of them, but it occurred to me to put those photos on tshirts. Actually, it occurred to me to put them on quite a few things, but I haven't got down to it yet. In any event, let me share with you some of my favorite photos on tshirts.

Many people enjoy photography, and you probably do, too. Some people prefer to put photographs on the back of a tshirt, rather than the front. I have to admit that in some instances, it does work better. If you've got really cool photographs that everybody loves it, give it a cute border, some quirky words, and design something around it. It needn't be a tshirt. It could be a calendar, a tote bag, or anything else.

Evolving TShirt Designer

My Fashion Credentials...

Nearly three decades ago, I put my love of dress into action and trained to become a pattern maker. I also went for classes on color consulting, how to put shapes and sizes together, make up, hair styles, etc. I'm going to do a bit of a boast here and tell here that I got 100% for my make up exam!

For a while, I used everything I knew just for myself, but then friends started referring other friends to me, and shortly after that, I started consulting. It was fun. After my baby was born, I stopped as life became busy. 

When I arrived in the States, I decided to go back to college and registered for a fashion design degree. Shortly before I was due to finish, I did a rethink and registered for an interior design degree. I finished that one, but prefer decorating to interior design. 

So where am I going with my designs? 

I joined Zazzle because it gave the widest range of products that I could put my designs on. I haven't  yet fully explored it but, in time, I will. Now it's your turn, and if you need some help, you're always welcome to email me. I love to help.

Updated: 11/13/2012, TessaSchlesinger
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


TessaSchlesinger on 11/07/2012

Sheila, thank you. I've just removed them. I'll fix them up and then put it back again. :)

sheilamarie on 11/07/2012

I don't see those two photo t-shirts either.
I love your discussion about how you went about getting ideas and designing t-shirts and tote bags. I've been working with my photos on Zazzle for a couple of years and find the process really fun.

Tolovaj on 10/16/2012

Nice designs. Unfortunately I can't see all:
T Shirt : A Journey Begins with a Single Step
Favorite Photo: Goat in a Tub
are not shown in my browser (Mozilla, 14.0) .
Hope it helps:)

katiem2 on 10/04/2012

Very nice writer and artist tee shirts. I just might have to put these on my gift list. :)K

TessaSchlesinger on 09/17/2012

Mira, can you please tell me what you mean. Virtually all the designs are tshirts and totebags.

Mira on 09/17/2012

Very inspiring article! Nice designs :-). Somehow though the photograph on T-shirt and tote bag didn't show on my page.

TessaSchlesinger on 02/26/2012

Wow Brenda, we almost took the same path. What a coincidence. Yes, I think it is nicer decorating one's own home! :)

BrendaReeves on 02/26/2012

I love the simplicity of your designs. I started out wanting to go into fashion design. Then I really wanted to do interior design. I decided I really loved decorating my homes, but wouldn't want to do someone else's.

TessaSchlesinger on 02/22/2012

Yup, done those as well. :)

2uesday on 02/22/2012

Once upon a time, I did a fashion and textiles course. I am now trying to get back to using some of the skills that I had set aside. It is nice to see you here. I love the potential to make the pages look good here and to feature things such as your
T shirts and bags in a stylish way.

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