Creating text t-shirt designs on Inkscape for heatpress vinyl printing

Step by step tutorial to create text-based designs intended for heat press vinyl printing for t-shirts using the free Inkscape software.

Do you know that a majority of the best selling t-shirt designs contain just 2 or 3 words. Like this…

And with Inkscape, a user-friendly, free graphic design software, you can create all kinds of creative text designs in high resolution for your t-shirts, at home, on the fly. In my experience, it is the best tool for creating text designs for heat-press vinyl cut outs for t-shirt printing. It gives you great precision, greater control and good resolution prints.

As a penny-pinching person, I am always attracted to the words “Free” anywhere, anytime. But usually, the word comes attached with many shortcomings. But there is one product in the designing world that is free and the absolute best -Inkscape, the designing tool of the masters that rivals many that are “paid”, even to the level of CorelDRAW or Adobe Illustrator for amateurs. And I love it for making Heatpress text designs for T-shirts.

But it has a learning curve. But then, what doesn’t?

Let us dive into how even a design clutz like me can make cool text t-shirt designs on Inkscape. Inkscape has a very user-friendly interface with multiple menus and toolbars and making text is very easy as you will see.

Download Inkscape

I will assume that you do not have Inkscape software in your computer. You can download it from their website This open-source freeware program is compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems.

download screen for inkscape

You get a screen like this when you open the newly installed Inkscape app.

download inkscape screenshot

Now you will have to open a new document or an already existing one. Here I choose to make a new document.

new document window inkscape

If you already have a file, go to “File,” on the top menu, then “Open.” Select the PDF file and click “Open”.

Familiarize yourself with the top bar menus, icons, control bar menus, and other basic tools – when you hover over them, the explanation flashes so that you are not in the dark about where and what you are clicking on. Most of the things on the menu may seem simple enough. The edit menu has “cut,” “copy,” “paste”, “clone”, “create tiled clone,” etc, which sounds self-explanatory enough. But some, like the Layers and Path, may need some looking up and familiarizing.

Change the dimensions of the document

Click on “Document Properties” located under the “File” option in the upper-left corner. This will open up the window where you can change the properties of your document, like page format, dimensions, and orientation.

document properties

The type is changed from the default A4 size to US letter. And the orientation is changed to landscape.

Open a textbox

For working on Inkscape and start creating letters, the two most important tools are the selector tool and the text tool. You can find it on the left menu on your Inkscape dashboard. (marked with red arrows on the picture below.)

selector tool and the text tool on inkscape

Keep the cursor where you want to start writing.

text box
Text box

Adjust the font

change font name, size and color in inkscape

If you have chosen a dimensional font you may want to change the fill color and the outline color. The “Fill and Stroke” menu controls this. It allows you to modify the fill color and stroke (outline) color, adjusting opacity and style. Using the dropper tool you can swap colors from within the design.

Adjust the spacing of fonts

Adjust the spacing between individual letters according to your layout. Very tightly spaced letters do not look good – they are also not readable. 0 is a good number to start with. But to achieve the spacing of the words Girls in the next picture, you will have to move the spacing to 50.

Curve the letters 

This is a very popular effect when used on t-shirt designs.

To make this effect, you can make a circle first. Use the Ellipse tool for this, as shown with an arrow in the next picture.

Click on the “Create Circles and Ellipses” and then drag it to bring forth a circle.

Holding “Control” during the process locks proportions, ie If you press the control key on the keyboard and this tool, you can ensure your circle remains perfectly round.

If you get a colored circle, you will have to change the fill and outline. For this, you need to click the fill and stroke element under Object. Change the fill color to white and outline to black (anyways this is going to be deleted, so maybe you can leave it as it is)

Write the text above the circle.

Now you need to select them together. Click on Shift key on your keyboard and press on the circle and the letter. This will select the two elements at the same time.

Now, go to filters and press “Put on Path

This command will curve the letters over the circle.

You can adjust the letters to wherever you want on the circle by pressing and moving the corner arrows. For this, press the selector tool first and then press the corner arrow and drag the letters.

rotate the text

Now you have to remove the circle, without removing the letters. (if you delete the circle as it is, the letters also would get deleted)

Using the selector tool, select the letters and then click on the Path on the menu and Choose the “object to Path” option. This will remove the dependency of the letters on the circle. Now you can delete the circle without deleting the circle.

to remove the circle curving the letter
curved letters made on inkscape

Add other elements

add star elements

You can use the elements in the inkscape dashboard or import them from your computer.

Working with nodes to modify shapes of text.

If you want to change the font size of one letter or alter it in some way, you will have to make these maneuvers. Gives you granular control over singular letters. Nothing difficult, all easy.

Select the text with the selector tool, , go to Path on the top menu and then select object to path.

Now go to Object on the top menu and select Ungroup.

This will give you the ability to manipulate each letter with nodes. Dragging the nodes can reshape the letters.

This way you can resize each element in the design, reposition, proportionally or as you like it.

nodes over each letter

I have decided on my final text t-shirt design. Simple always rules.

text design for tshirt printing - made on inkscape - screeshot

Save the file

Finally you can export the file to your computer in a png format.

Save the file by clicking on the export icon on the right menu.

And get it printed on vinyl sheets.

Related posts : Tshirt printing techniques ; Popular Designs on tshirts ; Make tshirt designs with Midjourney

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Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
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