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 of paying big fines, of course you can. So, in other words, no.
It’s risky. You could even be sued because printing copyrighted artwork onto a shirt without permission is essentially theft. And you’ll probably get caught if you sell them.
But printing a t-shirt for your personal use is completely acceptable.
In this article, we’ll go over the basics of 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 when CDs were all the rage, we gladly took them with us on our Discman, flipped through the booklets and admired the album cover.
Today we listen to music mostly through Spotify, so most of the album art we have is digital only…and honestly, what’s the fun in that?
The good thing is that you can print your favorite album cover directly on a shirt. Print-on-demand t-shirt companies such as UnifiedMFG offers personalized merchandising which can be printed one piece at a time.
And if it’s just one piece, more often than not, it’s fine.
WHAT YOU NEED TO GIVE TO THE PRINTER
For custom t-shirt printing, all you really need is a good DTG printer.
Most of them would require copyright approval because you and the printer could be sued for making a design that isn’t yours!
But let’s say you find one that isn’t copyrighted, or you own the copyright. Here are the things you need to give the custom t shirt printing company.
- A high resolution photo (300 DPI) of the album cover.
- The shirt of your choice (most t-shirt printers have plenty of options for you).
- Your delivery details
DO ALBUM COVERS LOOK BEAUTIFUL ON T-SHIRTS?
It’s subjective, of course. It depends on the artwork, the type of shirt and the quality of the print.
In case you need more inspiration, here are some beautiful examples of how you can print great album covers using custom t-shirt printing:
KEVIN GATES “I AM HIM” T-SHIRT
This Kevin Gates t-shirt features his ‘I am him’ album cover design. The bold design and colors stand out when printed on a plain white t-shirt. It looks like something straight out of an abstract art painting.
“LOVEDRIVE” T-SHIRT SCORPIONS
If you are planning to print a photorealistic album cover, go for the DTG (direct to garment) t-shirt printing design. It will look exactly like the real thing.
This Scorpions shirt looks great even if printed on a black shirt. Look how neat the blue dress is!
THE BEATLES “REVOLVER” T-SHIRT
The Beatles Revolver the album cover is one of the most iconic of all time. Its design looks hand drawn with a bit of collage and it comes across as perfectly stylish on a plain white t-shirt.
If your t shirt print design consists of only three colors or less, you can have them printed using the screen printing method. However, it would cost you more because you need at least 100 units of shirts for your setup costs (stenciling the design is no small feat!). But it will make your shirts cheaper per piece after that.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF THE ALBUM COVER IS COPYRIGHTED?
If you’re going to print album covers from major artists like the Beatles or Beyonce – and yes, independent artists too – you’ll need their permission. Plain and simple.
Email the artist and their record company with a letter stating what you need.
If it’s a shirt or even a few shirts for your own use or to give friends as gifts, you probably don’t need to.
But, again, if you’re going to sell them, you’ll definitely need approval. If you’re a big merchandising company like us, they’ll come after you if you print without their permission.
ARE ARTISTS REALLY HUNTING YOU FOR PRINTING ART WITHOUT PERMISSION?
Most don’t, but some do…and they take it very seriously.
Here are a few cases where record labels and artists have sued companies for using their album art without permission:
Nirvana vs. Marc Jacobs
The t-shirt print pattern 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? Nirvana camp. Pursuing a big brand like Marc Jacobs makes financial sense. They could get a share of the profits – as they should – because it’s theirs and it’s copyrighted.
If you’re a small merchandising business, don’t be too complacent that artists won’t stalk you. After all, why would not are they chasing you? They can still get money from you. It is their right. If you don’t want that, do it the right way. Plain and simple.
Taylor Swift vs. Etsy Sellers
Taylor Swift, Inc’s legal team takes their job way too seriously. If you sell something on Etsy with an image or likeness of Taylor Swift or her lyrics, you will receive a message warning you of copyright infringement.
Remember that some artists hire a team just to track down copyright infringers.
If you’re going to print a shirt for yourself or even a hundred for your friends and family (in private), you probably won’t get sued. The moment you have an online store and start receiving any amount of money for THEIR designs, you could definitely be in trouble.
Some will get away with it, some won’t. But why take the risk when you can do the right thing?
Hey, if you’re looking for a t-shirt screen print in LA, visit unifiedmanufacturing.com!
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