Thursday, June 25, 2009

T-Shirt Design

So you want to be a T-shirt designer! Me too. I decided somehow that I love the t-shirt as my canvas. It all began with painting on tees, one by one with acrylic paints as my medium. I have never used fabric paints specifically, but do use a fabric painting medium to add to my iridescent colors to make them adhere and extend the paint more beautifully. I use any kind of acrylic paints which are watered down to a nice consistency that I can use wet into wet for painting on t-shirts with 100% cotton or cotton blends such as cotton/lycra, cotton/spandex, and even 50/50 poly cotton, which I rarely use. After many years of painting on tees I decided it was about time to mass-produce my work and sell them extensively. I haven't duplicated the hand-painted look yet, but did come up with a multitude of graphic Hawaiian designs that have been received well here on Maui. You can see many samples of my hand-painted t-shirts at and the Amaryllis of Hawaii Books I created.
I started by drawing ideas on paper but realized by viewing many Youtube videos, that I could do vector drawings in Adobe Illustrator that would be camera ready high resolution drawings suitable for the silk-screen process. So I began to practice drawing in Illustrator. What fun. Using the pen, pencil and brush tools I began by just scribbling, drawing leaves, drawing petals doing swirls and basically just playing with the tools to get the hang of it. By making a line then highlighting it and changing the brush I could see how my lines would look in a different brush style. This was fun. By simply drawing one side of a petal, highlighting that curved line then selecting the flip tool I could change position of that petal or copy (control c) and pasting (control v) or alt and dragging it to repeat that image over and over. What a trip! I was on my way. I drew plumerias by making one petal and repeating the petal by copying and pasting several times then selecting each petal and with the free form tool turning the image slightly (rotating) to the desired position and situating it to line up at the center of the flower. I will show you next time by filming it and actually demonstrating for you.
The leaves followed and the swirls too. The tedious part was placing every piece of line and deciding if it looked good there. FUN for me.
So I began to draw and save unfinished work because it is better to just get started than wait forever as you can go back and work it again until it is finished, just like doing a book you can start anywhere as long as you get going and stay at it every day, you will complete it if you believe in yourself and just press on.
I stuck with just using black line work for now because I wanted to keep it simple and knew that my designs would be printed with white ink on colored tees and on black tees. The first multi-colored designs were worked in Illustrator also with several colors of blue plumerias done in line work. I suggest you start your first drawings by drawing with the mouse or on a lap top by just using your finger on the mousepad. I like this best. The mouse is trickier for me but you can get the hang of it.
Just try it and have fun. Save your work and come back later. I will show examples of my t-shirts in the header of this blog which were all created in Illustrator except for the long sleeve four tropical flowers design which was a watercolor that I photographed then tweaked it (MOVED parts of the paint splatters and copied and pasted to other areas) in Photoshop and had the graphic artist for my silk-screener do the color separations and at the last minute I told them to do the paint splatters in baby blue rather than gold, (the original color). It was a really exciting though stressful process because I had chosen to do fourteen new designs between August 2008 and December 2008.

1 comment:

Michel said...


can't believe you made that beauty from a t-shirt design! it is so cute!!! This is my favorite of all three!

Michel Jonson

Design Your T Shirts