My Design Process: From Sketch to Finished T-shirt

The design process for this tee started with a bunch of rough pencil sketches. Since much of my day to day is working on my computer, it felt great to approach this design by getting my hands dirty.

Starting on paper allows me a freedom to explore concepts and layouts that I may not realize if I were to jump straight into Illustrator.

I really liked how the word “with” sat nicely nestled between the other words and tied everything together on this sketch.

Once I narrowed down the sketches, I jumped into Illustrator and manually drew each letter with the pen tool. In the beginning I worked very loosely to build the basic structure of the letters, and then go back and refine.

Next, I explored a variety of warped shapes and asymmetrical layouts. I eventually came back to the original square format that I started with, but this process helps me see things from different perspectives.

With the main structure in place, I then spent a lot of time tweaking the spatial relationships between the individual letters and experimenting with different line weights. This is a long, tedious process and there’s no real trick to it other than taking time to visually balance the composition.

The last step was to soften up the sharp corners of the letters by using the “live corners” tool in Illustrator. This tool gives you precise control to manually adjust the radius of each corner and transition. It’s a subtle difference, but it made the design feel more cohesive.

After hours of small revisions and tweaks (over the course of a couple weeks) I finally arrived at the final design. Here’s a little time-lapse to show the progress from beginning to end.

And here’s the finished tee which is now available in heather gray and navy.

Hope you enjoyed this peek into my process and the inspiration behind this new design. Jump over to the shop to see more photos of the finished tees.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments below.

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