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The Fine Print: Let's talk about tees!

Thinking about being a Graphic Artist?

Graphic Design

Graphic design as a career is a very attractive option for people that are creatively inclined with a good eye for detail and vision to translate concepts into artistic elements.

“Design is thinking made visual” – Saul Bass

What is graphic design? It can exist in the physical realm or it can exist in the virtual world. It consists of both visual and textual elements combined to create a mood or convey a message. It is used in all types of mediums such as advertising, marketing persuasion, political agendas, and public service announcements. It compliments other artistic genres like music, writing, film making, t-shirt designs and other textile decoration to name just a few.

All types of organizations utilize graphic design for varying purposes. It can be used in email marketing, web design, digital advertising, print of all kinds including screen printed apparel, even outdoor signage.

How do you describe a graphic designer’s role? The goal of a graphic designer is to combine messaging and images to create a cohesive presentation of an idea. That idea needs to be convincing or otherwise thought provoking to the end “user” which is anyone that consumes the final product whether they see it on the street, on their computer, or at a facility. A graphic designer provokes, sways, and influences people’s perception. It’s also about communicating thoughts and concepts through art.

Designers need to apply their own artistic abilities to design tools to compose a material piece. They can be engaged by all sorts of businesses and organizations that need their specific set of skills to communicate to their intended audience.

How is graphic design used? If you think about it, graphic design is used in virtually everything we see. It’s on product labeling, in books, magazines, web pages, and branding. A graphic designer can define the entire character of a business through selection of colors, graphical elements, even the fonts chosen.

Design persuades

What kind of job can I get in graphic design? Graphic designers are employed by advertising and marketing agencies, they can work independently by listing their skills on websites like Behance or Upwork. They can also be employed in-house by companies that provide services like DesignAShirt, which screen prints custom clothing for individuals and businesses all over the country.

To be financially successful as a graphic designer, education is recommended to learn design software. Ongoing education after graduation is a must too since tools evolve and new tools are developed to address emerging changes in the way users are able to consume media.

Diversify skills

What sort of expertise should a graphic designer possess? An inherent artistic ability will take you far in graphic design but knowledge of graphic design software will make you very marketable. Learning from freeware like Gimp isn’t recommended since most companies will only employ users that design in professional programs.

Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard for creating and manipulating raster based images. Raster art is made up of pixels and is how photos are translated in a digital environment. The program is extremely powerful and in-depth so it will take some time and effort to become truly proficient in its use.

Adobe Illustrator is used to create and manipulate vector art which is made up of points instead of pixels. It’s particularly valuable for the ability to resize art to any dimension without loss of quality. It is often used for creating logos and particularly t-shirt art and graphics.

CorelDRAW is another vector based graphic design software that is popularly used to design and manipulate vector art for t-shirt printing, signage, and banners.

These three programs are the base for any graphic designer but you’ll often be presented with challenges that will require at least a working knowledge of CSS, HTML, JavaScript and animation programs to get the job done. Expanding your skill set is recommended to broaden you opportunities.

What does the market look like for professional graphic designers? Currently with so much emphasis being placed on branded and well-designed media, graphic design is in high demand but your role will not be limited to designing. To be competitive in today’s market means you must be very diverse in your talents.

Hopefully by experimenting in graphic design you will venture into other realms that go hand in hand with modern day designing jobs such as web development. It’s really a challenging environment for designers that are highly creative but not necessarily analytical which helps tremendously in web development. Taking basic courses even a community college level can help you develop the robust skill set that is required of graphic designers in a modern day workforce.

8 Cool Projects you can Make this Spring with Upcycled T-shirts

It’s nearly springtime and like many people you might be engaging in some heavy cleaning that rarely gets tackled like washing windows, emptying the junk drawer and going through your closet to discard clothing that is too worn or never worn. You probably have a good supply of t-shirts that are going to either get thrown out or donated to the thrift store. But what if there were crafty projects you could do fairly easily to upcycle those tees into quirky and useful items for your lifestyle? Here are some ideas on how to reuse, repurpose, and recycle those tees in fun and interesting ways!

Tote bag header

Tote-ablly amazing storage is never in short demand and old t-shirts can easily be repurposed into tote bags that can be used to avoid using plastic bags at the grocery store, organizing kid’s toys, or consolidating small items that might clutter up cupboards in your bathroom or laundry room. You can even use them as a casual purse if you have a printed t-shirt design you love and aren’t ready to part with just yet. Check out the tutorial below that requires no sewing skills! If you’re planning on using the tote for heavier items, a thicker weight t-shirt will provide the strength needed. Additional decoration can applied with a hot glue gun like ribbon edging or faux gems if you’re feeling very crafty.

Headband header

Make fashionable headway with DIY t-shirt headbands. Headbands are still very chic in 2018 and what better way to exhibit your own style than with upcycled headbands. Not only are they a head turner, but it makes for a great conversational piece when you can say, “I made this myself.” If you have a tee with an interesting pattern or focal point, a simple headband could do it justice. Just cut the section out twice the width you want to wear it at and measure a comfortable length around your head and sew the two ends together. You can scrunch up the width to create the look you’re going for. And if you haven’t heard, geometric design is still going very strong so a crisscrossed headband with a few simple stiches will be on trend. Check out this tutorial for self-styled t-shirt derived hair accessories.

Memorabilia quilt header

Memorabilia quilts are hot! You’ve probably seen a few social media posts featuring quilts lovingly made to memorialize a youth spent going to concerts from the collection of concerts t-shirts or even super sweet heirloom quilts pieced together from a deceased loved ones clothing. Other themes are sporting events or teams, old school shirts, or shirts based upon characters we worshipped during our childhood like Hello Kitty or Transformers. Quilts made from old t-shirts give those memories a second life and are actually a beautiful way to continue display blasts from the past. Check out the tutorial below showing how to make your own t-shirt quilt.

T-shirt pillows header

T-shirt pillows are a great option if you only have a few t-shirts you can’t part with. Assuming the original tee had its day in the sun, these tend to be very soft as well perfect for cuddling on the couch. This no sew t-shirt pillow option is great for the added effect of fringe!

T-shirt belts header

Cinch it up for 2018 because belts are still being featured on the runway. Double belts are even more in demand allowing you to recycle even more old t-shirts using t-shirt yarn. See the video below on how to make your own! You can make two single belts or sew extra lengths of t-shirt yarn together to make a continuous double wrap t-shirt belt. Check out this tutorial.

T-shirt scarves header

Scarves can instantly dress up any outfit so it’s no wonder their popularity has not waned in recent years. And this fashion item isn’t just for winter. Think of a t-shirt scarf as the ultimate neckline accessory. The different types of t-shirt scarves that can be created are quite amazing like the infinity t-shirt scarf and the fringe t-shirt scarf. Anyway you wrap these examples will result eye-catching fashion statements.

T-shirt throw rug header

Probably one of the oldest ways to recycle old t-shirt yarn can literally be found underneath your feet. Throw rugs made from t-shirt yarn are soft to the touch and can make a beautiful addition to your home’s décor plus it’s basically guaranteed to be a one-of-a-kind feature. That’s something you can’t say about just anything. Even if you’re not a huge fan of rugs, your pets will be so that’s an additional motivator to try out this great recycling project. Be prepared with between 15 and 30 old tees depending on the size of rug you’re looking to create. Check out the tutorial below which requires scissors and a sewing machine or this one for riotous rag rug look.

T-shirt yarn dreamcatcher header

How about a dreamcatcher made of t-shirt yarn? This is a new take on the dreamcatchers you used to make at summer camp. Accentuate with pony beads and feathers! Not a fan of the traditional dreamcatcher motif? How about a tree of life theme instead using old strips of lace for a gorgeous shabby chic feel? Check this tutorial from a couple of DIY fans that love to upcycle old items.

2018 Digital T-Shirt Printing and Design Predictions

2018 promises to be a very exciting year for graphic design as concepts continually push boundaries. As with all art, influences come from every angle including politics, scientific advancements, sociological upheaval, and popular culture. 2018 will be anything but tame when it comes to visual representations across artistic mediums including t-shirt graphics.


The glitch effect is sizzling hot right now in graphic design. Distortion used to be something that a designer would avoid but an appetite to recreate the glitchy look of 80’s and 90’s VHS tapes has hit the graphic design world by storm. Maybe it’s the desire to celebrate imperfection or maybe it’s a fascination with all things retro. It could also stem from the world of video games and the explosion of eGame spectatorship. Whatever the root of this trend, we think it’s pretty cool if executed right. For t-shirt prints featuring this effect and almost every other design trend we’re outlining in this post, we recommend going for digital t-shirt printing all the way.


Deconstruction is a big part of design aesthetics being experimented with right now. Revealing what lies beneath the skin and breaking out components of a composition to incorporate surprise elements will be seen in full force. Tattered and ripped collage ensembles, paint splashes, the application of doodles or graffiti, or other layers that add interest and depth will be on display across all types of design.

Color Channel

Color channel manipulation is shifting the red, green, or blue channel of an image while leaving the composite channel intact. It can easily be done in Photoshop by making a copy of the original image then double clicking to access the channels and deselecting the R, G, or B channel then selecting all, choosing transform, alt and drag from one of the anchors. The artistry comes from choosing a photo that will translate well using this manipulation.

Double Exposure

Double exposure will still be going strong in 2018 and who can doubt the powerful impact this graphic design style has on the viewer. Complex concepts can be translated into imagery using this sophisticated trend.

Duotone Double Exposure

Duotone double exposure is a heady hybrid incorporated both color channel manipulation and double exposure to create dizzying effects. The effect is reproduced by combining two photos of the same subject or even combining a single subject with an animal.


Typography is just about as old of an art form as it comes. Making the written word in and of itself, art, is a trend that is still going strong in 2018. For this type of manipulation, making the typography style representative of the word it’s spelling out has high impact.

Cropped Font

Cropped fonts continue to be intriguing this year requiring the viewer to do a double take to read the message. In minimalist design scenarios, the effect goes a long way to influence the message.

Negative Space Typography

Negative space typography mixes background elements with the text while leaving lots of clean areas around the design to bring the focal point to the message.

Illustrations Over Photos

Illustrations blended with photographs are going to elevate the look of photography and extend the horizons of how brands communicate concepts and products.

Hand Drawn Illustrations

Hand drawn graphics will never really gone out of style but in 2018 rustic throwbacks to classic illustration will be making a big splash.

Geometric Design

Geometric design continues in influence this year with bright colors and patterns particularly low poly designs like this colorful squid example.

How Pantone’s Color of the Year Influences Designers

Pantone color of the Year

2018’s Pantone Color of Year was announced last December and it’s beautiful! Meet Ultra Violet, 18-3838. While having a color of the year may sound ostentatious to some, it’s amazing just how much influence Pantone’s Color Institute and Matching System has upon all types of designers, whether it is interior design, product design, or fashion.


If you’re at all familiar with the pitfalls of color translation between different production mediums like t-shirt printing, business card printing, or outdoor sign manufacturing, you’ll recognize the value of the Pantone Color Matching System.

Ultra-Violet t-shirt design

The system was established in 1963 in response to the difficulties experienced with color management in the printing industry. Colors, tints, and hues were coded by number in a fan book of swatches with the percentages of Pantone colors required to reproduce specific colors.

The Pantone Color Institute helps brands decide how to convey core concepts through the use of color. They’ve famously collaborated with Tiffany’s for Tiffany Blue and A&E Network for Bates Motel Blue. They do a lot of work in regards to market research to learn how people respond to colors and particularly how attitudes change over time. Understanding color perceptions and trends is their business.

ultra-violet dress

The first Color of the Year started at the end of 1999 as a way for the Pantone Color Institute to provide a creative compass for designers around the globe. It sheds light upon mood and sentiments discovered in their research and are meant to bring definition to these points of view.

Not surprisingly, the announcement of the Color of the Year is regarded as an impetus for creatives all over the world to produce, manufacturer, and design using this color. Pantone further inspires with the release of complimentary color palettes conceived to flatter the core color.

ultra-violet shoes

What does the Pantone Institute say in regards to the inspiration behind Ultra Violet? It’s the usher of “What is to come.” It conveys the demand for uniqueness, a depth of meaning, and luxurious spirituality. It is representative of a time and place where science and mysticism come together to fascinate and inform.

The color purple has historically been associated with royalty and exclusivity. It was derived from small mollusks that only live in a distinct area of the Mediterranean Sea and vast quantities needed to be harvested to produce even one gram of the dye. Producing shades of purple in the ancient world was exotic and exorbitant.


It was typically only worn by the very wealthy and became associated with rulers. Because ancient rules in Egypt, Rome, and Persia presented themselves as gods or anointed by God, the color likewise became connected to mysticism and spirituality.

Even into the Elizabethan era, the color was restricted to the ruling class through sumptuary laws that defined your level in society by what colors and materials could be used to create a person’s garments.

Science paved the way for all classes to garb themselves in this seductive color in the mid-19th century. A chemist discovered a synthetic compound that could be used to dye fabric opening an affordable way to commercialize the color.

The color is still known as signature for late rock and pop icons, Jimi Hendrix and Prince.


How can you use the Color of the Year in a meaningful way that’s relative to your business? Try incorporating the color within design elements of your next business t-shirts order. It can either be the focal point or appear as an accent to the overall design. Checkout some of the color palettes developed for Ultra Violet that might trigger inspiration. Be sure to add the exact Pantone code in printing notes so we can print using your specified colors.

How Colors Hook, Convince, and Persuade


Colors can cause emotional triggers that help your custom t-shirt message stand out in an environment where sensory overload is experienced almost constantly. Colors have such an impact on people that it can persuade, convince, and hook observers to feel what you are attempting to make them feel, and persuade them to take action. The wrong colors and color combinations can negatively impact you message to such a degree that your message will be ignored by all but the most observant of individuals.

To delve into the mysterious psychological impact of color, we have to start at the beginning which is color theory. The foundations for all colors are the Primary Colors, red, blue, and yellow. From this origin all other colors and hues are derived.

primary colors

Tertiary Colors are the result of combing unequal parts of a Primary Color to a Secondary Color resulting in a hue that is close to, but not a pure rendition of the Primary Color.

Colors are also defined by temperature such as cool (blue, green, and purples) and warm (yellow, orange, and red) colors.

color wheel

Contrasting colors are colors that are opposites on a color wheel. The level of contrast will dictate how easily your message can be consumed and can be one of the most debated topics when it comes to designing with a professional graphic artist. High or low contrasting color combinations define how well your image or message stands out from the background. The background can be another design element or even the color of t-shirt you choose to print on.

The level of contrast is not dictated simply because your design features two different colors, what matters for contrast is the level of variation in the tone. For the most important elements of the design or message on the t-shirt, use high contrast color combinations. However when the entirety of the design is high contrast this can cause the opposite effect. If everything is important, nothing is important.

Similarly if everything is low contrast or tone on tone, the message becomes hard to read even if it makes an attractive piece. While good design warrants you’ll have an attractive image, you must insist your designer comply with the rule of contrast for the most important elements of the t-shirt.

Picking winning color combinations is simpler than you might think. It’s because people actually respond better to simplicity especially when absorbing a message. Each color conveys meaning and emotion so overindulgence in colors could cause unnecessary confusion.

Opposites attract both in real life scenarios and in design. Complementary colors are on the opposing side of the color wheel and exude contrast naturally. Choosing complimentary colors creates a complex balance that supports the need for contrast and the ability to consume. However 100% complementary colors making up the entirety of the design can have a jarring impact. You can include two opposites and a single additional hue (this is a split complimentary color) that is similar to one or the other to find a harmonious symmetry.

An analogous pallet is one where the colors sit next to each other on the color wheel. While this color scheme does not have high contrast, it can be used in a design as long as the power words or graphics are in a high contrasting color for punch. Analogous color combos can be soothing and relaxing.

Monochromatic palettes are derived from a single color represented in varying shades, tones, or hues. While probably the most subdued of all color combos, when married with a primary of high contrast, it can produce a design that is both impactful and attractive.

The colors we choose have a direct impact on the psyche and behavior of the observer. When you think about it, where do we look when our eyes are tired and need to rest? Likely blue, gray, or soft white is a calming choice. While how a person perceives colors is informed by past experiences and associations, the science of color psychology can be generally interpreted as the following:

color red

Red is a strong color which is an attention grabber and can also invoke feelings of anger, power, excitement, and even aggression. When used sparingly, it draws the eye and makes the observer keenly aware of the focal point.

color orange

Orange imbues the strength of red with the cheery impact of yellow. It’s well known to have an impact on the appetite and is commonly used for restaurant menus and logos to stimulate hunger. It’s also one of the least favorite colors when people choose apparel so be careful when considering it as a t-shirt background for your design.

color yellow

Yellow is the color of joy and happiness. This color invokes positivity and possibility. Its brightness makes it a great choice for high impact on a dark shirt. Use this color for the main crux of your message.

color green

Green is one the most common colors of our native environment so it’s no surprise it’s perceived as harmonious and natural. Any design that’s looking to invoke a feeling of connection and belonging should feature this color.

color blue

Blue is another color that exists in vast quantities in our environment and has a de-stressing impact on moods. The tranquility of blue lends itself to be used widely in business messaging because it conjures emotions of trust and relaxation.

color purple

Purple is an exotic color that is historically related to royalty and mysticism. While it can make a powerful statement in contrast to white, orange, and yellow, use this color in small doses or as a background since it can be distracting.

color pink

Pink has the psychological impact of tenderness and love. It’s most notably used as an identifying color for breast cancer awareness. While feelings of love and tenderness may be what you’re looking to express, too much can be seen as childish.

color brown

Brown is probably the least desirable color for graphic design unless you’re looking to appeal to the need of stability and constancy like the ground we walk upon.

color black

Black is the absence of light and is frequently used for luxury messaging. It provides a fantastic background for almost every color due to its potential for high contrast. It can also be overpowering so use with caution.

color white

White is an antiseptic color for feelings that make it okay to be vulnerable. It relates purity and innocence and can be successfully contrasted with almost every color. The danger of white is that it can be perceived as too sterile.