T-Shirt Design

When designing a t-shirt for a small organization, troche it becomes important to build your design in a manner that gives the organization a personal touch. I have done many t-shirt designs, most of them for the mass public. This one was special in the fact that only thirty t-shirts were being made.

This design idea is based on a t-shirt for a high school yearbook staff. The staff wanted a t-shirt that would allow their yearbook logo displayed and give everyone the ability to sign the t-shirt before it went to print. Due to budgetary constraints, the number of colors had to be limited to make the printing process cheaper. To get some ideas, I asked for some proofs of their pages along with the book cover so I could try to make the t-shirt design match the yearbook design.

I first began with their logo, which was a 3D metallic logo that was to be used on their cover. I scanned this logo and converted it to black and red, which were their school colors. This was done primarily so it would show up on the t-shirt better and the colors were chosen to help the logo stand out on the white t-shirts. Had they chosen dark t-shirts, I would have replaced the black with white and kept the red to keep the primary school color in place.

Around this round logo, I added the text “Mustang Yearbook Staff 2004” to signify who the t-shirts represented. The final logo looked like this:

Since the staff wanted an area for everyone to write their messages and sign their names, I then had to think of a creative way to organize this. I noticed in their page proofs that they repeated the logo on the top left of their pages for autograph pages. I replicated this by creating a book design on the back and taking the created logo and putting on the top left of one of the pages. This gave an area for the entire staff to sign their names and it resembled the autograph pages of their yearbook.

I printed the back off and took it to the high school for everyone to sign their names with a red sharpie. I did this so I could scan their signatures, put them back into photoshop and change the colors on the signatures to match the red I was using and save on printing costs. In the end, they got a t-shirt personalized for their group, with the ability for each member to show some individuality, which matched their work, and to (hopefully) give them great memories for years to come.


Shaped Postcards – A Novelty That Works

Forme cut postcards are a great way to advertise something as they are far more exciting to look at than a traditional rectangular shape. They are also more eye catching than paying for advertising in someone else’s publication. Only a few extra steps are needed to progress electronic artwork to send to the printers for forme cutting. I designed this forme postcard in Adobe Photoshop CS and Adobe Indesign CS.


Firstly, treatment I wanted to create a funky and modern design to use for the forme postcard, doctor so I browsed such websites as http://www.sxc.hu/ to find a suitable image. The client had given me a tagline “slip into the comfort zone” so choosing slippers for the image made sense. I obtained the large jpg image, check took it into Photoshop, saved it as a 300dpi eps and created a path around the slippers. Then I placed the image in Indesign, referencing the clipping path as the Photoshop one. Orange seemed to be the best colour for the background and I placed the words and logo on the top layer. The website address wass meant to stand out particularly, so I used some other colours to highlight words to make it easier for readers to remember.


When printers forme cut around an item, it is recommended that the electronic files you send them are a) the artwork with bleed and no keyline and b) the keyline by itself. Both of these files need to have perfect positioning, so that the keyline is in the same place on the page as it would be in the bleed file. A keyline only needs to be hairline or maybe 0.5pt to be adequate. If the keyline is too thick, you might lose some of the areas you want to keep. In order to work in Indesign to fit text and images within the shape, I copied and pasted the keyline onto a separate layer which I then hid when I made the print ready PDF.


Forme shapes need to be easy to create and cut with, so it is best not to use shapes with long, jagged edges or lots of inclusions or borders. Simple, easy to draw shapes work best – the more complex the forme shape is, the more you will have to pay to create the customised forme. Some printing companies already have a variety of formes they have made and you can always ask them to use one of these as the cost is far less. Also remember that when designing the shape, you need to know the thickness of the paper or card it is printed on so that if the shape is too long, it won’t flop etc.


When I had finished creating the electronic artwork, I sent it to the printers by using a Print Preset PDF I had created in Indesign. It is a good idea to set up your PDFs as low-res, med-res and print res, so that when you send work to a client, they can’t go and reuse it elsewhere without notifying you and paying you first (ie, you send them a low-med res PDF of less than 200dpi – it becomes pixelated if they go to print commercially with it). These low-med res PDFs are adequate for viewing drafts on the screen and when it is time to send an item to print, you can send it as a high res (300dpi +) PDF so that it will look terrific!

Extra Tips & Tricks

* Using drop shadows or outer glows on text placed in front of images helps to make the text stand out better.
* Lighter background colours are better than darker background colours for making forme postcards eye-catching.
* Keep all text at least 0.5cm from the edge of the card or else it might be chopped off (the further in the better).

Fig 1. The back of the postcard

Fig 2. The keyline by itself

Fig 3. The front of the postcard – printing file(without keyline)

Designing Magazine Features for Advertising

Magazine feature pages contain items that are grouped in the same subject and displayed together. This may include an article, cialis ads and photos on “where to travel in Australia”, to a group of modular ads for the latest art galleries, touted as an “advertising feature”.

Breaking or non-breaking space?

Broken spaces are an editorial style – an image is linked to text (eg, with an arrow pointing at the image) and is placed aesthetically on a page with other elements that may or may not be similar in appearance. The advantage of broken space is that it allows advertising to appear as editorial “hand picked” articles or “snippets”.

Non-breaking space refers to when a whole section is devoted to the feature and is therefore booked as a whole space within the publication. Non-breaking spaces can contain as little as one big ad, or can be made up of “modules” where the advertising is presented similarly for each client.

Modular template design

In order to sell a modular feature to clients, it is customary to design a template or “mockup” so that they can see what their module is going to look like. The amount of modules on the page is usually determined by the publication due to the need to make a certain profit out of each page, while allowing for some space in design and filler modules (in case the last few modules don’t sell).

A good template includes:

* The amount of words the client will be able to have in their ad, including name, address, phone number and other contact details
* The size and client specifications for logos and images
* An attractive design that combines all modules together on the page

This template can be emailed in the form of a PDF flyer to clients to show them an example of what they can do with their module.

Effective modular layouts

There are hundreds of different ways to layout feature pages, but a good layout is one that doesn’t require too much fiddling to fit in what the client wants. This means that the good layouts often include spare space in the module (even just a few lines) to allow for fussy clients who won’t take no for an answer. Good layouts also have square image spaces instead of vertical or horizontal ones – this means all of your client images will fit well.

Additional design tips include:

* The use of Wingdings and Glyphs to add fine detail to the design
* Using quotes or key words in the background to emphasise the feature subject
* An eyecatching heading that states the feature name (eg., High Street, Ballarat)
* Simple use of colour and elements can be much more effective than complicated image montages

The key aspect of designing modular layouts is to make the modules stand out a lot more than the background. Busy backgrounds are not conducive to selling the advertising. The only exception to this is an eyecatching heading or picture bar introducing the feature.

Re-using Feature Layouts

The beauty of good feature layouts is that they can be recycled. It’s possible to have regular, monthly features where the subject is the same and the clients are different (eg., think of a “Galleries” feature), to ones where the subject is different each month, but laid out the same way and promoted generally (eg., think of a “Travel” feature covering a different state each month). Change a few colours and voila! your new feature layout is easily designed.




Effective Newsprint Ads

Designing in newsprint is different to other mediums because the final outcome depends on designing for highly absorbent paper. This means that the colours used will always be different from what was intended and designs that look good on glossy paper will not be as effective in newsprint..

Here are some newsprint design tips:

1. Text

It is preferable to use 6pt and above text for a white background, treat so that it is readable. For coloured backgrounds, 8pt text is preferred. Always use a sans-serif font for under 12pt on coloured backgrounds and if the text is darker than the background, the text colour should have the background colour incorporated into it, so that the text is “trapped” properly. For example, text of C=100 M=50 Y=0 K=0 will print perfectly on a background of C=40 M=30 Y=0 K=0 but not on a background of C=0 M=0 Y=100 K=0.

Lighter coloured text on a dark background works best when the text is white, but if another colour is needed and it can’t be reflected in the background, make the sans-serif font size larger than say, 12pt to avoid problems with trapping.

Contact details should stand out in size and/or colour and should be placed either in a prominent spot or at the bottom of the ad.

2. Background

Too often I see ads that use only white as a background. This results in a boring ad that does not stand out from the editorial. Try using a background (even a 10% tint one) and also try adding a border with a same-coloured band at the bottom containing the contact details, rather than adding coloured bands in the middle of the ad.

Strong coloured backgrounds work well – especially if the whole ad is in the same colour. Faded images in the background are not as effective, but a duplicated, transparent logo can add depth to an empty ad. Do not be afraid to use black – it is a powerful colour that can attract the reader’s eye well.

3. Preparing images for newsprint

In Photoshop, the image should be changed to CMYK, be at a minimum of 200dpi (even better if they are 300dpi) and be viewed (if possible) with a newsprint filter (CTRL+SHIFT+K to view dialogue box).

Remember that all colours will appear darker in newsprint (unless you have configured your viewing specifications) so an adjustment to the levels to make the image lighter can help a lot.

To sharpen an image, use the Unsharp Mask filter until the image appears slightly too sharp. Contrast is good, but be careful the darker parts of the images won’t be too dark when printed.

Images that do not fit well in the ad or do not fit together well should not be used. It can be difficult to get around this with customers, but a quick mock ad using stock photos or clipart should help them see the difference.

4. Borders & Elements

Borders form a major part of design in newsprint ads, and should be used in a colourful variety of shapes and thicknesses. Borders that work well include: rounded corners, thick solids, words standing out from the coloured ad on a white background, rainbow gradient borders and dashes/dots. Have a go.

Other helpful elements include the design of cut-out coupons, starbusts, talking bubbles, clipart and clipped images. I recommend Art Explosion 600,000 as an excellent clipart library which is invaluable in newsprint design.


Newsprint design is not hard, but does require the designer to visualise the finished idea to produce quality work consistently. Contrasts, overexcited design and BIG CAPITAL LETTERS in Arial Black will always get you somewhere – but beware of transferring these skills to other mediums!




Interesting Group Shots

When we get together with family or friends and the camera comes out, we methodically line up, put our hands awkwardly to our sides or in front of us, and painfully grin. Group shots are challenging and often turn out mediocre and best. This is an opportunity to try something new.

First thing’s first. You need an idea, a concept. You need to pre-visualize your photo. One of the best resources for getting ideas on group shots are music magazines. There are lots of ideas of intersting ways to pose groups, and bands usually have intersting location shoots and positioning of its members. These are magazines like Filter or Spin, etc. Plan on going to Borders one evening, grab a cup of coffee, and browse their magazine section. Bring along your sketch book as well to jot down concepts you like so you don’t forget when it comes time to shoot.

With this image I wanted to do something different with my friends. Sping was coming and the sun was out, and the clouds were clearing. I wanted the image to feel like summer as well as capture the enjoyment of being with each other. The challenge with this shot was lighting. With the sun behinds us, all the faces were in the shade. To expose their faces right, I would lose the lovely blue sky. Here, i used a camera flash to fill in the subjects’ faces in order to keep my blue sky. Here’s how you do that. First, you meter the sky. Let’s say it’s f/16 at 1/250. The best way to control the intensity of the flash is through aperture. Next, set the camera on aperture priority and set the f-stop to f/16 (to match the sky behind them). This way, when you shoot, your subjects will be lit to match the background, in this case, the sky. If you want the sky darker, close down the aperture (make it smaller so less light comes through), in this case changing the aperture to f/22. When I got my exposure right (i’m laying on the ground for this shot), I had my friends lean in over me. It was a fun shot, and they were good sports about it. You’ll find that most people are willing to try new things for a photograph, especially if you send them a copy later.

About The Author

Heather graduated from Utah Valley State College with a BFA in photography. She is currently working for Rubberball Productions as well as freelancing. Her clients include the Los Angeles Times, Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Regional Ballet, and Utah Valley State College. Heather was the featured artist in GrayMatter Magaizine and has been a finalist in the Nikon International College Competition the last three years in a row. She has been shooting a lot of fashion, editorial/travel, and fine art photography. See more of her work at www.heathershimmin.com.

Creating a Greeting Card

Two months ago, a local bookstore needed several Christmas cards as their exclusive cards. They needed a combination or funny, sincere, and children cards. All were to be blank on the inside, so the only real design that had to happen was for the cover.

The client had already informed me that they preferred to keep the colors pretty basic and they had given me the dimensions to make the cover with. They then told me I had creative freedom to make cards for their approval.

In this example, we will the use the children’s card that was designed because it was a lot of fun to do and anyone with photoshop, using a few tricks, can do it with relative ease. The first step to this card was, of course, a creative idea. Though it can be difficult for an adult to think like a child, it just takes about two hours of watching children’s programming to get lots of ideas.

I brainstormed a bit and thought that a card designed to look like paper cutouts would give the card a cartoon-like affect and vivid, fun colors, which is perfect for children. I also thought about what I used to think was the best part about Christmas when I was a child and came up with a large list of items for me to draw from. Now that I had an idea of the content I wanted to use and the method, I got started.

I started this card out with the basic shapes that can be found with the shape tool. My thought was to build Santa Clause waving. I first did a rough layout with just with a few basic shapes that I knew I wanted to use so I could get size and positioning correct. I used a big circle for the body, an oval for the head, a rectangle for the arm and hand, and a triangle for the hat. Playing with sizes and positions, I finally got everything to a position I could build from.

I also immediately realized that I could not have a white background, as some of my white shapes (like the fluff on the hat) would be at the edge of the picture. I chose to go with a dark blue to counteract this.

Since these were my basic, lower-most layers, I wanted to go ahead and shape them. The first tool I used was “Rotate.” I wanted to rotate the rectangle for the arm to give it an angle. and rotate the head and hat to make santa appear as if he was leaning back and riding in his sleigh.

After getting these angles correct, using the “Skew” tool from “Free Transform,” I was able to round these shapes out and help the shapes appear to be more “cut out” and not made perfectly by a computer. I also added a drop shadow from “Blending Options” to each shape to help them look like they were pieces of paper laid on top of one another.

It was now time for me to add other shapes, such as the eyes, nose, cheek, buttons, and glove. Using the same techniques, I added one at the time. I started with a basic shape for each and used the “Rotate” and “Skew” tools to position and shape each layer. In addition, I continued to add a drop shadow to each shape.

After having Santa complete, I wanted to write “Merry Christmas” across the top. Again, I found a font that had somewhat rough edges to make it appear more cutout. I then used the “Text Transform” function to curve the text and the “Rotate” function to slightly modify the text direction to keep with the flow of the rest of the card.

With all of this added, something still seemed to be missing. There was too much blue background with nothing to break it up. At first, I considered adding stars, then thought that snowflakes would be more fun. Photoshop has a snowflake as one of the shapes, so I decided to choose that. I did not want all of the flakes to be the same size, nor did I want all of them to be at the same angle. Again, this was only so I could give the card less of a computer generated look. I began adding the snowflakes, one at a time, rotating their angles and changing their sizes. I added a drop shadow to each to make them appear like they were laid on top, and I had my final result.

This is a simple card to make using some very useful, and often overlooked, Photoshop tools.

About The Author

Uday is a freelance graphic and web designer. With eight years of experience in web design, Uday makes a variety of web pages from corporate to personal and built pages which are easy to edit for the end user. All coding is written cleanly to ensure that pages are run smoothly, load quickly, and perform to it’s full potential.

Music CD Design

Last year, I was approached about designing the cover for a free promotional CD. The timeline was short, but critical, and the printing budget was relatively small. This project was completed within two hours from initiation to completion and went to printing the same day.

This project began with an urgent phone call because a local music production company had a concert coming up in three days along with almost a thousand promotional CD’s but no cover for the case. With a low printing budget, I knew I had to keep the use of colors to a minimum, the font relatively common, and the graphics simple since there was not a lot of time to build custom graphics.

The client needed me to design a front and back for the CD and get it to the printing company the same day. The things that I asked them before starting this project included:

1. Is the spine a third cut sheet or does it wrap around? To this, the told me that the spine graphics would wrap around within the case from the back.

2. What would you like on the spine? To this, they responded that they just wanted their name and a volume or a year, since they intended to do this every year. I chose to go with a year since it fit in better with the theme of the CD, which was a compilation of music from some of their artists for that year.

3. Would you like to say anything specific on the front or back? They simply wanted to show their name, the name of the album, and the artists on the album, along with, “Special Thanks To: Our fans for making this another successful year. We hope you enjoy this free CD provided to you by our sponsors, our affiliates, and most of all, by our artists. We looking forward to seeing you again to make 2005 another great year!”

4. Did they have any special graphics requests? Their response was to make it simple but attractive and professional, and to design it to it would look good printed and on their website. With this being said, I opted to use websafe colors so it would look identical.

I started with the back and the spine since, to me, everything should progress off of the spine. After all, most CD’s are stored so we can see the spine and pick the one we want to listen to. I chose to go with a dark red color and put the words “Fusion 2004” on it in white and red to help the spine stand out more. I replicated this for the front and back of the spine (which would be to the left of front and back covers while viewing them). I chose to use the Baunhaus font since the printing company had this common font and it matched the font of the client’s logo and website.

Since I feel that graphics should flow from the spine I used Photoshop to draw a triangle with the same dark red color on the left edge and warped it to get rid of the hard edges. In addition, I drew a white music note and warped that to give the graphic more of a fluid nature and help the note stand out against the background. I also chose to use a black background for the rest of the cover to allow these graphics to stand out more then added the requested text to the back. All text was entered in a staggered line to flow with the edge of the now warped triangle better.

I then begin designing the front cover. The client wanted a simple layout with just their company name and names of their artists. I used the same theme of the back cover and applied it to the front cover to give the CD a unified look.

In the end, we were able to accomplish designing an attractive CD cover with very few specialty graphics and very few colors to lower the cost of printing. It conveyed everything the client wanted to convey in very little time.

About The Author

Uday is a freelance graphic and web designer. With eight years of experience in web design, Uday makes a variety of web pages from corporate to personal and built pages which are easy to edit for the end user. All coding is written cleanly to ensure that pages are run smoothly, load quickly, and perform to it’s full potential.


Fitness Business Radio Media Kit

Throughout my seven years in the design industry, I’ve worked with many clients who directed me through every facet of a project from typesize to colors used. So when a client places their 100% trust in me and my abilities, and gives me creative carte blanche, it’s always special. This was the case for my recent collaboration with Fitness Business Radio.

Fitness Business Radio launched in the Fall of 2005. It is a weekly podcast (which can be downloaded at www.fitnessbusinessradio.com) that focuses on all aspects of the fitness industry, from management to PR. They were in need of a complete media kit, as well as a stationary set (business card, letterhead, mailing label & envelope). When researching the competition, I not only focused on other businesses in the same sector, but also educated myself on what other people were doing to promote their podcasts in general, as the technology is relatively new. After reviewing everything and taking into consideration the audience, I decided to incorporate bold hues and dynamic shapes & graphics to not only emphasize the fitness aspect, but also to hint that listening to Fitness Business Radio can add new energy to any pre-existing business plan. The topics discussed and ideas presented on the program are definitely lively and beneficial in that sense. Each insert page in the Media Kit was stacked and color-coordinated so that when opened, information was easy to find. Pull-quotes and large taglines were also added for visual interest to those just skimming the pages (which is more common than people actually reading every word). The stationary set borrows design elements from the Media Kit, and the end result is a coordinated, consistent piece that has garnered high reviews from everyone who receives it. Fitness Business Radio is consistently rated the number one podcast in it’s field and is now on it’s way to reaching over 40,000 listeners each week.

About The Author

Deborah is an award winning designer who has seen her personal work featured in gallery exhibits around the world, as well as in coffee-table art tomes. She currently operates Oblada Creative (www.oblada.com), a creative boutique that caters to many well-known international clients. Her focus is on providing unique solutions for unique individuals, coupled with “white glove” service.