Start an Online T-Shirt Business at Zero Cost
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Start an Online T-Shirt Business at Zero Cost

Launch your own online t-shirt design business without buying any inventory or printing any shirts.
4.3 (66 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
1,365 students enrolled
Created by Douglas Butner
Last updated 10/2016
Curiosity Sale
Current price: $10 Original price: $25 Discount: 60% off
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
  • 2 hours on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Successfully Plan and Execute Lasting Branding
  • Create an Online T-Shirt Business
  • Market T-Shirts on the Web
  • Use Social Media as Free Advertising
View Curriculum
  • Computer and Internet Connection

In this course you will learn to launch and promote a T-Shirt label online. We will avoid all inventory costs and overhead by using print on demand merchants to sell our designs on shirts around the world. In this course, We will promote on social media to get free marketing. I won't just show you how to upload shirts for sale, we will go through building a lasting brand, and developing a workflow for producing high-quality art. We will use structured descriptions to make uploading our designs a breeze. Even better, what we design for T-shirts can be made for sale on other products, like stickers coffee mugs, wall clocks, and just about any other product you can imagine.

I'll be giving you the knowledge I acquired in the last two years running my own T-shirt businesses. I have had a lot of fun running online T-shirt shops just like the ones we will be creating. Everyday smiles are brought to my face via emails alerting me to a purchase. While it is hard to make huge money selling t-shirts, its relatively easy to make consistent good money. But it's not about the money. The best part of the t-shirt business is knowing that somewhere around the world, somebody is wearing something you have designed. It's also fun to wake up to emails saying you have made money while sleeping!

I hope this course get you as excited about T-shirts as I am, and I wish you great success.

If you have any trouble, please post in the discussions part of the course and I will get back to you!!
Who is the target audience?
  • For Any Artist or Digital Artist Building an Online Presence
  • Any Artist Wanting to Learn how to Brand Themselves
  • Aspiring Fashion Designers
  • Artists Looking for Steady Residual Income
  • People new to Online Promotion Strategies
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Curriculum For This Course
26 Lectures
1 Lecture 00:52

Welcome to this course!!

The most important part of taking this course is actually launching your T-shirt brand. This isn't meant to be theory. Work through the steps to have your own t shirt label. Use this course as a resource and guide throughout your process. I suggest you read all of the descriptions ahead of time so you can wrap your head around the process. You will see how feasible (and fun) this venture is, and how you can create lasting traffic and sales easily.


  • Read all descriptions for this course (Recommended)
    • You can do this by selecting the description, then scrolling through the videos (on web player)
  • Read the Course Overview at the bottom of this description.

Some Definitions

Merchant Vendor Sites (Merchant Vendors, online merchants, vendors, merchant sites, vendor sites): This is a made-up term that I used to describe websites that facilitate our business model, accept payments for transactions, and will create your designs and fulfill shipping.

Our Business Model - Selling products featuring original graphical images, having orders and payments fulfilled by third party organizations and collecting commission.

Social media sites - In this course, we will focus on Pinterest, Wanelo, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, Google plus and Tumblr are mentioned.

Meta Information - When we talk about meta information in this course, we are referring to the title, description, and tags related to our products.

Overview: What we will do

Section 2: Defining Your Brand

In this section we will take an initial concept and make something real: a brand. We will talk about what goes into creating a lasting brand (like a good name and a logo), and get all of our ideas organized and written down.

Section 3: Design Time

In this section, we will look briefly at the big names in graphics programs. We will also talk about finding resources and creating art for our shirts. In addition, we will look at the technical aspects of saving and formatting out artwork.

Section 4: Strategies For Success: Planning Launch

In this section will set up all of our online accounts, including PayPal, Google, Social media (covered in next section), and all of the merchant vendor sites. We will talk about making uploading fun and efficient by planning our descriptions, tags, and keywords.

Section 5: Online Marketing

In this section we will talk about social media, what to use, and when to post.

Section 6: Making Sales

In this section we will talk about getting paid!!

Section 7:Continued Success

This section contains a few final words wishing you success, and encouraging you to think outside the box when marketing your products.

Preview 00:52
Defining your Brand
7 Lectures 26:56

The greatest indicator of your success in your online business is how much it jives with you as a person and what you really want to express at heart. In this lesson we will come up with a concept that we will grow from an idea into a business. Remember, if you want lasting success you will need to be passionate about your brand, like anything in life.


Explore your passions to figure out what kind of brand you want to create.

Look at other's work, not to copy, but to be inspired

Imagine what your brand will be all about

Preview 02:32

Keeping designs organized is a real-life issue that we can easily avoid with some planning. By keeping our folders organized, and designs well-named, we will avoid losing our artwork or spending unnecessary time looking for it.


Create at least 3 documents, even if they are blank, and save them so you can easily edit.

Meta Information

Temple Branding Information

Ideas for Shirts

Resource Links:

Overview of Google Docs

Preview 02:04

Instead of developing a full business plan, we will build a temple, at least metaphorically, to represent our direction with our brand.

We will constantly refer back to the documents we create while building our temple any time we need to come up with some copy, describe our brand, or just give us direction.

Formatting Temple Branding Document Parts [Guidelines not rules]

Vision Statement: Usually a sentence or two, [your companies highest vision]

Mission statement: One to nine sentences, [what you do, not how]

Pillars: Series of short phrases or words, 3-6 or more, [what you actually do, what sets you apart, specific strategies, features]

Foundation: A short word or phrase, or series of short words and phrases, [why you exist, what you stand for]


Create your Temple Branding Document

Resource Links:

Vision Statement Tips:

Considerations from

These are for personal vision statements, but should work for businesses.

Use these questions to guide your thoughts.

  • What are the ten things you most enjoy doing? Be honest. These are the ten things without which your weeks, months, and years would feel incomplete.
  • What three things must you do every single day to feel fulfilled in your work?
  • What are your five-six most important values?
  • Your life has a number of important facets or dimensions, all of which deserve some attention in your personal vision statement. Write one important goal for each of them: physical, spiritual, work or career, family, social relationships, financial security, mental improvement and attention, and fun.
  • If you never had to work another day in your life, how would you spend your time instead of working?
  • When your life is ending, what will you regret not doing, seeing, or achieving?
  • What strengths have other people commented on about you and your accomplishments? What strengths do you see in yourself?
  • What weaknesses have other people commented on about you and what do you believe are your weaknesses?

A vision statement, according to Nanus, is:

  • Future oriented;
  • Likely to lead to a better future for the organization – that is, it fits the organization’s history and culture;
  • Reflects the organization’s values;
  • Sets standards of excellence;
  • Clarifies the organization’s purpose and direction;
  • Inspires enthusiasm and commitment;
  • Reflects the uniqueness of the organization; and,
  • Ambitious.

BONUS VIDEO!!! Sir Douglas Fresh Branding Example

Nine Characteristics of mission statement

Guide to writing a business plan [If interested]

Building Your Brand: Temple Branding

Picking a name might seem like something that is either hit or miss, but it is really a process that can be understood and mastered. We will look at what goes into picking a lasting and recognizable name. Also, we need to be sure our name is not being used by someone else. We will check around to make sure our idea is safe to use legally.


Pick a few names, get feedback from others, make a decision.

Love your brand name!

Preview 04:59

Creating a logo is very important to your brand's identity and success. Logo should be simple, yet complete, look good and black-and-white, and be recognizable at any scale. Take some time to look at famous logos and see how they embody these principles.

Logo Principles: (SMS GERM)

Simple & Complete

Monotone Compatible


Grab Attention

Elicit Response

Relate to Brand


Action: Create a Vector Logo

Author Note: I didn't realize that these logo principles made a design until editing! SMS GERM I changed “Looks good in black and white” to “Monochrome Compatible” to save space on the slide, and noticed a acronym. It makes perfect sense though, because a logo should be short and viral [Even though germs are not viruses lol]!!

Resource Links:

Take a look at the biggest 100 companies, and the logos may incorporate:

12 Rules for Logo Design

Brands of the World [Shown in Video]

A few Principles of Logo Design

Preview 06:18

In this lecture works talk about the importance of having a style guide. I recommend that even if you don't have the material or motivation to create a full style guide, we can easily create a document [in a program like Illustrator] that holds all of this information.

Review of what to put in your style guide:


Logo Variations

Design Elements

Colors Spacing (Stored by proximity of scalable elements, or grids)

Action: Create some sort of a style guide. This is not vital to your immediate success (you can skip it for now if you want) but it will help you in the long run. It is actually easier to make your style guide after a little designing. You can always make revisions or multiple style guides.

Resource Links:

Why You Need A Style Guide

Style Guide Tips

My Free Course on Setting Up Illustrator [Use to Create your own Style Guide]

Style Guide

In this lesson we talk about recording your T-shirt ideas, as well as finding inspiration.


Install Google documents on your mobile device.

Start coming up with a list of T-shirt ideas, and write down old ones.

PS. I know that conversating is not a word, but I choose to use it in defiance of Lord Webster.

Collecting Your T-Shirt Ideas
Design Time
5 Lectures 36:04
Graphics Software: Looking at GIMP, Photoshop, and Illustrator

This lesson, we will make the art that we will sell on our shirts. This video will take you through finding fonts and design elements, fonts, and keeping them in a handy document.

We will look at rendering, and how to set up the software so it will save in the correct dimensions.

This lesson is an example, and will be different for each of you. The most important thing is to make sure you know what dimensions you will save and so you can open the right size document.

There are many ways to create digital art, I encourage you to look far beyond the simple method here!

Heres what we learned:

1. Wikimedia is a great place to find vector design elements

2. Fontspace is a great place to find fonts and their licensing

3. We created a design with fonts, and it was easy

4. Making our designs the right size and position to render

5. Rendering in PNG to avoid white backgrounds

6. Back up all of your vector objects in a single document


Gather resources into a folder.

Work with a graphics program to create art.

Resource Links:

Font used in this lesson

Wikimedia Images


Fontsquirell [All available free for commercial use]

Dafont [Licensing Varies by font]

Creating Digital Art for T-Shirts

In this lesson we will talk about getting our images ready to upload. We need to know how to save out programs to get the highest quality, and what format to use [PNG, JPEG].

We will also talk about a handy Utilities application that comes by default on Mac operating systems. We will use the Automator app to resize images quickly and easily.

Note: PNG-32 is in fact how Photoshop and Illustrator save alpha transparency, they just display PNG-24! Sorry for the confusion! Choose PNG-32 if that is an option (It is not displayed in PS and AI), if not choose PNG-24 with alpha transparency (it will actually save in PNG-32).


Mac users: Play around with Automator's image manipulation functions

PC Users: Try an online or software image converter. You may not be allowed to convert large image files online. One free converter is listed below, but more are available.

Resource Links:

Free Windows image converter

About PNG

Formatting and Saving Images

This lesson may seem unimportant now, we only have a few designs, but trust me. You will design so much stuff you will easily get lost without naming conventions and organized files.

Come up with your unique system of filename and folders to keep your designs organize and easy to find.

You should be able to know exactly what design of file contains by looking only at its title.

Action: Decide how you will save different versions of your designs.

Keeping Designs Organized

There are plentiful ways to make a t shirt, we will examine those used in the online marketplace.

We will talk about four ways to get a design onto a T-shirt. They are screen printing, direct to garment printing, plot printing, and dye sublimation. There are other ways to make a T-shirt, but we will actually be able to sell shirts using these four techniques.

Resource Links:

Learn types of Prints on Spreadshirt

Spreadshirt Production Process Video

Screenprint Process Video

Skreened Printing Process

Types of T-Shirt Printing
Strategy for Success: Planning Launch
7 Lectures 41:49

In this lesson we talk about doing a little research before we get our feet wet. Although we will cover social media marketing in this course, its a good idea to keep an open mind if you want to innovate.

Try to find out as much information about the market as you think will benefit you.

Keep in mind, as much as you may think you know who will buy your shirts, you will almost always be wrong. However, by focusing on a specific type of person, you can come up with strategies you may not think of.


Research three separate T-shirt companies, including business model, consumers, and marketing.

Come up with a few ideas on how to get exposure using others for inspiration

Resource Links:

50 Mock-ups to market your designs

Planning Ahead for Marketing Success

The hardest thing for me starting out was figuring out which vendors I wanted to invest my time into. I hope to make this easier for all of you!

In this lesson, I will show you you the Industry leading vendors of T-shirts, as well as other custom printed Digital art and merchandise online.

We will focus on the companies that do not require you to have inventory. We allow the marketplace vendor sites to do all of the payment processing, printing, and order fulfillment. These sites allow us to completely avoid dealing with the complexities that bring many t shirt businesses down. We risk nothing but our time.


Browse around the sites and get first impressions

Resource Links:

Getting To Know the Vendors

I received a few questions about TeeSpring and Printful, so I decided to make a short video about the two sites. I hope this helps!

Bonus: Printful and TeeSpring

Both Redbubble and Printful have updated there upload process so that you don't have to have images that are exactly the right dimensions.

Redbubble will now put your image on every product that it fits. No more struggling with images that I have to be the correct size. They also have some cool new products available since this course was filmed. 

Printful will now will take your images and ###strong, so long as they are big enough. No more resizing images a bunch of times, and calling your hair out when Printful updates the required sizes. Check out my two new Printful-based websites, and

I was so excited about the Printful update that I filmed a crash course on creating a Printful-based website in under an hour. You can check out the course by googling "Printful Crash Course", it should show up first

 I hope this gets you excited to get your art out there!!

Update: Printful and Redbubble Upload System Makes Your Life Easier

In this lesson, you will hear my opinions of various merchant vendor sites. I will also show you how to sign up.

Remember, these are the defining names in this industry, in my opinion. There are other sites doing the same thing, but I trust these sites and am covering them here. Personally, I have made sales on all of these sites except Threadless, but Redbubble is the best for sales count and totals in my experience.


Sign up for the merchant vendor sites using your Google email address, and Paypal where needed.

Resource Links:

Choosing Vendors and Setting Up Seller Accounts

This lesson, we will use Google AdWords to find tags that will be effective.

Resource Links:


Keyword Planner

Finding Tags and Keywords

By preparing our descriptions and tags before we upload, we will save ourselves a huge amount of time, and be sure all our products represent our brand and goals.

In this lesson, we will also upload artwork to merchant vendor sites. The process is boring, as I warned, so I did a time-lapse. You will get the hang of uploading after posting a few designs. I uploaded a poster to Redbubble and Society6 instead of a shirt, but the processes is the same! For some sites you will also have to place your created products into stores.


Prepare a description you'll slightly modify for different designs.

Do the same for tags.

Get a list of all of your links together including: shops, social media profiles, designer profiles, etc.

Finally, use all of these whenever you go to upload.

Upload your artwork to merchant vendor sites.

Use your prepared descriptions to expedite the process.

Preparing Descriptions and Tags for Re-use and Uploading Art
Online Marketing
2 Lectures 11:17

There are many social media services available. In this lesson, we'll look at the most important ones for running a successful T-shirt business.

We will talk about the importance of social media, including getting previews of our product from merchant vendor sites.

Social Media: Why, How and What to use

In this video, I will talk about what I call product sites, including Wanelo and Pinterest, as well as social sites, encompassing the rest, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Note: I say 8pm is the best time to post, but there are many theories on this. I heard this 8pm time while in Internet Marketing class in college. After making this video, I have seen many conflicting times, but my personal experience has 8pm being the best time for my audience, college students. Check the link below for the times that are recommended by hub spot.


Post to all social media sites.

Keep up with social media by posting new designs as they are made.

Resource Links:

Installing Pinterest Button

Wanelo Button

What Time To Post

Posting to Social Media: When, Why, How
Making Sales
2 Lectures 07:08
Keep track of your sales through e-mail. Find out what your best selling designs are so you can promote them!
Tracking Sales and Payments

In this video, I will talk about optimizing your store by putting products into categories. This video focuses mainly on Redbubble, but other merchant vendor sites allow grouping, or opening multiple storefronts.


Organize your products

Try to see through a random visitor's eyes to understand their experience

Optimizing Stores Using Common Sense
Continued Success
2 Lectures 03:21

It is up to you to build your successful network, and there is no one cure-all for good marketing. Focus on your strengths, and do not worry about your weaknesses.


Continue to market through social media.

Continued Success: Understanding The Internet

Thank you for working to improve your skill set and become more productive person. Feel free to share the art and products you create with me on Facebook. I look forward to seeing what you can create!!

Remember, this isn't some get rich scheme, we are creating physical product that people will buy and wear. You will be as successful as you want to be, and work is required. This is easy work, and can help free your life with passive income!

Thank You and Author Notes
About the Instructor
Douglas Butner
4.3 Average rating
260 Reviews
17,310 Students
5 Courses
Product Designer and Digital Artist

Douglas Butner, who designs under the name Douglas Fresh or Sir Douglas Fresh, is passionate about business, design and the web. Douglas has over 8 years experience as a hobbyist web developer, and over 3 years as a professional designer. Douglas is proud to call himself a geek, and loves learning new skills.

Douglas has a Bachelor's degree from Frostburg State University concentrating in marketing, and sells his designs on products around the world daily. Currently he runs several designer shops including Sir Douglas Fresh and Fresh Thread Shop. Douglas also creates designs for and runs clothing shops including futurelifefashion[.]com, iamtheuniverse[.]club, and sublimationgalaxyshirts[.]com. Douglas joined Udemy to inspire others to fall in love with design as he has. In the future, Douglas hopes to help artists by providing a platform to sell reproduction rights to their art.

My Qualifications and Works

Business Qualifications

I have always been fascinated with business and marketing, and made this my academic pursuit. While attending Frostburg State University for business with a concentration in marketing, I started a successful t-shirt design business. After graduating FSU with high honors in 2014, I started an LLC for my current web project, the Current X Change. I am particularly interested in branding and online marketing, and hope to share my knowledge with hungry entrepreneurs worldwide.

Design Career

I am an active graphic designer with a variety of skills and disciplines. Besides designing vector art for my t-shirt designs, I do photo manipulations in photoshop, and create fractal art using algorithmic software. I sell designs on t-shirts, stickers, canvas, leggings, and a variety of other products. Over the past two years I have sold thousands of products made with my designs, without spending a dime on advertising.

Web Work

As a high school sophmore, I developed a social network called Myhs[.]us (now retired). I learned PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, and CSS from books, and became quickly obsessed with the web. As a senior in high school, I developed Blurba[.]com (also retired), a site that used AJAX, allowing all interactions to take place in real time without refreshing the browser. Currently, I run a handful of sites related to my art, and am working on a platform called the Current X Change that will allow users to share and sell their digital art. While I don't teach any courses on web development, my experience in web development gives me a more in-depth understanding of online marketing.