T-Shirt Design Workshop 01 on SKILLSHARE

Great news: T-Shirt Design Workshop 01: Foundation is now on Skillshare!

About the Class: Learning the possibilities and options you have when creating a t-shirt design is an essential investment in becoming a professional t-shirt designer. In this workshop, we'll go over all the ingredients that go into a t-shirt design.

Here’s the thing: I need your help to get some “momentum” behind the course. The more upfront visibility it gets, the better chance it will rank higher on Skillshare and be seen by more people.

If you can help, I will send you a free Gift Card for $20 or $150, good for any new purchases on TheVectorLab! (details below)

Go here to enroll now in T-Shirt Design Workshop 01: Foundation on Skillshare!

Important: Here are the steps to follow to help me out and also get your free Gift Card for TheVectorLab.

  1. Enroll in the class and watch ALL the lectures (at regular 1x speed, not 2x speed - important for Skillshare metrics).
  2. Post a review (in your own words) when Skillshare prompts you to do so.
  3. Post your "Inspiration Board" project in the Project Section of the class. No rushing here - your project is public and should look neat & tidy and well thought-out (It’s simple - details on the project are on the course page)
  4. On or before January 27, 2017, send me screen shots of your 1) Completed Lectures (showing green check marks), 2) Review, and 3) Posted Project to ray{at}thevectorlab . com

On January 28, 2017 I will pick my favorite project and will send the winner a $150 gift card for TheVectorLab. Everyone else will receive a $20 gift card (to be delivered Jan 28). So if you put in a little effort there’s no way to miss out!

Download this Instruction Sheet to see an example of the screen shots needed so I can email you back a gift card.

All the best,

Ray Dombroski

P.S. I think you will love this workshop!

You can give your friends who are new to Skillshare 3 months of membership for $0.99 if you use this link: http://skl.sh/2ieuNq6

Free Vector T-Shirt Template + T-Shirt Design Workshop Preview

Today I have a free download of a vector t-shirt template for you!

This template includes full size (front & back) drawings of a men's large t-shirt, perfect for sizing your art for screen printing. There is also an area to specify ink colors. You can download the free vector t-shirt template here.

Preview from T-Shirt Design Workshop 2 {Lecture 24} showing how to set up your spec sheet in Adobe Illustrator:

If you are interested in designing t-shirts, have a look at my T-Shirt Design Workshop 2 - because you should never stop learning!

~Ray Dombroski

Holiday in the Islands

"Haole Days" Collection - a Hawaiian Christmas themed design for O'Neill clothing.

Here's the print for boardshorts and woven shirts:

A closeup view: Santa wrestling a shark.

Aloha shirt.



T-Shirt Design

Haole Days T-Shirt

Inside Out: Reverse Print T-Shirt Textures

Otherwise known as a "push through," a reverse print is when you flip a t-shirt inside out, and print on the inside of the shirt. Some of the ink shows through on the other side, and it results in a natural texture determined by the qualities of the fabric.

With "Inside Out" Reverse Print Textures, you can achieve the look of a real reverse screen print, without the headaches, ink thickness, and inconsistent results of traditional reverse printing.

What's included:

    17 Textures: 4000 x 4000 pixels (equal to 13.33" x 13.33" @ 300 pixels per inch)
    Every texture is in seamless repeat (tileable top-to-bottom and side-to-side), so you can use them to texture ANY size graphic.
    These textures can be inverted (see video), essentially giving you 34 texture options!

Each of the 17 textures comes in the following formats:

• Photoshop Brush. Just double click on the .abr file to automatically load the brushes into Photoshop!

• Photoshop PSD with transparent backgrounds. (These files also include a hidden flattened layer for advanced users who want to adjust the "levels" of the lights and darks.)

• Bitmap Tiff. These files are ideal for screen print production & color separations using Illustrator because they have no greyscale; only black or white pixels. When viewed in Illustrator, Bitmap Tiff files have automatic transparency and can easily be assigned any color.

Plastisol 2 Vintage T-Shirt Cracked Ink Textures

Make your t-shirt designs look vintage with “Plastisol 2” cracked ink textures.

Plastisol 2 textures have SUBTLE EDGES, giving designers precise control of where to place the textures onto graphics.

Plastisol Ink is a type of Screen Printing Ink that was first used to screen T-Shirts in the 1970's. When you look at Vintage Clothing, it's the ink that cracks and flakes over time as the t-shirt gets washed, stretched out, and worn to too many Def Leppard concerts.

Plastisol is why real Thrift Shop T-Shirts look Vintage!

These 30 SUBTLE EDGE textures were created from 600 DPI scans of real vintage t-shirt graphics. The smallest texture is 625 x 406 pixels and the largest texture is 3357 x 3374 pixels.

Each of the 30 textures comes in the following formats:

• Photoshop Brush. Just double click on the .abr file to automatically load the brushes into Photoshop! 

• Photoshop PSD with transparent backgrounds. (These files also include a hidden flattened layer for advanced users who want to adjust the "levels" of the lights and darks.)

• Bitmap Tiff. These files are ideal for screen print production & color separations using Illustrator because they have no greyscale; only black or white pixels. When viewed in Illustrator, Bitmap Tiff files have automatic transparency and can easily be assigned any color. 

Also included is the Free Bonus Fabric Mockup Panel + instructions mentioned in the video above.

3 ways to get Vintage Cracked Ink Texture for T-Shirt Graphics

As a t-shirt designer there are 3 ways to get a vintage cracked ink look for your graphics like this:


  1. Print a t-shirt. Repeatedly wash & wear the shirt for 10 years.
  2. Use a crackle ink to print your design. It's good to give it a wash before selling so that the cracks will become more visible.
  3. Use the "Plastisol" collection of Photoshop Brushes and Bitmap Textures to add a consistent & reliable vintage look to your designs.


You might enjoy the Plastisol Textures Collection because 10 years is a long time to wait for t-shirt ink.

T-Shirt Design for Pointer Brand and LC King

I recently had the opportunity to design a t-shirt for LC King, makers of Pointer Brand Clothing.

If you haven't heard about LC King and Pointer Brand, it's time for a closer look.

Founded in 1913 by Landon Clayton King, it is the oldest family owned & operated clothing factory in the USA. The factory in downtown Bristol, Tennessee has been in the hands of the King family for more than 100 years and four generations.

Here's the design for the back of the shirt:

Pointer Brand T-Shirt Design

And for the front of the shirt, it's a simplified version of the main design:

Pointer Brand Front Design

When I design t-shirt graphics, I almost always design a version for light fabric and a version for dark fabric. This helps the client visualize how the design will look.

It also helps me to pick ink colors. As well as foresee potential issues with screen printing.

If you examine these cads, you will notice how the dog art needed to be "flipped" so that it didn't have the "x-ray" effect. This can be a problem when printing one-color designs.

Here's the spec sheet for the design on white:

And here's the spec sheet for the design on black fabric:

They ended up printing the design on a black t-shirt (good choice!).

This tee is exclusive to the factory store in Bristol. It's not online. Go say hello and see the tradition / American made heritage / pride / workmanship for yourself.

Read more about LC King here.


If you are interested in designing t-shirts, have a look at my T-Shirt Design Workshop 2 - because you should never stop learning!

~Ray Dombroski



Free Textures over the Weekend

Hi there!

This past weekend, I sent out a free download of 15 Paper Textures for all subscribers to TheVectorLab's email newsletter.

If you missed the email, you can still get them as part of Graphic Design Launch Kit, by signing up for my newsletter.

A collection of 15 stained, crinkled, and distressed paper images. These are pixel-based (not vector) high resolution jpeg files: 2400 x 3500 pixels. Great for backgrounds. Use these by placing them in Photoshop or Illustrator as a multiply, screen, overlay, or darken layer on top of your design to create a natural distressed look.

If you want to convert these textures to Photoshop Brushes, it's easy:

Pivotal graphic in my design career

In 2005, I cold-pitched this design to Local Motion in Hawaii. They bought it, along with a few other graphics.


All of a sudden, all my trips to Hawaii were business write-offs. This led to me doing more graphics for other Hawaiian surf companies like T&C and HIC.

Billabong hired me because they needed someone to help out with Hawaii and destination tees and in-line designs. Then this eventually led to doing work for O'Neill, as well as a lot of other designs I've made in the surf industry.

This graphic was made from a crappy snapshot of an old ford bronco that I spotted in Ala Moana Beach Park. I plan to do a design tutorial soon showing how to make t-shirt graphics using this method.

The thing I like about this design is it still looks fresh. How about a reissue? I still have the Illustrator file.

What do Whales in Tonga have to do with Graphic Design?

2016 so far has been the year of the WORKSHOP. I teach a few of them, myself (you can see the workshops here). But I also participate in other experts' workshops.

For instance, early this year, I went up to Portland Oregon to learn Hand Lettering and also Screen Printing from the guys at House Industries. House is a font foundry and design studio that has been putting out great stuff for more than two decades.

The most recent workshop I attended was a whale photography workshop hosted by Australian Nature Photographer, Craig Parry. I've been wanting to improve my photography skills for some time now. And the Kingdom of Tonga, with its yearly migration of humpback whales was the perfect place to hone those skills.

The whales can move quickly, so the added pressure of a moving target really helped cement the camera settings in my mind. It's all about anticipating and quickly adjusting the camera settings: F-Stop, Shutter Speed and ISO.

We shot everything in Manual mode. I learned from day one that if you try and shoot underwater in Automatic mode, your photograph will come out sub-par almost every time.

I use quite a bit of photography in my designs, so these new found skills will come in handy down the road. I'm hoping to sell some art prints, or perhaps turn some of these into t-shirt designs.

Tonga has the clearest, most deep blue water I've ever seen. A big plus for underwater photography.

The "over/under" or "split shot" is another water photography technique we worked on. This is one of the many small islands in the Vava'u group.

A curious baby humpback approaches (and dwarfs) one of the photographers who participated in the workshop.

A palm tree-filled beach in Vava'u, Tonga. This might make a good t-shirt design!

45 feet in length. 80,000 pounds. Humpback whales are some of the most gentle creatures you can witness in the wild.

Follow along to see more photos and graphic designs in my Instagram feed:

How to present your t-shirt designs just like the big apparel brands

Have you ever stopped to notice how big apparel brands like Nike, Topman, and Quiksilver display t-shirts and apparel on their websites and in their catalogs?

Often they are photographed on a mannequin with great studio lighting.

The studio background, along with the mannequin neck and arms have been erased from the image. The inside portion of the collar and neck label have been Photoshopped into the image to complete the look of the shirt.

This kind of image emphasizes the graphic design, fabric color, and shape of the garment itself.

If displaying apparel in this manner is being done by these big companies, then there must be a reason. Right?

Perhaps they have discovered that this is the most effective way to appeal to their customers.

I have always been of the opinion that the better the PRESENTATION of your designs, the higher likelihood you will increase your sales.

This is why my apparel templates have been photographed in a similar way. On mannequins in a studio with proper lighting.

In addition, the templates have been set up with the ability to easily:

  • Add in your graphic
  • Change the fabric to any color
  • Warp your graphics to match the shape of the shirt wrinkles for extra realism (Photoshop only)
  • Mock up front views and back views
  • Add in your own custom neck label design
  • Use with Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Crop the edges of oversize graphics to the shape of the shirt
  • Choose regular cotton or heather texture (like poly-cotton or tri-blend fabric)
  • Display over any background image or color (the backgrounds are transparent)
  • Add in a pocket (select templates)

If you are a graphic designer or have a business that sells t-shirts, I believe that my mockup templates are the fastest, easiest, and best looking way to make your designs look real. Just as if your designs were photographed in a studio with professional cameras and lighting.

Now you can get ALL of my men's mannequin-style mockup templates in one brand new bundle, for more than 50% off!

This includes all 113 mockup templates for:

  • men's short sleeve tees
  • v-necks
  • tank tops
  • zip & pullover hoodies
  • crew neck sweatshirts
  • long sleeve thermals
  • polos
  • raglan baseball shirts
  • long sleeve tees

Each style of shirt in this bundle has multiple images, photographed with the same camera angle and lighting so they look consistent on a page. But each one has a slightly different shape so it's not apparent that they are mockups.

What I learned as a design student

When I was a student at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, one of the things I appreciated was that the instructors were required to also be working professionally in their chosen fields of design.

I felt this added credibility to what the instructors taught. As a student, you could be assured that the instructors' teachings were relevant to current design trends and met realistic design constraints & capabilities.

I try and do the same with my own business & teachings by designing for companies in the real world.

As some of you know, in addition to running TheVectorLab and teaching Graphic Design Workshops, I also design t-shirts and prints for the surf apparel industry.

I recently updated the blog with some graphic designs from my personal portfolio. I hope you enjoy!

Ray Dombroski

If you want to see more designs like this, have a look here:

Using Pinterest for Graphic Design Inspiration

Got creative block?  Pinterest is my number one tool to catalog graphic design inspiration and I think it could be yours too.

Here's why it's so good.

The beauty of Pinterest is that it allows you to organize (normally a left brain activity) design inspiration in a graphical right-brain sort of way.

It is such a useful tool to have when looking for new ways to combine techniques, lettering & type styles, layouts, color combinations, printing methods, design styles, drawing styles, etc.

Just look through your past pins or search for new ones. Pinterest even has a decent suggestion engine that will show you new images based on your past pins.

Pinterest stores the original source links of your pinned images so you can keep track of background information of the images. This also makes it easy to dive right back into your favorite websites for new discoveries.

Here's an excerpt from T-Shirt Design Workshop 2 demonstrating how I use Pinterest for graphic design inspiration and t-shirt design.

My top 3 Pinterest Boards for Graphic Design Inspiration

I've curated every single image on these boards for the past 6 years so there's no junk. Feel free to have a look and give the boards a follow:

1) Graphic Design Inspiration

This pin board consists of 4000+ general graphic design inspiration pins.

2) T-Shirts

Mostly men's graphic tees. 3500+ images.

3) Type & Lettering

1800 examples of unique lettering, typography, and fonts.

Lastly, here's a link to all of my pin boards:

If you liked the Pinterest video above, and want to find out more about T-Shirt Design Workshop 2, have a look here:

Prints for O'Neill Boardshorts

T-shirts aren't the only thing I design! Here are some boardshort prints for Summer and Fall 2016 seasons for O'Neill. Trims, construction, and design details were finalized by the on-staff Boardshort Designer at O'Neill.

O'Neill is known as the Original American Surfing Brand. Founded as a surf shop and wetsuit company in Santa Cruz, California in 1952 by Jack O'Neill.

Plastisol: Cracked Ink Textures for T-Shirt Designs

How do graphic designers get a vintage cracked ink look for their t-shirt designs?

It starts with Plastisol Ink.

Plastisol Ink is a type of Screen Printing Ink that was first used to screen T-Shirts in the 1970's. When you look at Vintage Clothing, it's the ink that cracks and flakes over time as the t-shirt gets washed, stretched out, and worn to too many Def Leppard concerts.

I've wandered through thrift shops, vintage clothing stores, and flea markets to gather only the best t-shirt specimens. These t-shirts with aged, worn, and washed cracked ink were then scanned into the computer. The scanned images have been turned into a collection of textures (bitmaps, JPEGs and Photoshop Brushes) that you can use to make your own t-shirt designs look vintage.

This collection of textures has been named "Plastisol"

This collection has 10 different 'base' textures, each with a Light, Medium, and Dark version. The "Dark" textures are the most beat-up, vintage, and abused. The "Light" textures have less weathering or "distress."

Each of these 30 Textures comes in the following formats:

• Medium-Resolution Photoshop Brushes (1500 x 1500 pixels - for ease of use and web-oriented graphics)

• High-Resolution Photoshop Brushes (2500 x 2500 pixels - maximum brush size for older versions of Photoshop)

• High-Resolution Photoshop Brushes (3000 x 3000 pixels - for real t-shirt graphic production or high-res graphics)

• Photoshop PSD (3000 x 3000 pixels - flattened greyscale files)

• Bitmap Tiff (3000 x 3000 pixels - these files are the ones you use in Illustrator) 

(Please note, there are no vector files in this collection. Use the Bitmap Tiffs in Illustrator for much more detailed texture that won't bog your computer down).

My favorite versions are the BITMAP TIFF files and the PHOTOSHOP BRUSHES! 

BITMAP TIFF: The white areas in these textures will be transparent when you place them into your Illustrator files (yes Illustrator!) on top of your vector graphics. Color these the same as your background, so it looks like the background is coming through your graphic. This method of adding texture is an old-school trick used by all the veteran t-shirt designers out there.

PHOTOSHOP BRUSH: What can I say... these are super easy to use. Just double-click on the .abr file and these brushes will load into your Photoshop Brushes Palette. Select a brush, and click to paint in your vintage texture!

Graphic Design Workshops

With Graphic Design, the key to increasing your productivity is to learn new skills and acquire more knowledge.

The following 3 Workshops + Bundles are aimed at helping you improve your Lettering Designs and T-Shirt Graphics.

1) Typographic Logos Workshop

Type-based logos, also known as logotypes and wordmarks, are a powerful way to define the style of your brand. Designing custom lettering (instead of using a pre-built font) is your opportunity to make something truly unique.

Design a t-shirt like a professional: graphics, specialty printing methods, fabrics, inks, dyes, and washes. In this workshop, we'll go over all the ingredients that go into a t-shirt design.

Improving your Graphic Design skills is one of the most rewarding investments that you can make in your design career. In this workshop we cover the entire process of creating a t-shirt design, from finding ideas all the way to sending your designs out to be printed.

A Free Preview of T-Shirt Design Workshop 2

Lecture 1: Tools and Materials for T-Shirt Design

This free section of T-Shirt Design Workshop 2 is a discussion of the essential tools for t-shirt graphic design. The traditional "analog" tools are different kinds of pens, pencils, and paper. The "digital" tools are computers, software, cameras, and drawing tablets. 


T-Shirt Design Workshop 2 is a 2.5 hour course is all about CREATING T-SHIRT GRAPHICS. It is packed with loads of actionable t-shirt graphic design techniques that can’t be found anywhere else.

Video Trailer

    • Design like a pro, working seamlessly between Photoshop, Illustrator, and pencil & paper. Ensure that your designs come out as good or better than you had initially imagined.

    • Learn two different methods to create your own Color Separations (using Photoshop and Illustrator) without the need for any extra other expensive color separation software.

    • Learn the Digital and Analog tools essential to being a t-shirt graphic designer.

    • How to access and use hundreds of top quality fonts with Adobe Typekit, included at no extra charge with most Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions.

    • Create your own Photoshop Brushes to quickly add hand-made texture and color to your graphics.

    • Make multiple colorways of your graphic so it looks great on light, dark, and colored shirts.

    • Avoid common mistakes by properly setting up your designs to be printed with the exact colors, sizing, and placement that you want.

Read the Reviews

A screen capture of reviews from Udemy.com (where the course is hosted) as of July 13, 2016.

The Course and Bundle Options

7 Steps to get your Dream Graphic Design Client

Today's post is related to questions I often receive about how to get graphic design gigs, especially with your favorite brands. 

The question usually sounds something like this: "How did you get, or how does one get, a client like X? I really want to get into doing design for the surf, skate, outdoor, motorcycle, athletic, yoga, etc. industry, but find it a bit difficult, considering I don't live nearby. Any suggestions, dialogue, etc. would be appreciated."

How to get your Dream Graphic Design Gig

My answer is skewed towards t-shirt graphic design because that has been my focus, but you can take the spirit of it and apply these steps to your own desired flavor of graphic design work.

Going back to my first clients straight out of design school, the following are the steps I took to get my first surf industry clients like Ocean Pacific, Local Motion, T&C Surf Designs, and Body Glove. These are also the steps I would take now to find new desirable clients:

1) Decide on a company to target.

Small to medium sized companies are the best bet. But I imagine this strategy could also work with large companies like Nike.

2) Find the appropriate contact person.

Find the name of the Art Director or Creative Director for your desired line of work. Example: t-shirt graphics, marketing, etc. LinkedIn is probably the best way to find out who is who nowadays.

3) Make initial contact

Call the company, ask for the Art Director, and ask that person if they take outside submissions for artwork. This step is optional, but it's a good idea to give it a shot. I feel like a telephone call is more effective because EVERYONE ELSE would attempt this by email. The point here is to stand out just a bit by displaying some effort.

4) Make your own project

Unless your target company is one of the few that readily asks for and accepts outside art submissions, you will probably need to make your own self-directed project. Design graphics using their branding (t-shirt designs, or a fictional advertisement for example). Whatever you design, it has to be really good. Quality of design needs to be as good as something they would make in-house.

5) Print these designs up in physical form.

If they are t-shirt designs, you could print them onto t-shirts with a hobby screen-printing kit (about $50 from Michaels or Amazon). Or, you could print them out on nice archival paper, like they are big art prints that someone would hang on a wall. The point is to really impress the person opening the package. Make it super easy for them to imagine your designs printed on their products, or in their ads. Your designs should be specifically made for that brand. Sending a hand screen-printed design is way better than an 8.5 x 11 inkjet print because it shows you don't mind putting effort into your craft. 

6) Package everything up and mail it to the Art Director.

Put a note in the package that says "I'm interested in designing for your company. Let me know if you have a need for some design work." Don't forget to put your name, email, and phone number.

7) See if you get a response.

Send the package, and give it a week or so and see if you get a call back. If not, call and see if your person got the package, and if they would be interested in talking. That should get your foot in the door if your designs are pretty good. If it doesn't go anywhere, at least you can put it in your portfolio as a self-directed project to show to other companies.

The point is, avoid what your competition does. Go old-school and call instead of emailing. This isn't a hashtag-filled broadcast for everyone in your Instagram or Facebook feed to see. It's a focused package specifically made for your Art Director contact. Print things oversized, (hand-made, if possible or appropriate) and actually send it in the mail. It takes some effort. But it will get you noticed, because this sort of thing is rare these days. No need to be outlandish or obnoxious. Don't come across as pushy or burdensome. Don't put your contact into a position of doing extra work. Just surprise and delight the Art Director with good graphic designs - this will get you noticed.

~Ray Dombroski