torn paper effect like eternal sunshine

Tutorial: Create a Torn Paper Effect like Eternal Sunshine – Smart Object Template Available

One of my favorite movies of all time is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I also really love the movie posters that featured a torn paper effect across the person’s eyes with some text underneath. Nice job by BLT on the original posters. I thought it would be cool to make my own version and show you how I did it.

If you want to skip this whole thing and make it easy, I’ve made a Smart Object Photoshop Template so you can easily add your own photo and text. Just double click the smart object layers, paste in your photo, save, and voila! You can even swap out the torn paper images if you’d like. This message brought to you by the keen minds behind digital marketing in Cleveland, Go Media.

Purchase Torn Paper Effect – Smart Object PSD Template – $2.99

On with the tutorial! You’ll need Photoshop CS5 or newer for this.

1. Set up your Photoshop Document

I just started with new document at 486×755 pixels. It’s not high res, but I have no intentions on printing this. It’s mostly just to display on the web. document setup

2. Create your torn paper layers

You can create these from scratch, but I found it easier to just find some torn paper vectors online. If you create your own, you can use the pen tool in Photoshop or Illustrator and draw your own torn paper edges. Be sure to create several variations. Create two parts for each torn paper piece. One will be the “edge” and the other will be the “mask.” The edge is white part with the drop shadow and the mask is the grey part of the paper that will act as a clipping mask for the graphics we want to place on the paper itself. vector torn paper vector torn paper

3. Paste in each torn paper layer into Photoshop

I copied the white part of the torn paper first into Photoshop and enlarged it to fill my document size. Then I copied and pasted the grey part of the torn paper and enlarged it enough to look good with the edge. Place them a little bit apart so there is enough white edge visible. Do this for each “piece” of torn paper. Remember, you want a “mask” and an “edge” layer. Then add a drop shadow to each of the edge layers. torn paper layers

4. Create a top and bottom piece for your portrait photo

You will take one of the pieces of paper (2 layers each: mask and edge) and use it for the TOP layer. The TOP most layer, you’ll need to extend the paper to the edges of the document. It is within THIS mask you will add your headshot photo. Notice how I arranged the paper pieces so they are closer together? See below: top layer mask

5. Paste in your own photo!

Now this is the fun part. You can paste in your headshot photo above the top piece’s “mask” layer. And then right click on the mask layer and select “create clipping mask.” See how I have my layers set up below. I have also put in a paper texture for a more textured effect. picture of me clipping masks

6. Paste in more photos for each piece of torn paper

I wanted to go for the “torn magazine” look so I sought out some old vintage ads online. I pasted them in each piece of paper group and set the clipping mask just like I did for my top photo above. This is the effect I get below: paste more photos

7. Do the same for the bottom part!

You’re going to repeat the steps to the same for the bottom section. One quick way is to simply duplicate all the top layers and flip them vertically. Then swap out all the photos with new ones so they are different. One suggestion is to rearrange the order and positioning of the torn paper pieces so it looks different from the top. 6-bottompart

8. Add text

See the space in between? That’s where we will add our text! I also added a dark paper texture set to “screen” to and some additional shadows using the paintbrush tool so I could get a more realistic effect. See my layer structure below: add your own text

9. Add textures and final effects

One thing that will tie the whole thing together is some colorizing and textures. You’ll notice I have a dark reddish brown layer set to “screen” to color my darks. And a tan color to colorize my lights. Those are set to a reduced opacity to not have an overpowering effect. I also had a couple vignetting layers to bring more of a framing/focus to the image. There’s a levels adjustment layer to brighten and boost the contrast of everything all together. And finally there is a film grain layer set to “overlay” and reduced to 40% opacity. A film grain layer is just a layer filled with 50% grey color with a noise filter put on it. Tweak the settings to what you think looks good. color effects

10. You’re done!

eternal sunshine torn paper effect final image

Bonus: Download the PSD

Or just download the PSD template and make it easy on yourself. Again, you don’t have to go through all these steps if you don’t want to. Just download the PSD file yourself. I set it up with Smart Objects so you can just double click on the layers that you are supposed to swap out with your own photos. Purchase Torn Paper Effect – Smart Object PSD Template – $2.99

Here are a few examples!

Have fun!

torn paper effect example

torn paper effect example

torn paper effect example

torn paper effect example


Tutorial: Designing a Digipak Layout for Campfire Conspiracy

I’m going to show you how I designed the digipak for my band Campfire Conspiracy‘s debut album.

If you’ve been following along I’ve written design tutorials about art I’ve created for the bands I’ve played in. You’ve probably seen the band logo tutorial I wrote a year ago about our occult-looking logo.

I’m happy to say that we have released our debut full length album “Secrets”. Listen to it while you read the rest of this article.

Digipak Concept


The art direction for the album wasn’t based on an overarching theme behind the music. Since this is our first album, it’s mostly a collection of all the songs we’ve written up to this point. There’s no dominant story behind the music, it’s mostly us figuring out what kind of band we want to be. It’s a collection of songs reminiscent of 90s punk rock.

The song “Prelude” is about about an imminent midlife crisis. The song “Back to the Grind” is about the work-week routine that we all seem to fall into. The songs “Secrets” and “You Won’t Find Me” are songs laced with mystery and intrigue. And “I Don’t Care Anymore” is just a fun take on apathy.

My artistic direction for the band is starting to become more esoteric and symbolic. It’s only a matter of time before the music starts to align.

Check out this video where I describe the art direction for the logo.

Designing A One-Color-Logo from Jakprints, Inc on Vimeo.

For the album, I knew I wanted something simple and iconic. And I wanted to get more mileage out of the logo. So I took the stencilized version and made it the centerpiece of the cover. Our original idea was to cut out the logo out of a piece of metal and then light a fire under it for some cool photography. We couldn’t find a good solution for that so we decided to come up with something a little simpler. I took care of it in Photoshop!

Now, if I had the budget, I would have die cut the cover, but I just had to fake it in Photoshop with an inner shadow.

Campfire Conspiracy "Secrets" album cover

Since we’re a punk rock band in the city of Cleveland, we thought an urban campfire might be more appropriate. We knew we wanted to shoot some band photos in a dirty alley with a burning barrel. We knew we wanted to catch our logo on fire and see what happened.

campfire conspiracy band photo

Designing the Digipak Layout

I downloaded the Digitpak templates from Discmakers and opened them up in Photoshop where I did most of my layout. Why did I go with a Digipak and not a CD Jewel case? Because it was cheaper and jewel cases seem to break over time.


Notice I had to design the top part upside down. Well, I designed it right-side-up but flipped it for the final art.

The back of the layout I made sure I included the following details:

  • Track listing
  • Bar code
  • Band photo
  • Artist name
  • Album title
  • Website link
  • Photo, recording, and mastering credits
  • Band member listing

Campfire Conspiracy back

We worked with artist and filmmaker Keith Teneyck who was just as excited about lighting our logo on fire as we were. We tried taking lighter fluid and creating the logo on the concrete. But it didn’t turn out as perfect as we thought!

IMG_0060 (1024x683)

IMG_0066 (1024x683)

With all these flaming logos, I thought it would be cool to use a progression of how burnt they were. So the disc itself is the flaming logo, but underneath it on the tray is a completely torched and melted version. It made for a great texture!

campfire conspiracy fire
putting out the fire after the photo shoot

Digipak Manufacturing

We sent the files off to Discmakers short run manufacturing and got 100 made. We are still a small band and this was enough for us. They had this cool 3D proof feature that really helped me see how my design would look once it was printed. I noticed that the spine text was off and things weren’t lining up right, so I revised my design and resubmitted. Then I was good to go!



That’s pretty much it. It should give you some insight into my thought process! If you want to purchase the physical copy of this album, you can buy it here for $10.

Campfire Conspiracy photo

If you like Campfire Conspiracy, find us online!

Campfire Conspiracy on Spotify
Campfire Conspiracy on Facebook
Campfire Conspiracy on Bandcamp
Campfire Conspiracy on Twitter

Step by Step: Printing Weapons of Mass Creation posters by Mama’s Sauce

We are pleased to show off the new art print for Weapons of Mass Creation 5!  The lettering was done by the talented Mary Kate McDevitt and the printing is done by Mama’s Sauce! What follows is a step by step walkthrough of the printing process by Mama’s Sauce.

Weapons of Mass Creation is a 3-day creative conference that will change your life. It takes place on August 15-17 in Cleveland, OH. See speakers, bands, workshops, and more.

Buy tickets to WMC Fest

Buy a Poster

Final Lettering by Mary Kate McDevitt

01. Ink Mixing.

Hand-mixing the inks for the poster was the first step. We hand-mix every color for all of our custom screen printing projects; this gives us the most possible control over color.

wmc fest art print by mary kate mcdevitt and mama's sauce

02. Color Proofing.

After the ink was mixed, we tested a small amount of it for accuracy. We always use a piece of the paper that the poster will actually be printed on. Different papers handle ink differently, so it’s important to test for every project.

wmc fest art print by mary kate mcdevitt and mama's sauce

03. Prep the Screen.

Screen printing uses a fine mesh through which ink is pressed. To start printing, we had to burn the image for the poster into the mesh of the screen. This process is repeated for each color in the design. In this case, there were three screens.

wmc fest art print by mary kate mcdevitt and mama's sauce

04. Printing.

Once the inks were mixed and the screens were prepped, printing could begin. Ink was flooded over the screen and then pressed through the mesh by a squeegee. It’s very important that the 3 colors line up perfectly.

wmc fest art print by mary kate mcdevitt and mama's sauce

wmc fest art print by mary kate mcdevitt and mama's sauce

wmc fest art print by mary kate mcdevitt and mama's sauce

05. Quality Control.

After we started printing, we were very careful to keep an eye out for inconsistencies and defects in the prints. A lot can go wrong on press, so quality control is an ongoing, essential part of custom screen printing.

wmc fest art print by mary kate mcdevitt and mama's sauce

06. Racking & Drying.

The WMC Fest poster was printed with water-based inks that take a little while to dry. Consequently, each poster was hand-placed on a rack to dry for about 15-20 minutes between each color.

wmc fest art print by mary kate mcdevitt and mama's sauce

07. Trimming.

Most custom screen printing projects are printed on a sheet of paper that’s a little bit bigger than the final size of the piece. This allows room for helpful marks & notes on the press sheet as well as room for us to actually grab the sheet without smudging the artwork. Once the WMC poster was printed, we trimmed it to its final size with a guillotine paper cutter.

wmc fest art print by mary kate mcdevitt and mama's sauce

08. The Finished Product.

Once each color had been printed, dried, and trimmed, the job was done. At this point, a sigh of relief and admiration surged through the shop.

wmc fest art print by mary kate mcdevitt and mama's sauce

Buy a Poster

eCommerce Nightmare: How CS-Cart handcuffed us for years and why we switched to WooCommerce

Oh dear, where do I start? I feel like there’s a huge story behind the scenes that we’ve never let our community in on. To be honest, we’re quite embarrassed about it and we’ve been trying to make things right ever since. But I think it’s time to come clean.

TL;DR: We’ve been trying to upgrade our graphic design resource marketplace, the Arsenal since 2010 and have failed miserably due to working with a heavily customized version of CS-Cart which seemingly handcuffed us to their development team. 4 years, headaches, panic attacks and tens of thousands of dollars later we are FINALLY breaking the chains and getting a taste of freedom! We’ve switched our platform over to WordPress and WooCommerce. WordPress and WooCommerce both happen to also be Go Media’s preferred solutions for so many of our own clients…

So what was the problem?


Some Background

Arsenal v1 – 2006 – PHP-IPN Monitor

In 2006 we launched Arsenal v1 using software called PHP-IPN Monitor. It was one of the very few tools for selling digital files online at the time. It cost a mere $99 bucks and in a few days we had our first product up for sale. This lasted a year or two until we started releasing more products and needed a way to add search, customer accounts, etc.

Arsenal v2, 2008 – Enter CS-Cart

In 2008 we upgraded to a full shopping cart platform, CS-Cart. Other major eCommerce options at the time were Zen Cart and X-Cart. CS-Cart was actually a splinter cell of the original X-Cart team. We saw progress and innovation in CS-Cart, but it didn’t support selling digital files. In fact, not many shopping cart applications at the time did. So we hired their team to develop custom features for it. They were very affordable (based in Russia) and added what we asked for. Total implementation took maybe 6 months. Admittedly, the resulting code was sketchy according to our own development review. But we were busy, it was stable, and thus didn’t spend much more time on it.

Arsenal v3, 2010 – Outsourced to Death

We designed Arsenal v3.0 in 2010 and it took us until January 2014 to finally launch. We missed our deadline by 3 years. It was a FAIL to live in infamy here at Go Media.

So what happened?!


Failure to Launch

In 2010 we had the next Arsenal planned and designed. We didn’t have the capacity to produce in house, nor was it exactly our expertise. So we requested quotes for the web development and received estimates in the hundreds of thousands from top American firms.

We didn’t have that sort of budget for this. At the time, we were pushing our internal development resources into a design studio management app, Proof Lab. We put Arsenal v3 on hold until we could finish Proof Lab. Proof Lab ended up taking our team two years to finish. By that time, the Arsenal v3 design was tired and the user experience no longer adequately served the community’s needs.

In 2012 we had a relatively small, but workable budget to get it developed. We decided to hire CS-Cart again because they had been okay on v2 and no one knows their software better. They delivered on their commitment the last time we hired them. They had grown a lot since then. Surely they’d do an even better job this time around.

We were sorely mistaken.

CS-Cart Nightmare

We had a 6 month deadline CS-Cart agreed to. The deadline was pushed back because CS-Cart was coming out with version 3 and we agreed to wait for it. We’d all be better off in the long run. It was chock full of exciting new features. Cool. They promised it was just around the corner. They even published articles of anticipation to the public. Surely their road map was remotely accurate.


CS-Cart v3, and therefore the new Arsenal was pushed back 9 months, then a year. Then a year and a half. The CS-Cart Developers would constantly miss deadlines. They would even claim something was done, when it clearly wasn’t. We had to micromanage every detail. We would send reminders, to-do lists and inevitably hassle them as each delay, bug and excuse mounted.

If that wasn’t bad enough, new developers kept getting assigned to our project and we’d practically have to start communication over from scratch.

A year and a half over deadline, just when we thought we were on the homestretch, some confusing conversations (there were many) lead us to discover CS-Cart was about to release an entirely new version 4.0 of their software! They never mentioned a new version was in the works. We discovered so on our own.

We asked if everything would be future proof and our store could receive updates to the software as released. CS-Cart said YEP. They would promptly migrate our customization over to v4. Promptly apparently means “drag your feet and make excuses for months and months.” Later they would conclude that a key feature we needed was entirely not able to be migrated at all. They danced around our issues for several more months before declaring we were stuck with version 3.


Essentially, we were locked out of receiving updates to their software even though they were still providing custom development on what was now a legacy platform with significant known bugs. Yay! At this point we had invested tens of thousands and lost countless months giving CS-Cart the benefit of nearly insurmountable doubt.

Wow, we’re fricking nice. We couldn’t turn back, right?

The Forest from the Trees

The past few years we have been developing most of our client websites on WordPress as well as eCommerce integration using WooCommerce. In 2010 we would not have considered using these applications for something as demanding as the Arsenal. But we joked that with our WordPress and WooCommerce development expertise we could build Arsenal v3 in a few weeks and be happier with the results. Even better, we would feel more in control of the situation. We hated not being comfortable editing the CS-Cart software. Even though it was a PHP core, it just wasn’t in our team’s wheelhouse. Go Media definitely employs WordPress experts. CS-Cart experts, not so much.

After CS-Cart wiped the smile from our faces, we stopped joking. The improvements and extensions emerging from the WordPress and WooCommerce ecosystem started making the switch a real possibility. Maybe a harder part was accepting CS-Cart as a failure and eating the 3 years of time and money invested in it. It was an unprecedented move to put a store the scale of the Arsenal onto a WordPress plugin. It felt like uncharted territory.

But first we still needed to deploy the “new” Arsenal as it was on CS-Cart. Just finish the job and be done with them. They seemed to be done with us anyway. Their code was our problem now. We scrapped many of the features we had been trying to implement since 2010, such as the artist marketplace. We pushed it up, dealt with the fallout and quickly froze production as we focused on testing the viability of WooCommerce.

Textures Archives   Go Media s Arsenal

WooCommerce here we come!

By this point, WooCommerce had answers for nearly every problem we were having with CS-Cart. Artist marketplace? There’s a plugin for that. Bundle products? There’s a plugin for that too. Subscriptions, digital products, product and order migration – all were completely or partially solved by plugins we could implement in short order. Less bugs than CS-Cart v3? God, we hope so! Was it too good to be true? We feared it might be, for several white-knuckled weeks, as we beat on our proof of concept. But the pressure was on for us to replace the questionable version 3 powered by CS-Cart. So we hit it hard.

WooCommerce has a very different database design when compared to CS-Cart. It leans completely on WordPress, which we all know has its roots in blogging. This turned out to be a very square peg going into a round hole when it came to moving data over (see serialized arrays). Nearly every data object was remarkably different. Fortunately, there is a nice plugin that made migrating the products a cinch.

Unfortunately, a similar Customer and Order migration plugin could not handle the volume we were trying to push into it. Because the database tables were very different, we spent days in MySQL working out the formulas. And then converting the 90,000 customers and hundreds of thousands of orders from almost a decade online, took hours of computer processing time to complete.

All said, the new Arsenal, code-name 3.5, DID NOT take us 3 years! Eat it CS-Cart. We developed the new WordPress & WooCommerce custom theme and migrated all of the products, customers and order data in about six weeks time.

We might not go as far as to say WooCommerce is better than CS-Cart, but here are a few places WooCommerce wins out:

  1. It’s truly more open source. WooCommerce has been the fastest growing eCommerce solution in the last two years with an estimated million+ deployments and counting. With this comes a larger development cadre and more users to be accountable to. This adoption and visibility means better consideration for backward compatibility and less likelihood of bugs.
  2. An already larger and accelerating ecosystem. Not only is WooCommerce the fastest spreading eCommerce application, but the fact that it is buoyed by the massive WordPress scene (20% of ALL websites!) puts the wind to their backs.
  3. The API uses PHP and WordPress best practices, as does the core implementation itself. We believe in standards and excel in this arena.
  4. The documentation is better. The community resources and knowledge base more abundant.
  5. Did we mention it is on WordPress?! There really is no eCommerce software with the publishing power of WordPress. Most eCommerce CMS features are hardly more than an after thought. The marketing and informational demands of today’s web make content king for online shopping. Marrying WordPress with eCommerce is a customer satisfaction match made in SEO heaven.
  6. We trust WooThemes. The great ladies and gents in the Woo camp are people we’ve worked with many times over the years as fellow WordPress experts. They’re good about collaborating with us to make improvements, they’re reliable and they’re in our timezone.
  7. WooCommerce is easier to customize. We discovered a lot of obstacles and had functional disagreements with how CS-Cart handled certain things, only to discover there was no clean way around them. Hence, the reason we were stuck with v3. WooCommerce sprinkles hooks and filters everywhere, making it a snap to override and add things.
  8. It’s smaller. This is a double edged sword, but we’re kinda control freaks here anyway. CS-Cart is trying to be the big-size-fits-all player, but if you’ve ever worked with, say Magento, you know that sometimes mo-features-mo-problems. WooCommerce is lean and mean and at least if you need a few specific features, you can develop or add a third party plugin that hooks right into place and probably won’t have to be thrown away when that next version comes out.

All in all, we’re thrilled and very optimistic about the results. Moreover, bye bye CS-Cart and we’re not looking back. Nothing will ever be exactly everything you want in software. We’re not naive to the challenges of building complex systems, especially for eCommerce. We’re not going to bash CS-Cart as an application, and they were very nice during all the empty promises they didn’t keep. It’s just that maybe we grew apart. Maybe we thought it best to see younger, sexier applications.


The future of Go Media’s Arsenal

We are very excited about what comes next to the Arsenal. What was originally a veritable clearing house for rejected design concepts from Go Media had set the stage for what is now a major segment of our industry. You deserve better from such veterans. We all do. We’re committed to restoring our position as a leader and trusted source for premium graphic design resources.

We want to make your work lives easier without compromising quality. We want to empower creatives with tools and tricks of our trade as well as provide opportunity for the best to join our efforts. We’ve been inviting our favorite designers to now sell their own resources in the new marketplace. We welcome upcoming talent to show us what you’ve got. We may be able to help you become recognized and clear a nice profit in the process.

We ask ourselves every day, what are we doing to change lives? After last year’s WMC Fest which we tagged “3 days to change your life” that’s become an overarching priority at Go Media. We are not interested in copying the trendiest products out there, but to get to the core of what designers like us are really after. We’re committed to providing the best tools, articles, ebooks, inspiration, education and other resources to become the best designer you can be. And not only the best designer, the best Self you can be. Because there’s a lot more to life than Photoshop.

We really hope you’ll join us to help make the new, new Arsenal great. If you’d please take a moment to comment, we would really like to hear your suggestions for what would help you as a designer. We all know that vectors, textures, and templates are a dime a dozen these days but we still face challenges at the helm of creative production.

Now that we have the technology completely within our control and a brand new outlook for the future, what would you like to see the Arsenal bring you?

How to Create Your Own Vector Pack – and sell it!

So you’ve seen all the crazy vector packs we sell over at the Arsenal. Today I’m going to teach you how to create your own stock vector pack and show you how you can sell it online with Gumroad!

Come up with a theme

Before you start coming up with a stock vector pack, you have to think about what would be useful for other designers. What can you make that will save them time? What are you skilled at making? A selection of cool textures you made or a set of birds? What about a set of skulls, heraldry, or ornaments? Vector patterns even zombies? Whatever you fancy, there are two or three primary ways of creating it. I will walk you through each of them.

Option 1: Live Tracing Photos

Note: You shouldn’t work with photos you do not have permission to use. You should either buy the photo with the proper rights off a stock photo website, shoot the photo yourself, or ask the photographer for permission.

The first option is the easiest. It can be as simple as taking a photo and using the live trace command in Illustrator. But often it requires some tweaking and masking in Photoshop before you run the ole vectorizer on it. This option works best for textures, abstract images, or a raw “photocopied” look. The idea is to create a usable element someone else can use in their design. In my experience, converting the photo down to just black and white is best, but of course you can do whatever you think would be most useful.

For example, take this texture for instance. We shot this photo for one of our texture packs.


Open up your texture photo in Photoshop and desaturate it by pressing Ctrl+Shift+U. Then invert it by pressing Ctrl+I. Then you end up with this:


This is getting close to be able to vectorize. But we want to boost the contrast a bit. So press Ctrl+L to bring up the levels and adjust them accordingly:


Then copy/paste or place the image into Adobe Illustrator and click the “Live Trace” button in the upper toolbar.


Then click the “Expand” button. You’ll also want to use the Magic Wand tool and select the “white” background that Adobe Illustrator had converted to vector as well. You don’t need the white part, just the black shapes.


This is the final texture:

Here is an example of how the vectorized texture will look once applied to background:


Here’s another example of placing the photo directly into Illustrator and running the live trace filter.


The final texture is below. Pretty useful for backgrounds!


Option 2: Drawing off Reference Photos

I would highly recommend reading this tutorial by William Beachy on Frankensteining several photos together. To save you some time though, I will share the most important bits relevant to creating your own vector pack. Essentially you want to find good source photos (take them yourself or get permission to use someone else’s) and then draw/trace on top. The idea is to get a simplified vector version of the photo.

Go Media New Document

In the example above, Bill uses the pen tool to illustrate directly on top of the photo. It gives it sort of a highly polished look with just a few colors. The skull below is an example of illustrating directly on top of a photo.


If you want to go for a more grungy look, then take a look at the images from the popular Gigposter Tutorial from 2007.  This photo below  is just an example to show you the process:


Cut out the subject from the background using the Pen Tool or your favorite masking procedure. I have seen but haven’t tried it yet.


Here are two different settings for contrast. In this case, it was done to give you two different levels of color. One will be used for the lightest shade, a medium shade, and the full silhouette will be used as the darkest shade.


See below how each version was live traced:


Now look how each one was given a different color:


And then they are finally arranged on top of each other to complete the three color look. If you’re interested, I made a free Photoshop action quite some time ago to instantly give you a three color effect in Photoshop.


Option 3: Drawing from Scratch

Finally, if you’ve got some drawing skills, you can always draw your vector shapes by hand on paper like below:


And you can see those drawings by Dave Tevenal for our Ornate Vector Pack were Live Traced directly in Illustrator without much editing.


It’s really important to make sure your drawings have a clear distinction between black and white. Pencil drawings do not live trace well. Neither does ball point pen. We recommend using Micron pens or something similar.

Keep in mind when you scan your drawings, they should be fairly high resolution so the Live Trace works well. You might need to clean up any stray dots or mess around your image.

Here are other examples of drawing from scratch:


And the final vector version you can find in our Ornate Patterns vector pack:


Selling Your Vector Pack

Once you have a finished vector pack, you can sell it on your own website or blog using Gumroad. We are huge fans of Gumroad and they make the process extremely easy. You just upload your product and preview image, set a price and you’re done. They give you easy embed codes to copy and paste the button right onto your website.

Gumroad will handle all the credit card payments. The downside is they don’t take Paypal, but that’s ok.


I don’t really need to tell you step by step how to use Gumroad, they already do it quite well. But I’ll give you some tips – the preview image you use goes a long way in showing off your product. You only get one big image, make sure it shows off the benefits of your vector pack!  Another tip is trying out the “Pay What You Want” feature for freebies!

In fact, you can see how Go Media uses Gumroad by checking out our profile page.

Another place you can sell it is on a marketplace. We are close to launching the Arsenal Marketplace which will become a curated collection of some of our favorite resources designed by us and fellow artists. Another great option is Creative Market.

Examples of Finished Vector Packsgma_vector_set05_flames_prv_all gma_vector_set09_abstracthalftones_prv_all gma-set-11-all-prv-birds gma_vector_set08_arrows_prv_all

If you make your own vector pack, post a link in the comments to where people can buy or download it!

How I Built a Killer Morning Routine

This post was originally written on my personal blog Maker/Mistaker and I thought I should repost it here.

So you call yourself a night owl huh? Most creative people I know (myself included) felt like they get in the zone after midnight. All is still and quiet and you can finally focus on your work. And if you’re not working, you’re doing something until the wee hours of the morning. If you’re like most night owls, you dread getting up in the morning.

That was certainly me. My wife too. Over time our bed time kept getting pushed back later and later because there was always “something to do” that we just had to do. We weren’t tired and going to bed felt like giving up on the day.

A Night Owl No More

I have been getting up at least one hour earlier for over a month now. In fact, the past two weeks I’ve been getting up two and a half hours earlier than normal. The night owl in me would ask, “Why the fuck would you ever get up before you have to?”

This getting up early habit has led to a month-long streak of wonderful habits including exercise, walking, meditation, mindfulness, journaling, and reading to name a few. Each of those has tremendous benefits on their own.

Those are all things I never “had time for” no matter how many extra hours I stayed up. Typically, staying up extra hours just meant more time on the computer. Am I right?

If I Could Only Get Up Early

I didn’t have the ambition to do all those things at first. All I started with was a desire to get up early just because. If I can regularly do that, then I’ll fill it with things to do I’m sure. So I started small with just the cue (or trigger), routine, and reward system to get my ass out of bed. Something I learned from the Power of Habit book.

Cue: Alarm goes off.
Routine: Get out of bed, crawl to couch.
Reward: Cup of coffee while I watched TV on my laptop.

I made sure to add this to my Lift habits so I could keep track. This worked great until the very next day when I forgot to set my alarm and woke up late. Dammit. I woke up early the following morning to get back on track. Then it was the weekend; which of course I slept in and stopped caring about my goal. Then I read The Miracle Morning and that changed everything.

The book stressed how it’s totally ok to be as simple and small as you need to be. The author even described how you can do the Miracle Morning routine in just six minutes! Who doesn’t have time for that?

The book refreshed my inspiration on meditation and personal development. I started following Hal’s suggested routine of waking up, chugging a glass of water, sitting in silence for five minutes, doing some mild exercise, journaling, etc. I tried it out and eventually started customizing it to suit my needs.

My Morning Routine

I use the AM Routine app to help me stay on track. You set your desired end time (like when you have to leave for work) and you add habits with time estimates to your routine. It will calculate exactly when the built-in alarm should go off to give you enough time to do your routine. It even has a handy dashboard to show you what task you should be on, how much time is left, and what’s coming up next. This is brilliant for those foggy mornings. You don’t have to think at all!

  • 6:30 AM: alarm goes off. My phone is across the room and I have to get up to turn it off. This prevents me from snoozing.
  • Get dressed, brush and floss my teeth, feed the rabbit: 5 minutes
  • Drink a glass of water and/or make coffee:  5 minutes
  • Meditate: 10 minutes
  • Read affirmations: 5 min
  • Watch a show on my computer: 30-60 minutes
  • Write in my journal: 10 minutes
  • Go for a walk and listen to audiobook: 25 minutes
  • Push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, baby-freeze (breakdance move), lift weights: 5 minutes
  • Shower and get ready: 15 minutes
  • Eat Breakfast: 15 minutes
  • Pack lunch, get the mail: 5 minutes

So that’s my routine. Sometimes for breakfast I’ll make a chocolate super-food smoothie that I got from The Miracle Morning book, so I sip it throughout my routine. I’m getting a little bored of this routine already and might want to shake things up. I’m adding in 10 minutes of writing in my blog and slowly eliminating my TV watching time. The beauty of this is that I can do whatever the fuck I want. It’s my morning routine.

Jeff’s 5 Tips for a Killer Morning Routine

  1. Start small. Remember, pick up the goddamn weight, don’t worry about lifting yet. Just do as little as possible so you can check it off and feel good about it. Small wins are the only way you’ll feel motivated to keep going.
  2. Do something pleasurable. For me that was watching a new episode of a tv series. It could be video games. Think of how you felt on Christmas morning as a kid, you couldn’t wait to jump out of bed. As an adult, what would give you that type of excitement in the morning?
  3. Don’t let yourself think. In the morning, your willpower and decision making ability is extremely low. You need to build up a routine that is dead simple especially right as you step out of bed. For me, this means turning off my alarm clock, unplugging my iPhone charger and stumbling over to my dresser where I have my morning routine outfit already ready in my top drawer. Plan out your entire morning routine in advance so you don’t have to make any decisions in the morning. Even a zombie can do it!
  4. Set things out the night before. I wear the same shorts and shirt every day. Deciding what to wear is hard when you’re groggy. Even my breakfast smoothie is created the night before. The glass for my morning water is always in the same place. It requires no thinking to get going. This is key!
  5. Focus on personal development. Do not work! Resist the temptation to check email or social media. Do not start working on a project right away without first spending time working on your own personal development. You have the rest of the day to worry about checking stuff off your to-do list. Do not feel guilty about being “unproductive” and do not feel selfish for focusing on yourself. You deserve to have time to develop the life you want to live.

Fear of Making Money

This post was originally written on my personal blog Maker/Mistaker and I thought I should repost it here.

A while back I was having a conversation with a friend of mine Danielle Harper. We were discussing a lot of things that affect us as entrepreneurs. One of those was money. Danielle was describing a criticism she received but defended herself by saying, “and I didn’t even make any money on it.”

I stopped her right there because what she said made me realize something. She defended herself by reminding me that she didn’t make money. Why?

Check out her post on her blog about this very conversation. 

So why did she resort to the “but I didn’t make money” defense? I notice this a lot with the people I surround myself with. Grown adults who grew up on punk rock that never quite fit into the system. The whole DIY movement is sort of a fuck-you to capitalism and corporate greed. There’s a certain badge of honor doing things yourself and trying to “stick it to the man.”

I’ll Just Do it Myself

In your teens and early twenties, you are filled with hope and determination. You have enough courage to start your own business and start making money doing your own thing. Maybe you tried to get a job but couldn’t and were like, “fuck it” I’ll just do it myself. Maybe you made an amazing product or had an brilliant idea nobody ever thought of before. Maybe you created something people admired and loved.

You knew you had to charge money for whatever it was, but you secretly hated that part of the business. You loved the creation. You loved the work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard really talented artists say, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this shit.” As if their talents are somehow worthless and clients and customers are fools for paying them. How much more self-deprecating can you get?

Fear of Greed

The thing is, we seem to have this underlying fear of making money. Because what does money lead to? Does it lead to becoming that big fat greedy bastard we imagined when we were younger? Are we afraid of becoming the man? We don’t want to be seen by our peers as motivated by money. Being motivated by money is the ultimate evil, right? Well, that’s what we told ourselves.

Ever since I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, there have been many conversations about money. I heard from people who thought we were rolling in the dough with our $35 ticket price. I’ll be first to admit I was quick to defend myself with how broke we were and how much we sacrificed. “Hey look, we are doing this for the love of the music and art!” That was the truth, we did love it. We just needed enough money to cover our costs. And guess what we got? Just enough money to cover our costs. Danielle said the same about her businesses.

It can be scary imagining yourself earning money. Money is power. Having power can be scary because you’ve seen so many people abuse it. You’re scared of what you might do with that money and power.

Fear of Criticism

Why are we so afraid of making money? Is it because you can no longer be immune to criticism? You can’t fail if you’re not making money right? There’s an assumption if you’re doing anything related to music and art that any hint of commercialism taints the true intentions of the artist. An artist often does not want to be regarded as having compromised his artistic integrity to make a buck.  Once you’re making a buck, you have customers. Customers who feel that you are now working for them and that they’re always right. You now opening yourself up to critique and criticisms and that can be hard to accept.

Altruism and Sacrifice

We all want to do good; to change the world. We all feel that we were granted some special ability to affect the world in our own unique way. We judge ourselves and each other by how much we sacrifice our own happiness to make others happy. Sacrifice is just another measuring stick to compare fellow humans with. Are you better if you sacrifice more for a greater good of the team or humanity?

Being selfless or altruistic is admired. It’s sometimes like a competition to see who can struggle the hardest and earn the least. Have you ever told someone a story of your hardship only to hear someone else one-up you? “You think you’ve got it bad, let me tell you!”

Change Your Perspective About Money

Sometimes we are afraid of other people feeling insecure around us. If we happen to become successful, we’re afraid it’s going to make our closest friends jealous and insecure and even hate us. Until we change our perspective on money we’re going to treat it like poison. Until we stop judging what others do with their money, we will forever be judged with what we do with ours.

WMC Fest 2013 documentary film

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest short documentary film

Three Days that Changed Our Lives

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 4 went down in the summer of 2013 in Cleveland, OH at the historic Cleveland Public Theatre and inspired us greatly. Over 1,500 dreamers, doers, makers and mistakers joined together with common goal: to be challenged like nothing else before, to question ourselves and not let fear and failure stop us from loving what we do.


Highlights included soul-baring speeches from some of the industry’s best, wall-to-wall art, music from over 40 bands, break-dancing and our first annual artists battle, Ink Wars (sponsored by our friends over at Adobe). Through it all, a sense of togetherness, kindness and community was palpable.

We truly created a movement.


Director: Aaron Freeder
Produced by: Go Media
Creative Director and WMC Fest Founder: Jeff Finley
Custom Lettering: Brandon Rike, Jon Contino, Jeff Finley, Mary Kate McDevitt, Jillian Adel, Alonzo Felix, Troy DeShano
Animation: Zach Christy

Missed out on WMC Fest goodies?

It’s okay! Leave a comment below telling us why you love WMC Fest and on 10/25 we’ll choose one winner at random. That lucky winner will receive a WMC Fest prize pack including a WMC Fest t-shirt, button pack, sticker and journal. Good luck!

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Logo Design tutorial

How to Design an Iconic and Memorable Band Logo

Athlete Originals: Connecting Designers with Pro Sports Stars

I was contacted by Chris Dey, the founder of Athlete Originals with an earnest request on how to build a crowd-sourced design website that professional designers actually liked. He had a great idea and it was cool that he was seeking advice from the design community. Their new site launched today and is now open to the public.

Designers can sign up today if they wanted.

Disclosure: Athlete Originals is a client of ours. We didn’t design their website, but we are providing them strategy and feedback to help make their site better for designers. This blog post is to introduce their site to the design community at large and get feedback from our readers. If you have any feedback, feel free to comment at the bottom of this post.


What is Athlete Originals?

Athlete Originals is a website that connects pro athletes with the design community. For designers, it works like your average design contest website. Designers can submit designs to logo and t-shirt design projects for these athlete’s upstart fashion brands. If their design gets chosen, they get paid. Pretty well in my opinion. Athlete Originals takes the design files and sends them to print and sells the merchandise in their online store. They are essentially a merchandising company for these athletes.

The best part is how no-name designers can work with big-name stars.

jarius wright

Who are some well-known athletes that have used AO to work with designers?

Jarius Wright (wide receiver from the Minnesota Vikings) and LeGarrette Blount (running back from the Patriots) would be two guys who have built brands and launched apparel lines.  They actually each built personal brands, then turned around and launched secondary apparel brands.  For example, BLOUNT and Blount Force Trauma.  J Wright and Wright Stuff.  Jarius is also building a line called Separation.

“Athlete Originals did a great job developing my brand.  The designs are tight!  I’m looking forward to launching my apparel line and bringing more of my ideas to life.” – LeGarrette Blount, NFL Running Back

legarrett blount

Coming online to AO soon will be Kerri Walsh (gold medal volleyball player), Pablo Sandoval (SF Giants and World Series MVP), Jessica Eye (UFC), and more.

kerri walsh

Now, I am not a fan of design contest websites by default. They typically pay the designer poorly and too many people lose and don’t get paid anything for their work. But I am not completely against them; they can work. Chris and I had long phone conversations about what designers really want: to get paid, creative freedom, fun projects, and cool clients. Chris took my advice and incorporated these principles into Athlete Originals. And from what I have seen so far, designers are digging it.

“Working with Athlete Originals was an amazing experience. I had the privilege of working for some of the best athletes in the country and to be able to capture their vision in a clothing line and see that design come to life was truly a dream come true.” – Kyle Saxton, Intern at Go Media

Design by Kyle Saxton, Go Media
Design by Kyle Saxton, Go Media

We got a chance to use it and two of our designers Kyle Saxton and Carly Utegg both won projects soon after they signed up. Now they are both talented designers and isn’t surprising but this was encouraging! It’s quite addictive to win and see that cash in your account!

What are the payouts?

“The payout is great. Not your typical $50-$100 logo fee given on other crowd-sourced platforms. Even if it’s spec, the huge payout encourages you to participate.” – AJ Dimarucot, Freelance Designer

Design by AJ Dimarucot for  Jordan Poyer, rookie defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles.  It’s a take off on his tattoos and his nickname J PO.
Design by AJ Dimarucot for Jordan Poyer, rookie defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s a take off on his tattoos and his nickname J PO.

From founder Chris Dey, “With the exception of our pre-launch athletes who received discounts, future design payouts will be $1,000 for a t-shirt design and $3,200 for a brand logo. This represents how much the designer would receive [after fees].” This is remarkable. Let me repeat this:

  • Average Payout for T-Shirt: $1,000
  • Average Payout for Brand Logo: $3,200
Design for Jarius Wright by Yavuz Sonmez
Design for Jarius Wright by Yavuz Sonmez

“Athlete Originals has provided me with the opportunity to design for some of the top athletes in the world… One of my designs was selected by famous American Football player Jarius Wright, who is a very good wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.”  Yavuz Sonmez, Freelance Designer in Istanbul, Turkey

Designs for Jarius Wright. Logo by Yavuz Sonmez, t-shirt design by Go Media
Designs for Jarius Wright. Logo by Yavuz Sonmez, t-shirt design by Go Media

How does it work?

“The process is straight forward, quick, and allows for as much creativity as your willing to give! Not to mention it’s great pay and get’s your name out there!” – Carly Utegg, Go Media

After a designer confirms their new account via email, they can log in and view the active projects.  They add the projects they are interested in to their Watch List so that they receive updates on them.  They chose to participate in those projects that interest them most.  They submit designs according to the design specs.  Once the deadline has passed, if the designer’s artwork is selected, they upload the final files according to the specs (the Designer’s Playbook).  The client approves the final art and the designer gets paid.

Note: We personally had an issue with uploading final files before we got paid as this violates Go Media’s standard design process. We changed our mind for this one because the client is taking on a risk by allowing any designer in the world to submit. They need to make sure the final files are print-ready. Fortunately there are contracts in place that protect you as the designer. Don’t worry about not getting paid if you win.

Lonnie Pryor designed by Alex Miller, intern at Go Media


  • Extremely easy access to rewarding projects for some big name clients.
  • You don’t have to go out and sell to try to land more clients. They are already there.
  • Good payouts that are on par with market rates for logo and t-shirt designs ($500 and up)
  • Fairly low risk and a good percentage you can win because the site is new
  • You can focus on designing and forget about pitching and selling your work
  • Clients have already filled out questionnaires about what they want
  • You can quickly build a portfolio with pro athlete clientele
  • Work only when you want to, not everyone gets that luxury
  • The terms for payment and file delivery are very easy to understand.
  • Fast customer service from an interested founder.


  • No guaranteed payment unless you win.
  • Your chances of winning get lower when more designers participate
  • That’s about all I can think of

How do I sign up?

It’s free to sign up, just visit this page and build your profile and start working!

custom sticker for wmc fest

Tutorial: How to Design and Print Custom Silk Screen Die-Cut Stickers

This post is a revealing walk-through behind the design, illustration, and sticker printing process. I’m proud to show off the new artwork I created for the upcoming Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 4 event.  The artwork below is going to be used for stickers, t-shirts, posters, etc. In this post I’m going to show you how I created it and how I set it up to become a die-cut sticker. I got these custom die cut stickers printed at Sticker Robot and they did a great job! Let’s do this. Strap yourselves in, this is going to be a fun ride.

Related: Check out this other article I wrote about how to design custom Kiss Cut Stickers for your Band.

WMC Fest 4 defy the hand you're dealt

Step 1: Sketches!

Way back when I started WMC Fest I used the phrase “defy the hand you’re dealt” quite a bit. I wanted to bring that back this year. A couple years ago Brandon Rike created an image for WMC that featured a hand stuck with two arrows. It’s a clever way of illustrating the idea behind the phrase. I wanted to expand upon that and combine it with images of friendship, togetherness, and community. Those are frequent ideas people have when they think about WMC. I started sketching and I came up with a pair of holding hands with a sword through them. You know, like we’re fighting this struggle together!

defy the hand you're dealt sketch

Step 2: Photoshop Prep

Since this artwork is going to be used in lots of ways, I created my Photoshop document at 18″ x 24″ at 300 DPI.  Why didn’t I use Illustrator you ask?  Just personal preference mainly. This design could have been done in either program to be honest. Since we are setting up the files for CMYK sticker printing, I chose the CMYK color mode. Once I got my new document set up, I copied and pasted my sketch in the document and sized it accordingly.

new photoshop document settings

placed sketch in photoshop

Step 3: Gathering References

Before I start illustrating, I need to find a reference image for my holding hands. While my sketch is OK, I want the proportions to be accurate. I asked Bill to shoot a photo of my wife and I holding hands. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but I want to at least get the pose correct so I can manipulate and illustrate it in Photoshop to my liking. Here is our reference photo:

holding hands

Step 4: Blocking it Out

After I placed my reference photo into my document, I rotated it and cut out just the arms and hands. The rest of the photo is unnecessary. I also went ahead and blocked in some additional reference like perfect circles, real fonts, starburst lines, and framing for the die-cut sticker.

wmc fest design references

Step 5: Start Illustrating

I reduced the opacity on my reference to something like 25% so I could start drawing on top to create the illustration. I use my Ye Ole Wacom Intuos 3 tablet and my brush settings are below. There are better drawing tablets out there, but this has served me well since 2006!

jeff finley wacom brush settings in photoshop

wmc fest design in progress

Step 6: Hand Lettering

Once my outlines are created, it’s time to start drawing the type. Now it took me many tries to get the letters correct for “Defy the Hand You’re Dealt.” My sketch itself wasn’t detailed enough so I had to improvise a lot. I knew I wanted “defy the hand” on the left arm and “you’re dealt” on the right arm. It was just a matter of making the letters fit! It was a lot of trial and error. Some tips for your own lettering would be to block in the letters first. Try a rough draft and get the letters in there how you want. Then you can turn that layer’s opacity down and draw it again over top while being more creative with the letter forms. Since I don’t have a very steady hand (often a little jittery from coffee and anxiety) my letter forms are not perfect. They’re a little wobbly, which is ok considering my entire design will be slightly imperfect.

hand lettering by jeff finley for wmc fest

The rest of the lettering was easier because I had a font to base it off of. For the words Cleveland, I set my reference type up with ITC Caslon and warped the type and got it into place. Then I drew over top of it my own custom version of it. For the dates, I loosely based my letters on the font, I drew it in rather quickly. Check it out:

cleveland hand lettering by jeff finley

wmc fest lettering in photoshop

Step 7: Shading and Stippling

Once the drawing was complete, I printed it out and used a good old fashioned light box. I placed my outlined drawing down first, then placed a blank sheet of paper directly on top. The light box allowed me to see through the paper so I can have precise detail when stipple shading. I used a set of fine-detail Micron pens. There is no shortcut to stipple shading, believe me I’ve tried!  I actually tried using my Wacom tablet to do this, but I didn’t get as natural and consistent results. So I went analog for this! To be honest, stipple shading is much easier using Micron pens and doing it on real paper than trying to do it digitally. My intention was to scan my shading into Photoshop onto a different layer. Then I could do whatever I wanted with it!

jeff finley drawing with a light box

Stipple Shading on its own layer

One trick to note: I did a separate scan for any stippling that would be “highlights” or “distressing” on my image. For example I did the stipple shading on my text on its own piece of paper and scanned it separately. That way I could change its color easier. I did the same for all the abstract dots that fill the background. In the end those were going to be lighter than the background, but it is still nice to have it on its own layer.

wmc fest design fully shaded

Step 8: Coloring!

Now that I had my outlines and shading complete, it’s time to fill it with color! I knew I wanted to go with my tried and true WMC Fest color palette. With my outlines and shading layers on top, I made a new layer underneath everything for each element. I started with the left arm first and colored it with the WMC pink color. Then I made a new layer and started coloring the right arm an orange color. By having the outlines on a layer above your colors, all you have to do is get close and color between the lines. It doesn’t matter what kind of brush you use, I’m just painting in solid colors. To make sure I’m using the same consistent colors throughout the design, I use “color overlay” layer style on each layer.

Also, since I made my background dark, notice how I changed the colors of “we are weapons of mass creation” and “until the end” to something brighter. Also, take a look at how I colored the little flag in the middle and the rays shooting out from the center. I just selected those layers and changed the “color overlay” setting to the color I wanted. No additional coloring needed.

Here is what our design looks like without any outlines on top.

wmc fest design with colors blocked in

And here is our finished design when we turn back on the shading and outline layers. Note: you might see some subtle distressing on the type. What I did for that was duplicating some of my stipple shading layers and placing them strategically on top of the type. Since the shading layers are the same color as the background, I was able to achieve a slightly distressed look.

WMC Fest 4 defy the hand you're dealt

Step 9: Prep for Die-Cut Sticker Printing!

The design is done! Now I just need to send it to print! But before that I had to make sure I was adhering to the specs that Sticker Robot calls for on their website. They actually screen print their stickers, but use a CMYK simulated process print. They literally screen print tiny dots of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black to get the exact colors in your design. So all I had to do was send them a high res CMYK .tif file and they did the rest. No complicated color separation work for me!

The trickiest part in setting this up for print was creating the die-cut layer. This was just a single color outline that on a separate layer that tells the printer where to cut the sticker out from the background. Since we aren’t going for traditional square-shaped stickers here, you need to specify the shape of your sticker!

It’s pretty easy. See below:

sticker die cut prep for wmc fest design

One thing to note was that there should be at least a 1/8″ safety area separation from your artwork to your die-cut line, and an additional 1/8″ bleed  area beyond your die-cut line. This will ensure your sticker has enough room to move around slightly on the press.

Another cool thing with Sticker Robot is they are one of the few sticker printers that allow you to print a grayscale design on the back of your sticker! To set this up with my custom shape sticker, I mirrored my sticker shape horizontally and designed the sticker back. I used a collage background I designed for the festival last year as my background and added our website URL. The only catch is the design had to be black and white. Check it out:

wmc fest die cut sticker back

Step 10: Print up the Stickers!

The design was sent off to Sticker Robot and here’s a few photos they took of the sticker printing process, from film to packaging:

Film for the black plate.

Film is printed for each color. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. The film will be used to expose the screens.

Film for the back plate

The film is exposed.

A bright light is used to expose the film through the emulsion to the silkscreen itself. Each color will have it’s own screen.

film is exposed

Silkscreen Sticker Printing

A squeegee pushes ink through the screen onto the vinyl substrate, one color at a time, one sheet at a time.

silkscreen sticker printing

close up of cyan ink on the squeegee
a close up of cyan ink on the squeegee

Cyan and Magenta Ink

The cyan and magenta ink have been laid down. Next will be yellow, then black and finally 3 coats of clear UV protective ink.

cyan and magenta ink

Silkscreen Quality Ink

Silkscreen ink is notoriously thick and durable, typically 10-20 times thicker than digital ink. This is magenta:

magenta ink
Doesn’t really LOOK like bright magenta we know does it?

Magenta, Cyan and Yellow

The basic colors are coming together… we’re just missing the final color, black.

colors are coming together

Black ink is laid down…

Now it’s starting to look like a sticker!

black ink is laid down

Sticker Diecutting

This is a tedious process, where each sticker sheet is literally cut one at a time – a truly custom sticker. See the video below that shows the process on creating die cut stickers.

sticker die cutting process

Sticker Packaging!

Here are the final stickers. WMC here we come!

stack of wmc fest stickers

2,000 wmc fest stickers
this is what a couple thousand custom die cut WMC stickers look like…

custom sticker for wmc fest


So there you have it, that was how I created the artwork for the 2013 Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and how the stickers were created. You can get your own screen printed, die-cut vinyl stickers created with your designs through Sticker Robot. If you want to attend the upcoming WMC Fest and see a ton of great bands, speakers, and designers, tickets go on sale soon at

wmc fest die cut sticker time lapse
A simulated time-lapse of the illustration

7 Side Income Strategies for Designers

I’ve seen some posts recently about how designers can make extra money online. Too often those posts are filled with crowdsourcing or design contest websites. Sure, you can submit a design to Threadless and maybe win some money or you could compete with thousands of designers to MAYBE get paid as a logo designer, but that’s unreliable and considered spec work. We don’t want that.

If you’re a designer, you’re probably a creative thinker. You need to get out of your mindset that you can just sign up for something and start generating a passive income. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t just crap out designs and sell them as stock either, that won’t work. Maybe it did in 2005-2006 but recently the stock market is over-saturated. That said, it’s still possible to make some good money selling stock, you just need to think about it differently.

I’m going to talk about fresh methods that forward-thinking designers are using to make extra money on the side. Side projects baby! Every designer has them and you should get on it.

1. Selling Posters and T-Shirts

It’s common these days for designers to have an online store selling their posters, t-shirts, stickers, buttons, etc. Where I come from, designers treat themselves a lot like musicians. Here you are making art and at the same time you have your own swag to go with it. While stickers and buttons are cheap items to get produced, posters and t-shirts tend to be cost-prohibitive for many designers. Fortunately sites like Society6 and Imagekind print your work only when customers order your design. While the profits are thin here, you don’t need to pay up front for a large batch of products.

Become a poster artist or start a clothing line.

If you’re good, you might see a good business coming from your poster work. Get yourself featured on OMG Posters or Laughing Squid and you can expect to see some sales. And if you’re noticing a lot of interest in your products, this is where many designers think about starting their own clothing line. Their side project becomes a little bit more serious. Brandon Herbel of Make Believe Clothing is an example. If starting a line is something you’ve considered, you might want to check out the book I wrote on the subject.

2. Selling Digital Files

If it can be downloaded, it can be sold.

Let’s get this out of the way. You are really leaving money on the table here. If you can make an icon, illustration, or create a cool effect in Photoshop, you can sell that sucker online. People buy it. I’m 30 years old with 6 professional years of experience and a big enough ego that makes me think I should draw everything by hand. But I would still buy stock or some sort of time-saver or shortcut if it’s going to help me. Stock vectors, textures, fonts, layer styles, actions, themes, templates, frameworks, ebooks, tutorials – those are all sellable assets. If you can download it, it can be sold.

It’s not that hard tech-wise.

So how do you sell it? You can either join a marketplace like iStockPhoto, Shutterstock, or Graphic River or you can sell it on your own site. Joining a marketplace offers you a built in customer base and all the technology for purchasing and downloading is in place. Just know that the website will either cost a monthly fee or will take some percentage of your sales.

Some good news! We are redesigning the Arsenal and will be allowing other designers to sell their digital products in our store! However, it’s not an open marketplace. You must apply to become an Arsenal Artist and we have pretty high standards for what we will accept. Quality over quantity. If you are interested in making money as an Arsenal Artist, please email me with a link to your portfolio and ideally some products you already have made. You can earn a decent side income here too.

If you sell digital products on your own site, you keep every penny but you also have to promote it yourself and figure out the technology to sell the products. But that’s not much of a barrier anymore. Using a service like eJunkie or Pulley is an easy way to do this. Most shopping cart or ecommerce packages support selling downloadable products. So the technology part shouldn’t be holding you back.

Here’s an example:

Download Now – $7

Sell solutions for common design problems.

Once you’re ready to sell, what ARE you going to sell? What kind of products actually make money? From our experience selling stock art and design files on our own website Arsenal, is that vectors and templates sell very well. But there are TONS of options for designers looking for clip art or stock. How are yours better? How are they different? You should have some foresight into what YOU like to use in your designs – so chances are other people share your taste. Make stuff for your friends and your peers. What kind of solutions can you create for common design problems? What effects do you consistently use in your work that you could simplify and sell as a Layer Style or Photoshop Action?

Selling WordPress themes is also an option. Sites like ThemeForest have allowed authors to make over seven-figures selling their own WordPress themes. Crazy! If you design solutions based around WordPress for your clients, chances are you’ve streamlined your process by perhaps building off a base-theme or creating common elements that you reuse for new projects. Nobody likes reinventing the wheel. I’m sure you’ve purchased a plugin or bought a Premium theme from places like WooThemes or StudioPress so why not start offering your own? If they can do it, why not you?

How versatile are your products in other people’s designs?

One tip, the more versatile your products the better. For example, a stock illustration of something very specific won’t sell as well as a halftone pattern or a simple distress texture. Also educational products sell very well like eBooks or Video Tutorials but creating those is a lot harder and takes much more time. Which leads me to my next point, learn to write.

3. Hone Your Writing Skills

More and more, writing skills are beginning to be what sets designers apart from the pack. You may be a REALLY GOOD logo designer, but it’s only a matter of time before someone else becomes just as good or better. One way to enhance your reputation is to blog. Ok, no brainer, we all know that but – how do you become known as the best designer? Not just by designing but by talking about design. You should talk about typography or merchandise design. Make bold claims and back them up. Step up your game and figure out how to be a good writer. You don’t need to go as far as Austin Kleon and become a full fledged author. But if you do, more power to you! Your words can exist only on the web and that’s ok.

Take your blog seriously.

Most designers have a website. Most designers have some sort of blog whether it be WordPress, Tumblr, etc. Chances are it’s pretty stale and fairly self promotional. Maybe you write the occasional news update here and there or maybe you’ve tried to write a quick behind-the-scenes look at a project you are working on. Those are fine, but if you want to build a side income, try treating your blog a bit more like a business.

Turn your blog into a resource. Write thoughtful articles about things you are interested in and keep content fresh and current. Your goal is to drive traffic to your site and to your products. Hopefully you’ll also convert some of those into clients. Create content that starts conversations.

Write articles for other blogs.

If you start building up a track record of writing good content, you can start asking your favorite design blogs for author positions on their site. Have an awesome article you wrote? Instead of publishing it on your own blog, try sending it to some more popular blogs and seeing if they’ll pay you for it. You won’t necessarily make a ton of money with just one guest post, but you could drive some extra traffic to your own blog and products this way. If nobody is interested you can always post it on your site.

Writing a book is easier than ever.

The problem with blog articles is that they’re typically free. People don’t want to pay to read a blog article. But if you can write a blog article, you can write a book. Lots of times a book is just a handful of good articles sandwiched in between two covers – or heck, simply compressed into a PDF and hosted on your site.

Sometimes your awesome article is too long and would fit better in ebook form. You’re a designer so you can probably make something classy in InDesign so your ebook doesn’t look like the crappy spambooks out there giving ebooks a bad name. Look what the folks at A List Apart have done, they’ve got a whole series of awesome books. I bet you they sell like hotcakes.

And if you want to get into physical production, you don’t NEED a publisher. That’s what I did with Thread’s Not Dead. I set out to write the ultimate guide for t-shirt designers and since I had no author cred or publisher contacts, I needed to do it myself. I designed it nicely, formatted it for iOS and Kindle devices and hosted it on my website. I wanted to sell it for $50 so I recorded my own audiobook and bundled it with some other digital files. I had a whopper of a product all of a sudden. Something that felt meaty and substantial, but all in digital form.

The nicely designed ebook created high demand for a printed hardcover book so I sought out publishers but nothing came out of it. As a result I self published using a site called Lightning Source. If you want to know more about this, I wrote a much more in-depth article about how I made my first book. When the hardcover edition came out, I even held a launch party at a local indie book store so it felt official. Speaking of launch parties, let’s talk about how events can act as another revenue source for the not-so ordinary designer.

4. Host an Event

So much of what we do as designers happens online. Take a step back and think about experiences people have. What are some of your best experiences? Chances are you’ll remember events you attended or places you’ve gone. People you’ve met at those places. Want people to know more about your design studio? Why not host a party at your office? We did that with our Open Houses for Go Media. While they were free to attend, we were able to sell merch and we got some new customers out of the deal. We also got to design really cool invitations!

But what if you could charge admission to your event? Or sell drinks? Start your own indie conference for example. We did that with Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and others are doing it like Columbus Creative or Brooklyn Beta. Or put on a show with your favorite bands and design the poster and promotional materials for it. When Bill and Wilson were starting Go Media, they threw big events with hundreds of DJ’s during the winter when business was slow.

Find a cause and build an experience around it. Have something you want to support or change? Get people together in person to support or promote the idea. Create an experience around this. We wanted to help promote the cool indie spots around Cleveland while at the same time increasing Go Media’s awareness in the city. So we started On the Map. We made short documentary vignettes on a bunch of businesses we liked around town and held an event to show them off. We could have charged admission or sold drinks, but we chose not to for that particular event.

Sell your stuff at other events. 

If hosting your own event is outside your comfort zone, try getting involved with design conferences, indie craft fairs, concerts, etc. Apply to be a vendor so you can set up a booth or table and you can sell posters, t-shirts, stickers, buttons, books, and other merch. What’s that? You don’t have those things to sell? What are you waiting for, get on that!

Hold a Workshop

Another idea to not only get your name out there but give you a little extra cash is to hold a workshop. Have it at your studio or at a local university. Make a one-day workshop on a technique or idea you know a lot about. Sell tickets to the workshop (maybe with Eventbrite) and make it limited so not everyone can get in. This should pay for your time and effort and also it will help you look like an expert while making new contacts at the same time. It will also allow you to promote your own work or other side projects if you want. But really, you’re selling the opportunity for others to learn from an experienced designer like you. Why not?

5. Ads and Affiliate Marketing

If you’ve got any decent public profile or traffic to your website, you can sell ads on it. In fact that’s how most online bloggers and content creators make their money. You can quickly copy and paste a snippet of code to display ads from Google AdSense or ad networks like Carbon. That’s pretty easy and pretty passive. If you have an email newsletter, you can sell an ad on it. If you’ve got a podcast, sell a sponsorship spot or two. Heck, you could even get paid to tweet things for people. Speaking of tweeting for people, there’s a cool service called that is basically a barter system for sharing. The more you share other’s stuff the more people share your stuff.

Affiliate Marketing

This one kind of has a bad rap. Just the term affiliate marketing sounds shady. But really, if you can buy a product online, there’s probably a way for you to promote it and make some extra cash. You don’t have to sign up for big sites like Pepperjam or Commission Junction to do it either, but those are options.  You would be able to look for products you don’t mind mentioning on your blog and you’d link to them hoping your visitors would buy. For every sale you get a commission. It’s pretty simple. You’ll likely make a small amount from affiliate marketing, but if you do it right you can really earn a big income. And by doing it right I mean dedicate a ton of your time to it like it’s your full time job. You probably would rather be designing.

I would just start paying attention to stuff you buy online and services you pay for. Chances are they have an affiliate program. In fact, you can make money by promoting my own book Thread’s Not Dead and get a good commission every time someone buys it. Most authors who sell ebooks probably have an affiliate program. You can always just look at Payloadz or eJunkie directories to see what’s up.

6. Make a Niche Website

I’ve covered most of the easy stuff for earning a side income as a designer. This one is a little more complicated but it’s not so bad if you’re crafty. What I mean by niche website is just a small, unique, clever site that does one simple thing. Jessica Hische is the queen of this. It seems she’s been able to identify little problems and solve them with a beautifully designed website. For example, Should I Work For Free?, Mom – This is How Twitter Works, Inker Linker, Don’t Fear the Internet, and many more. Find a  need and fill it. You’re a designer, you can solve these kinds of problems right? Make it look nice and make sure you have a way to monetize them. You’re either going to use them to drive traffic to your main site, sell ads on the site so when it goes viral you can get some ROI, or sell a digital product (like a single ebook) on that site. We did this with our site In fact, Arsenal was started that way in 2006!

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has small niche sites for just about every idea he has. It’s like he turns each idea he has into a brand and monetizes it beautifully. He takes his blog posts and turns them into ebooks. He turns on his simple webcam and chats with his readers about the subject matter until he finally turns the whole idea into a course that you can pay for. Most of this “course” is set up in advance as separate blog posts and videos that are password protected with some live chat sessions here and there. I know because I took his Clutter Free course and it’s genius. While he talks about minimalism, you can talk about designery (or otherwise) stuff.

Another option is to jump on a trend. Designer Rob Dobi is my favorite example of this. In 2005 when NewsCorp bought for millions, Rob quickly created a niche site called (not available anymore) which featured a single illustration of the founder Tom holding big bags of money with a snarky quote. (I was able to find this) After a few seconds it redirected the visitors back to his clothing line. Because of the timing and cleverness, the site went viral and he was able to drive quite a bit of traffic to his clothing company. He’s also responsible for Your Scene Sucks which generated a desire to be “drawn” by Rob Dobi. He jumped on the opportunity beautifully.

7. Public Speaking and Teaching

Another way designers make a side income is from getting up in front of people and educating them. Or entertaining, whichever you prefer haha. While speaking at conferences won’t necessarily get you rich, you can at least afford to travel to different places, network and meet lots of new people and of course promote whatever new thing you’ve got going on at the time. Designers actually DON’T make a lot of money from speaking, they do it because of the other benefits like increased exposure, the opportunity to broaden their expertise, etc. Speaking opens up doors that sitting in your room designing all day does not.

Here are some examples of designers like you getting up and speaking in front of people at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest last year.

One of those doors is teaching, which actually WILL get you paid. Unless you become a professional public speaker, which let’s be honest, you aren’t going to do that, speaking can parlay into working at your local university as a part time professor. For example, Kate Bingaman Burt teaches at Portland State University.

Sharing is Caring (and lucrative)

While not everyone is cut out to teach or speak in public there is one thing that most of these side-income-generating ideas have in common: Sharing knowledge and resources. If you can get over your fear that people will steal your ideas or take your resources and become a better designer than you, you will have overcome a major obstacle that prohibits designers from earning reliable side incomes. There is money out there with your name on it if you apply the techniques I talked about above. Seriously. If you have any other ideas, share them in the comments and let’s talk about this!

WMC Fest 4 Date and Venue Announced!

Weapons of Mass Creation Fest partnering with Cleveland Public Theatre

Rapidly growing midwestern art, design, and music festival remains in Cleveland’s Gordon Square neighborhood, moves to August 16-18, 2013

CLEVELAND, August 8, 2012 — On the heels of its largest-ever attendance, Go Media’s Weapons of Mass Creation Fest (WMC Fest) is pleased to announce a partnership with Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) to utilize one of the city’s greatest cultural and artistic establishments to provide a venue for its 2013 event. WMC Fest IV will be held on August 16-18, 2013, and will use the entirety of the CPT campus, which is located at 6415 Detroit Avenue in Cleveland’s Gordon Square neighborhood. Adding to the new partnership, Neoventures Events returns for the second year as the primary event management company for WMC Fest.

“We know our attendees will fall in love with Cleveland Public Theatre, which I believe is the heart and soul of the Gordon Square Arts District,” says Jeff Finley, Go Media partner and founder of WMC Fest. “CPT is so important to the Northeast Ohio region both culturally and from a community development standpoint that we felt partnering with them was a natural fit. Not only do we have a larger venue for speakers, but we’ve also consolidated the entire festival into one location. Attendees will no longer have to leave the building to see a band between speakers, because everything is all right there and self-contained. Having additional space will allow us to expand into breakout rooms for workshops and unique one-on-one learning experiences.”

Says Raymond Bobgan, Cleveland Public Theatre’s executive artistic director, “We are so excited to collaborate with WMC — we share the values of innovation and creativity, and common focus that runs deep locally, but has a national significance.”

While the impressive 2012 turnout signaled the need for a new venue, Finley wanted WMC Fest to remain in the neighborhood it has called home since its inception. “We’re proud to be able to stay in Gordon Square and are looking forward to working more with the neighborhood this year,” Finley says. “Thanks to CPT, WMC Fest will definitely have that punk-rock, art-and-design-summer-camp vibe even more so than it already does. The only thing we’re missing is a wide open area to camp out! It’s going to be the best WMC Fest yet!”

WMC Fest IV at-a-glance:

  • NEW DATE: August 16-18, 2013
  • NEW LOCATION: Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio
  • 20 speakers, 20 designers in a gallery show, approximately 30 bands
  • The premier art, design, and music event in the Midwest

About Weapons of Mass Creation Fest:

Now in its fourth year, Weapons of Mass Creation Fest (WMC Fest) is the premier art, design, and music event in the Midwest. Its goal is to inspire and enable the creative mind and will feature 20 speakers, 20 designers, and nearly 30 bands over the course of one weekend. Creative professionals, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, students, and fans will gather to learn, get inspired, collaborate, network, and celebrate their passion for art, design, music, and entrepreneurship. Speakers, gallerists, and bands are renowned both regionally and nationally, and come to Cleveland from popular creative hubs like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. WMC Fest has seen attendance double each year since its 2010 debut, with more than 1,300 packing event venues in 2012. Learn More about Weapons of Mass Creation Fest.

About Cleveland Public Theatre:

Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) is an anchor of the Gordon Square Arts District and the city’s leading stage for adventurous new theatre. CPT produces a bold season of new plays that attract a diverse audience. CPT has a special emphasis on developing local artists and arts entrepreneurs through its multiple developmental series. These series produce over 25 new plays by local playwrights and directors, and often launch that work to performances in other markets, such as New York and Toronto. CPT’s acclaimed education programs engage communities in devising new works that speak to contemporary issues, and empower participants to work for positive change in the community, engaging over 500 underserved youth and adults. Learn more about Cleveland Public Theatre.

About Go Media:

Go Media, located in Cleveland, Ohio, offers design services, products, and knowledge for clients who seek unexpected and compelling visual communications. Founded in 2003 by William Beachy and Wilson Revehl, Go Media now houses a team of artists, programmers, and strategists who practice the art of communication. Go Media works with brands who have a passion for smart design, bold creativity, and meaningful ideas. The company is active in building thriving creative communities online through educational content hubs, and via events including Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and On the Map. Learn more about Go Media.

General Media Information: [email protected] / 216-939-0000 x227

Photoshop Action: Stamp/Print Effect

Works great on any single color logo, emblem, mark, seal, crest.

Because of the great response to my Aged Type action, I took it a bit further and made a similar effect that could be applied, not only to text, but to your logo to give it an authentic stamp or print effect. I have seen various rubber stamp effects on google and none are all that great. So let me show you why mine is the bees knees.

This is a premium Photoshop action that took some time to perfect. So we’re selling it for the cheap price of $7.  Credit Cards and Paypal accepted.

Download Now – $7


  1. After downloading the action, simply open up the .ATN file and it will automatically load it into your Photoshop Actions panel ready for use! For best results start with a black and white image that’s at least 800-1,000 pixels wide.
  2. In Photoshop, select the layer you want to turn into a stamp and press PLAY on the “Stamp/Print by Go Media” action. It will apply the effect!

Here are some tips:

  • Works best on images at least 800 px wide
  • Works on any logo, text, or even photos!
  • Can also be used as a faux screenprint or letterpress effect
  • Final result is on its own layer.
  • Settings are completely customizable, tweak to your heart’s content
Pro Tip: The action runs automatically once you click it. But if you want to adjust any of the effects/filters as it happens, toggle this dialog box icon so it stops at every step allowing you to get more control over the effects.


Photoshop Stamp Effect

Photoshop Stamp Effect

Photoshop Stamp Effect

Photoshop Stamp Effect

Result is on its own layer

Photoshop Stamp Effect

Even works on photos!

For best results, you might have to adjust the contrast of your source image. And again, the settings are fully adjustable inside the action so you can tweak it to your hearts content!

Download Now – $7

Thick Line Art: Creating Iconic Vector Art

I recently posted a new illustration on Dribbble called “Revivalist” and it got quite a lot of likes. I thought I’d write a tutorial about how I created it. So let’s do this!


One of our clients Disciple Clothing needed a “logo” and business card designed for a ministry they are a part of. The Ashish Mubarak Ministries to be exact. They sent me their current business card along with the illustration they are using as their “logo.”



Wow! That’s technically an illustration and not a logo. As an illustration, it’s gnarly 90s gold and obviously in need of an update. Lauren Kusant from Disciple recognized this and asked me to simplify this into a logo, modernize it and add the word “Revivalist” to it. But in my professional opinion, if I reduced this entire scene into a a logo (what is and what isn’t a logo), it would ultimately lose all the different messages its trying to communicate. There’s a lot going on here!

Sidenote: If you’re interested, I suggest reading the article A Logo is Not a Brand.

You can’t fit a flaming sword, a bible, mother Earth, a dove, a scroll, and some stalks of wheat in what is traditionally called a logo. Sure you could take ALL of those elements and identify its core message and communicate that single message with a single mark. Sometimes when I do this, the client often feels that it’s too simple and too far removed from their vision. It loses some sort of wow factor. Now, a logo is meant to be a placeholder for a brand. A simple icon or wordmark that represents the brand that can be resized and repurposed for any application you can think of. It should be easy to spot, easy to recognize and easy to reproduce. Sometimes, clients will incorrectly ask for a logo, when what they really mean is “a cool looking graphic design that represents them.”

I once had a client ask for five different “logos” for their apparel line. What!? After talking more with them, they really wanted five different t-shirt designs. Specifically, five different typographic t-shirt designs. In other words, cool ways of writing their name mixed with other graphics.

So how was I going to tackle this project?  I felt the best solution would be to maintain the integrity of the elements but simplify the illustration entirely into more basic shapes and iconic forms. I decided to go with a thick line art style. It won’t be a “logo” per-say, but it will still be a simple and iconic design that can be used on a variety of applications to represent the ministry. So without further ado, let’s get into the design process!

TIP: For this style, stick with ONE line weight for a uniform look. We aren’t going for “realistic” here. Don’t over-illustrate. Simplify and keep things spaced evenly.

Step One: The Sword

Since we’re aiming for iconic and simple, always start with basic shapes and add detail from there. If you start going crazy with the pen tool, you’ll have a harder time making things “perfect”. You’ll see what I mean later. For the sword, I started with a box and used my pen tool to add a point. Then I used my Direct Selection Tool (white arrow) to select the three points at the tip of the sword. To make sure they are evenly spaced and my midpoint is exactly in the middle, I used the align tool “Horizontal Distribute Left.” Make sure “align to selection” is checked and not “align to artboard.” Otherwise you’ll spread out your points all across your artboard and you don’t want that.


To make the tip, I wanted a perfect 45 degree angle. Why? Because I feel it’s more iconic when angles are in good harmony with each other. Angles like 45, 90, 60, 30 are all good angles to use. To get the 45 degree angle, I held shift when creating my line. I lined it up with the left point and then selected and repositioned the “tip” to match. There might be a more exact way of doing this, but this way gets me close. I also drew another vertical line down the center of the sword and aligned it with the rest.


To create the handle, I did a lot of the same techniques as above. I started with a basic rectangle, created a midpoint, and moved it upwards slightly. I used a 15 degree reference line instead this time. How did I get it exactly 15 degrees? I started with a horizontal line, then used the Transform palette to rotate it exactly 15 degrees. Get used to this tool because it comes in handy!


I gave the handle guard a white fill in addition to the black stroke so I could position it on top of the blade and cover up parts I don’t want people to see. To create the rest of the handle I did more of the same. For the pommel (bottom tip of the handle) I made a rectangle and used Warp > Bulge to get it a slightly bulbous shape.


Step Two: The Book

For the book, in this case The Bible, I kept things simple by illustrating only the essential elements. The page, stuff on the page, and the dimension or thickness of the book. I started with one half first and then mirrored it.


I’ll create temporary vanishing point guidelines to make sure I get my perspective angles correct. You can fake this of course but I wanted to make sure. And one technique that’s very common is designing one half first and then mirroring it so each side is symmetrical. Then center it up perfectly with the sword using the align tool.



Step Three: The Fire

Truth be told, this took me many attempts to get right. I had to imply the sword was on fire without over illustrating it. The fire had to look like fire and not a leaf or some other decorative doodad. And it had to be symmetrical, but I didn’t want to have the same flame on both left and right sides. The challenge was to make it FEEL symmetrical without actually being exactly the same on both sides.


I started with a flame on the left side. I made sure the bottom part of the flame followed the contour of the book below it. To communicate a flame instead of a leaf, you need to have a few tendrils. You don’t need a lot, but if you have just one (like a candle flame) it doesn’t look like a flame. Unless of course a candle is underneath it. But I didn’t want any more than three tendrils or points to keep it simple.

Once I got one I liked, I mirrored it for the right side. I used my pen tool and adjusted points around until I had something different but still similar. I kept the bottom part the same which helps create the illusion of symmetry. I only adjusted the top two points. Once I was satisfied with my flanking flames, I put in the smaller whisps on top of the sword and behind. These don’t need a lot of tendrils because there are other flames around it that communicate “this is fire”. Without the more complex flames to the left and right, you can’t be sure whether it’s fire, wind, or some other decorative swoosh.


Step Four: The Banner

I purposely left room at the top for the banner. This is where the text “revivalist” is going to go. I started by using the font Modula Sans as a base. Since I want everything to have a consistent line weight I’ll need to create new lines from scratch. Before I did that, I roughly set things up how I wanted it using the Warp > Arc Lower tool and distorting the text into position. Once it’s close, I lower the opacity of my reference and start drawing lines as simply as possible. It doesn’t have to match up exactly with my reference and it’s ok to adjust later. For the A, I actually used an upside-down V.


I positioned the banner on top of the sword and made sure it was perfectly centered. I also added the back “flaps”.


Step Five: The Wheat Stalks

I knew I wanted the wheat stalks to circle the design in some way. Instead of trying to draw a curve by hand, I started with a circle as reference and added a single point at the top of my stalk and then deleted other parts of the circle until I was left with the part I needed. To create the head of the wheat stalk, I took two overlapping circles and used the Intersect tool in my pathfinder palette. That gave me a perfect shape. I rotated it 30 degrees and mirrored it so I would have a symmetrical shape to work with. I then duplicated this shape vertically by holding Alt+Shift while I dragged it down some. After that I pressed Ctrl+D five times to repeat the last action and duplicate the shape. I added one more of those shapes on top. For the sprout-like things coming out the sides, it’s just a simple path that was duplicated and mirrored on both sides. Easy.


I moved the head into position on the stem and then individually rotated the shapes along the curve slightly. Just to make it look like it was bending along with the stem. When I was satisfied with the position, I copied it, rotated it, and positioned a second wheat stalk to the left of it. And finally I grouped the two of those together and mirrored it on the other side while making sure my wheat stalks were perfectly aligned to the center of the design.


Step Six: The Dove

Since I am not a pro at drawing a dove, I wanted to make sure I was close! So I grabbed a reference image from iStockphoto. It’s more of an illustration, but I liked the position and symmetry. I thought it would be an excellent starting point for my design.

dove reference

I started out with extreme basic shapes. Circles, ovals, ellipsis, whatever you want to call them. I tried to make as few lines as possible while still capturing the essence of the bird’s body. When they are properly layered, you can create the illusion of depth very easily! Make sure the head is on top of the body, the feet on top of the wheat. The body behind the wheat, etc.

dove body

For the wings, I made one on the left side before I mirrored it to the right. Here’s a good rule of thumb for creating vector illustrations: Use as few points as possible for the cleanest curves. It’s so much easier to manipulate that way. For my wings, I made sure they were behind the body but in front of the wheat. This gives the illusion that the bird is kind of leaning forward.

For the tail feathers, I used the same technique I did in creating the head of the wheat stalks. I used two overlapping circles to cut out a basic feather shape. I used the rotate tool and held down ALT while I clicked the bottom of point of my shape to set the new pivot point. When the rotate dialog box pops up, I used 30 degrees and checked the preview button to make sure. Instead of hitting “ok” I clicked “copy” to duplicate the shape instead. And then I pressed Ctrl+D to repeat this process a bunch more times until the shape copied itself in a full circle. Pretty cool technique!


I deleted the shapes at the top that I didn’t need and set the fill color to white just so they overlapped and didn’t look transparent. I also adjusted the layering of the feathers to keep it symmetrical on both sides. With the bottom feather being furthest behind, the next two features being second, and then the top feathers being in front or on top. Does that make sense? See the image below for a breakdown.



Step Seven: Fine Tuning

In reality, there was a lot more trial and error in the process of this illustration. There was a lot nudging lines around, moving and rotating, and asking “does this look right?” Use your eye and keep the shapes and lines in harmony. And my final design was inverted (white on black) to match the colors the ministry was using on its old business card and website.

But before I made the color change, I wanted to “naturalize” the illustration a bit. Make it slightly rougher and analog. Here is a simple technique for making your vector art look a bit more natural.

Roughen it up a bit.

I selected all my strokes and went to Effect > Distort and Transform > Roughen. This took some tinkering to get to look just right! I was aiming for a subtle wobble to my linework, but not too much.


Photoshop Trickery

This looks pretty good, but I want to take it a step further. I’ll copy my entire design and open Photoshop. I’ll start a new document at about 2500 x 2500 and paste my artwork as pixels. Make sure it takes up most of the document.

After you’ve got it pasted in there, merge it with the background layer. Then go to Filter > Add Noise to about 15%. Then give it a Gaussian Blur of 2%. And finally apply a Smart Sharpen to about 140% with a 34 px radius. Now adjust the levels to eliminate the grey noise in the background.

Repeat this process about 3-4 times tinkering with your settings to get the best effect.


Aside from the fact that the lines are slightly rougher than before, notice the joints between lines. The areas where lines meet up are now a bit more blended together. It doesn’t look extremely precise and perfect. More natural. Now this isn’t always appropriate for every situation. If you wanted to keep the clean look then don’t do this. But in my case I like the analog look and felt like it worked for this project.

Back to Illustrator

At this point, I will copy and paste this back into Illustrator and give it a live trace to convert it back to vector art. I’m ok with some amount of smoothing or “quality loss” here. My image is 2500×2500 so it is pretty high res. A Live Trace will work fine. But if I wanted to keep a lot of those rough details, there is the “lettering” preset under Live Trace Options which works wonders for keeping your rough details, but is terrible for CPU performance. Your resulting vector art is often loaded with thousands of points and that’s not really good here. So I just keep the default settings.


Step Eight: Finish!

That’s it. That’s all there is. I hope you learned a bit about creating iconic vector art in Illustrator. It’s really about being able to simplify the elements as much as possible, using basic shapes as starting points, and keeping things simple, balanced, and consistent. Everything in this design has one stroke weight. Even my text. That’s the beauty of this style. This won’t work for a logo, but this illustration can be just as versatile in many situations.

Here’s my final design on black and then the finished business cards.



Mock it up!

Here are the designs mocked up on some of our templates. You can buy this tri-blend template pack from Go Media’s Arsenal. These other mockups are from our site Mockup Everything.



The Making of Thread’s Not Dead

It’s been about 8 months since I launched my first ebook entitled Thread’s Not Dead: The Designer’s Guide to the Apparel Industry. We’ve sold over 1,000 copies of the ebook and we recently celebrated the launch of the hardcover edition. It gives me goosebumps to think of my book sitting on the coffee tables or bookshelves of people across the country and even overseas. I wanted to take a little bit of time to tell the story about how Thread’s Not Dead came to be and hopefully it will inspire you to maybe make your own book or do something you’ve been holding back on.

The Conception

The idea to write a book came to me after reading Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Workweek. If you’ve read it, you know how appealing he can make some of his suggestions! He makes it sound so easy. From what I recall, “all you had to do” is figure out that specific thing you know a lot about, write the book, and sell it digitally on your website. The point was to be specific. Everyone can be an expert in something right? According to Ferriss, in order to be an expert, you just have to know more than the person reading it. He also made it sound easy when he said to reach out to other experts, interview them, and use their answers as content for your book and give them a cut of the sales. He literally made it seem like the book would write itself.

Boy was he wrong though!

The Production

I totally underestimated the time it would take to produce Thread’s Not Dead. First, choosing a topic for me was easy – I know a lot about designing t-shirts and have written tutorials here and made video tutorials of my process. I already had an audience that would be interested, so it was a no-brainer. An in-depth guide on everything I know about designing for bands and clothing companies and eventually starting your own line would be a natural progression. I had lots of “expert” contacts in this area from my time on Emptees/Mintees that I was one email away from solid nuggets of insight in areas I wasn’t totally familiar with (like printing, retail, etc). From the very start I was amped and saw myself releasing a digital ebook in less than a month.

It took about 9 months instead.

Before I started writing, I researched ebooks. I read guides on how to make good ebooks and provide real value. I also paid $97.00 for a copy of “How to Launch the Shit Out of your eBook”. That’s an affiliate link by the way, but I highly recommend that book anyway. It got me seriously inspired, despite it being the most expensive ebook I ever bought.

When I started writing, I kept getting ideas of what I should put into the book. What about the printing process? What about working with big bands? What about working with overseas production houses? How much to charge for my shirts? For my designs? The questions never seemed to end, so I reached out to my “expert contributors” and posted on Emptees (RIP) asking what they wanted to know the most. Of course, questions were all over the board and there were quite a few things I didn’t actually know the answer to. So I had to do a lot of research and reading. If I was going to write the definitive guide to the apparel industry, I better know what I’m talking about!

What I quickly realized is there is WAY TOO MUCH that goes into the apparel INDUSTRY that I’m totally unfamiliar with. I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t feasibly write the freaking bible of the industry as a whole. I was overwhelmed and getting burnt out already and I had just started writing.

But I don’t give up easily so I limited my focus to just the indie t-shirt design scene where there really are awesome stories to tell. Bands and indie clothing companies made up a lot of my clientele and most of my peers from the community were just like me. I started envisioning Thread’s Not Dead to be the book that came out of this scene and shined a light on the underground movement of this sub-genre of the apparel industry.

Everyone wants to know how to be the next Johnny Cupcakes. The idea of starting your own clothing company was cliche already, but the desire to do so hasn’t been going away. People continue to do it and it’s reached a point where having a line of tees on the side is just “another thing” that artists and designers do as part of their brand. I knew my audience was mostly artists and graphic designers, not fashion tycoons. So once I narrowed my focus, the writing became much easier.

Surviving Burnout

I tried to write the book at my desk at Go Media which included all my conveniences and distractions like Twitter, Facebook, Email, and oh yeah, clients and running a business. I’d write for 15 minutes then jump into email, then write a little more and get distracted again. Meetings, phone calls, and my general laziness sometimes got the best of me. Writing a book is NOT a short thing you can do in a couple hours, it took months of writing and editing. So I had to find tricks to keep myself focused.

Focusing Tricks

There’s this other computer that we have in our office that’s hooked up to our scanner. It’s a really old PC with Windows XP still on it. It had no distracting apps and was away from my comfort zone, so every morning I brought my coffee and headphones to this new desk and zoned out.

I actually discovered focus apps like Focus Booster and Ambiance to create some zen-like sounds in my headphones to cancel out office chatter. My goal was to write for 20 minutes a day at the very beginning of every day before I did anything else. This worked like a charm! What actually ended up happening was I would get in a zone and end up spending 2-3 hours writing before I even realized it. I didn’t even think about emails or twitter or shit like that. Sorry to swear, but seriously I hate that stuff sometimes. It’s like a drug.

I did this for a few months and had Thread’s Not Dead completely written in Microsoft Word. My ebook was done! Ahhh, not so fast Jeff, this looks like every other piece of crap ebook out there. That’s what I thought to myself. Former Threadless CCO Jeffrey Kalmikoff told me that the book should be designed well, as it’s for designers. That made total sense to me, so my work wasn’t done yet!

Designing the Layout

I knew the book had to look better than any ebook you’ve ever seen. Since I was planning on charging $50 for it, it’d better look like $50. And my design reputation is on the line here, I can’t let a product with my name on it go out into the market looking like crap, so my internal quality quotient wasn’t being satisfied. Since I didn’t know InDesign very well, I asked a few of my peers for tips and pointers and I eventually checked out the book layout templates on Graphic River. I purchased a template which gave me a good starting point for my general layout.

I honestly won’t go too in depth here because I literally stumbled my way through this process and it was really painful. I made the mistake of using low-res images because I thought it’d only be viewed on screen and not in print, but as you know I ended up putting out a hardcover edition which required a complete overhaul of everything I did. I wanted to put cool art on every page and inspire people with the images that inspired me. I wanted to make this book a work of art in and of itself. I found a local designer named Kathy Kovacic who helped me tremendously convert my ebook into a print-ready book file. The cover art was of course my favorite thing to do, which is when I decided on the name Thread’s Not Dead.

Coming up with the Name

For the longest time my working title was simply “The Designer’s Guide to the Apparel Industry.” Which was probably ok, but I wanted a snappier name with more of a personality. Most of my favorite authors’ books had shorter, catchier titles but I worried because most ebooks I know tend use a more literal “How to XXXXXX” title. So I dug deep and had a ton of different names for the book including cute ones like “Ink, Cotton, Cash” and “Don’t Thread on Me” to the more direct “How to Become a Famous T-Shirt Designer” or the extreme salesy approach “How to Dominate the Apparel Industry and Get Rich and Famous Doing So.”

I decided on Thread’s Not Dead because it’s a reference to Punk’s Not Dead, the common phrase you might see spray painted on brick walls in the 80’s when everyone was crying about the death of punk rock. My book takes a very DIY approach and I’ve been into punk since I was a teenager, so I felt like it fit with my personality. Not only that, but it was a reference to the fact that starting an apparel line has been considered cliche by many designers in the community and many consider it to be a fad. Much like punk rock was in the 80’s. But the truth is, we’re seeing the democratization of the apparel business just like we’ve seen it in the music business. Personal t-shirt lines are popping up everywhere and we’ll all eat our words in the next decade as the t-shirt still hasn’t gone out of style.

Selling the eBook

When the book was finished, I had to come up with a plan to sell this thing. We already have a platform on The Arsenal to sell digital files, but I wanted to create it’s own site dedicated to it. One single page with the sole purpose of selling the book. With my knowledge of designing landing pages to sell products, I knew we’d get more sales this way than simply uploading it to our crowded storefront on the Arsenal. So I designed the site from scratch and used ejunkie to handle the payments and deliver the digital files.

Prior to launching the site, I created a temporary landing page with LaunchRock to build an email list of people interested in buying the book. So when I launched the book I’d have people already waiting to buy. This is a good plan when launching any product, an ebook especially. Don’t just launch your ebook without any sort of pre-launch hype or promotion. All this stuff is discussed in that How to Launch the Shit Out of Your Ebook guide I linked to above. Without reading these tips I probably would have rushed the release of this thing and not made as much of an impact. In fact there are lots of things I am not doing and have never done because I simply don’t have time to write accompanying blog posts related to every section in my book or guest post on apparel industry related blogs. I try, but there is only so much time in the day. But if you make your ebook, these are good strategies to keep in mind!

The Audiobook and Extras

One thing that makes digital products cool is you can bundle it with other digital files and provide extra value. If I was going to charge $50 for this ebook, I’d better make it worthwhile. So I grabbed a bunch of our Arsenal products like vectors, textures, and t-shirt mockup templates and bundled it with the book. In addition, I spent the time narrating every chapter to create an audiobook version. (my preferred method lately for consuming books) My colleague and former-bandmate-turn-sound-engineer Adam Wagner recorded and edited it for me and my buddies in the pop punk band Spraynard let me use their music. Some have told me they’ve listened to the audiobook over 5 times and it continues to inspire them. This makes me happy because that’s how I feel when I listen to some of my favorite authors. I love hearing from people who valued what I had to say and I love even MORE to see people make cool stuff as a result. Anyway, I digress…

The Hardcover Edition

Digital products are great; they have no overhead and can be sold a million times over without having to make more products. Isn’t the Internet amazing? But the design of the ebook felt much more like a print book in digital form, so naturally I got lots of requests for a hardcover version. My first answer was to tell them no, it’s not in the plans. But the more I got requests from readers, the more I considered it. I even had some good twitter conversations with Laurence King, a publisher of some of my favorite design books. In the end LK chose not to help me produce and distribute a hardcover because I had already released the content via ebook and it would probably kill their sales. That seemed completely reasonable and they were super cool regardless, but this answer inspired me to look into self publishing options.

I poured over reviews of Lulu, CreateSpace, Lightning Source, Blurb and others. It was exhausting and my new friend Kathy Kovacic was very helpful in helping me decide. Ultimately we ended up going with Lightning Source because they had the largest distribution network for print-on-demand book publishers. Honestly, working with LS was kind of a pain because there was a lot of paperwork, contracts, and red tape. However, they produce an amazing quality hardcover and get my book major online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, etc. They also allow those big-box brands to order books wholesale to stock their brick and mortar stores. The book has an official ISBN number and could potentially get on the NY Times Best Seller list if it happened to sell a million copies :-).

Now the downside to all this stuff is that the profit margins on the hardcover book are extremely thin. I was already selling my ebook for $50, so it didn’t make sense to sell my hardcover for anything less. But anything more seemed like too much for a book! In this case, $50 was pretty much the minimum I needed to charge in order to not LOSE money on sales because of the high production costs of print on demand, shipping, and wholesaler discounts. It’s a crazy world of publishing, I must say.

The Launch Party

In October 2011, we decided to host an official launch party and book signing at local indie book store Visible Voice Books here in Cleveland. I was joined by TND contributors Adam Hendle of I Am the Trend and Brandon Rike in addition to local inspirations Steve Knerem, CLE Clothing, and Glen Infante of iLTHY. The video at the top of the post sums up the experience, which was kind of like an odd dream come true. I never really dreamed of writing a book, it just kind of happened.

The Future

I plan on writing more books. I have to. I need to put all the things I learned writing Thread’s Not Dead into practice and do it better next time. The next book I write will likely be about what inspired me to create Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and how this energy has inspired others in Go Media to pursue initiatives like Bad Racket, 2nd Shift, and now On the Map. It will be about being a creative entrepreneur and about our passion for building community around the things we love and making them work together. I’m not sure when that will be, as right now my focus is on redesigning the websites for Go Media, The Arsenal, and GoMediaZine to reflect these ideals.

Wrap Up

I hope this has given you a good look into what it was like making my first ebook. And I hope this has inspired you to perhaps make your own or start something fresh. If you want to buy my book, you can over at or if you want, get the first chapter below: