Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How to Tie Dye a Shirt

This informational post is long overdue.  Today I will lay out, step by step, how to tie dye a t-shirt.  Tie dying a shirt is pretty fun, and it feels great when you unwrap your final product and see the masterpiece you created.  Tie dying is a great activity for children's birthdays, or just a lazy Sunday afternoon.

You will need:
  • white cotton t-shirt
  • rubber gloves
  • bucket of cold water
  • rubber bands
  • plastic wrap (like Saran wrap)
  • tie dye kit
You can order a tie dye kit at Amazon, or find one at your local crafts store.  The kit should come with soda ash, dyes of various colors, and perhaps your rubber gloves and bands as well.  Wear your gloves throughout the whole process to protect your hands from those pesky dyes. 

Start by soaking your shirt in the bucket in a combination of cold water and soda ash.  This will ensure your colors will remain sharp on the shirt after multiple washings.  After you wring your shirt out, proceed with wrapping and rubber banding it.  A video I just watched showed how to make the spiral design: lay your t-shirt flat, plop a fork, tines down, in the middle, and spin until the shirt is wrapped up in a spiral.  Proceed to bundle it up with rubber bands.  Wherever you place the rubber bands will remain white. 

Next, lay your bundled shirt on the plastic wrap, and squirt your dyes all over it.  You can put dyes wherever you like on the shirt.  Try to make cool designs by mixing colors in some places, and leaving them pure in others.  Flip the shirt over and squirt dyes on the other side to complete the job.

Wrap your shirt up in the plastic wrap and leave it in a cool dry place for 10 or so hours.  After time is up, rinse it in running cold water (bathtub works best) until the water running off it is clear.  Wring your shirt out.  Finish the process by throwing it in the washing machine and dryer in a normal wash.  Pull it out, et voila!  You've made a wonderful tie dye shirt.  Enjoy!  Comment with any questions and I will happily respond.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tie Dye With a Twist

I just read about a great idea over at Create My Tee.  Here's how you can make your own shirt in a really fun and creative way: print your design in white ink on a white shirt (wha??).  Bring your shirt home and tie dye it.  If you don't know how to tie dye...please leave.  Just go. 

I kid, of course!  Tomorrow I'll hit you all with a post about how to tie dye clothing.  In the meantime, please just accept it, or do a quick Google search.  So you have your white shirt with white designs on them, and you've just tie dyed it.  The really cool effect here is that the white ink used in the screen printing process is naturally resistant to the dye you yourself apply.  You'll end up with a tie dyed shirt with your designs standing out clearly:

Neat, huh?  It's a fun way to both design a shirt on some website, and then give it your own personal touch.  Check back tomorrow for step-by-step tie dye instructions.  Happy designing!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fun Exercises for New Designers

So you've recently gotten into graphic design, perhaps even designing logos.  You've got great art skills, but you probably haven't had an incredible amount of practice creating something out of nothing, of thinking up really new ideas.  The best way to get good at anything is to do it over and over and over again until you are good at it.  Malcolm Gladwell claims that experts become experts because they devote at least 10,000 hours of practice to perfecting their craft.  So, how to become a great designer then?  Practice!  Here are some design exercises that can really help you.

Design Mazes
We all remember that part in Inception when Leonardo is testing Helen Paige to see if she is a creative architect.  He gives her one minute to draw a unique maze, something that will stump him.  She fails the first two times, only to nail it on her third try because her third maze was something outside the box.  Even Helen didn't get it right the first time...she needed practice!  Try to mix it up by creating some atypical maze designs:

Design your own Pirate Flag
There are tons of shirts out there in tourist gift shops that display twenty or so different pirate flags, all with the central black and white skull theme, but all just a little bit different from one another.  Heck, go nuts by adding some color in there:

Design your own Country's Flag
There are just about 200 countries in the world.  Every single one of these has its own flag.  Every single one of those flags is different.  Guys, that's a whole lot of flags.  Additionally, every state, most cities, organizations and schools also have their own flags.  People are always going to need flags.  Try designing your own.  But don't stop with a simple drawing.  Why did you choose the colors and symbols you did?  Think of a whole history to surround your flag, to really give it meaning.  One more opportunity to exercise your imagination cannot hurt, after all.

Practice makes perfect.  It's a trite saying, but it's one for a reason.  Flex your design muscles every chance you get, and you'll be on your way to the top.  If you're too burnt out to make your own t-shirt, try these or any other exercise to get your hands and mind working.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Making Money from Your Designs

Today I thought I'd...well I don't want to say "switch gears."  Let's say today I thought I'd veer to the left a bit.  Instead of talking about designing in particular, I'm going to write a bit about being a designer, and how to get yourself into the business of t-shirt design.  If you're an amateur custom shirt designer, or even someone who doesn't consider himself a designer, there are a few different ways that you can make some good money from your current stock of designs, and get some good exposure along the way. 

There are three popular ways to try to make some money off of your work.  The first, more obvious one, is to simply create your own site where you sell your work.  Artists will use inexpensive custom shirt printing sites like ooshirts to purchase bulk orders of their shirts, then sell them on their own site.  This is great because you will have control over absolutely everything, but this also means that you will need to generate your own traffic.  People will not go to a website they have never heard of, and search engines will not put you very high on their list of search results. 

Your next option is Threadless.  Threadless has a cool system: anyone can submit designs every week.  All of the designs are voted on, and the top five or so are sold for the week.  Additionally, the lucky winners get a $2000 prize, plus a kickback from every one of their shirts sold.  Some people have made all right money and gotten exposure from this process.  However, winning is very difficult as there are hundreds, sometimes thousands of submissions every week.  Shirt.woot has a similar voting-on-user-submitted-designs system.

Finally, you can set up your own mini store on popular sites such as zazzle and cafepress.  These sites are incredibly popular and have lots of daily traffic, but you will run into the same issue you had when you tried to make your own site: you have to market your store.  There are hundreds of unique, independent stores on each of these sites, so getting people to go to your page will still be your own daunting task.

T-shirt design is a fun, incredibly competitive business.  It's best to approach it as a creative outlet and source of supplemental, rather than main, income.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Creating a "Good" T-Shirt Design

What is a "good" t-shirt design?

Everyone has their own opinion.  It really comes down to what your goal is.  Are you trying to prove how "out there" and creative you are?  Are you trying to sell shirts to make money?  Are you trying to advertise a business or event?  All of these require specialized techniques to make them the best possible designs they can be.  Before that though, here are a few simple rules that can be applied across every category:

  • Keep it simple.  You don't want passersby to have to spend five minutes studying your shirt.  Figure out the message you're trying to convey ("buy this," "isn't this creative," etc.), and figure out how you can communicate that message succinctly. 

  • Use easy-to-read fonts.  A simple enough rule, but one that is oft forgotten. 

  • Think about your color choices.  Make sure the colors within your design complement each other, and that the design as a whole contrasts with the color of your shirt, so that it stands out. 

  • High resolution.  Since you are probably an amateur designer, it is easy to forget to make sure your design is of the highest resolution possible.  A design that looks good on the computer may come out pixel-y on your actual t-shirts.  A good rule of thumb is to make the graphic at a resolution of at least 300 DPI (dots per inch).

If you are interested in more professional-centered design tips, Loren Sciaky has a great site with really informative professional design tips.  Finally, the ooshirts guides provide countless design suggestions for amateur artists.  Take a look at all of the resources available, and please share your own design tips in the comments.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Designing a Shirt for Marketing

So you have designed a logo that is both creative and informative.  Most importantly, it's memorable and easy to look at.  Now you need to know how to use your design effectively.  Oftentimes this means creating another design on a t-shirt or billboard, of which your logo is an important part. 

Advertising is an incredibly important part of making any business successful.  A fantastic way to spread the word about your business is by printing and distributing custom t-shirts.  Here is a great article I found that outlines 5 people who should market with custom t-shirts.  One might think that custom t-shirt marketing is not for them, but everyone from comedians to pizza parlors can benefit from it.

This brings up an important point to remember: always remember to include contact information.  Your shirt WILL be noticed, and you want to be sure that anyone interested will be able to find your business, either online or practically.  A standard advertising shirt is comprised of a logo in the middle, a tagline beneath that, and a web address or phone number at the bottom. 

Good luck designing custom shirts for your business.  Keep checking back for more art and design tips and tricks.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Logos with Hidden Images

Designing a logo is a very difficult and important part of branding.  Your logo will become synonymous with your company.  The ideal is to get to the point where people can see your image and immediately think of your company, even if the logo does not have your company name in it (such as Shell's picture of a yellow shell).

One thing I love in logos is hidden images or messages.  They give the logo a unique look, and can communicate many ideas without using any words.  Here are a few of my favorites for you to consider:

Nintendo Game Cube's logo looks like a 3D cube, which is also what the system itself looks like.  The cube logo is made of up a large purple capital letter "G" (for "game") that ends in a smaller cube in the middle, and a "C" (for "cube") in the negative black space. 

This was the first hidden image I ever found in a logo.  Note the arrow pointing to the right made up of the negative between the "E" and "x" of "Ex."  This represents FedEx always being on the move, making express deliveries.

Amazon's logo has so much happening.  Note the yellow arrow underneath "amazon."  It is pointing from the letter "a" to the letter "z," because amazon is known for providing, and helping you, with everything from a to z.  In addition to pointing from "a" to "z," the arrow forms a smiling face that reassures customers they will have a happy experience.

There is no telling if the subliminal message approach of FedEx's arrow makes a significant contribution in terms of advertising, but there is no doubt that the creative Game Cube and amazon.com logos tell a story while looking really cool.  When you're designing your own logo, think about the balance between creative and informative, and how you can use both of those aspects to make a fun and effective logo.

Check back for the next post: after you design your logo, how can you use it to effectively to market yourself?