Friday, July 12, 2013

How I work: Designing for a t-shirt

Today I'm going to post a little bit of info about how I work, specifically, what things I keep in mind when I'm working on a design for a t-shirt.

When I only have a rough idea, I tend to begin not with digital work, but with rough pencil sketches. I find that some of the best times for me to come up with fun ideas is when I'm waiting for something else. This particular sketch was done on the back of a paper placemat while I was sitting at a restaurant waiting for my food.

This kind of a sketch is really useful for just playing around with things. I'm also a self trained artist, so I don't draw from my shoulder like they teach in those art schools. I tend to break the 'rules' and do everything in my fingers and wrist. So this sketch wound up very small. Once I had something I liked, I took a picture with my phone so that I could eventually re-do it as a digital drawing.

You can also see how I was already considering the screen printing process. Most screen printing places limit you to 4 colors at most, or charge a crazy amount of money for more than 4 colors. So I planned on a white shirt, with 4 basic colors. In this case, my colors were limited by what my 3 year old sister let me use of her set of colored pencils before dinner time, but I liked what came out anyway.

Then later that night after we got back from dinner, I began on the digital work. In some ways this is very methodical. Because I'm just working over my existing sketch, I'm more concerned with managing my line weight and refining some of the shapes that I didn't like and adding in a few small details that I felt needed to be present.

Once I had things more or less drawn in, I needed to make some alterations and made very sure that my lines were clear and dark. Then I moved into another layer underneath the lines and flat-filled it with 3 basic colors. (remember that the 4th color is my black lines) I didn't take much care to keep the colors accurate to what I eventually wanted, because I knew that having a lot of contrast would help later when I went to trace the images in Inkscape.

Finally, I took the finished raster image into Inkscape to be traced. I used the built-in tracing algorithm. Because I designed the raster specifically to be traced, with bold and clean lines and large blocks of solid colors, everything traced out perfectly on the first try. For the curious, I used the "colors" trace setting, set to 5 colors. Yes, 5, because in this case you count the white background as a color too. Crazy, I know! And now it's ready to send to the screen printers.

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