Can You Use Celebrities In Your T-Shirt Designs?


I know you see them all the time. You see them on the streets, on people, at street fairs, and at trade shows.

You most definitely see them on the Internet. It’s a healthy chance that you’ve come across an individual wearing a celebrity tee. Everybody from Tupac to Elvis to Kurt Cobain to Lady Gaga or whoever the flavor of the month is has seen their likeness plastered on the front of the t-shirt of any pedestrian strolling around a city near you. I know you’re asking  yourself: “Is this legal? Can I just use a person’s face on a t-shirt?” Once we get into using celebrity likenesses on t-shirts, it’s really not simple. It’s a very slippery slope.

The short sweet answer is: “Maybe”.

Now to be perfectly honest from a technical and legal standpoint. It is illegal to use anyone’s likeness without their permission. So you’re probably thinking to yourself: “So have all of these t-shirts that I see been officially sanctioned by these public figures”? The short answer to that is resounding “Hell no!”

Most people are very ignorant to laws like the right to privacy…and the fact that everyone owns their own likeness. You see most of the people who are using these celebrity likenesses have no permission to do so. However, their companies are so small. It will cost the estates of the (both dead and alive) celebrities and their representatives more money to sue these companies than the companies are actually worth.

In most cases, they just leave these people alone, or simply send them a cease and desist letter.

If the companies are big they’re usually sued, and if they can’t show that they actually have permission they have to pay hefty fees and give most of the money earned from those t-shirts back to the celebrity. This rarely happens and usually only happens to large companies.

So am I saying that you should use a celebrity likeness? NO, I’m not!

More info In Video Below

I know it sounds like easy money, but just leave that be. If you want to be taken seriously, come up with your own ideas and concepts. You’ll fare much better with your t-shirt business in the long run. Once you have established yourself and you’re making some real money, you can then contact these celebrities and/or their representatives and work out a licensing deal. Look, celebrities love to make money and they love to see their images everywhere on people. Yeah, they’re some of the most shallow people on the planet, but that’s why they decided to become celebrities. So, why not just go legit? Do this so that you can become an official licensee of said celebrity. At this point in time, reaching celebrities is very easy. You can reach out to them via social media, but a much better way is to simply google who their PR representative is.

There is a loophole to possibly legally using a celebrity license without their permission.

Found out in this book

Click here for book → Start A T-Shirt Business Or Die Trying

Write them a letter or an email and tell them that you are an established t-shirt brand and that you’re looking to partner with them on some type of licensing deal. You can either work with that celebrity directly or with a licensing company that represents said celebrity.

One of the biggest celebrity licensing representatives is a company called Check them out, and be on your way to being a legit celebrity licensee.

I hope that this helps you on your magnificent t-shirt journey.

Peace and Blessings,

Gary Ajene