How to create an image with transparent areas

Here’s a guide on how to create transparent areas for your designs.


First off, you need to decide if you are starting your design from scratch, or editing an existing design? Starting from scratch is always best, as it means you won’t lose any definition in your designs. When you create your new document, the settings in the picture below would make a good image. It’s Photoshop, but if you’re using a different program, you should still be able to enter the same information.

If you’ve already got an image you want to use, but it has a white (or any colour) background, then you’ll need to create transparent areas so that when you place your image on a coloured shirt, your design isn’t surrounded by a background-coloured square.

It’s absolutely vital when editing any existing design that you start with it in the highest quality possible. Carrying on with the following process with a low or medium quality image will probably result in a small “halo” of the background colour remaining on your image, which in turn will be printed on your products.

Open up the design in your image editing program. Now it’s possible that your existing design is in a file format that doesn’t like transparent areas. The easiest way to solve this is to copy all of your design using ‘Select All’ then ‘Copy’ from the menus. After this, choose ‘New Document’ and use the settings in the picture above to create a new document. When it opens, notice anything? Instead of a white background, you’ve got a grey and white chequered background. That pattern means ‘transparent area’. Wherever you see that pattern in your design, whatever colour fabric it is printed on will show through. Hit ‘Paste’ and your existing image will cover the transparent area. All you need to do now is chop away the bits you don’t want, revealing the grey and white pattern behind them. Here’s how you do that:

Choose the Magic Wand tool. Click on a part of your white background you don’t want, and a see-through dashed line will appear around it. You might need to set the sensitivity of the tool if it tries to eat too much of the image you want to keep. Choose ‘Cut’ from the ‘Edit’ menu, and there goes a bit of your white to be replaced by the grey and white pattern. Keep doing this until you’ve got rid of everything you DON’T want printed onto your merch.


When saving, choose a file format capable of transparency. DO NOT CHOOSE JPEG – it doesn’t support transparency. We recommend the PNG format.

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