Celebrating Christmas: Ugly Sweater Ideas

By Rebekah Carter|Posted on 10 December 2022
Celebrating Christmas: Ugly Sweater Ideas

At this point, the ugly Christmas sweater has become a lot more than just a novelty. Ugly sweaters are an iconic festive tradition, just as important to many people and families as decorating a tree, baking Christmas cookies, and hanging up lights.

Around the world, countless people spend the festive season hunting for the ultimate “ugly” sweater. It’s the one time of year we can really go wild with our fashion choices, combining garish patterns, bright colors, and ludicrous motifs into a sweater sure to make people laugh and cringe in equal measure. There are even ugly Christmas sweater parties and competitions hosted all throughout the USA, UK, and beyond.

For many, the ugly Christmas sweater is a great symbol of what the holiday season is all about – having fun, letting your hair down, and making other people smile. The biggest challenge is in coming up with the best ugly Christmas sweater ideas. After all, as this tradition has grown more popular, it’s becoming a lot tougher to design a sweater that stands out from the crowd.

Fortunately, we’re here to offer some inspiration.

Great Christmas Ugly Sweater Ideas for Inspiration

One of the things that makes ugly Christmas sweaters so great is their versatility. There’s really no limit to what you can create with a little imagination. Some people follow online tutorial guides to create their own Christmas sweater from scratch, complete with glue and sewn-on patches. Others track down custom, made-to-order sweaters, unique to their personality and interests.

The best way to end up with a phenomenal Christmas sweater is to take an idea and ramp it up to the next level. Here’s a little inspiration to get you started.

Traditional Holiday Motifs

Perhaps the easiest way to come up with some amazing ugly Christmas sweater ideas is to start with classic holiday motifs. Some of the best ugly sweaters feature cringe-worthy cliches, ranging all the way from old-fashioned pictures of Santa on his sleigh, complete with jingling bells for each of the reindeer, to a couple of jolly snowmen.

Turning a classic image into an ugly sweater is as simple as getting a little creative materials, colors, and patterns. You could create snowman bodies out of fluffy yarn, or add fake fur to your reindeer, for instance. Other options might include:

  • Snowflake Patterns:

    A classic for any Christmas sweater, snowflake patterns are usually relaxing, calming, and intricately beautiful. However, if you want to create an ugly Christmas sweater, you could consider something a little more vibrant. Experiment with brightly colored snowflakes arranged in a way that has an almost dizzying effect on the eyes. Or why not cover each snowflake with glue and glitter? Snowflake patterns ugly sweater
  • Reindeer Patterns:

    It’s easy to turn things up a notch on an ugly Christmas sweater featuring reindeer. You could opt for reindeer that look as though they’ve been hand-drawn by children, or create a version of Rudolph with a built-in LED for a flashing red nose. You could also decorate reindeer motifs with bells, fake fur, and other materials. Reindeer patterns ugly sweater
  • Christmas Tree Patterns:

    There’s no shortage of ways to make a Christmas tree pattern more extreme. Consider decorating the tree on your sweater with real tinsel and flashing lights. Or you could even sew some miniature baubles onto the fabric. You could even create a sweater featuring dozens of different shapes and sizes of trees, in various colors. Christmas tree patterns ugly sweater

Funny Christmas Sweater Designs

The main reason we love ugly Christmas sweaters so much is they’re great for making us laugh. Whether they’re intended to be funny or not, most ugly sweaters will naturally bring a smile to anyone’s face. Just make sure you’re not going to offend anyone with your humor. Here are some great ideas to get you started:

  • Pun-Based Sweaters:

    Everyone loves a good pun. Consider designing an ugly Christmas sweater with a fun pun related to the festive season. Options include everything from, “Sleigh it ain’t so”, to “Don’t mind my resting Grinch face”. You could even add a few different puns together if they make sense. Pun-based ugly sweater
  • Add a Joke or Two:

    Jokes can be just as effective as puns on an ugly Christmas sweater. For instance, you could opt for something like “I’m not short, I’m elf-sized”, if you know you’re not quite as tall as your friends. Another joke option could be, “All I want for Christmas is you – and a plate of milk and cookies”. Check out some of these fun Christmas jokes for inspiration, or you can take a joke straight out of a Christmas cracker. Add a joke or two ugly sweater
  • Funny Scenes:

    Why not make people laugh with your ugly Christmas sweater this year by designing a funny scene. There are plenty of classic options out there, and you can even use Christmas cards as a source of inspiration. For instance, you might include a picture of Santa Claus stuck in the chimney, or an image of a group of reindeer relaxing on a beach. Funny scenes ugly sweater

Pop Culture References

Pop culture references are ideal for ugly Christmas sweaters, because they’re something most people will immediately recognize. You can opt for pop-culture related to the festive season, referencing popular Christmas movies or songs. Or you can simply stick to your favorite pop-culture classics. Here are some great ideas to start with:

  • Film-based patterns:

    Take images and quotes from some of your favorite movies and give them a festive twist. You can explore everything from classic movies like the Grinch, to Ghostbusters, Lord of the Rings, and even E.T. You could keep things simple by giving your favorite movie character a red Santa hat, or you could depict the characters you love in a Christmas-style scene, roasting chestnuts over an open fire.Film-based patterns ugly sweater
  • Video Game Patterns:

    Want a slightly geekier option for your ugly Christmas sweater? Why not explore the gaming world. You could depict Mario standing on top of a sleigh with a number of boxes scattered around him, or have Sonic the Hedgehog collecting wreaths instead of rings. You could even create garish Christmas patterns with popular iconography from games like Minecraft, Zelda, or Assassin’s Creed. Video game patterns ugly sweater
  • TV-Show Patterns:

    Television shows can be an excellent source of inspiration for an ugly Christmas sweater too. For instance, you could create a scene from “Friends” with a festive spin, or pull characters from your favorite animated program, like SpongeBob. Just make sure you’re not stepping on anyone’s toes with copyright infringements! TV-show patterns ugly sweater

Winter Sports Themes

If you like to live a relatively active lifestyle, or you spend a lot of time with sporty friends, then you might prefer an ugly Christmas sweater which showcases your athletic interests. Fortunately, there are plenty of winter-style sports motifs you can use in a Christmas sweater. For instance:

  • Skiing Patterns:

    Use your ugly Christmas sweater to depict a skiing holiday, complete with cheering crowds and chalets in the background. You could even make a festive pattern using a number of crossed skis to make a snowflake design. Or how about giving some reindeer a set of skis in your design? You could depict the reindeer falling over in the snow, or struggling to fasten a pair of skis to his hooves.Skiing patterns ugly sweater
  • Snowboard Patterns:

    Show your love for shredding up the snow with a snowboard pattern on your Christmas sweater. There are tons of great ways to get creative here. You could even add a fun quote to the design, such as “All I want for Christmas is a snowboard”. Or why not depict Santa Claus pulling off some great snowboard tricks? Snowboard patterns ugly sweater
  • Ice Skating Designs:

    Everyone loves a little ice skating during the festive season. Create your ugly Christmas sweater by showing Santa and his reindeer performing an Olympic-worthy routine. Or why not make a fun pattern of a penguin skating, with glittery lines showing where its skates have cut through the ice? Ice skating designs ugly sweater

Food & Drink Themes

The food at Christmas is one of the main things families look forward to every year. After all, the festive season isn’t just a time for giving gifts. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to get together with loved ones for a phenomenal winter feast. If you love indulging over the holiday season, here are some great ideas you can use to connect your ugly Christmas sweater to food and drink:

  • Gingerbread Patterns:

    Gingerbread men and women are an excellent motif for an ugly Christmas sweater. You could cover your entire sweater in a dizzying selection of decorated Gingerbread people, each with their own fuzzy gumdrop buttons. Gingerbread patterns ugly sweater
  • Candy Cane Patterns:

    Similar to gingerbread people, candy canes are excellent for creating highly repetitive, dizzying designs on ugly Christmas sweaters. Experiment with as many different colors as you can find to make your sweater as wild as possible. You might even use different kinds of materials to make your candy canes look three dimensional. Candy cane patterns ugly sweater
  • Christmas Dinner Patterns:

    Depict the ultimate Christmas dinner in sweater form, complete with a stuffed turkey (with extra cotton to make it stand out from the rest of the sweater). You can also add glitter brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, and other festive favorites in a range of different material styles to make your sweater look more unique.Christmas dinner patterns ugly sweater

Creating the Ultimate Ugly Christmas Sweater

Although you can follow a tutorial or two at home to create your own Christmas sweater from scratch, the chances are you won’t end up with something that will last you year after year. If you want to make the most of this fantastic tradition, it’s worth finding a partner to help you.

Here at NovaTomato, we can create all kinds of stunning design templates for sweaters, shirts, and other forms of festive apparel for you, according to your specific design preferences.

We work with the best manufacturers from around the world to produce products in high-quality, durable, and comfortable materials. Plus, our practices are completely eco-friendly, so you don’t have to worry about sustainability.

You can create matching Christmas sweaters for a couple, or design ugly Christmas sweaters for the whole family, in the sizes and colors of your choice. Our handy AI design lab will ensure you can experiment with all the different designs you like, to find something that really stands out.

Whether you’re creating the perfect Secret Santa gift, or you’re thinking of selling ugly Christmas sweaters on your ecommerce store, NovaTomato is here to help. Reach out today to find out how we can bring your ideas to life.


Still have questions about ugly Christmas sweaters? We’re here to help. Here are some of the most common questions we’ve been asked in the past.

What Is the Ugly Christmas Sweater Tradition?

The Ugly Christmas Sweater tradition is a fun way to pay homage to the traditional sweaters that many youngsters received from their grandparents during the holiday season when growing up. Today, ugly Christmas sweater day has become a national holiday, celebrated by offices and families all over the world. It’s a great way to have some fun in lighthearted fashion.

How to Make an Ugly Sweater?

There are plenty of ways to create an ugly Christmas sweater, but the easiest option is to work with NovaTomato. Our custom design lab makes it easy to sort through patterns and motifs to find something that’s unique to you. You can leverage pre-designed templates, so you don’t have to be an artist to start creating your own sweaters. Then just send the design to us and we’ll do the rest of the work, partnering with leading manufacturers to create the ugly sweater of your dreams.

What Are the Rules to Design an Ugly Sweater?

That’s the great thing about ugly sweaters – there really aren’t any rules you have to follow. You’re free to go as wild as you like with your designs, experimenting with as many different motifs and materials as possible. The only real rule is that your sweater should be undoubtedly ugly. The gaudier, tackier, and more overwhelming the sweater is, the better. Don’t be afraid to experiment with embellishments too, such as glitter, flashing lights, and tinsel.