Matt Benson

UX/UI Creative & Developer

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Agro (Pablo) Shirt

Shirt graphic newcomer

I hadn't seen this course before, but wanted to share my overall experience as a newcomer to the shirt graphic scene. It was reassuring that my overall process was almost identical to this course; which to me, seemed like a natural logical workflow. The graphic for this tee is near completion, but not yet ready for print, so watching this course was a big help for myself to affirm what was right and what was less than optimal going into the final steps of production.

1. Start with sketches

This should be obvious, but ALWAYS sketch. Always. Sketches help plan the idea, sell the concept, and bring to light any issues that might come up. I typically shoot for a small rough concept, then do a second larger sketch to refine it. My personal goal for the second sketch is to have worked out 90% of the art to a point where I can scan it and start refining the lines and colors. 

The idea for this shirt was to turn that silly horse face meme into a classy tee. It started out as a user-submitted image:

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Assuming nobody would want that on their shirt, I thought about a playing card theme, and doing something vertical and symmetrical. At a distance it would look like a regular face card or similar, but up close it would contain the necessary amount of insanity.

First sketch:

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Second sketch:

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2. Line art

Wrapping up the line art into its own finished piece was the second step. The difference between the second sketch and the following line art is pretty apparent. Lots of symmetry had to change, some overlapping reflected areas had to be considered, and lots of adjusting of angles. I had never done this kind of playing card theme before, so there were a few challenges as I figured it out on my own.

I also had some colors in mind, as well as a single color version. Typically if a piece works well in a single color, it will work well with multiple colors. Since the art is intended for a shirt, less colors is always better because the shirt will cost less to produce. 

Initial color comp:

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Reflected comp and single color line art:

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3. Reducing the colors 

This shirt had way too many colors. The single color art was fine, but to entertain the idea, I looked at doing the full color graphic as well. Even though I only visually counted 8 (which is way too much anyway - keep it under 4 if you can). 

Illustrator has a tool that allows you to count the colors, combine the colors, and clean up your mess. I won't go into it too much, but these screens should get you started. The only tool you'll need is the magic wand to get all the similar colors and change them to the same color. 

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4. Shirt comps

Check your artwork. This is the fun part; try your artwork out on different color shirts. If you know the brand, you can usually get a list of swatches and change your shirt template accordingly. Remember the shirt itself can be a color. If the artwork has any red, consider putting the design on a red shirt and eliminating the red color from the final art.

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5. Service of choice

At this point I was deviating from the course material a little. I feel many of use will just use an online tee printing site to create a shirt. They tend to have friendly uploads, shirt previews of your art, short run printing, and so on.

If you just go the online route, the next step is simply to upload your art and see if the service has issues with it. 

Using a local custom shop is fantastic (and preferred) as you get better service, can speak with a real person, can do discharge inks for a vintage look, custom inks such as glow-in-the-dark, and more. But the art requires a similar degree of preparation as seen in this course, and the method of sales and delivery tends to be a big box of shirts sitting in your living room and you having to sell & mail them.

I used an online service as that would be the final method of sales & delivery for this campaign. 

When the campaign is complete and shirts are in-hand, I'll post an update of the final shirt.

I hope this was helpful - thanks for reading!

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