Introduction: 9 Steps to Designing a T-shirt You'll Love

I'm a digital artist and this is my process for designing an Illustrated t-shirt. I used multiple software packages for this design but you don't need to. I like to vector my lines so I can scale my designs up as large as possible. It is possible to create a design just using Krita which is a free software package.

The sketching process can be done digitally or traditionally and scanned in. However I prefer the freedom sketching digitally gives me.


Before we get started here is the equipment I used to create this design and websites I used to publish it.

  1. Wacom Bamboo Tablet
  2. Krita (
  3. Adobe Illustrator
  4. Adobe Photoshop
  5. Nik Collection
  6. Printful
  7. > Get 40 free listings

Step 1: Sketch Your Idea!

I wanted to create a symmetrical skull design for Halloween and the day of the dead. Downloaded and opened up Krita and used the vertical symmetry tool to sketch out a perfectly even skull design adding patterns and designs.

  1. Select one of the pencils from the Brush Presets
  2. Press the vertical symmetry tool
  3. Start sketching

Feel free to use Pinterest for references there are 1000's of very cool skulls real and illustrated.

Step 2: Blue Lines

Once your sketch is done we will go ahead and ink but before you ink it's a good idea to reduce the opacity and change the line colour to it easier to see without obstructing your line art.

  1. Right click your sketch layer and press Properties.
  2. Set your opacity to 30% or what ever you are comfortable with.
  3. Then uptick Blue (this will make a black line blue) You can skip this step is you sketched in a colour.

Step 3: Select Your Inking Brush

Explore the inking brushes and the brush presets, find the perfect brush for you or find a new brush online.

Step 4: Start Inking

Once you are happy with your inking brush,

  • Select Tool options and select weighted in Brush smoothing. (I set mine to around 300 -500 to get a smooth line)
  • Select the vertical symmetry tool
  • Start inking

Have fun with it, take your time and enjoy the process.

Step 5: Vectoring the Lines

As I said before I like to turn my lines to vectors.

  1. Select your inked illustration and press Edit >Copy merged in Krita
  2. Open illustrator and paste your sketch onto the art board
  3. Select your artwork and press Live Trace in the menu
  4. Select the live trace options in the menu
  5. In the live trace options box select Comic Art and tick the ignore white tick box (ignore white will make the design transparent)

Step 6: Live Paint Bucket

  1. Select the expanded Illustration
  2. Press K to select the Live Paint Bucket
  3. Select a colour
  4. hover over the area you want to fill and click.

Step 7:

For shadows draw blue shapes and for light yellow colours on one side of the symmetrical illustration and duplicate the the other side.

  1. Use the transparency tab to set the blending mode to Multiply and lower the opacity until it looks good.
  2. Do the same for light areas but this time use dodge.
  3. Copy and paste the areas your created and right click> Transform > reflect
  4. and place them on the opposite side.

Step 8: Stylise!

Sometimes the colours I pick just aren't right and I have to spend a little time tweaking them.

So I load the Illustrator file into photoshop as a smart object and load the Nik Collection: Where you can get a 30 day free trail.

Step 9: Publish on Printful and Etsy!

Make a free account on Printful and upload your design!

Click here to Get 40 free listings on etsy to get you started!

Connect them both together and start selling t-shirts and other products without the hassle of keeping stock.

I hope this was useful, if you have any questions please let me know.

Check out the finished T-shirt here: Demon skull Halloween / Day of the Dead T-Shirt

Step 10:

Art Skills Challenge

Participated in the
Art Skills Challenge