Ryan Brinkerhoff shows you how to design a T-shirt graphic using simple vector shapes and textures
- Software Illustrator CS4 or later
- Time needed 1-2 hours
- Use the Pathfinder panel to knock out and combine shapes
- Apply vector textures to shapes
In this tutorial, I’ll explain how to create a cool T-shirt graphic with a retro feel in just a few simple steps. Using Illustrator, we’ll form some simple vector shapes with the Pen tool and then add textures for a retro aesthetic.
We’ll also use the Pathfinder panel extensively, particularly the ‘Add to shape area’ and ‘Subtract from shape area’ commands. I’ll then walk through how to add interest with a limited colour panel.
01 First of all, open T-shirt.ai from the support files: this will act as the background for your design. Build some geometric hand shapes in Illustrator using the Ellipse and Rounded Rectangle tools. The fingers are rounded rectangles that have been cut in half using the ‘Subtract from shape area’ command on the Pathfinder panel. The top shape will always subtract from the one below. When you’re happy, hit ‘Add to shape area’ on the Pathfinder panel to make the hand one big shape. Make sure that you select Make Compound Shape after you subtract or add, and then hit Expand.
02 Round off the areas where the digits join the hand by creating some curved shapes and hitting ‘Subtract from shape area’. Next, duplicate the hand so that there’s another one below. Rotate it 180 degrees to make a rectangle area: this is where we’ll place the camera, as seen in the final image.
03 Using the Pen, Rectangle and Ellipse tools, create a range of geometric shapes. Then combine them to build up the image of a camera (or whatever you like). When you’re happy, fill in the shapes with colour. Notice how you can use the dark blue in the background as a third colour for some in-laid shapes.
04 Let’s add some detail to the eye using a dashed stroke. Select the Ellipse tool and create a circle just larger than the pupil. Click the dashed line option on the Stroke panel, and adjust the weight and dash values to form thin segments that go around the circle evenly. In the Stroke panel, change ‘Align Stroke to Centre’ to ‘Align Stroke to Inside’. Next, select the shape and go to Object>Expand Appearance to change the selection from a dashed stroke to a shape. Use the ‘Add to shape area’ command to join it together. Do this again to make the ‘click-wheel’ shape at the top of the camera.
05 Open the vector_textures.ai file. Copy and paste the woodgrain texture over your T-shirt file, and scale and position it so that it fits over the camera appropriately. Now select both the wood grain and the shape you wish to subtract from.