Starting a new brand can be daunting, especially if you’re unsure how to bring your vision to life. That’s where our friends over at Printful come in. You may know Printful as a source for printing and shipping for e-commerce retailers. However, they also offer tools to help customers launch their online stores, such as creating designs. We met up with Printful’s Creative Director for their in-house design team, Ed, to help us design a T-shirt graphic from nothing. You can see the results in our video below, and don’t forget to read our Q&A with Ed below!

Q:  What’s your background in graphic design?

A: I received my BFA from Otis College of Art and Design. I came out of the communication arts department, which touched on three main topics: advertising, illustration and graphic design. I focused on illustration there.

Q: How did you get started in this space?

A: After I graduated college, I did a lot of small (and sometimes large) freelance gigs. The work was awesome and allowed me to make my own schedule, but it was too inconsistent for my taste. I decided to start looking for a 9 – 5 job in something that allowed me to be creative. Just as I started looking, a college friend of mine asked if I wanted a job as a screen printer. I have always been in love with the printmaking process (especially after college) so I took the job.

When I started, there weren’t many people working for Printful yet, and I saw a need for designers and a preflighting team. While in college I had learned a lot about preparing files for printing, and I found that many of the same concepts applied to direct-to-garment printing. So I started a preflight team and eventually a design team.

Q: What are some insider tips you have for people who don’t have any design background?

A: I think there’s one thing that could help many of our clients when they first start off, and that is to AVOID CHEAP DESIGNERS AT ALL COSTS! It’s painful to have to pay for something twice. We end up fixing a lot of the work that has been done by other designers who are often not as cheap as they advertise, and they are certainly not seasoned or trained designers. We find that if it’s too good to be true, the images are likely ripped off from the web, or you’ll pay a chunk to get the “design” but then you have to pay another amount to get files for printing.

Instead, go to a local designer or come to Printful, but be sure the person knows what they are doing. If you’re preparing something for Printful, send them the guidelines and make sure you have the files ok’d by someone on our design or graphics team. If the file completely fails – it’s time to get a better designer.

At Printful, whenever I hire a designer, I make sure that they are excellent communicators and have a degree in some form of design. We have a diverse team of people from many different backgrounds that range from branding to animation studio work.

Q:  Where do you get your design inspiration from?

A: It really depends on what I’m working on. If I’m working on client work, then I need to be sent inspiration from the client and from there, I decide where I should go explore for more inspiration.

The one thing that is sort of always consistent is that our clients normally know what look they want. Once they send reference images, I’ll likely pull up specific artists that relate in some way to the project in terms of style, so that I can try to emulate their work in one way or another or add subtleties that I may not have added otherwise.

Q: What sort of design services does Printful offer?

A: We are a full service creative studio, so anything you need! From apparel designs to outdoor signage for your business, we have a versatile team to do it all.

Q: Where do you recommend customers go for inspiration to design a T-shirt graphic?

A: I think this really depends on the brand, but I’ll use my personal work as an example. I like to listen to a lot of hip hop, so if I’m creating a new piece, I might just consume lots of music videos. If I want a particular look, I might look at music videos from a certain era. Then I might look into the cartoons that were on TV during that particular period. If I want street culture, I’ll take to the streets and take a look at all the different ways in which people apply their signage and what it looks like – neon signs, hand-painted sandwich boards, etc.

Once I feel like I’ve consumed and compiled enough visuals, I would probably listen to some lyrics and build on an excerpt for example.

Q: Can you walk us through the first steps of what a customer would go through when working with your design team?

A: The client would give us a loose idea of their design needs and provide us with reference images, so we can better understand what direction to head in.

Q: Once the customer chooses the design, what happens next?

A: We typically format the designs for whichever Printful products were agreed upon, but we can format/design for anything and everything! We have formatted designs from large outdoor signage to car wraps and album covers – all we need are the specs for the project.

Q: Why do you love when customers choose to print their designs on BELLA+CANVAS products?

A: BELLA+CANVAS is one of the most popular and trusted brands that Printful carries. Especially when it comes to direct-to-garment (or DTG), the material that BELLA+CANVAS uses to produce their garments allows for one of the best printing surfaces we’ve seen. And when you have a great design, you want it to be on a great product.

Q: Where should customers go to get started?

A: They should start by checking out Printful’s e-commerce comparison chart. They can also check out Printful’s YouTube channel for tons of tutorials to help them get setup!