In this session, we were joined by T-Shirt Design artist, Michael Essek. Michael showed us how to create a sell-able T-shirt design using his personal choice of assets from Design Cuts.


To help you follow along, you can use the written tutorial below. 

Learn to create a sellable T-shirt design with super talented Michael. In this session, Micheal teaches a step-by-step valued practice along with his tips, tricks and knowledge of selling T-shirts online.    

Create a Sketch

Create a sketch you want to have on a T-shirt. The artist has drawn an owl sketch by getting an idea from how other people illustrate owls and then adding his own imagination to it. The canvas size is 4500 x 5400 pixels at 300 DPI.

From the Ian Barnard Freestyler pack, select a Pencil Sketch and write “WHOOOOO ASKED YOU?” as shown in the image below. 


Pro Tip: Keep your shirt designs simple and transparent as they are aesthetically pleasing. 

Drop down the opacity of your sketch layer to 39% and create a new layer. 

Draw an Outline

Select a Roughneck Detail Brush which is slightly rough to outline your sketch. 

Pro tip: The artist recommends licensing your T-shirt design. You can use Redbubble, Merch by Amazon and other related sites to sell your T-shirt designs online. 


Color Your Owl

Make your outline layer into your reference layer. In this case, it's layer 9. Create a new layer and add colors to your drawing. Color the eyes yellow and light blue. Use light blue to color the branch. Add yellow color to the owl’s feet.


Decide on which T-shirt color you want your design to be printed. The artist wants this design to work on a black t-shirt or a dark t-shirt. Color your background black.

Pro Tip: You'll find that black T-shirts and Navy color T-shirts are the most popular in terms of sales. 

As you have got a reference layer, lose the illustration layer. If you try out different colors, you will see that the black outline is adjusting to the background color. Insert a new layer and add a clipping mask.

Outline the eyes of the owl and color them light blue, as shown in the image below.

Add Textures and Feathers

Select Rain Maker from the Freestyler Brush Pack. It's like little rain dots, but it works quite well for little feathers and fur. Add a mask and use the selected brush.

Create a mask on layer 10 and add drops from the brush to your drawing, as shown in the image below.

Create another mask on layer 11 and insert drops of light blue color. Select the Milky Way Brush and add blue and black color to the two new mask layers you created previously.

Pro Tip: Use the Freestyler Brush Pack to save time as it contains brushes as well as Grid and Letter builder.

Use Roughneck Detail Brush to add spots and small lines on the branch, as shown in the image below.

Pro Tip: T-shirts always look nicer when the design has limited colors in them. 

Switch off the letters layer which you created previously with the Pencil Sketch. Select Arc Large from the Grid Builder.

Pro Tip: The letter Builder and the grid builder are helpful tools for hand lettering to keep your hand letters in the right shape. 

Select a new layer and add Arc Large of any required size. Color your background grey and then switch on the sketch layer.

Similarly, add a new layer and drop another Arc Large. Rotate the Arc.

Select Bold from the Letter Builder. Create a new layer and add Bold one by one. You can also copy, paste and rotate it. Do this for each letter you want to write.

Similarly, add Bold from Letter Builder in Arc Large below the owl.

Add another layer. Choose a red color and sketch out your letters with Pencil Sketch.

Ink Your letters

Create a new layer on top of all the other layers. Reduce the opacity of the letters in red by about 50-60%. Select Roughneck Detail Brush to outline “WHOOOO”. Similarly, outline the “ASKED YOU”. Switch off the Letter Builder and Grid Builder Layers.

Go to your reference layer and unselect the reference. Layer 9 reference will now be visible as Layer 9 only. Add a new layer above your “WHOOOO” layer, and insert a clipping mask to the new layer and drop in the light blue color to outline “WHOOOO”. Similarly, select a new layer about the “ASKED YOU?” layer and add a clipping mask to the new layer. Drop-in and outline “ASKED WHO?”. Make your background black.

Grab a brush called the Milky Way Brush and apply it on both sides of the branch. Use Roughneck Detail Brush to erase the speckled branch effect to give letters a border, and then again use Milky Way Brush to give speckled effect.

Insert Stars

Select Super Star Brush and add a new layer on top of all other layers. Select yellow color.

Add in yellow and light blue stars. Neaten your final image by moving “ASKED YOU?” a little bit down and clearing the speckled effect near the letters.

Pro Tip: You can export your file into RGB as sites like amazon will translate RGB into CMYK. 

Create a mask of the clipping mask layer of “ASKED WHO” and use Milky Way Brush to write on it and similarly repeat the same steps for “WHOOOO”.

Congratulations, you have created a sellable T-shirt design.