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Hey, Cool Shirt: Designing Effective T-shirt Graphics

Christopher Delorenzo, Graphic Artist

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5 Videos (1h 9m)
    • Trailer

      1:43
    • T-Shirt Design Showcase

      11:27
    • Research and Sketching

      8:13
    • Typography and Illustration

      20:38
    • Setting Up for Production

      27:23

About This Class

Whether you're starting your own clothing brand or you've always wanted to design a shirt for your favorite clothing company this is your chance to design a shirt for that dream client of yours! You'll learn to define your brand of choice (or your own) through research and sketching and create a design that represents it using typography and illustration, then we'll get it all ready to print! 

What You'll Learn

In this class the student plays the part of the freelancer as we cover important aspects of the design and pre-production process, which include:

  • Get to Know Your Brand. Researching your brand and conceptualizing graphics
  • Sketching Your Graphic. Sketching from thumbnails to refined drafts
  • Getting to Your Initial Illustration. Basic t-shirt set up and guidelines
  • Finalizing Design for Printers. Differences between printing techniques, and tech packing your shirts for printers

What You'll Make

You'll design a t-shirt for your choice brand. Along the way you'll share your work within the Skillshare Classroom for feedback from peers.

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Class Outline

  • Introduction. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to design an effective t-shirt — the kind that will make people on the street go, “Hey, that’s a cool t-shirt!” (hence the lesson’s name). Christopher Delorenzo will illustrate how standard graphic design courses don’t necessarily prepare you for t-shirt making. It’s a whole new canvas, and Christopher will show you how to make designs for it that are both simple and iconic.
  • T-shirt design showcase. Christopher will tell you about some t-shirt design challenges he has faced at Johnny Cupcakes, showing you some of his best and worst mistakes. You’ll learn how to balance between a branded t-shirt design’s two main functions—representing a wearer and a brand.
  • Elements of t-shirt design. The three elements of a t-shirt design are typography, illustration, and layout. You’ll see how these elements play out in Christopher’s work.
  • Research and sketching. When drawing inspiration from historical designs, you’ll often have to adapt a poster layout to a t-shirt-shaped canvas. Here, you’ll learn how to do just that. You’ll also learn research methods for designing t-shirts and guidelines for beginning your design.
  • Illustration. Before you put your sketch in a digital design program, you’ll have to set up dimensions to show how the design will fall on a t-shirt. You’ll learn the two, basic dimensions Christopher uses for t-shirt design, and you’ll watch as he turns his original sketch into a series of digital lines. You’ll also explore techniques like using Photobooth for visual references and using gradients to direct viewers’ eyes across your design.
  • Typography. On your t-shirt, you’ll want to include the name of the brand, a logo, and some kind of saying. You’ll learn how to make these elements out of custom type, using guidelines in your design program to shape and align letters. You’ll also get a sense of when to use custom type and when a standard option would work best.
  • Setting up for production. You’ll learn how to prep your design for the printer by merging, and then separating, colors in Adobe Illustrator using the magic wand and pathfinder tools. Remember to be mindful of gradients — you’ll learn the special process for prepping a gradient for the printer.
  • Learning printer language. You’ll learn how to label color layers in such a way that any printer will understand. Christopher will introduce you to the Pantone Color Bridge Coated series, the “universal color language for printers.” You’ll also learn how to appropriately size your design and how to communicate your shirt’s overall layout to the printer. Christopher will walk you through this process in Adobe Illustrator, as well as for designs you draw by hand or create using Photoshop. For the latter two, you’ll learn how to prep your shirt when dealing with pixels instead of vectors, using the trapping technique.
  • Types of dye. You’ll get acquainted with the three types of dye used in t-shirt fabric design – plastisol, light plastisol, and discharge – and learn the various effects each dye has to offer.

548 of 574 students recommendSee All

Awesome techniques explained; course oriented to experienced adobe photoshop or illustrator users. I love the project files! Thanks Chris!!!
Great class, great teaching! Love Johnny Cupcakes! Would reccomend to other graphic design students looking for t-shirt design!
Beau Davis

I Just Bought A Wacom Tablet!

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Christopher Delorenzo

Graphic Artist

I'm a Boston based illustrator and graphic designer. My designs are playful, clever and bold with a strong emphasis on visual humour and typography.

After graduating from Syracuse University, where I took interest in graphic design, art direction and packaging, I was hired on as an Associate Art Director for Saatchi & Saatchi in NYC. In the summer of 2010 I became the head designer at Johnny Cupcakes Inc.

In my short professional career I have provided design and art direct...

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