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Create a Code-Style T-Shirt Design for Website Promotion

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Promotions play a vital role in marketing your product. High quality design gives a noticeable impact to your product awareness among the target audience. In this tutorial, we will design a promotional T-shirt for a website that is exclusively created for PHP enthusiasts.

This is a special tutorial sponsored by Astute Graphics that incorporates the use of their high-quality Phantasm CS (Studio or Publisher) Illustrator plugins. Our aim is to show a common programmer who is very enthusiastic about PHP. If so, they shall join the website with no delay. Let's see how we achieve our goal in designing that strategic, promotional T-shirt!

Final Image Preview

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Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CS3 and Phantasm CS Studio or Publisher Plugin
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 2 hours

Below is the final image we will be working towards.

Step 1: Setting Up the Document

Since we are going to make a T-shirt design, the first and foremost step is to decide the dimensions of the front design of a T-shirt. Generally, a 12 inches wide design will work fairly well on almost all sized T-shirts. So, start by creating a CMYK document of 12 inches by 15 inches dimensions.

Step 2: Import the Reference Image

Next, we need a common programmer's close-up photograph. For that, browse any of your favorite photographs from your hard drive, and place it in the document, using File > Place. Uncheck the Link option.

Next, rename this layer as "closeup."

Step 3: Image Corrections

It is quite obvious that the image you just imported might not be in the desired dimensions, and will require some cropping or resizing. For that, we will make use of the Phantasm CS range of Plugins to edit the image. Note: The following steps work if you have the Phantasm CS range of Plugins installed.

Step 3.1

Select the image and go to Edit > Edit Image.

This will open the photograph in Adobe Photoshop as a temporary instance, with a file name "Phantasm Image xx.psd."

You can crop, resize or clean the photograph in PhotoShop. Once you're done, save the file (Command + S) and switch back to Illustrator.

Step 3.2

Now that we have made necessary changes to the temporary instance of "Phantasm Image xx.psd," it shall also reflect in the Illustrator document. For that, select the image and go to Edit > Update Image.

You will now see the updated changes that you just made in Photoshop, using the Edit Image call.

Step 4

The close-up image is all set and placed in the document. Next, we will focus on the marketing strategy. We need to show a programmer who's pretty enthusiastic about PHP. For that, we will create a Typographic portrait from this reference photograph. The portrait will contain a lot of PHP code as a Typographic element to form the design.

There are many ways to achieve this, but the quickest way I've found is using the Halftone feature of the Phantasm CS range of Plugins.

Step 4.1

Select the image and go to Effect > Phantasm CS > Halftone.

Note: You can also open this panel using Filter > Phantasm CS Studio > Halftone, which will work as a Filter.

Live Effects and Filters work in a different manner within Illustrator CS3. Live Effects do not alter the original graphic permanently, whereas Filters alter the appearance of a graphic permanently. For our purpose, we are going to use a Live Effect, so that we can change them later from the appearance panel, if required.

The former method will open a Halftone settings panel as a Live Effect.

Step 5

With the Halftone panel open, make the changes as described below.

  1. Type: Select Sampled from this combo. This will pull the exact color combination, sampled from the reference image.
  2. Pattern: Select Grid and Regular. You can play with alternate styles after the completion of this tutorial.
  3. DPI: Enter 9 for DPI and 0 for the Grid Angle. The DPI will decide the density of the Halftone elements in the figure. A large number will create a denser look, whereas a small number will create a more abstract design. Try to play with the DPI setting according to the color density in the image.
  4. Create Undercoat: Leave this option unchecked to get a transparent background. Having checked, this will create a white undercoat for the image.
  5. Origin: Select Relative to Selection and enter 0 for X and Y values.

Dot Properties: This is the main section that will form the typographic portrait.

Select Character from the Shape combo and Click on Options. This will open a Halftone Character Options panel, as shown below.

The Font options in this panel let you choose the font that will style the typographic elements in the graphic. Since we are promoting a programmer/coding theme, we will need a font that best communicates code. Courier fits well in that theme.

Select the Courier font from the Font combo and check the Repeat Text option.

Next, replace the default "ABCD.." text with our custom text. For that, grab some of your favorite PHP code from your code projects and paste it into the text box as shown in the image above.

Note: This field will NOT accept more than 3 or 4 lines of code. So try to place some unique lines of code.

After entering the text, hit OK to continue.

Dot Gain: Leave the rest of the fields at their default values and drag the Dot Gain graph slightly towards south-east from the middle, as shown below.

Next, hit OK to continue. The result so far is shown below.

Step 6: Color Corrections

We are almost done with the typographic treatment of the Portrait. Next, we will add some color corrections using the Phantasm CS plugins. For that, Select the image and go to Effect > Phantasm CS > Brightness/Contrast. Enter 50 for Brightness and 50 for Contrast, as shown below.

Note: We have checked the Rich to Pure Black option and Remove Overprint when White option. These options are useful in controlling the overprint issues for Black and White.

After adjusting Brightness/Contrast, the result will look like the image below.

Step 7: Separating the Image Objects

Up to this point, the entire image has a uniform density for the typographic Halftone elements. We will now generate some objects with varying density, so that the end result has a better visual appeal.

For that, create a new layer by clicking on the Create New Layer icon in the Layers Panel and name it as "sunglasses."

Step 8: Duplicate the Image on another Layer

Copy the image of the "closeup" layer (Command + C) and Paste in Front on the "sunglasses" Layer using Command + F. In short, we are duplicating the contents of the "closeup" Layer onto the "sunglasses" layer.

Step 9

By duplicating the result into two layers, our aim is to separate the sunglasses from the actual image, so that we can give it a different Halftone Density. For that, let's make use of the Edit Image call again.

Step 9.1

Select the image on the "closeup" layer and go to Edit > Edit Image.

The image will open in Photoshop temporarily. Next, with the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) in Photoshop, select the sunglasses, as shown below.

Finally, delete this selected area and Save the file (Command + S).

Step 9.2

Let's get back to Illustrator and check the updates. With the "closeup" layer still selected, go to Edit > Update Image. Hide the other layer to see what changes we actually made in our Photoshop tour.

Note: The changes you just made in Photoshop will not affect the duplicate copy of the image that is placed in the "sunglasses" layer. This is due to the fact that we triggered the Edit Image call only for the image that is placed in the "closeup" layer. This will be clearer from the flow chart below.

Step 9.3

Similarly, select the image on the "sunglasses" layer and open it in Photoshop using Edit > Edit Image

This time, chop the entire photograph except the sunglasses, as shown below.

Step 9.4

Return back to Illustrator and update the image using Edit > Update Image.

Now we have two separate layers – One for the face and another for the sunglasses.

Note: Step 9 can also be performed using the Masking in Illustrator itself. We've just followed another way to achieve clean and well separated results.

Step 10: Modify the Sunglasses Halftone

With the "sunglasses" layer selected, open the Appearance Panel using Shift + F6. Next, double-click on the "Phantasm CS Halftone" effect, as shown below.

Change the DPI to 15 and drag the Dot Gain graph to North-West, as shown below.

This will create a sunglass object with a different density, and a better look. You can further separate the objects like lips, ears and eyes to play around with varying DPI settings and density.

Step 11: Add some Creativity

Let's now add some graphical elements to enhance the design. With the Rectangle Tool (M), create a long vertical slab of around 0.15 inch by 12.5 inch and place it along the left side of the T-Shirt. Next, fill it with the Linear Gradient as shown below.

Step 12

Select the rectangle and go to Effect > Phantasm CS Studio > Halftone. Next, apply the settings as shown in the figure below.

We have changed the Halftone pattern to FM, Floyd-Steinberg and played around with some DPI and Dot gain settings. For Shape field, use the same character set for the Typographical treatment that we used in Step 5.

Step 13

Duplicate the result of Step 12 and place it just aside the rectangle, as shown below:

Next, make one more copy of this rectangle slab and place it on the right side of the T-Shirt. Play around with the gradient swatches, and the result will reflect synchronously with the Live Halftone effect. In the image below, I have used a gray to black gradient for the right side rectangle.

Step 14

Let's add a couple of code brackets to the design. For that, type "<" and ">" in any standard font and convert it to outline using Command + Shift + O. Place these signs on the left and the right edge of the T-shirt respectively.

Step 15: Adding the Slogan

Finally, as a brand strategist, we will need to place a Slogan with a unique message. For that, we will make use of the default PHP code style. It starts with <?php and ends with ?>. So, our Slogan will look like this.

Step 16: Printing Preparations

Last but not the least; we will see the CMYK separations for the entire artwork that we have created. For that, Select the entire design (Command + A) and go to Window > Phantasm CS Separations. This will open a Separations Panel.

Next, Click on Generate Separations. This will open a new document window which contains the artwork precisely separated into four process plates of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. You can easily see these separations in the Layers panel.

The four separations of process colors are shown below:

Conclusion and Scope

We have designed a promotional T-Shirt which depicts the enthusiasm of a PHP programmer. The typographical portrait is self-explanatory in conjunction with the promotion theme. The task became incredibly easy by making use of Phantasm CS range plugins.

The Halftone Plugin is a great tool that opens a wide scope for creativity. Most importantly, all these effects are printer friendly and the output can be clearly separated into process and spot colors for your printing.

Using these tools, you can play with monochrome versions, which can help a lot for manual screen printing with one or two colors.

If the end result doesn't come as expected, try to play with different color correction filters like Hue/Saturation, Curves, Levels, or Shift To Colors to get the best out of your image. There is a wide scope of creativity with the Tools like Duotone, Temperature/Tint and Swap Channels within the Phantasm CS range of Plugins. Hope you enjoyed the tutorial!

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