T-Shirt Design: Transform a Sketch Into a T-Shirt Design | Steve Wolf | Skillshare

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T-Shirt Design: Transform a Sketch Into a T-Shirt Design

teacher avatar Steve Wolf, Graphic Designer/Illustrator

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      T-shirt Showcase and Drawing Tools


    • 3.

      Concepting and Rough Sketches


    • 4.

      Developing Your Concept (Updated)


    • 5.

      Turning Sketch Into Vector


    • 6.

      Setting Up Artwork for Production


    • 7.

      Final Thoughts & Class Assignment


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About This Class

Learn how designer and illustrator, Steve Wolf, creates a unique design for apparel using hand drawn artwork. In this class, Steve takes us through his process for researching, drawing, designing, and executing great looking t-shirts. This class is perfect for designers, illustrators, and anyone else who is interested in creating a unique t-shirt design. By the end of this class, you will have the confidence to dominate your next apparel design.


What You'll Learn

  • Research: We will go over the importance of researching before drawing and talk about how researching can inspire and influence your design.
  • Concepting: In this section, we will talk about the proper setup before sketching and look into the process of concepting ideas.
  • Sketching: We will talk about the most efficient way to turn your rough ideas into a tight hand drawn sketch.
  • Vector design: I will share my process of how to take your finished ink design and transfer it onto the computer to create an editable vector design.
  • File Preparation: We will talk about the proper way to organize your finished design in illustrator and learn the basics of preparing a correct file that can be sent to a printer.

Meet Your Teacher

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Steve Wolf

Graphic Designer/Illustrator


Steve Wolf is a designer/illustrator living in Austin, TX. Born and raised in central Nebraska, Steve Wolf has been designing since he was a toddler. Never without a pencil and paper, Steve has turned his childhood hobby into a successful career. His work combines vintage elements and modern techniques, creating a unique style that can be used on a wide variety of projects.


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1. Introduction: Hey, guys, I'm Steve Wolf. I'm a graphic designer illustrator from Nebraska, and I now live and work in Austin, Texas. One of my favorite means for design is actually the T shirt. There's something really cool about seeing someone else wearing a design you've created, and it's always fun and exciting working on this type of canvas there, so many different styles of T shirts you can make the creating a design and a hand drawn style is my favorite. I like to collect vintage cans and especially vintage books, amount of craft and passion in detail they put into their art is a lost art. In this class will discuss the process of turning a simple sketch an idea and transforming it into a finished design Trainee. Teachers is a fun and rewarding way to see and promote your designs. I look forward to seeing what T shirt designs you guys can come up with. 2. T-shirt Showcase and Drawing Tools: in this lesson, I'll be showing you some of the tools that I'll be using, as well as some T shirt that I've created over the years. So for your assignment, you were to create a unique hand drawn T shirt. Design Cranie Teachers is a fun and rewarding way to see and promote your designs, So these are some of the tools I use when creating a hand drawn T shirt design. First, I like to start off with a large adjustable eraser because it can clean up your drawings during the sketch phase. I like to use a mechanical pencil instead of a regular standard pencil because the leads always sharp. You don't need to keep sharpening your pencil all the time for sharpies. They're easy to use, and you can thank your sketches quickly. These markers do bleed, but it can actually create the rough edge look because of how the ink sets after you make strokes. Sharpies Air also really affordable, which is a plus. The Tom Bo brush is great for achieving thick and thin lines because of the brush tip, micron pens, air great pens that don't bleed, and the variety of tip sizes actually make them versatile because you can use them different parts of your design. The thin tip is great for really fine detail, and the thicker Micron Pen is great for larger areas. On my final tool that I like to use is the gridded paper sketchbook. I like to use the gridded paper because it's good to align your typography and illustration together while you're sketching. This is an example of a hand drawn T shirt I made for one of my clients. Hooking irons hook in irons is a vintage inspired firefighter theme clothing company based out of Florida. For this shirt, the concept was to create a design honoring boxer Jim Flynn, who is the only man to ever knock out legendary boxer Jack Dempsey. I research some old boxing posters and images of Jim Flynn to establish the mood and direction before designing. I wanted to include Jim in the shirt design, so I knew right away that I wanted to make the print tall and cover most of the shirt. I do everything with pencil first, and then I think, the sketch with different micron pens and Sharpie markers. The finished design was then turned into a vector image, which I I'll show you later how to do in this class. Make sure to think about your composition before you start designing. Will it be a chest design or a full size print? Think about how many colors you want to use and what types of ink you think will work the best for your shirt. Design the Marquis Research Sketch and visualize your final design. The easier will be in your shirt. Design will turn out more successful. So here's another example of a hand drawn shirt design I did for hooking irons. The goal was to create a vintage looking design that showed the essence of what this clothing brand is all about. Again. I spent a lot of time researching vintage designs from the 19 tens in the 19 twenties and looked at old firefighter ads and posters from this era. Remember toe always research before you design. This shirt utilizes a bad shape that encompasses all of the information about this brand. Everything was drawn with pencil and utilized the same process as the other shirt I showed you earlier. I wanted to make sure this design looked old, so drawing everything out by hand created the rough, handmade look that computer can't always produce. Make sure that your shirt has contrast between the color of the shirt and the color of ink you're using. You want your designed to be easy to read and make a statement. At the same time, I chose blocking in an off white color to contrast with the richer. 3. Concepting and Rough Sketches: for this lesson, I'll be talking about how to transform an idea and turn it into a rough sketch before even start the process of sketching like to fund as many sources of inspiration as I can. Since my goal is to create a hand drawn T shirt design like to find samples of designs that mimic the style design, I'm going to create a very passion about collecting old things such as books, beer cans, packaging references and and even posters. And I use this in all of my designs before I start because there's so many different varieties of design. So I challenge you to go out and find something truly unique that no one else has seen before. This source of inspiration will give you the edge in your design thistles, the sketching and concept ing phase of this project. And this is where you're gonna want to get all of your ideas for your project onto the paper. And so I'm gonna kind of show you what I've started sketching so far. Um, you can kind of see what I've done. I've got scripts, different lockups. The first thing I like to do is start off with some of the words that initially come to mind. The brand that I'm gonna be drawing is rust proof. And it's gonna be a vintage lifestyle. Hand done looking brand and some of words Air, heritage, look, lockups, men masculine. Um, always start off with some of these words before you start, because going to give you an idea of what you need to make and, you know, you can kind of see, I got some scripts, this kind of lock up. I was kind of liking that one is just really easy to look at and read for what it's gonna be all about. You know, feel free to make these loose. You want to just get these out initially just to get any ideas that you think you're gonna work? This lockup was nice here, as you can see. I mean, just get all the ideas that you can out onto the paper. So, yeah, I'm gonna I'm gonna show you the next page here in my sketchbook. And I was also toying with the idea that an illustration would work well with this. I got this bulldog right here. You know, it conveys the look that I'm going for authentic rough looking for this rough rust proof brand. You know, putting a banner along with the illustration. Maybe it's just the illustration by itself. I like the use of the lockups with the scripts. This are right here If you want to use it by itself. That's an option for a secondary logo option for this rust proof clothing brand for the next page of my sketchbook. You know, just a few more ideas. You know, keep playing around. I was, like, in this lightning bolt on the cross bar of the tea on the script option. You know, I feel like you don't feel like you need to get so detailed with this. The end results gonna be rough looking, so well, you know, feel free to make your sketches rough a little bit, because we're gonna take these sketches and tournament to more finished drawings, but they're gonna be loose all around, you know, like, here's an option. Maybe it's a monogram. You know, keep playing with ideas. This last option in my sketchbook, I was liking the most. And I think this is gonna be the winner for the final design. It's got all the elements that I'm wanting vintage masculine, and it's for the clothing brand. So this is just a nice chest designed piece that's going to showcase the brand here. Um, I have different elements here. The type itself on the curve. It's usual. Utilizing a wing on the are the banners. Nice toe encompass what it is, which is a clothing company. And, you know, like, tick these little notes on the side from my scut for myself that helped me later on, like, I'm going to remove the inner rings on this CO here. And, you know, I'm thinking about colors at this point. Is it gonna be a two color? Um, you know, am I gonna make this wing separate? Is that gonna be a separate color? You know, here, you can see I'm always looking into the details of my sketch here. I know there's a lot of things I'm gonna want to change, but weaken address that later on in the process. So the key here is to be relaxed and inspired to sketch the ideas that are flowing in your head. And, you know, you might not get it initially, but just keep sketching and you'll eventually find the winning design that we're gonna use for your final sketch. 4. Developing Your Concept (Updated): in this lesson, you learn how to take your chosen concept and develop it into finished into design way . 5. Turning Sketch Into Vector: in this lesson, you'll learn how to take your finish chic sketch, get it onto the computer and turn it into a vector design. Alright, guys. So in this section, we're gonna talk about how to take your finished ink sketch. Andi, turn it into a vector design. So what I've done here is I've placed my ink sketch, which you should have taken it a picture of it on your phone and email it to yourself. And what I did here is I tweaked the levels and photo shop. I made sure there's enough contrast in the photo shopped file. So when I place in an illustrator and make it a vector image, it's gonna get as much detail as I can out of my finish ink sketch. So, as I've said, I've placed this image here of my ink sketch onto the board here in Illustrator, and what I'm going to do is talk about how to use the life trays option, and there's actually a couple of different ways you can turn. You're finished ink sketch into a vector design. You can use the pen tool where you're tracing over your letter forms in your illustration or you can use a life trace option, which there is this button right here which converts raster images into tracing objects. So I'm gonna click this button here. And as you can see, it just took my J pick that I placed in here, and it's turned all my sketch into a vector image. So what I'm gonna do here is, since I'm not really comfortable with how this turned it into a vector here, I'm gonna mess with the live trays options and the presets. I like to use the detailed illustration preset. You can see how it added a little bit more detail. It tightened my illustration up a little bit. And you can also mess with the threshold in the minimum area. I like to put this down to zero, and I'm gonna put the threshold up if you put it way too high. Um, you can see how you're getting some extra details that you're not want if you put it all the way to the top here. Um, you know, I got too much detail. Not I'm not wanting that. So mess around with the threshold until you're at a comfortable place here. I'm gonna try 1 90 and again, the overall look we're going for here is a rough, hand drawn luck. And the great thing about the lion trace option is it gives you that look in a very quick and efficient way. So you know your important in your sketch using a live trace button. You've got to this point, and I'm liking how it's a little bit lose. It looks hand drawn. It's rough. I'm gonna click expand. And what that just did is it allows me to select all the individual pieces here when I click expand, just to make sure if there's any loose parts that are now expanded and I can edit a lot easier, Um, we'll go ahead and click on the Pathfinder. Germany united all of this. So now it's one piece, and so I'm also I need to mention that I'm using Illustrator CS five. The Illustrator CC actually has a really nice updated live trace feature, and you can edit that all of the points better. There is a lot more presets to get different levels of detail. It's a nice feature, but for this video amusing CS five. So after you've live traced your design. What I'm gonna do is go in and make sure I'm liking my sketch better. There's a few things I want to change. This is the stage of the process. We can go and edit your bacterial strain because it's really easy. Um, one thing about the bat is I'm gonna size down this co inside of this badge here. I want to give you a little bit more space and, you know, again, go into your your design. Make sure you're comfortable with how it's looking. Fine. Tune it at each letter. You know, make sure that you're comfortable on your happy With the final outcome here, I was gonna go ahead and make a few tweaks to some things. And, you know, again, since each piece is separate, it's so easy to edit it and make it what you're wanting. I know, For example, want to tighten up this established 2015? Um, you know, at the tracking the turning, all the things that you have been taught in design. Tighten up your sketch. When you actually use the eraser tool here, I'm gonna open up this zero. The live trade is kind of filled in the gap here on the zero. So it's just like photo shop. You're just erasing parts of your vector here. You can go ahead and at it. Some of the points here, Um, even though it's live trace, don't be afraid to go and tighten up some parts that you that you want to make better. Just taking out some of these points here on some of these numbers, even though it's rough, you know, feel free to make it a little bit tighter on just a few years that you want. And it's some more of this established type here, and the eraser tool is also very fast and efficient. But again, don't make don't make it so tight that you lose some of this rough essence of the whole look we're going for at a few more these points. So that's still really rough looking. The next step in when a show is gonna kind of tie and all this together and give one more one more. Look to this. That's that's the last detail of all of this. So on what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna roughing up some of these edges and give it more that hand drawn, rough, authentic look. So if you go to effect, distort and transform and click the Ruffin button right here, this is the best way to add the rough edge. Look on all of your type, and your illustration gives you a signs slider here and a detail slider. If you just use what they have and click preview. This is way too much. Obviously, this is not what we're wanting, so go back and mess with the size and the detail. I like to use summer on, maybe 0.3 and raise the detail. And when you raise the detail, you're getting more points on your type that might actually even go point. Oh, for. And if I zoom in here, you can see all these extra points that were added, and that's that rough look that were wanting. It's that extra little detail that's so easy to make. It's great for it. Looks like you're actually drew it, and it's great to get that look here. I'm gonna go ahead and expand that effect. You can see here all those points that we just added by using the rough and tool you can go ahead and tweet those if you want, it might take a while, so make sure your sketches tight before you click the rough and tool, because that's the last thing that you're gonna want to dio. There's a few things I wanna edit here on a open up, some of this letting and this tracking turning here, I'm gonna push this down a little bit. Feel free to tweak it as much as you want. I like working the illustrator this way because it's so fast and it's so easy to keep tweaking things. I bring someone's type of. So as you can see, we're out of way better place here. Here's sketches now a vector design, and I've tightened it up to the point where I'm pretty comfortable with it and I'm going. I'm going to get this ready to put into a T shirt, mock up, and you know that didn't take very much time at all. That's what we want. We want this to be fast. We still wanted to be rough looking. It's a very efficient process. Mess around with a live tool presets to get that look that you want and after you live. Traci adjust it, make sure it's tight and that you're comfortable with what you've done here. Because this is one of the last steps that you can really edit your design. And, yeah, now we're going to go on to the next up here. 6. Setting Up Artwork for Production: Oh, this lesson. I'll show you how to properly set up your follows for the printer and finally go over some last minute details before sending the final design off. All right, guys, this is the last video for this process in this portion of the class. We're going to talk about how to take this vector image, which we just made in the last video and place it on to the T shirt as a mock up. This is the stage where you want to think about setting your file it for print. You're gonna be sending this to a printer, so you want to make it as organized as you can and add enough information in detail for the printer. So then they're not confused, and you get the finished product that you're wanting. So what I've done here is I've placed this image of this T shirt into my illustrator file. You could do this in photo shop if you want. I'm still like to work in Illustrator and I will actually have a link on the class that has this image here of this T shirt. But feel free to use any other T shirt templates you might have. This is just a great way to show rough size ings a great visualization to see the shirt on the design on the T shirt. So what I'm gonna do here is see how low I'm gonna put the design on the shirt again. This was a chest design. So you make you don't want to put it to high by the neckline because that just looks really weird. And if you put it too low, there's still awkward spacing here. You want a nice balance of the design being on the chest. So you consume a little bit. You can kind of see, I want a nice big design with wise on the chest. Like where that's placed there again. This is a nice, quick way to show how the designs gonna look on the shirt and all my layers. Here. I have this shirt file on a separate layer from the artwork file and you know you can lock the shirt layer here. The printer is not really gonna touch this. They can turn it off. This is what they want. So put your our work on a separate layer for the printer and always have whatever color, and you always have your artwork. Black. Um, I won't get into detail, but how? They set up the artwork burning the screens, they needs to be black. And if you have multiple colors, make a new layer for a separate color. Um, even for yourself, if you want to make it another color, this is a great way to play with colors. If you're gonna use multiple colors, uh, list them is PMS Pantone colors and again provide the exact sizing of the shirt for the printer. Get the colors there. What kind of inks? What kind of shirt you're going to use. This is the stage of the process where you want to make sure all your details airline and ready to send to the printer. So again, as a recap, this is the last part of actually drawing and using the computer for your sketch organizer files for the printer. Get us get a T shirt, mock up, ready mess around colors. And this is the last stage of the design before you're gonna shipped it off to the printer 7. Final Thoughts & Class Assignment: So today we talked about how to start sketching and refining and eking your sketch and turning it into a vector design. If you're new to lettering and T shirt designer general, follow this course closely. Repeat it over and over again until you're comfortable with this process. Remember Theo on leeway. To get better is to draw more and design more. Always look for inspiration. If you want to be great at what you do, you need to live and breathe design every day. If you're having any trouble finding inspiration or just merely starting will have an attachment with The list of resource is available at the end of this video. But I showed you in this course is the way I do it. That doesn't mean it's the only way to go about it. Add your own touch as you go about this journey. You must find ways to separate itself from other designers and seek your own identity in order to create something truly unique. If you understand lettering and T shirt design and you watch this video to get a different perspective, I hope you've learned a few new tricks or you've been encouraged to go out and create your own design. I want you guys to have fun with this assignment. I challenge you to make the best hand drawn T shirt design you guys can make something would actually wear and be proud of. Also, encourage it. Uploading sketches, work in progress and finished designs. I'll try to give as much feedback as I can. Look forward to seeing your finish designs.