The Content Creator’s Guide to Making the Best Merch


We live in the Golden Age of content creation, thanks to YouTube, Twitch, Instagram, and other platforms that make it possible for independent creatives to build their brand, business, and base. However, this also means intense competition for audience, with countless content creators vying for their support.

So what’s a fun way to earn their loyalty? By making your own merch! Let’s break down why you should create merch, how to come up with cool ideas, and how to design merch for free.

Why Should You Make or Sell Merch?

Think about it: in an increasingly digital world, there’s no bigger thrill for a fan than to hold or wear a cool merch item with the logo, design, or slogan of their favorite content creator. It’s like an enviable membership card for a niche club.

Creating your own merch might seem like a huge undertaking at first, but it really pays off in the long run. Custom merch inspires a sense of community among your followers. Unique merch ideas could even win new followers over. Eventually, you can establish a good income stream and use merch as an incentive for your audience to promote your content.

In sum, awesome merchandise solidifies an awesome brand. Who knows? This foray into merch-making might bring fresh opportunities, like sponsorships and collaborations with fellow creators.

How to Come Up With Cool Merch Ideas

Understandably, it’s difficult for independent creators like you to dip your toes into making a merch line. The mass production model used by retail companies doesn’t really apply here because you want to learn how to make merch for a specific platform, for a specific audience. Production is on a smaller scale, and the designs must be distinct.

Planning, therefore, is vital.

Planning Stage 1: Define your brand

To come up with merch design ideas, cast an eye over your brand. The first step is to determine the products that align with your content.

Are you a digital artist? You can turn your art into sticker merchandise. Are you a livestream gamer? Creating YouTube merch hoodies sounds perfect. Are you a producer of lo-fi beats? Graphic tees, sweaters, and caps are popular band merch ideas, so these might work for you, too.

Other crowd favorites include:

  • Tote bags
  • Mugs
  • Hats and caps
  • Phone cases

Planning Stage 2: Ask your audience

Consult a readily available and enthusiastic adviser: your followers. Ask for merch ideas through online surveys to get a sense of what items would be a hit. You might just be surprised by their insights.

Planning Stage 3: Look to other content creators

Apart from asking your audience, keep track of what other creators in your scene are doing. This way, you can gauge if you’d be flooding the market with yet another typical merch or if you’d be creating something that new followers can’t relate to. It’s all about balancing your creativity with audience demand.

Planning Stage 4: Work out the design

Once you’ve listed merch ideas down, take stock of the graphics and taglines that you’ve been using to see which ones have been super popular among your followers.

Better yet, run a poll where followers can rate the best designs and slogans. Their answers will give you a clear picture of the demand. Too many good ideas? No problem; you can set some aside for future releases. Make a quick sketch of your merch, ask for feedback, and finalize the design.

How to Make Merch for Free

On to another difficult topic—production costs. A good budget gets you a professional graphic designer who’ll do the hard work for you and deliver results that fans will love.

However, if you’re on a limited budget, the DIY merch route is more than possible with Canva. Even if graphic design is not your area of expertise, you can create free, custom merch that looks stunning and impressive. In addition, you get to flex your design muscles while you bring your creative vision to life.

Your followers will appreciate it, too. Think of your favorite content creator. Now, imagine owning a hoodie that they personally designed. That counts for something, right?

Using our beginner-friendly design editor, you can craft designs for any merchandise, be it T-shirts, mugs, hoodies, or posters. And to make things easier, there’s a ton of templates for every merch design you can think of. You don’t have to start from scratch, which is really helpful if you’re new to the business.

Step 1: Create a Canva account

Start by signing up for a Canva account, so you can browse our premade templates. Search for templates in your merch category and pick one that will help you create your design. For example, if you want to design a mug, simply look through our mug templates to find one that fits your vision.

If you’re a Twitch streamer, for example, you can paste your avatar on these T-shirt templates:

Have a sticky tagline? Customize these YouTube merch hoodies with your famous quips:

Built an audience for your journaling? Make your own merch notebooks! Customize these layouts to your journal style:

Gained a lot of followers because of your awesome ASMR Cooking? Offer your fans some cute, customized mugs—every homecook’s friend.

Note: There’s a wide variety of designs available for free, but a Canva Pro account unlocks a lot more. You can access countless more templates, graphic design elements, and design tools like the one-click Background Remover. These features make it infinitely easier to design custom tees, sweatshirts, and other items. If you think you’ll be making more merch in the future, Canva Pro will be a handy tool.

Step 2: Design your merch

This is the fun part: Time to design your merch!

Use free design elements from our media library, like lines, patterns, shapes, and borders, to build your design. Customize their colors with the help of the color palette guide available on the editor. Mind the background. Make sure the colors that will look good on, for example, a black hoodie or a gray shirt.

If you have ready-made logos, illustrations, or even photos that you want to use, simply upload them, then drag and drop to the template or blank canvas. Resize or crop your visuals as needed. Move the design elements around. There are trendy filters and photo effects available, if you want to remix your pictures. For taglines, slogans, your brand name, and other text details, play with font styles and colors to come up with the best combination.

You’ll make cute merch in no time.

Step 3: Save your merch design

Once you’re happy with your work, save it in JPG, PNG, or PDF format for easy sending. Your Canva account also saves each of your design projects, so you can revisit them and use them as templates for future merch releases.

How to Print Your Merch

For the designs that are production-ready, the easiest way to print your merch is through Canva Print. You can order custom merch items straight on the editor, right after you finish designing.

No need to stress over sourcing reliable printers and delivery services. Simply click “Print,” input your order details, and the merch you designed will be delivered to your door.

Canva Print provides printing services for popular merch items like:

Local Printers

However, if you want to work with local printing shops, here are some things to consider:

  1. Check local printing studios and find out if they offer the merch item you have in mind. Take a look at their websites and social media pages for information.
  2. Take note of their customer reviews, including feedback on their customer service.
  3. Reach out to the ones that seem promising. Ask for their rates, turnaround time, refund or cancellation policies, and sample products you can check. Talking with their representatives will also show you their level of printing experience and their capacity to meet your needs.

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to your fellow content creators for their recommendations. Your merch will be an extension of your brand and business, so you can’t be too careful or too thorough. After all, your merch is only as good as the quality of the printing.

Now that you have a pretty good idea of how to make your own merch, it’s time to get started on the design. Perhaps it can be the topic of your next upload?

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