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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
How To Take a T-Shirt Design from Paper to Computer to Reality


This article is an overview of how I create a vector illustration from start to finish. Keep in mind, there are several ways to approach vector designs. This is just what I’ve found works best for me, especially because most of my designs are heavily drawing/illustration based. For this article, I am using the drawing I did for the T-shirt Forums: “DTG Battle Royale” contest.

  1. The first step for me is always a sketch. Most of the time I am drawing this with a traditional pencil and paper, but sometimes I will just draw it using my Wacom tablet, depending on the concept, and the details a customer wants. For this illustration, I drew it on paper.

  2. The sketch is done, so it’s on to the inking. For this illustration, I inked the drawing on vellum, using a couple sizes of Sharpie markers. I normally scan the image in at 200-300 dpi, depending on the size of the drawing itself on paper. Recently, I have been “inking” more images directly in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet.
  3. Once the art is inked and scanned, then I open it in Illustrator. I click on the image and run it through Live Trace. It can take a little time to figure out the best Live Trace settings for your image. Below you will see I have included a screenshot of my usual settings:


    Of course, these settings are just the foundation, and each image should be treated individually, tweaking the numbers as necessary while previewing the adjusted results. Once you have it how I like it, then I click Trace and then Expand to finalize the trace. Next I ungroup it and Release the Compund Path on the outside black edge, getting rid of the trimmed pieces in the black object, so that I am just left with a black silhouette with white pieces on top.

    At this point I save the illustration as an EPS, so that I can clean it up in CorelDraw.


  4. Now, I take that Illustrator EPS and open it in CorelDraw to clean and color the design. I use CorelDraw to clean up the image (like the bump on the robot’s arm in the example above) because CorelDraw has much better node and line editing tools than Illustrator. Everyone knows that speed is key in the screen print world, so anything that can streamline the process is a plus.


  5. After I have cleaned up the lines and extra nodes throughout the entire image, then I move on to the coloring. For screen print purposes, I use Pantone colors on this design. In CorelDraw, I am using the Pantone Matching System- Corel 8, but you can use whatever Pantone palette you prefer.
  6. After adding the text and some background elements, the illustration is complete. At this point, depending on what the client needs, I will save a CorelDraw file (.cdr) or Illustrator file (.ai).


    And here's a photograph of the finished design printed out as a poster:

    [media]http://www.t-shirtforums.com/attachments/19156d1294261597-dtg-battle-royale-print-off-here-img_1179.jpg[/media]​

    If you would like to learn more, visit my CorelDraw tutorials on Youtube or have any other questions, feel free to email me through my website.

    James Koenig is a freelance graphic designer that specializes in illustrations, screenprint art, t-shirt designs, logos and more. You can view his portfolio and contact him through his website at www.freelancefridge.com.
 

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thanx for showing us your workflow!:),
i usually scan sketch into [email protected],then adjust levels,add treshold,then convert it into 1BIT image,save as .TIF and trace it with CorelDraw´s tracing engine.

Ai tracing looks nice to me now,but im not familiar with ilustrator:/

bigups

k.
 

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Stupid question, probably, but here goes. Step 5, adding coloring to the line art. How do you fill areas of the image, say the yellow area, without redrawing that start shape? I still haven't figured out how to fill an area like that. The outline is a curve but the white BEFORE area is not a curve or shape. How do you fill in a closed area like that without redrawing?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks, no problem. To answer your question Brice:
There's probably 1 of 3 things happening to you-
1. Your image hasn't been vectorized
2. Your image hasn't been ungrouped
3. You image is all trimmed into one piece, where the black linework is the only part you can color and the white spaces are trimmed out of the black (i.e. blank spots/holes).
Probably would be easiest if you email me you file and I can see what's going on. I'll PM you my email address.
 

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3. You image is all trimmed into one piece, where the black linework is the only part you can color and the white spaces are trimmed out of the black
if this is the case and it's all shapes with no strokes, what i often do is select the vector lines on the inside of the shape, copy and paste behind. This gives a solid shape of that area, matching the exact nodes of the outlining shape.
 

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My objective is to leave the black outline of the characters, but I want to fill the white space in each letter with another color. Text has been converted to curves.
that's what i was trying to explain, if there's no strokes and it's just shapes that create the outline.
the example you're showing is good, that font often doesn't have a fill for the center section.
What i did is copy the lettering. now working on the original, you select the outer vector line and delete it, this creates an object where the blank spaces were. you can break apart (release compound paths) these new objects so each one can be a different color. now i just paste the copy of the original in front of these new objects.

don't think i'm explaining this clearly, wish i had time to screen capture an example.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
i think it will be unnecessary nodes (f.e.: line with 3 nodes,when 2 is enough:)

you can also do this automatically with reduce nodes function
Yes, you are correct, getting rid of extra nodes. But I don't use the reduce nodes function. I've found it isn't accurate and sometimes deletes nodes that I want to keep.
Mainly, I go around the whole illustration with the shape tool, smoothing out and spots that aren't supposed to be bumpy, sharpening up tips that are supposed to be pointy, and cleaning up the linework in detail areas like faces, hands, and small objects.
 

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I started with the first suggestion to use CTRL-K. I was able to make it happen and these were the steps:

  1. To keep it simple, I simplified it to a letter B in the Bria font.
    click here to view full version

    I wanted the white filled with blue.
  2. To use the CTRL K technique I converted it to curves. Resulting in this shape/curve.
    click here to view full version

    You can see the anchor points of the black curve.
  3. CTRL-K breaks the curve apart into many other objects/curves.
    click here to view full version

    As you can see the B became several different curves and I had to change the order of the stack and color them separately. Gray was used in the background so you could see the various layers. They aren't spread out like this, but I spread them out so you could see the layers.
  4. Then I restacked them to get the desired result.
    click here to view full version

    It actually looks ok, but it was a lot of work.
Wheeler chimed in with SmartFill. A new tool for me. All you do:

  1. Convert object (text in this case) to curve.
  2. Select SmartFill tool
  3. Select the right color for the tool
  4. Click in the white area. Mere seconds. No stacking, no manipulation, etc.
SmartFill for the win!

Thanks Wheeler. And James, Thanks for be willing to take a look at it. Wheeler nailed it.

Brice
 

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I have a question, I hope its not stupid also(lol). I am new to t-shirt design, but not to freehand. I have some sketches I would like to get on tee's, trying to convert from freehand to vector. In step two above you stated that you use vellum paper to ink the drawing? How would I do this? If I have already sketched the design on regular paper, would I put the vellum on top and trace with the sharper ink markers?
 
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