For this Design Cuts Live session, we welcomed Leslie Nicole, the American photographer and designer living in the Loire Valley, France. Leslie loves photographing her surroundings - from flowers and plants from her garden, to her dogs and châteaux of France. She also uses her fine art background to create textures, brushes and papers from acrylic and oil paint, watercolor, monoprinting and pastels for French Kiss Collections, her digital design resource. During this session, she used some of her design packs to create a modern tee-shirt design!

Work on the Texture

Choose the Complete Inspirational Textures and Elements Collection and pick the Bliss Collection from the Texture Collections. Select a watercolor and add some depth to it with an edge over the overlay. 

Add some text to it by choosing the Vintage French Script. You can also start taking textures yourself and doing fun things with them by adding some text and an overlay with it. This will form a design snippet.

Take an overlay and open up the Water Cartilage Texture for a subtle background texture. Then open an edge overlay from the edge collection.

So this is black and white with transparency in it. Make sure everything is created in the same size. Drag it over, press shift so that it centers and put that in the main composition. Colorize by using a solid color adjustment layer. In the layers panel, pick a solid yellow color.

Hold on option or alt on the PC and hover between the overlay layer and the color layer. In this little square the arrow pops up in, click between layers so that it clips the color layer to the overlay. Change that blend mode to multiply to add some depth and interest of a watercolor effect to that texture.

Select and open the Vintage Script Layer. Drag that layer up and colorize it. Make sure to put a color overlay, clip it, and turn the blend mode to multiply. Pick a yellow color from the document using the Eyedropper Tool.

Pro tip: When you use vintage script, it's for a mood, not a message. So don’t worry about what it says.

Put a layer mask and take a brush. Hit control and bring that up. Choose the brush at 100% and set the color to black. Move the script underneath the edge overlay, flatten the layer and save it as a texture.

Build up the Decal

Choose the vintage element from the collection and duplicate the image.

Put a background layer. Add a layer and press command or control and hit the plus sign on the layer to put a layer underneath the decal. Layer new background then add a Vintage French Script with a design element by choosing number 23.

Put both of them as smart objects and resize them. Click on the layer, put it down and convert to a smart object on the script. Click and select the ornament layer. Press control on Mac or right-click on PC and convert to smart object to resize.

Add a mask and choose the Ellipse Tool to switch foreground and background. This will help in removing the extra script falling off the ornament. Drag out an ellipse from the center area. Put it underneath the script layer, turn the script layer back on again, and clip that to the shape layer.

Add a butterfly and resize the ornament and script. Select the script layer, the shape layer and the ornament layer by holding down shift and select all of those to command or control T. Hold on the option or alt key so that it's centered. Let the butterfly go over the edges to make it look realistic and save the decal.

Use a Photo Mask

Choose a complementing photomask from the collection and drag it to the main composition that has the background layer. Hold the shift key so it's centered and put it above the photomask. Clip it to the photomask again, holding the option key. Hover between the layers and clip it. Resize the texture.

Crop out some of the excesses in the design to form a new design element which includes a photo, an embellished photomask with texture and watercolor texture with the Vintage French Script. Click Levels Adjustment Layer and flip it. Keep clipping as much as you like and make that a little bit darker.

Add Elements Together

Duplicate the decal and merge it with the background. Drag it into the new design and hold down shift.

Add Watercolor Spatter by choosing number 7 from the collection. Drag it and hold on shift to center it. Resize it so it doesn't go outside the photomask. Put a layer mask and click control C for copy. Add a layer mask, hold on to option or alt to get the layer mask and paste the photomask into the layer mask. Click command or control to reverse it.

Colorize that by adding a solid color adjustment layer. Choose yellow color and clip it. Choose Blend Mode to Color Burn. Resize the mask and unhook it from the layer mask for distortion. Rehook the layer mask by selecting the chain in the middle of the layer mask between the layer mask and the layer.

Add Watercolor Spatter

Select the layer above the script and pick some watercolor. Go to the bridge and pick up some of the watercolor spatter from the collection. Choose the golden yellow watercolor with a transparent background. Add it on the main layer.

Add a Burn Dodge Layer above the textured script layer. Add a new layer and fill it with 50% gray. Set the blend mode of that layer to overlay.

Select a big, soft round brush. Get the black back as foreground. Add a little bit of angst on the edges.

Finally, add it to a T-shirt mockup for reference. Congratulations, you have successfully created a modern vintage T-shirt design.

During the session, Leslie answered some fun and interesting questions from the audience:

Find Inspiration for Vintage T-shirt Designs

The script is one thing but if you check the vintage collection, there are some amazing ornamental designs used for the background and photomask. This forms a great part of the design. Florals, script, music and ornamental things are great elements for inspiration. See the images below for reference.

Make the Vintage Elements Transparent

Strip out the colors, clean them and make them transparent.

Understand Balance of the Design

80% of your design work is not going to be great. It’s about working and doing sketches over time. However, at a certain point, things just fall in place and work out. That's just a matter of getting a feel for what your style and practice is all about.

For some it may be busy, for some it won’t, so it is person-dependent. Practicing things really helps. Think about design elements, symmetry, free framing and negative places to balance an image. 

Understand Repetition and Design

You might have a repeating element, for example, a repetition between the color, the butterfly and the barricaded color in the background. There's some repetition of an element. In order to balance, differentiate them with sizes.

Avoid using the same weight visually. Think about maybe making one thing bigger and one thing smaller. Have a variety of sizes in your design so they're not competing with each other. Play with contrast and solid colors. It's great to deconstruct and figure out why something's working or not working.

Ensure the Vintage Elements are Copyright Free

Most of Leslie's vintage stuff has been purchased by herself over a period of years. Avoid taking it from anyone else and reproducing it as your own. Check their dates and scan their style to understand how old they are in order to ensure that the designs are copyright-free. Find elements within the community at nominal costs.

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial!