AMITIAE - Friday 2 August 2013

Design and Purchase T-Shirts Using iOS Devices: T-Shirt design - Snaptee

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By Graham K. Rogers


It has become apparent that as well as a multi-use device, the smartphone is a gateway to online transactions. Those who are able to capitalise on trading via this medium, will have access to a massive market. Likewise, those users who are keen to seek out ways to buy online, will be able to shop more easily and purchase a variety of items as services expand and traditional outlets become harder to find.

It is already common practice to buy music, apps and books online. I also occasionally buy digital art, via Sedition. There is a wide range of services these days that sell online. Most of the time, I find that - apart from buying from the iTunes store - online purchases are easier from the computer. Some services are now taking advantage of the ability to create their own apps that connect the user directly with the service.

A recent arrival in the New & Noteworthy section of the iTunes AppStore for Thailand, is an app from Snaptee that allows a user to design and order tee shirts using an app on the iPhone. Although I usually prefer the poster format as an outlet for my photographs, I was intrigued.

Of course, I could run down to one of the many places in Bangkok that can run up a tee-shirt using the silk screen print method, but I am not all that keen on the way these feel next to my skin, especially in a warm climate. As I am aware that there are several methods of printing fabrics, I sent an email to the company.

The email went out at 09:45 here and I had a reply at 14:17. Considering that we are on the other side of the world, I was pleased with the rapid response. This bodes well and established companies, as well as startups, need to get to grips with answering customer queries promptly. Jenny's reply was,

We use digital to garment technology to print on the T-shirts. Digital printing is a newer printing process that uses a computer to print your design directly onto the T-shirt, thus allowing the ink to adhere directly to the fabric. Digital printing is great because it allows for a photographic capture of details. This means that every intricate part of your special design will show up on your T-shirt.

I downloaded the app late in the afternoon and began to think about which images might be suitable for such a medium. I decided on a picture of an egret that was sitting on a pile of water hyacinth in the middle of a river. I took this in Samut Sakhon: a province not too far out of Bangkok. To ready the photograph, I used the Background Eraser app that I reviewed back in April this year and removed some of the background.

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When I opened the app which is called T-Shirt design - Snaptee I was faced with three login options. I could use my Facebook account, my Twitter account, or I could create an account at Snaptee. For a number of reasons, including privacy and security, I created a Snaptee account. This was relatively quick and easy. Within a few seconds of pressing the create button, an email arrived to confirm the account.

While the app is relatively straightforward with its various sections, the small screen size does make a couple of the actions slightly difficult. I began by importing an image. There were several options as well as the Library and the iPhone camera, including Text and Instagram. These options are accessed using the camera icon on the home page.

Immediately the image has been selected, a panel opens with a display of some 20 versions of t-shirts with the image. The specific design is confirmed by a tap on the t-shirt image, which then opens in a panel which has options for several adjustments.

  • Sliders for brightness, contrast and saturation (these effects need to be applied gently);
  • A Set of 6 filters (plus Normal) which can be tried on the fly;
  • A large check-mark that confirms that editing is complete;
  • A text tool that allows a number of font styles and colors to be used on the t-shirt.

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Of these tools, applying text was the most fiddly and I had to go back a number of times. It was useful to be able to try out the permutations, but I was slightly disappointed that I was not apparently able to choose the position on the T-Shirt that the text would appear. For example, the shirt that I submitted (see above and below) has text above the image and I would have preferred this below. I could find no way to make this happen. In the second t-shirt example - a street scene taken from BTS, Wongwianyai - the text placement above was perfect.

There were several other controls for text use, including a quick size adjuster (+ and -) as well as left, right, center positioning. Font selections were available at the bottom of the panel, just below the colors. There is also a random text selector, so a number of quotes, sayings or other input were available.

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Once complete, the check mark button is pressed and a pre-order panel is opened allowing the user to share the design, including a button (OFF by default) that allows the t-shirt to be sold. The user gets 10%. If this is selected, email and phone information needs to be entered. When this is saved, a two-button panel is opened: Purchase; and Go to Locker. The Locker contain a virtual rendering of any t-shirts the user has designed.

With Purchase I had expected an in-app transaction. Instead I was offered the option of PayPal or credit card use. I use PayPal fairly often, so this was my choice and a confirmation of the payment was sent by SMS to me within seconds.

As part of the purchase process, I had to select the size. I hope that a US XL is not going to swamp me. I also had to select the country location, but the postal charge, $5 above the $19.99 for the t-shirt remained the same.

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In real money, I was charged some 814.65 baht for the t-shirt and the mailing. Of course, one can buy such clothing much cheaper in markets here; but also at higher prices if one goes for name brands at a department store. However, the uniqueness of a t-shirt created from one of my own photographs, does have a certain attraction. As well as an unusual personal statement, these would make excellent gifts.

The app, which is free, works on the iPhone 3GS and the 3rd generation iPod touch as well as the iPad. On the iPad, however, it only displays in the non-optimised x1 and x2 screens.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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