Illustrator Poker shirt tutorial screenshot of Illustrator tools.

Welcome to the Funny Graphic T-Shirts Poker Shirt tutorial.

Poker Shirt Tutorial – Part 1

In this article we will walk you through the process of creating your very own poker shirt that you can wear at your next poker night with your friends!

Step 1- Design Concept

Well, here is what we know… You have a poker night coming up in one week and you want to get a good laugh out of your friends when you show up with a custom T-Shirt that shows a little arrogance. This will help break the tension and keep the focus off your hand so you can bluff your way to be the “King of the Chips” that night. That’s it!!! a custom “King of the Chips” shirt is your idea!!! Awesome, we have the start of a design concept. All great designs start with an idea or catch phrase that you will later put some graphics to and introduce either some irony (for humor) or some serious clean graphics for a cool new look. We’ll attempt to do both here. Let’s get on with the Poker Shirt tutorial!

Step 2 – Research

Were going to start by doing some online research to see if there are any other designs out there that catch our eye or do what we were thinking. First stop Google. We’ll do a Google image search for “King of the Chips” + “Poker shirt” and other variations of that. Nothing that really caught our eye there. Next, we’ll search on CafePress and Zazzle for “Poker shirts”. We found a few that we’ve posted to the right, but nothing like we want. Back to the drawing board.

Step 3 – Gather Resources

What can we do to get the ball rolling here? Well, we could probably find a good Poker font online on a site like to start with. That will give the design some flavor. We found one online called CoffeeTin that will work great!

Now we should get some Poker graphics from a clipart site like 123RF Stock Photos. We’re looking for poker chip clipart, or anything that has a poker “feel” to it. The creative process will modify and adapt here as we find usefull resources that incorporate into the design.

Here is some clipart comps from 123RF Stock Photos that we thought would be cool for a shirt:

As a side note, when buying clipart images from sites like 123RF Stock Photos, make sure to buy the appropriate print liscense so that you can use the clipart on your design. Here is a Summary of Usages & License Types on their website.

On 11-30-11 we contacted customer support at 123RF through their online chat. Through their easy to use friendly interface we asked: OK. so if we wanted to purchase clipart for use on a t-shirt we are creating that is going to be posted on CafePress and/or zazzle, what license would we purchase? The response from 123RF was specifically: In that case, you will need the extended print license. They ultimately recommended going with the full comprehensive license. For reference, the extended print license only covers up to 10,000 copies while the comprehensive license is unlimited. Either way, it is always up to the party responsible for making sure that the right license is purchased to cover the usage your clipart is intended for.

If you have questions on copyright with the images you are using on your shirts, check out this interesting article on eHow.

Poker Shirt Tutorial – Part 2

Step 4 – Design Setup

T-Shirt setup in Adobe Illustrator.The First Step of the poker shirt tutorial design setup stage is to open Adobe Illustrator and setup your page. We use these settings: Under File>New, we create a document that is 14″ wide and 16″ tall, no bleed, RGB color mode, High (300ppi) raster effects (we use ppi and dpi synonomously here). Here is our reasoning behind this; a typical large 100% Cotton Ringspun T-Shirt is approximately 19″ from shoulder seam to shoulder seam. Typical Headline text on a T-Shirt is anywhere from 10-12″ max printed across the chest (front) or the shoulder blades (back). With that, we commonly use the extra 1-2″ on each side of that for effects and grahics that populate the sides. Also, some common T-Shirt printers like the Brother GT-541 Digital Ink Jet DTG Direct to Garment Printer use a 14×16″ print bed. Although 300 ppi (pixels per inch) can’t be seen in detail on a regular T-Shirt*, we like to have the extra resolution in case we ever need to make the design bigger for whatever reason.

As a side note, many printers are sticklers for having 300 dpi for any kind of printing. In our experience, unless you are printing some high quality business card, brochure or poster, that amount of resolution is unnecessary and just makes for a bigger file. Common banners (approximately 8’x4′) can have a resolution of 135 dpi and look just as good as a 300 dpi banner in a common viewing distance of 8′. So, in relation to T-Shirt printing, keep in mind that no one is looking at your shirt 6″ away from your body analyzing the detail. Shoot for at least 200 ppi and you’ll be good, but extra resolution dosn’t hurt either.

We always use RGB color mode even though CMYK is traditionally associated with color printing. Reason behind this is that many of your online sites and proprietary T-Shirt printing software recommends a RGB color mode. We recommend buying a Color Swatch shirt printed from your production source to have as a color reference. Simply plop in the RGB color codes on the shirt into Illustrator and you will know exactly how your T-Shirt will turn out color wise! Funny Graphic T-Shirts is currently developing our own Color Code Swatch Shirt (Available late Fall 2011).

Poker Shirt Tutorial – Part 3

Step 5 – Graphic Design

At this stage of the Poker Shirt tutorial, it’s time to start putting the design together. You have your resources gathered and your new fonts installed. Here’s an article by Microsoft on installing fonts if you have issues with that. Time to start designing!!! With Illustrator open, click “File” then “Place…” or click the file on your computer and drag it to the stage. This will place that piece of clipart in the current layer that is open (provided that the layer is not locked). Again, clipart is available on sites like 123RF Stock Photos.
Create another layer above that by clicking on your layer palette (F7) and click “create new layer”. It looks like a box with the bottom left edge curled up. On that new layer, click your text tool (T)
and type out the message, in this case, “King of the Chips”. Click the Selection Tool (V) and then, at the top status bar, click “Align enter” (this is part of the paragraph panel), choose your font and font height in the Character Panel and change the color in the Color Panel. You can also use the Free Transform handles on the text to size and stretch your font once you click on your text with the Selection Tool (V).
See Diagram below:
Illustrator Poker shirt tutorial screenshot of Illustrator tools.We will go into how to do text effects in a different tutorial. For now, save your design so we don’t loose it (“File” then “Save” or “Ctrl” + “S”). You can leave the options at their default.

Step 5 – Finishing Touches

It’s time to get this design into production! We always believe in running our design through Photoshop first before we upload them to an online retailer or deliver the file to a local printer. Open Photoshop and then open your Illustrator file. Have it crop to your media box and let the size remain the same. If you are planning on using the design for bigger things such as wall peels, crank the resolution to 600 pixels/inch otherwise leave it at 300. Make sure your color mode is RGB with an 8-bit depth and click “OK”. You can add Photo shop effects if you wish at this point. If you want separate effects on each layer, you can do a “File” then “Place…” of the same file as you re-save the Illustrator file with different layers turned on and off. We will go over some of these advanced tactics in another tutorial, but for now, click “File” then “Save As…” and save your file as a *.PNG file (or whatever file type your printer requests). If you want to come back and make later edits to the Photoshop file, don’t forget to save the file as a *.PSD file before saving it as a *.PNG.

That’s it for this tutorial, check back for more advanced tutorials in the future!

*CafePress T-Shirt design templates are 10×10″ at 200 dpi

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