Introduction: Tribute T-Shirt - Infocom's Zork I, II, III & Beyond Zork

About: I'm a Nerd and a garage inventor. My dad used to say, "There he to 'The Lair' to invent something. Try not to burn the house down, OK?" I am a Graphic Designer & Illustrator from the South. I love…

As a treat to the fans of Zork, I have designed a t-shirt. This will also be my entry in the Game.Life 4 contest (although I am entering at the last moment).

I enjoy the rich sound and colorful graphics that we have available to us currently thanks to HD video, surround sound audio and GPU-based graphics technologies. And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed playing the classic turn-based adventure games from the company Infocom "way back in the day". The history of Infocom is well documented online and some of their games are available for you to play online for free.

What I appreciated most about the Zork games was that I was required to do all of the mental lifting. In other words, at a young age, I had to use my own imagination, problem solving and mental visualization skills to find my way through to the end of the game. Playing was enjoyable because I wasn't concerned with sensory overload that is common in some of today's fast-paced 3D gaming titles. The older games definitely weren't perfect. They generally lacked sound, but they were fun.

This short 'ible is my tribute to the Infocom classics Zork I, II, III & Beyond Zork.........

Step 1: Quote on a T-Shirt...

Usually, the reason people remember certain games are because they love or hate one or more of these:

  1. unique game sounds and musical score
  2. awesome graphics or video sequences
  3. button/keyboard sequences for special movement
  4. or catchy phrases or quotes from a character or in-game narrator

In the Game.Life 4 contest, we are encouraged to create something in real life that is inspired by something in a game. This could be any item, art, clothing.. etc. For my entry, I chose to design a tribute t-shirt around the famous Zork quote:

It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.”


This is the dreadful phrase you never wanted to see on the screen after you entered a room, a cellar or some secret place in the game. Usually it meant that you had very few moves left to find a light of some sort. Otherwise, the game would end in your gruesome death.

I wanted the design to be complete with the gaming prompt (>).

Step 2: Let's Get Started... Overall Process Is Easy

I have created other tutorials on using Adobe Illustrator and similar programs to create vinyl graphics and lettering. This one is no different. I'm not going to repeat everything and put you to sleep, so I will only catch the highlights in this article. If you need further details, please review my other articles.

For this T-Shirt, I used black iron-on vinyl film. This is the same film used on professional jerseys and uniforms.

The overall process is simple:

  • Create a design (using vector or text-based graphics) and save it in vector format (.eps, .ai, .ps)
  • Import into cutting software and size accordingly*
  • Cut the design onto vinyl film with a reverse layout*
  • Iron design onto freshly washed new t-shirt (use no fabric softener)
  • Enjoy!

*Note: Sign shops can cut out your design for you for very little expense. You should specify that you need your design to be cut in reverse on vinyl iron-on film. Different colors may be used and can go over one another, but for simplicity's sake I have kept my design to 1 color only.

Step 3: More About the T-Shirt Design...

Let me tell you more about my design choices:

The phrase I chose is well known for popping up when you're in the dark. I wanted to make the first line of text "scary and dark" by increasing the heaviness of its appearance. This can be done by choosing "bold" or better yet by using a heavy font. The remainder of the text was designed using the "light" version of the exact same font. This phrase will go on the front of the shirt toward the upper-chest area.

The Zork logo used here is not the real logo. It is my version of the logo. It is typed using a wacky font I found online. There are tons of free font places online. I chose something to fit my own style here. This is intended to go on the sleeve of the shirt.

The compass artwork represents the direction-based navigation method used in the game. In the game, the player types "N", "North" or "Go North" to have the character go North. I thought a compass would complete the design nicely.

Don't stress too much or you're missing the point in designing a shirt for yourself. There is no need to spend hours and hours on your design. Have fun on the parts you want to enjoy and legally outsource the rest. Take advantage of online resources (both free and commercial) to get additional inspiration.This time around I realized that too many wonderful images of a compass existed and I was short on time so I licensed an image. The compass image I used is licensed and is also available from As such, I cannot share this portion of the design with anyone, but the other portions are available if you send me a private message. If you decide to make this shirt, please use your own compass image here instead. This image should go on the back of the shirt or can be made to be 3.5x3.5" and go on a sleeve.

I used Adobe Illustrator to layout the entire design. You can use pretty much any vector-based layout application. Just be sure to save all work as vector data upon completion.

Once you have text or vector artwork placed and sized accordingly, save it in EPS or .AI format and import it into your cutting program and cut it out in reverse. You may alternatively take it to a local sign shop, trophy shop or athletic uniform supply store for this service. Cutting it out in reverse lets it be the right-side-up when you iron it onto the shirt. Weed the design and iron it onto your shirt. Weeding is just the process of removing unwanted vinyl material from the design so that you can iron-on what is left.

Step 4: Enjoy Your Shirt...

After weeding the design, iron the film onto your shirt following the manufacturer's directions. If you wish to replicate this look and the design nearly exactly, it needs to be vinyl film. BUT you can use inkjet iron-on papers, silk screens and the new products found in art stores (like JoAnne's) that use sunlight to develop an image onto fabric. Keep in mind though that the latter options are much more expensive.

I will post my design files shortly to this instructable so that everyone may enjoy it! If I can be of any help to others in designing your own shirt, please send me a private message to my inbox.

Note: The actual logo and overlays in this 'ible were created by me in Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator.This design is not fictional. Once I get a decent photograph of the final shirt, I will post it.  

*I've also included a design featuring 2-color grey-on-black

I used a free blank, white t-shirt template to create a digital proof. It is from an artist by the name of Rubén C. Martín from Deviant Art. This template allowed me to approximate the finished design so that I didn't have to waste shirts getting things tweaked just right. A link to his profile and this template can be found here. Be aware that this link will open in a new window/tab and will take you to, not

Thanks for viewing and please vote if you liked this idea!

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