Can You Print an Album Cover on a Shirt?
Can you print an album cover on a shirt?
The answer is yes, of course!
But can you print an album cover on a shirt and SELL it?
Hmmm… if you’re not afraid to pay big fines, you can, sure. So, in other words, no.
It’s risky. You could even get sued because printing a piece of copyrighted artwork on a shirt without permission is essentially stealing. And you’ll likely get caught if you’re going to sell them.
But printing one t-shirt for your own personal use is totally fine.
In this article, we will go over the basics for printing album artwork on a shirt, some examples, and what you need to do to get it right.
OUR LOVE FOR THE ALBUM COVER
Back in the day when CDs were all the rage, we’d happily take them with us on our Discman, flip through the booklets and admire the album artwork.
Today, we listen to music mainly through Spotify so most of the album artwork we have is just digital… and honestly, what’s the fun with that?
The good thing is that you can print your favorite album cover directly on a shirt. On-demand t-shirt printing companies such as UnifiedMFG offer custom band merch that can be printed one piece at a time.
And if it’s just one piece, more often than not, it’s absolutely fine.
WHAT YOU NEED TO GIVE THE PRINTER
For custom t-shirt printing, all you really need is a good DTG printer.
Most of them would require copyright approval because both you and the printer could get sued for manufacturing a design that’s not yours!
But let’s say you find one that’s not copyrighted, or you own the copyright. Here are the things you must give to the custom t-shirt printing company.
- A high resolution photo (300 DPI) of the album artwork cover.
- The shirt of your choice (most of the t-shirt printers have plenty of options for you).
- Your delivery details
DO ALBUM COVERS ACTUALLY LOOK GOOD ON TEES?
That’s subjective, of course. It depends on the artwork, the kind of shirt, and the quality of the print.
In case you need more inspiration, here are some good-looking examples of how you can print awesome album covers using custom t-shirt printing:
KEVIN GATES “I’M HIM” T-SHIRT
This Kevin Gates t-shirt features his ‘I’m Him” album cover design. The bold design and colors stand out when printed on a plain white tee. It looks like something straight out from an abstract art painting.
SCORPIONS “LOVEDRIVE” T-SHIRT
If you’re planning to print a photorealistic album cover, then definitely go for the DTG (Direct to garment) t-shirt printing design. It will look exactly like the real thing.
This Scorpions shirt looks stunning even if it’s printed over a black shirt. Look how sharp the blue dress is!
THE BEATLES “REVOLVER” T-SHIRT
The Beatles Revolver album cover is one of the most iconic of all time. Its design looks hand-drawn with a bit of collage and it presents as perfectly classy on a plain white tee.
If your t-shirt printing design only consists of three or fewer colors, you can have them printed using the silkscreen printing method. However, it would cost you more because you need at least 100 units of shirts for your set-up costs (stenciling the design is no easy feat!). But it will make your shirts cheaper by piece after that.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF THE ALBUM COVER IS COPYRIGHTED?
If you’re going to print album covers of major artists like The Beatles or Beyonce — and yes, indie artists too — you’re going to need their permission. Plain and simple.
Email the artist and their record label with a letter stating what you need.
If it’s one shirt or even a couple of shirts for your own use or to give to friends as gifts, you probably don’t need to do this.
But, again, if you’re going to sell them, you will absolutely need approval. If you’re a big merch company like us, they’ll run after you if you print without their permission.
DO ARTISTS REALLY HUNT YOU DOWN FOR PRINTING ARTWORK WITHOUT PERMISSION?
Most don’t, but some do… and they take it very seriously.
Here are some cases when record labels and artists have sued companies for using their album artwork without permission:
Nirvana vs. Marc Jacobs
The t-shirt printing design on this one is not even a duplicate but a satire or rip-off of the original. Guess who’s not happy in this scenario? The Nirvana camp. Suing a major brand such as Marc Jacobs makes sense money-wise. They could get a share of the profits from it — as they should — because it’s theirs and it’s copyrighted.
If you’re a “small time” merch company, don’t get too complacent thinking that the artists won’t hunt you down. After all, why wouldn’t they sue you? They can still get some bucks from you. It’s their right. If you don’t want that, do it the right way. Plain and simple.
Taylor Swift vs. Etsy sellers
The legal team at Taylor Swift, Inc are taking their jobs way too seriously. If you sell anything over at Etsy with any image or likeness of Taylor Swift or her lyrics, you’ll get a message warning you of copyright infringement.
Remember, some artists do hire a team just to hunt down copyright violators.
If you’re going to print one shirt for yourself or even a hundred for your friends and family (privately), you probably won’t get sued. The moment you have an online shop and you start taking in any amount of money for THEIR designs, you definitely could get in trouble.
Some will get away with it, some won’t. But why risk it when you can do the right thing?
Hey, if you’re looking for a t-shirt screen printing in LA, visit unifiedmanufacturing.com!
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