10 tips pro for better T-shirt designs

Designer Mike Ng is on hand to give you his expert advice to get you started in T-shirt design or improve your skills.

T-shirt design is becoming one of the most popular outlets for creatives. Whether you’re an illustrator, graphic designer or typographer, the thought of having your design on a T-shirt is a pretty cool concept.

However, the process can be a daunting thought. Thankfully, Mike Ng of SOYU T-shirt designs has taken time out of his busy scheduele to bring you 10 pro tips for T-shirt design.

  1. Take your time and explore your concept

Sketch it out, go for a walk, create a few variations, have something to eat, do a full brainstorming process. Then sleep on it. And do it over again. If it comes to you straight away, great. But explore other options just in case.

tips better T

T-shirt design: Electric Zombie tee by Derek Deal has loads of colour and loads of detail

  1. Imagine the design on a shirt

Having worked on both print and web over the years. I know the vast difference between design on screen and a printed piece. Don’t be afraid to mock it up on a photo of a model, print it out if necessary and place it on an actual tee, and of course create your artwork at actual size.

  1. Detail is king but keep things simple

Everyone appreciates great drawing ability and attention to detail. There is nothing better than seeing a really well executed masterpiece on a tee, that you can study for hours.

But equally, some of the most classic designs have been the simplest and get the message across through their simplest form. Anywhere in the middle and you may struggle to deliver a successful design.

tips better T1

T-shirt design: The classic Ramones tee redesigned by Johnny Cupcakes showcases the single colour and strong concept

  1. Consider your market

This is an important one. Are you designing for male or female, young or old? At the end of the day you’re designing a product that you want people to wear. Like a good marketeer would do, write down the exact person you want to attract to your design – who they are, what they like, what other brands they like and go from there. Continue reading

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Art of the animated glyph

James Curran explains how he came up with a sword-toting pirate from a simple bracket.
art of the animated glyph

Most of my work involves transitions, but I prefer to do them in a way where reveals aren’t just out of nowhere so it feels like a solid object or a shape. The bracket felt like it could be a slice through the screen.

I didn’t really sketch anything out, but just started animating. I did things in reverse: I started with the finished path position for the bracket and then moved points individually to make it disappear. I did it a couple of times to get the timing right and refined the curves to make it really look like a sharp knife slice.

I added the knife next, masking it off over the animated slice path animation. Because you don’t see the handle, it needed to be really clear that it was a knife from the shape.

Most of my work involves transitions, but I like to do them in a way where reveals aren’t out of nowhere

Next I worked on the character. Originally he was a bit darker, more like a serial killer with a mask, but then I realised it could be a pirate as it was a good way of making the animation fun quickly. At first I added shadows to everything and found crazy ways to use the limited palette at different opacities, but it started to get a bit messy.

The last thing was the hand pulling on the bracket and making it stretch – again, to make the bracket feel like a solid object. My colleague Jeroen Krielaars came back to me and said maybe it would be better if I changed the colours, so I swapped them around and that was it. The whole thing took about a day in total.

art of the animated glyph1Step Two

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Create model a fantastical 3D creature

3D modeller Aybars Turan uses reference and concept art by Jan Vidra to model a realistic yet fantastical creature, the Imperator.

fantastic 3d creature

Creating creatures in 3D requires a lot of research – referencing real animals is absolutely vital if you’re going to pull off a believable character. It’s all about planning and paying attention to everything step by step, from large-scale shapes to the finest details.

Jan Vidra recently won a contest hosted by Helpful Bear Productions to conceptualise a unique creature. Referencing real world animal forms – including horses and tapirs – Jan’s winning entry, the Imperator, forms the reference for my 3D model.

As I modelled Jan’s Imperator at Helpful Bear, I was supervised by leading creature designer Terryl Whitlatch, who is known for her work with Lucasfilm and the book Katurran Odyssey.

Jan looked at African wild asses for proportion. The legs were borrowed from tapirs, and the tail is more of a dinosaur element. And although it’s not very evident, Jan was inspired by marine animals, too, with Parrot Fish serving as inspiration for the shape of the lips, and influencing the colour patterns on the head.

In this tutorial you’ll follow my process for modelling a fantastical creature, using concept art as a guide. I have found ZBrush to be the most effective tool for sculpting creatures and other biological forms.

  • Download the source files for this tutorial here
  1. Reference concept artfantastic 3d creature1

    Jan Vidra’s imperator creature concept is an amalgam of equine and tapir anatomyI receive a .pdf from Jan, which includes photo references, orthographic plans, sketches, and notes. He also includes essential facts such as where this creature lives, climate and environment. I also gather additional photo images and research living animals.

    For reference I strongly recommend these books: Terryl Whitlatch: Animals Real and Imagined; Ken Hultgren: The Art of Animal Drawing; DK: Natural History; Seven Stories Press: Evolutions

  2. Building the base meshfantastic 3d creature2

    Start by creating the base mesh in Maya

    My aim is to capture the perfect silhouette of Jan Vidra’s Imperator. I start by creating my base mesh in Maya; I like to see a solid mesh with low polygons before I start sculpting in ZBrush.

    I start in Maya building the base mesh and go back and forward between Maya and ZBrush for the initial steps. One thing that’s great about ZBrush is that it interfaces well with a wide variety of 3D packages.

  3. Create the topologyfantastic 3d creature3Set up the orthographic images and block out the basic shape

    Set up the orthographic images and block out the basic shape, then build a solid base mesh that matches the front and side views. Take the mesh into ZBrush and further develop it by using the Move Topology brush and Move brush.

    The basic shape is so important at this stage: even though this is only a static sculpt, I pay attention to edge loop flows and maintain a high poly count around places that need more detailed work, such as the head and tail.

  4. Check the silhouettefantastic 3d creature4You can simply turn off your interactive lights in ZBrush to check your silhouette

    Now that the basic shape is complete in ZBrush, start subdividing the mesh one stage at a time, saving working on the details for later. Check the silhouette throughout the entire process to make sure you’re not straying far from the concept.

    The silhouette is very important; whenever I think something is wrong with the character I always look at the silhouette. It’s so easy to get lost in details, and doing this will keep you on track.

  5. ZBrush brushesfantastic 3d creature5

    ZBrush has an amazing brush library

    So far we’ve used only the Move and Move Topological brushes. Now we’re going to delve a little deeper: I tend to use the Clay Buildup brush to add clay mass if it’s needed. ZBrush has an amazing brush library, but usually you really only need a few brushes to produce good work.

    Just as in traditional sculpting, you should stick to three to five brushes at most. The Move, Standard, Clay Buildup, ClayTubes, Flatten and Pinch brushes are what I typically use.

  6. Creating the furfantastic 3d creature6

    Refine the forms using the Standard, Flatten and Pinch brushes

    Next, use the Clay Buildup and Standard brush with a Lazy Mouse radius of 30 to draw the major fur forms. Refine the forms using the Standard, Flatten and Pinch brushes. To complete the transition between fur and skin, use ClayTubes (intensity 5-7), Brush>depth>imbed 1-4.

    This takes a while, but the result is very nice. For the head details, I use ClayTubes and Standard brushes, then I use a couple of alphas to get really rich, wrinkly looking eyelids.

  7. Sculpting detailfantastic 3d creature7

    Use Standard and ClayTubes brushes to create wrinkles

    The Imperator has fur, wrinkles, skin and muscles. We’ll devote time and planning to each of these. First, sculpt the creature without the fur, as if it had been shaved. Then add the fur. Use Standard and ClayTubes brushes to create wrinkles.

    Creating the fur takes the most time. In this case the fur needs to look lush and the tail in particular should be quite extravagant. Using thin brush strokes and S shaped curves in different layers to achieve this.

  8. Start posingfantastic 3d creature8

    Posing brings the sculpture to life

    Posing brings the sculpture to life. T-poses and A-poses are essential, but posing your characters is just as important for presentation. I research horses and related animals in various poses, and Jan also provides additional sketches and drawings.

    Knowing the animal’s background is important, too: where does it live, how does it behave, what does it eat, and so on. Using Jan’s Imperator information, I start to think about the pose and do some quick tests.

  9. Rigging the creaturefantastic 3d creature9

    Use Transpose Master with a ZSphere rig in ZBrush; it’s a great rigging tool for posing

    Use Transpose Master with a ZSphere rig in ZBrush; it’s a great rigging tool for posing. While referring to the anatomical information, place ZSphere rigs within the mesh. Make sure to place ZSpheres in areas that will articulate, such as joints and digits.

    Filling the geo with ZSpheres gives you more control over the form. Bind the spheres to the mesh and start posing, making sure you maintain the S-curved line of action seen from the top and side views.

  10. The final sculptfantastic 3d creature10

    Sculpting creatures that do not exist is always a challenge; the more information you have, the more believable the creature will be

    Having solid concept art, anatomy information, reference pics and a creature’s habitat information helped me to make the Imperator a convincing character. Sculpting creatures that do not exist is always a challenge; the more information and story you have, the more believable the creature will be.

    The biggest challenge in this project was sculpting the fluffy fur. I was able to create the look I wanted by planning the steps before I got lost in the details.

    WordsAybars Turan


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10 Step Make a create eye-catching 3D art

Illustrator Daniel D’Avila reveals how he uses his passion for surfing to create a unique render

create eye

It’s always best to create images around the things you love, harnessing personal experiences to create artwork that’s unique and inspiring. It’s a belief that 3D generalist Daniel D’Avila took to heart for his colourful illustration, Ink Riders.

“Art and surfing are both great passions of mine,” says the artist. “Surfing itself is one of the most beautiful and aesthetic sports I know, and although surfing doesn’t have a relation with art, the blend between them reached a great result.”

D’Avila says he used DynaMesh and ZRemesher for the characters and Photoshop to simulate the mixed paints that go into making up the smoothly rendered, oval wave. In his day job D’Avila creates photorealistic images for advertising, and as a generalist he says he’s always looking to push himself and try new techniques, which is where his personal work helps.

“What really inspires me is to achieve a fresh visual regardless of what the subject is. And generally I can only reach that with hard work and observation. In the end it’s very rewarding though,” says D’Avila. Generally the artist spends time sketching his subjects in 2D before researching anatomy and lighting. Then the modelling begins and finally D’Avila likes to test his compositions, adjusting and refining until the image takes shape and comes alive.

  1. Start with a basic model

    create eye1First task is to set the base mesh in Modo

    The first task was to set the base mesh in Modo. From a cylinder, I simply modelled the necessary polys needed for the sculpting process. Then I positioned the wave model in my camera scene. Sometimes, if necessary, I’ll delete the polygons out of my field of view, so the scene becomes cleaner and lighter.

  2. Set the values

    create eye2Export the plane as an .obj and import it into ZBrush

    I exported the plane as an .obj and imported it into ZBrush. In the Subtool menu I clicked the Extract tab, to give the plane some thickness, then I set the value and clicked Accept. I prefer to do this before I start sculpting the details since it’s better to have some volume to sculpt.

  3. Brush choices

    create eye3

    Use the Standard, Dam Standard and Smooth brushes to sculpt the wave’s ridges

    I used the Standard, Dam Standard and Smooth brushes to sculpt the wave’s ridges and the details. Around the crests I used the Inflate brush for a better liquid effect.

  4. Character sketches

    create eye4

    Try to create rough sketches before you begin the modelling

    When it comes to creating characters I always make sketches before I begin the modelling. I find it easier to separate the concept work from the modelling tasks. Once I was happy with the raw ideas, I gathered the chosen sketches and went back to ZBrush, where the 3D sketching process is much faster.

  5. Define the movement

    create eye5Sketch each character so they looked fluid

    I sketched each character so they looked fluid; the end result needed the feeling of motion. In this case I didn’t need a bunch of details since all of them would be made of paint. Once I was satisfied with the result I projected the high-resolution model over a low-resolution mesh in all subdivisions.

  6. Tweaking the pose

    create eye6

    Begin tweaking with the Transpose tool until you found the desired pose

    I used my optimised model for posing. I switched to the lowest subdivision and began tweaking with the Transpose tool until I found my desired pose. Photographic reference is very useful to look at during this stage. Once I was happy, I exported all the characters in a mid-resolution back to Modo.

  7. Detail the wave

    create eye7

    Make refinements in the wave itself by adding in paint drops and splatters

    I positioned all the characters in the scene and began making refinements in the wave itself by adding in paint drops and splatters. All these details were made with the Inflate and Move brushess

  8. Simulate the paint effect

    create eye8

    The diffuse textures of the wave and characters are painted in Photoshop

    The diffuse textures of the wave and characters were painted in Photoshop to simulate the mixed paint effect.

  9. Set the colour

    create eye9

    The textures and final material adjustments are applied in Modo

    The textures and final material adjustments were applied in Modo. The same yellow background was used inside the environment so the mood and tone feels like a sunset.

  10. Finishing touches

    create eye10

    After the render is done, begin the post-production in Photoshop

    After the render is done, I begin the post-production in Photoshop – colour corrections are the main work at this stage. The wave in the foreground was applied with a subtle depth-of-field blur in After Effects, then I added the final touches, such as the bokeh effect in the foreground. I changed the blend mode of the layer to Screen and voilà, Ink Riders was born!

    WordsDaniel D’Avila

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Utilises artist mixed media in ‘Zine a Month’ challenge

How Eleni Kalorkoti’s ‘Zine a Month’ challenge gave her personal profile a boost

artist utilities

When illustrator Eleni Kalorkoti embarked on a year-long zine challenge, she wanted the impetus to create more personal work. The premise was simple: one zine a month, every month, for a year. Each issue was based around a personally relevant theme, such as moving to London or inspiring actresses.

“I had so little time to pick each theme and make a zine about it, I just had to go with anything that felt it could hold my interest and make for good pictures,” she remembers.

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We learnt from the 2014 design salary survey

reference by Cameron Chapman

Design salaries around the world vary a lot. Between all the different positions and experience levels out there, to the differences in cost of living and what’s considered a “livable wage” in various places, it’s no wonder there’s a lot of discrepancy between what a UX designer in, say, Moscow might make compared to one in California. Continue reading

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Choose a colour scheme for your logo Design

reverence by Martin Christie

Understanding the psychology of colours is vital to designing an effective logo, says Martin Christie of Logo Design London.

The human mind is highly responsive to visual stimuli, and colour is one of the major defining factors in that response. On both a conscious and subconscious level, colours convey meaning – not only in the natural world but also within the artifice of our culture. Graphic designers need to harness the power of colour psychology to bring resonance to their designs – and in no field is this more important than that of logo design.

The use of colour can bring multiple layers of meaning, from primitive responses based on millions of years of evolved instinct to the complex associations we make based on learned assumptions. Companies can use these responses to underline and accent their branding messages. And your success as a logo designer will be boosted if you have a thorough understanding of colour psychology.

What different colours mean


Big brands pick their colours carefully

Every colour, including black and white, has implications for logo design. As a designers you need to pick your colours carefully to enhance specific elements of the logo and bring nuance to your message with the use of shade and tone.

In general terms, bright and bold colours are attention-grabbing but can appear brash. Muted tones convey a more sophisticated image, but run the risk of being overlooked. More specifically, particular meanings are ascribed to different colours in society…

  • Redimplies passion, energy, danger or aggression; warmth and heat. It has also been found to stimulate appetite, which explains why it is used in so many restaurants and food product logos. Choosing red for your logo can make it feel more dynamic.
  • Orangeis often see as the colour of innovation and modern thinking. It also carries connotations of youth, fun, affordability and approachability.
  • Yellowrequires cautious use as it has some negative connotations including its signifying of cowardice and its use in warning signs. However it is sunny, warm and friendly and is another colour that is believed to stimulate appetite.
  • Greenis commonly used when a company wishes to emphasise their natural and ethical credentials, especially with such products as organic and vegetarian foods. Other meanings ascribed to it include growth and freshness, and it’s popular with financial products too.
  • Blueis one of the most widely used colours in corporate logos. It implies professionalism, serious mindedness, integrity, sincerity and calm. Blue is also associated with authority and success, and for this reason is popular with both financial institutions and government bodies.

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