Graphic Designer vs. Royalty Free Images: What’s the Best Choice for Your T-shirt Images?

Graphic Designer vs. Royalty Free Images: What’s the Best Choice for Your T-shirt Images?

Trying to make a t-shirt that will stand out from the crowd?

The custom t-shirt market is worth $10 billion in the US. Even getting a small slice of that pie can leave you in a good place. But making shirts comes with its overheads, including sourcing your image.

T-Shirt Images

So which is best: graphic designer or royalty free t-shirt images? Let’s take a look below.

Advantages of Royalty Free

You can find royalty free images for t-shirts all over the internet. These are images released under copyright terms that relinquish the right to royalties from the image’s use.

Here are some advantages of royalty free images.


The most obvious advantage is in the name: royalty free. Some royalty free images are free outright. You can download them and use them as you like. For others, you’ll have to pay a one-time fee, but not ongoing royalties.


Working with a graphic designer can take some time. There’s the back and forth of discussion, prototype designs, and so on. But with royalty free images, you can locate an image and create a custom shirt in a matter of moments. If you’re playing the numbers game, that could suit your business model more than unique designs.


When you’re using royalty free images, your rights are self-evident: you can use it as you please without paying royalties. But if you’re working with a designer, you may need to work out matters of ownership and royalties due. And if you don’t have everything in writing, there’s nothing to stop an artist later claiming that the permissions they gave you were different.

Advantages of Graphic Design

If royalty free images aren’t scratching your itch, then it might be time to seek out a graphic designer.

Let’s look at some advantages of graphic design t-shirt images.


Unlike royalty free images, the designs you get from a graphic designer will be unique. In many cases, you won’t be the first person to put a royalty-free image on a shirt, so unique art might be the only way to make a sale.


When you’re working with a graphic designer, you aren’t locked in a specific vision. You can work with your designer to create the image in your mind’s eye, instead of sticking to what you can find online.


Using royalty free images makes it tough to establish a unique style. You’re also stuck with whatever mishmash of images you find to fit your ideas. Many of these will be from different artists with clashing styles. 

Creating a unifying brand could be all that makes you stand out from the crowd. By working with a graphic designer, you can create images in a particular style that’s unique to you and keep your designs consistent.

T-Shirt Images: The Final Say

This showdown should help you figure out which t-shirt images are right for you. They each have their pros and cons, so you’ll need to figure out what works best for your t-shirt printing.

Designing t-shirts? Check out our shirt designer to get you started.

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