How to Make a Textured T-Shirt Graphic


In my latest experiment, I recently opened up an account on a site called Zazzle, which allows you to order custom products featuring your own artwork. So far, I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with creating some simple, graphic characters for some t-shirts. Here is a little behind-the-scenes look into the making of this cute bat character.

This is my rough doodle, which isn’t much bigger than a thumbnail sketch. Isn’t he cute?

Bat01 Sketch

I am going with a simple, cartoon style for these illustrations. So to start, I placed my sketch in Illustrator and used the brush tool to ink my drawing with a clean bold line. I’ve reviewed this process in some earlier tutorials here and here.

Bat02 Line Bat03 Line

After inking, I copied and pasted the drawing into a Photoshop document, with the line on its own layer. On a separate layer underneath, I put in some simple color. I used a normal hard-edged round brush with the Opacity Dynamics turned off so I would get 100% solid color.

Bat05 Brushsettings Bat04 Color Bat06 Color

To give the illustration a grungy, weathered look, I copied and pasted a texture into a new channel (by the way, I have previously posted this texture for download here). You can open the Channels palette under Window > Channels. Then, I clicked the “Load Channel as a Selection” button in the bottom of the window.

Bat Gessotexture Bat Texturechannel

Going back to the Layers palette, I grouped the line and color layers together. With the group selected, I then clicked the “Add Layer Mask” button to apply the texture to the illustration.

Bat Texturemask

As a result, the picture is transparent in the black areas of the texture. I changed my background color to something darker, to simulate how it would look on the t-shirt.

Bat08 Texture Bat09 Bgcolor

I added a glow by selecting the area around the bat and painting using a heavily textured brush on a new layer.

Bat10 Glow Bat12 Brushsettings

Here is the finished product:

Bat11 Finish

And a close-up of the paint and texture effects:

Bat13 Closeup

Using this method, I can create a nice PNG file that I can use on any color shirt or background I like. The transparency will allow whatever color to show through the textured surface.

So far, I’ve created a series of Halloween-themed shirts. They’ve been really fun to make and I hope to experiment even more – there are lots of other products on Zazzle to play with, from shoes to mugs and even skateboards. I haven’t gotten to see at any physical products yet, but I plan on ordering a few shirts for myself. I’m excited to see how they turn out! Check out if you would like to do some experimenting of your own.

Grimtee Werewolftee

I have also made the Halloween shirts available to the public if you’d like to order one of these for yourself. Just browse to Enjoy!

Have fun, and Happy Drawing!