Illustration tutorial: Create amazing T-shirt designs with Hydro74

US designer Joshua Smith -- aka Hydro74 -- shows you how to create a killer T-shirt design using a 3D object as a starting point in Illustrator.

In the age of clip art books and simple solutions, it’s rare to find good illustrations that someone invested some time into that will make its way on a shirt that we, the consumer, can be proud of.

However, if your favourite T-shirt is a slogan-based one, with the likes of ‘I’M WITH STUPID’ or ‘NICE RACK’ with a simple illustration of a gun-rack, then this probably isn’t for you.

This whole concept stems from the idea that we want to broadcast what we are most passionate about. Only a few brands in the industry have amazing illustrators working for them, or a brand might be a spawn of something that’s already illustration-based, such as Tokidoki & Obey Giant.

Brands like RVCA, Monarcy, Drifter, and others in the same field strive to have illustration as the message that carries their themes. This tutorial shows how I would attack a T-shirt design if someone commissioned a piece.

Step 1
I love skulls, and I actually have one handy in my office that I can snap a quick photo of. Since I’m lazy and don’t need any high-end technology to do this, I just did it with my iPhone since I can pretty much drop it into iPhoto and drag it into Adobe Illustrator. You can do this with a sketch, doodle or whatever you want to pull from.

Step 2
Knock the transparency down to 50 per cent. This will help avoid confusion when you start dropping in your line art. One other thing I do is set up another layer, so the image is on one, and the line artis on another.

This way I can click the image on and off just to see progression and to see if I need to fill in any certain area of the actual illustration.

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