Black T-Shirts. Most use white lettering. However white lettering seems to be an issue when making a vector file or PNG. (Maybe its just me as I am not graphically inclined)

But, when I got to make my design the white lettering, it gets lost in the background, and you can't see it.

So I ask, Whats the best program to help with this, Adobe Illustrator? cause nothing online, seems to work very well. Or do you know of a video that specifically shows how to do this. Lets say I take a Valknut png file, which is black and white. So I need to invert the colors. then add text, making both symbol and letter white.

  • 3
    Most image editing software that supports transparency has an option for a checkerboard background for transparent areas which can be turned on for editing all-white shapes. Apr 29, 2019 at 19:35

3 Answers 3


In terms of production, white type doesn't have to be white in the software. You can use any color and simply designate it to the production house that it is to print white. You can output a solid spot color (any color) or 100% cyan, or 100% yellow, or 100% magenta, or 100% black, then tell the pressman to use white ink for that color. It's the ink in the press that determines the color, not always what you see on screen.

For a 1-color t-shirt, you can design black on a white background... then tell the production company to print white on black. Or, when outputting, output a negative of the artwork. It is rare than a designer actually uses white as a color in such cases. Not simply due to difficulty seeing it, but there are other concerns with white objects in some software upon output (Illustrator tends to set white to overprint making it disappear).

The color separation process in printing makes white not necessary in most instances. It's only on rare occasions that packaging or specific printing methods will need a separated plate for white specifically. However, even in those cases, actual white isn't used. A color plate designated as white is used. For a basic understanding of the printing process and color separation you can see HERE

However, if you really want to use white, you can draw a colored box on a layer below the artwork and set the box to non-printing so it won't print. In Illustrator the non-printing option can be seen in the Attributes Panel with the object selected. Of course, then you are going to print white type on white stock/paper so that won't be seen either.

(A PNG is often unacceptable for print production. And if working in Illustrator a PDF, or even EPS, would be better quality.)

  • I use the non-printing background layer method quite often.
    – 13ruce
    Apr 30, 2019 at 15:28

In almost all cases, white lettering on black T-shirts is achieved by screen printing with opaque white ink. If using four colour/CMYK printing, there is no white ink in that process. The inclusion of white in a design would require an additional separation, so that a screen can be made to apply the white ink.

In vector image editing software such as Adobe Illustrator, you can apply a white spot colour to fills or strokes, so that the screen printing company can produce a separation for the white ink. In Illustrator you can work on top of a layer with a black filled rectangle as a background so you can see your art work, and then delete it once finished.

Also note that PNG is an RGB raster image format used for the web. It's really not suitable for print work that requires separations.


I didn't quite understand your question. When does the lettering get lost in the background? While designing it or afterwards when applying it to a t-shirt or mock-up?

If it's while producing it, what I do is apply a colour background just so i can see that I'm doing and when I'm done I delete the background layer. When saving it, remember to set the background to transparent (if you're not going to use the vector file itself).

And yes, I recommend Adobe Illustrator to handle vectors.

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