Archive | Design Tips

27 November 2012 ~ 0 Comments

The Most Talked-About Gifts I Ever Gave

Some of you brave souls actually went Black Friday shopping. I know this not from personal experience, but from the pictures I saw on tv. You are warriors, my friends! You actually went out of your house (by choice) to snag up on doorbuster deals at your local brick-and-mortar stores. Admirable, your bravery. I salute your dedication to the cause.

I waited until Cyber Monday to pick up a few gifts whose price tags I could not resist. Yesterday, I bought two sleeping bags for little more than a song, and hurdled exactly zero shopping carts during the purchase. Hurrah!

Today, I’m a little nostalgic for the most epic gifts I ever bought.

Several years ago, I had become weary of shopping.

I wanted to give something more personal… more thoughtful…something with meaning.

Instead of trying to dream up the perfect gift for several individuals with varied tastes, I decided to order a dozen custom t-shirts for my dad’s side of the family.

My grandfather was a coal miner, and my father and his nine brothers and sisters grew up in a coal mining camp in Coalgood, Kentucky. I found a picture online of the tokens that the coal mining company minted to pay wages to their employees. I selected the $20 token with “Mary Helen Coal Corporation” stamped on it. I uploaded the photo and placed in squarely on the t-shirt. I chose a charcoal grey t-shirt to compliment the coppery-bronze patina of the token. Once the design was perfected, I selected each family member’s size and made the purchase.


The custom t-shirts were a huge hit. The token printed on the t-shirts was a piece of my family’s collective history, and had meaning for each of them. We sat together after opening gifts and talked about their childhood.

My dad remembered using these coins to ride the bus into town and to buy a movie ticket at the Margie Grand Theater. My aunt remembered buying her first pair of new shoes at the Mary Helen Coal commissary with these tokens. Almost-forgotten stories of childhood were shared by my uncles. Some of these were heard for the first time by grandchildren. These were not only the easiest gifts I selected and purchase, they are easily the most “talked-about” presents I ever gave.

Here at BlueCotton, we’re dedicated to making things easy. The easier it is for you, the more we like it. Would you believe you can take care of everyone on your list in one fell swoop, and give them a unique gift they will remember? You can, and I’ll show you in 5 easy steps how it’s done.

1. Think about your extended family. I know it’s all-at-once painful and hilarious – like hitting your funny bone, but do it anyway. Do you have a nifty story in your ancestry that would translate well to a t-shirt design? Mike Coffey (our CEO) has a family-owned gas station in his history. My maternal great-grandfather once owned a motel. Any kind of business works well on a t-shirt, and makes for great storytelling when you’re with the family. Better yet, invent one! Does your family like coffee? You could create a Coffee House with your last name – or a Hunting Lodge, or a Ski Resort, or a Drag Strip. The possibilities here are endless – whatever fictional business or activity would appeal to your family works perfectly.


2. Go to and start your design! You can use our clip art archives, or upload photos of your own. Do you have a picture of great-great-great-great Grandpa Chester? Upload that old photo of him with his Model-T and share it with everyone on a t-shirt. Family trees also make for great designs. Maybe you can finally figure out how you’re related to that cousin twice removed. Enlist assistance from other family members to fill in the blanks.


3. Once your design is ready for prime time, you can begin adding your sizes. Refer to your list, and add sizes next to their name. Tally up the sizes and enter them in to the Design Studio.

4. Checkout! During checkout, you may add additional shirts in another color, or another style. If you’d like a different color of shirt for Aunt Clara who strongly dislikes the green shirt you’ve chosen, you can add your design to a different color or different style while still enjoying the bulk pricing. See? I told you we like to make things easy.

5. Your order arrives! All your presents arrive together, and you never once had to stand in a line. You simply open the box, unfold them and wrap them. You could even take the easy way out by dropping them in those fancy printed bags, stuffing tissue paper in the top (or not), and slapping a tag on each one.

6. Be the hero and give a thoughtful family-themed custom t-shirt that they’ll remember!


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13 September 2012 ~ 0 Comments

Football Gameday T-shirts: Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em?

Football season is here! Time for tailgating at your high school, college or pro stadium wearing nothing but the freshest swag to represent your team. Since we’re still early in the season, t-shirts are still a “go”. As the season wears on, we know the transition to long sleeves and sweatshirts is mandatory. While the standard t-shirt logo of your favorite team is always acceptable – we love making GameDay t-shirts for the big games. Rivalry games and homecoming are two reasons to make custom t-shirts for the special day. We’ve searched the web (and our archives) for some of our favorite limited edition Gameday t-shirts and Rivalry t-shirts. Check these out and find your inspiration for some gameday t-shirts for YOUR team.











What do you think about GameDay shirts? Do you collect them? Do you think they’re too limited and only good for one wear? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think.

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10 August 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Designosaurus Rex: Dinos in the BlueCotton Design Studio

Twenty-one years ago tomorrow, on August 12, 1990, Susan Hendrickson made an amazing discovery. In a cliff face near Faith, South Dakota, Hendrickson found what would turn out to be the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in known existence. Eventually named “Sue”–after its discoverer–the skeleton was very well-preserved and over 90 percent complete.

By now you might be wondering, what on earth does this historic event have to do with custom-printed t-shirts? Well, to be honest, nothing except that it’s a great excuse to create some dinosaur-themed designs in our BlueCotton design studio! Below are four dino-designs I created. All of them were made using only clip art and text tools native to the design studio–no uploaded images were used. You can click on the images below to open them in our design studio. Check them out and then create your own!

What REALLY Killed the DinosaursKing of the Dinosaurs

ThunderlizardDino + 65 Million Years = Oil

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18 June 2011 ~ 3 Comments

Put on Ground. Light Fuse. Get Away.

It’s only June, but I can already smell sulphur and gunpowder in the air. The hiss of fuses and the crackle of sparks push forward in memory. My fingers start to tingle. It’s almost the 4th of July. Just as kids dream of sugarplum fairies at Christmas, I dream of earth-shaking booms, neighbor-rousing whistles and echoing reports. The 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays.

My parents said fireworks were a waste of money.

Luckily for me, we always spent the holiday at my uncle’s house, and he was not of the same opinion. He annually sent my cousin Clinton over state lines with a big wad of cash in a rubber band to buy “the good stuff.” We lingered over waterlogged coolers and leftover hot dogs as it grew dark and not-so-patiently awaited his return. We were not swayed by feeble attempts to pacify us with ice cream cones. Only flame and spark would soothe us.

As he pulled into the gravel driveway, we rushed the car like a crazed mob demanding sparklers, firecrackers and jumping jacks. Huge cardboard boxes were unloaded from the car’s trunk, filled to the brim with brightly colored bricks of firecrackers, mortar tubes and rockets on sticks. We amused ourselves with the magic snakes, parachuters and smoke bombs while the bigger kids lit the “big ones.” I have many fond memories of dud fuses, near-misses and misfire mishaps that cleared the observation deck (aka the front porch).

One thing I overlooked as a kid were how cool the firework labels were. I have grown to appreciate the artwork that was hastily ripped away in search of the fuse. I’ve rounded up a few firework labels I found around the web. From their inspiration, I went into our Design Studio and created some t-shirts using only clipart and design elements inside the studio. I’ve also designed a few t-shirts for my family’s 4th of July celebration this year which you will see below. I’d love to have your feedback on which t-shirt you like best- I’m having trouble picking the best one!

The Inspiration

My take on the Dragon Lady design. I chose a yellow t-shirt, used black background to create a black base, and enhanced it with red text and garment colored text. Plenty of cautionary verbiage included.

The Inspiration

My take on the eagle with a classic red/white/blue design with a gold highlights and stars.

The Inspiration


Here’s my Cherry Bomb design, making use of several of our design studio elements.

The Inspiration

A lot of fireworks labels feature rockets and space designs. I found some great rocket clip art in our design studio, and worked from the Standard Fireworks design above to help me with my print color choices.

The Inspiration

Working from the classic TNT logo, I went with the simple flashbang behind the text, and added more explosive language below.

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11 April 2011 ~ 1 Comment

Rethinking and Refining Your Charity Event T-shirt

As I was preparing laundry yesterday, I noticed that I had barely enough whites to constitute a full load. I went scrounging around the house, searching for a errant sock or other white item to add to the pile. “Don’t I have any white t-shirts to wash?!”, I thought to myself. Nope, not a single one in the hamper. Curious. Working for a t-shirt company, you can imagine I have quite a few t-shirts in my wardrobe. I opened the chest of drawers to verify whether or not I even OWNED any white t-shirts. I haven’t seen one all winter.

After much opening and shutting of drawers, much leafing through and shifting of shirts, unfolding and refolding, the result was clear. I counted exactly eight white t-shirts in a drawer, all free giveaway t-shirts that I have been unable to part with though I rarely wear. The majority of the eight are charity walk and other free giveaway tees. I keep these shirts because they are from a cause close to my heart, but I rarely (if ever) wear them.

This prompted me to think more about charity event t-shirts. What is the purpose of the charity t-shirt? Why do they occupy the bottom of my drawer even though I support and personally identify with the cause printed on them? How can we improve the charity event t-shirts’ standing? Can they be top-drawer material? If so, how do we get them there? Click here for answers to these burning questions…

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09 March 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Design Studio Tip: Grouping (Video)

Like most software programs, the BlueCotton Design Studio has some really cool and useful features that may not be obvious to the casual user. One such feature is grouping! Grouping allows you to select multiple objects at once, letting you scale and move those objects as a collective group. This is especially useful when you’ve got your design just how you want it, but maybe not exactly where you want it.

Using the grouping feature is pretty straight-forward. When in the Design Studio, simply click and drag the selection box around the objects you would like to manipulate as a group. Now, with the objects selected, you can move and resize them together just as if they were a single object! Check out the video below for a simple demonstration of how to use Design Studio grouping feature!

Want more tips for using the BlueCotton Design Studio? Be sure to read our previous entries regarding the Distressed Effect and our library of Design Ideas.

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