I'm really hoping most of you have seen Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, or this design will make no sense.
I wanted to create a retro ice cream parlor graphic inspired by "The Pig" sundae Napoleon finishes in the movie. When he completes the local ice cream parlor's food challenge, he's awarded with a button and surrounded by waiters chanting that he's an official "Ziggy Piggy".
Anyway, I think that award would be fantastic as a t-shirt, so I created the graphic design groundwork for such a thing. The companion version, utilizing a texture from the Creative Market collection, would make a great frameable print for the kitchen of any Bill and Ted fan. In this Ible, I'll walk you through my thought and design process using mostly simple Photoshop methods. I've been a working illustrator for about half my life now, so hopefully some of my insights will prove handy to you as you approach your next designs! This great foundation stuff for budding artists since I stay away from complicated tools and focus on designing with purpose.
Step 1: Bare Bones
Create your canvas. Dimensions of 15 x 19 inches at 300dpi are what most online T-shirt places suggest, so that was a no-brainer.
Fill with desired BG color using the Paint Bucket tool. You may end up changing this color as things progress, but go with your gut vision to kick things off. The important thing is not to stress over easily manipulated choices like this too early on.
I'm more of an illustrator than a graphic designer, so I like to freehand sketch the framework of my design. This allows me to impart personality and fluidity into the art that will later get tied down in the clean up phase.
I work on a Cintiq for my job and a ModBook at home, both offering a stylus with "tip" and "eraser" ends. I tend to sketch using the Paintbrush tool on a 6 or 8pt --not too fat, but good for working loose. This probably goes without saying, but use a color that contrasts your background. I often sketch in light blue, which is just a hold over from the days of using animation pencils.
If you don't have access to a Cintiq, ModBook, or other interactive drawing tablet, you can import tangible sketches via your scanner or camera. This was the core of many of my first freelance gigs, back before tablets were common.
Step 2: Character Clean Up
If there's a character in my composition, I like to address that first. Typically, that's what the viewer will be most interested in and your text can be made to work with/around it.
Make a New Layer. I like to label this "Clean" just to keep it identified as I go.
I clean up directly in Photoshop, using a finer Paintbrush selection (3-5pt).
Wearing a cel painting glove while I work helps me control my lifework by allowing my hand to move smoothly over the screen.
Most Photoshop brushes are round, so you might find that some of your tighter areas become a little bulky. Refinement is key for pro level design, but tidying up doesn't have to be a pain.
I simply use the eraser end of my stylus to swipe away bulk and taper line work, resulting in finer points like those you'd get using the Illustrator Pen tool (but without having to fumble through learning how to use that thing!)
Review your image up close to make sure all your shapes are crisp, and that line work is closed where need be.
Step 3: Text and Layout
Going back to my sketch layer, I roughed in a simple banner. I really only have two words to deal with, and I want them big and bold.
Old fashioned ice cream parlor signs often have a border, so I looked to google images for inspiration. I do not endorse straight image rips, for both copyright and quality reasons, but finding a piece you can extrapolate from can provide a solid foundation with the right tone for the graphic design era you want.
I found a nice letterhead archway and made some minor adjustments to the original file. Then I mirrored it vertically in photoshop, bridging the gap with the Rectangle tool.
Once I had my final proportions I used the Line tool and brushes to retrace it, for clean edges and proper resolution.
When I drop the border into the file, you can see we have some overlap with the banner for text. The simplest solution would be to lasso or erase out the overlapping border bits, but since I'm not certain I won't need it later, I choose another solution.
Create a new layer beneath the banner. Using the Eyedropper tool, sample your BG color. Now, on the new blank layer, paint in BG color to mask out offending overlap. This way you have a cover up layer you can turn on and off, and your border is preserved.
Now that the banner is opaque, text can be placed.
I went to my favorite freeware font spot, Font Freak, and poked around for something that said "All American Ice Cream" to me. I ended up selecting a font called "Pentagon" that had sort of a showmanship about it, complete with little star inlays.
I decided to add a small cursive "I'm a" after considering the theory behind this design. Sometimes considering the storytelling aspect of a piece is what really sets it apart from just looking like a logo. I want this shirt to look like something you'd earn/win if you finished the giant sundae from the movie.
Step 4: Layering Extras
I'm typically a fan of simple, bold designs, but there's definitely a current trend toward patterns and layering. With this in mind, I thought it might be cool to infer a pig snorting noise (like the waiters make when Napoleon finishes the sundae) with a half tone text.
I dropped in a few clip art stars to help break up the shape of the border. Remember to play with scale and placement when using repeat elements, so things don't look too uniform (boring) I moved these around a good 6 times before settling them into a final position. When you've finalized placement, it's often a good idea to merge like layers to keep your file tidy.
Choose a font and type your word or phrase over and over until it covers the width of the piece.
Duplicate Layer --Move the new layer above or below -- Merge layers.
By merging the layers after each duplication, you multiply the area your text will cover and thus decrease your work.
Repeat until your design is covered by a big block of text.Make sure all of these "pattern" text layers are merged into one.
In my case, I wanted this pattern to appear only inside the retro border. That means we need to eliminate the excess.
If you have closed line work on your border, you can use the Selection tool to click outside the border. Hit delete and the excess will vanish.
Due to a small gap in my border, I had to do this the slightly harder way. Use the Polygonal Lasso tool to click and select around your black border. Once a close selection is made, go up to the Select menu and "Invert". Hit delete and the excess text will vanish.
Drop the pattern text layer below your character (if it wasn't already).
Create a new layer above it and use the BG color cover up technique we used for the banner. Now the character is also opaque and the text is like a wallpaper behind it.
Play with the opacity of your text print. Find the sweet spot where it looks cool but doesn't steal focus. You may also use the Brightness or Hue adjustment menus to find this.
Step 5: Vintage Texture Option
The graphic as intended is complete, but I thought it might be nice to play with a few options for different print applications.
As an option for poster prints, I decided to use a woodgrain png file from Creative Market's texture collection to complete the vintage sign look.
Open the texture png in Photoshop > Select All> Copy
Paste into the Ziggy Piggy file. Fortunately this texture is high resolution and no scaling was needed.
I put the texture layer underneath the banner cover up layer to keep the text area clear.
I switched the layer style to "Hard Light", which made it a lighter tone and slightly transparent. This prevents the texture from looking too harsh or intruding on the black graphic elements too much.
To zap the texture out of my pig character, I went to my character layer.
With the Selection tool, select outside the character > Invert selection
Click on the wood texture layer and delete. The pig is now free of woodgrain that might confuse the image.
I decided to lower the opacity on the wood texture to 85%, to further balance focus within the piece.
Step 6: DONE!
This little piggy is ready for market! The completed design PSD is ready to be used as signage, art prints, or T-shirts. I dropped it onto a few T-shirt colors to see what the different results would be, as suggested by most T-shirt sites.
Wish this was a real T-shirt design? Me too! If you're a Ziggy Piggy, consider sending me a vote in the Graphic Design contest. If I get a strong response here I may put this up on Zazzle or something so this tribute design can become a reality.
Party on, Dudes!