How to Design a TShirt: Mitxel Gonzalez

After working as a designer, illustrator and art director for about twenty years, Mitxel Gonzalez knows what it takes to design a t-shirt. He’s worked with internationally known brands like Disney, L’Oreal, Volcom, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Lexi&Bö and LEGION Headwear. His eye for commercial and pop culture trends have enabled him to not only make other brands successful, but also create and sell his own noteworthy t-shirt designs. I had the chance to chat with Mitxel to learn about how he designs an eye-catching t-shirt.

TM: Where do you get creative inspiration, whether it be for a t-shirt design or a poster?

Usually I find the inspiration from different sources, from the visual pop culture of the world around me, from the current design trends on different media, even sometimes directly I do searches from a bank of photos that I do a search about a theme and then the images give me the inspiration. Usually I try to work the creativity with the humor sense, the surrealism and the pop culture.

I like to work each creative concept from the root, so when I have to design something, I seek for information related with the theme and then I write related words with the theme as a brainstorming and then I do some quick sketches with pencil on paper.

Once I get the creative idea then I use different techniques for developing it. Sometimes I paint directly over the paper and then I scan the image for to digitize it and other times I work on my computer directly with software of graphic creation. Each design has different needs so I do not have a golden rule.

I can’t say that I have a defined graphical style, I think that I’m quite eclectic on all my creations. During all my years of experience I’ve learned different graphic skills so each day I’m capable to create something with a graphic style totally different to the previous day.

Sometimes, when I don’t find the inspiration and I feel blocked on a creative idea, I go to the mountains for hiking and I keep my mind away of the work, and once I’m back in my studio, magically the ideas flow more easily. This is an easy trick that works well for me.

How do you come up with an idea for a t-shirt design?

As I’ve commented before, the inspiration of each design comes from different sources. One of my favorite sources of inspiration is, there are thousand of designers and artist of different creative fields and it’s a great showcase of the design and artistic trends from all around the world.

When the task comes from a client, I try to get information about the needs of the client, the target audience and the current design trends to feed my creativity. So a good advice is to look at what the competitor is doing and trying to do something better.

Also, I’m an active member of DesignbyHümans since some years. I’ve won some of their t-shirt design contests and my designs have been selected to special collections such as Star Wars Disney. Being in a design community gives you the opportunity to meet designers from all around the world, to know what they are doing, get inspiration from their works and know their feedback about your own designs and know how you can improve them.

Every artist has his or her own unique arsenal.
What are your tools of choice?

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Watercolors
  • The Scanner
  • And my suffering iMac are my inseparable partners.
  • How do you know if a design is successful or a potential hit?

    It isn’t easy to know previously if the design will be successful. Sometimes the most simple design is the best seller. I think that the key is always to work around themes on trend, the pop culture or with the humor sense.

    I have to say that there are some design themes that the public likes and they are a sure bet as for instance the animals, comic, cartoon, pop culture, movies, gamer, funny things or artistic.

    Can you briefly run us through the process of one of your designs?

    I’m gonna speak about one of my current favorite designs on sale, it’s a design of a bear holding a poster with the message “Free hugs”.

    This idea comes from the wrestling world. There’s a movement named “the bear hug” where the fighter hugs tight to his opponent. Also, a part of the inspiration comes from some popular videos on Youtube where different people hold a poster with the sentence “Free Hugs” and they offer free hugs to strangers on the street.

    Usually people like the funny t-shirts with animals, so I thought that it could be a good and funny idea to do a bear holding a poster with the sentence “Free hugs” and play with the double sense of the bear and the wrestling movement.

    Once I had the creative concept in mind, I wrote some words related with the idea and I did a few sketches to see the idea on paper.


    Then I searched on Pixabay, a royalty free bank image source. I looked for images related with the grizzly bears.


    I selected various images of bears and composed a collage mixing different parts and photos of bears.

    I added the poster.

    Then the text.

    Finally, I added the colors to the design.


    Where can we find more of your artwork and products for sale?

    My favorite online store is DesignbyHümans, they offer the highest quality t-shirts and the direct print garment machines have very good quality too. They are selling my designs on different kinds of products such as tank tops, hoodies, stickers and even phone cases. Also I’m selling my designs on Society6. This company offers good quality on their products. Here you can find my designs on many kind of products.

    Also, I would like to recommend you the brand Lexi&Bö // Streetwear for Scuba Divers. This is a fresh company of streetwear that currently I’m collaborating with as an art director and I’ve done most of their designs. Their t-shirts have the highest quality, are produced in an eco-friendly way with certified organic cotton, water based inks and ensuring the fair conditions of the workers involved on the manufacturing of all their apparel.

    By other part, I’m the art director and partner of LEGION Headwear & Apparel. The difference of this company with other companies of headwear is that the designs of the products come from open design contests where designers and artist from all over the world can send their design proposals and win huge prizes. We’re inviting artists from all over the world to collaborate and design their own headwear, then we manufacture the designed hats and sell them in our online store and in the physical stores.

    Coming soon we’re gonna launch the next open design contest so stay tuned and take part in it!

    Visit my personal website for more about me:

    You also can follow me on Twitter or Facebook

    More resources:

    Making a Living as a Graphic Designer

    Developed a clothing brand and need help with eCommerce?

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