Tips on Drawing Symmetry | Design Tip of the Week

Tips on Drawing Symmetry


I have a hard time drawing things perfectly symmetrical. I mean, really, who doesn’t? Drawing symmetry is tough! We’re not robots with mathematical precision. No worries, here are some quick tips that will surely help.

One trick that I picked up on is to draw half of your image, scan it in, duplicate it, flip and merge it together. It helps to draw a center line, so you know where the one half ends and the other will begin. Need the whole piece hand-drawn and inked? No problem! Just print it out an opaque version (of the whole image – two halves merged) and use that as the structure for your drawing. In fact, the legendary Jon Contino works this way. (I reached out to Jon over email about this, to which he graciously replied, resulting in us bonding over this mutual creative process.)

This approach is a “two birds with one stone” kind of thing. By duplicating, flipping and merging the one half, the whole drawing is completed! And it required only half the work! If you want to see more on how I use this method, check out this article I wrote about creating the WMC Fest 6 Poster.

Thanks for reading!


Photoshop Drawing Tutorial: Digital Illustration & Drawing Techniques Video Tutorial

Photoshop Drawing Tutorial

New year’s resolutions are always thrilling for me. They breathe a sense of new life into both my personal and professional life. In 2015, I have one main goal – to throw every ounce of my soul into design. To dive into it, roll around, fill my brain with the endless information available and explode with happiness because of it.

Join me?

Digital Illustration & Drawing Techniques Video Tutorial

I’m super stoked about Cleveland Graphic Designers, Go Media’s first Arsenal launch of 2015: a Photoshop Drawing Tutorial by Jeff Finley. This 6 hour video tutorial is for intermediate PS users looking to create some awesome digital artwork. We’ll learn Photoshop shortcuts for killer results while simultaneously enhancing our drawing skills. Who’s with me?

– Heather, ‘ Zine editor

Learn More Now

Buy the Tutorial, only $34.99

Go Media’s Rapid-Fire Illustration Technique

fast illustration

Go Media’s Rapid-fire Illustration Technique

Hey Designer and Illustrator faithful! It’s time for another wicked tutorial from your brethren here at Go Media. I had a particular project I was working on recently that I thought would make a great tutorial. The technique I would like to share with you is a little illustration short-cut.

When you need to create something with that hand-drawn look but you’re on a tight time line – this is one way to do it fast. The project I was working on was a t-shirt design for Black Ace Clothing. They’re great guys and pay us well so I am not normally rushing through their projects. But on this particular project I had already completed a large hand-drawn illustration for the back of the shirt. They wanted an additional illustration for the front of the shirt, but I was concerned about the total budget for one t-shirt, so, I busted out this little trick of mine. It saved me time, and saved them money!

PSST – shameless plug: I recorded a five-hour video tutorial with solid instruction & a healthy dose art creation. Check out my quick video overview on Vimeo and download the full video tutorial on the Arsenal.

The Design

Let’s start by taking a look at the final printed t-shirt:

fast illustration

Here is both the front and the back of the design. The quote on the design is: “Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This is a really cool project because this t-shirt design is destined to be worn by Tiffany Michelle on an up-coming reality TV show. So, given the potential national exposure, we wanted to really hit a home run with this design.

The part of the design that uses my rapid-fire illustration technique is the front design. You can see it here in more detail:

fast illustration 43

This image shows a 3-color design. In the end production of the shirt you’ll notice that Black Ace decided to keep the front design simple (1 color) as to not over-shadow the back design, which is 4 color with a gold foil print.

The Tools

Just so, you have a full understanding of the entire design process we went through, I will show you how I did the back, then reveal my rapid-fire shortcut for the front illustration. Before I get ahead of myself I should give you a list of the tools you’ll need for this illustration:

fast illustration 3

  • Bristol Drawing Paper (plate, smooth or vellum finish.)
  • Pencil, Mechanical Pencil, (I used a Koh-I-Noor Technigraph 5611 mechanical pencil)
  • Mechanical pencil sharpener
  • Staedtler Mars Plastic White Eraser
  • #1 or #2 fine-tip paint brush or crow quill pen (I used a #1 Windsor Newton University Series 233)
  • India Ink (I use Higgins Calligraphy Waterproof Black Ink)
  • Light Box (Or a window will work too.)
  • Scanner
  • Computer
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Access to the internet or some source of photos

The Concept

Let’s do a quick fly-over of how the back was designed so you can understand what lead us to the front. For starters, Paul Davis – my contact over at Black Ace (and a mighty fine dude if I may say so) sent me over this concept layout.

fast illustration 4

Now, I know this may look a little rough, but I was actually very impressed with it. Not many clients come to me with such a refined concept. And while this particular incarnation of it doesn’t look so good – I could easily see that this was an awesome layout with great potential and just needed to be fixed up on the production end. Paul asked me to work with this concept, but to also sketch up two additional concepts for this design. Now, there is no shortcut to this early process. This is just a lifetime of drawing that allows me to do a real quick sketch. But as you’ll see later, the details I put into these are really not necessary. All you’ll really need to focus on is placement and size of your elements.

Here are the three sketches I did for Paul.

cocept sketch
This first one (above) is my interpretation of his rough layout. Now that it’s in this rough sketch phase you can start to see the potential. I KNEW this one was the best of the three, so I pushed to work on this one.

concept sketch 3
concept sketch 4

Above are the other two sketches I did, but Paul was wise enough to go with concept #1 (his own original layout.)

At this point I just drew this. There were no shortcuts used on the back design. OK, maybe one—we do own a skull over here at Go Media. Whenever I’m drawing a skull and need reference, I can pick it up and hold it at various angles to see how to draw it. And no, it is not the head of a Boston Red-Sox fan (Go Tribe!)

finshed pencil drawing

Above is the scan of the pencil sketch for the back before I inked it. As you’ll see, I left the text off because I knew I was going to drop that in with Adobe Illustrator later. Also, there will be a Black Ace logo in behind the banners. So, that too was just roughed in. As I said before, I’m not going to go into all the details of the back design, just a fly-over so you can see what I’ve done. For all my pencil drawings I use a Bristol paper because it’s very thick. This allows me to erase without fear of tearing the paper. Bristol paper also allows me to ink it without fear of the ink bleeding through to my desk. I use a mechanical pencil, well, just because it feels better in my hand then a regular wooden pencil. I use an HB or H hardness lead. Although the B, B1 and B2 leads feel GREAT when I’m drawing, the lead is too soft. It smudges all over the paper and makes a big mess. So, I use the harder leads.


Once the pencil drawing is done, I bust out my brush and “ink” the drawing. I use a paint brush because it allows me maximum line weight variation. Or, in layman’s terms – I can make my lines as thick or thin as I want. By varying the weight of my lines it gives the illustration a ton of character that is hard to duplicate on the computer.

close up ink brush
You’ll notice a big roll of masking tape near the end of my brush. I put this on my brushes because I have big fingers. This gives me a better grip of my brush.

I make a lot of little shading lines that look best if they start as a thin line and thicken as they work their way into the dark. A crow quill pen can also accomplish the same effect. If you’re going to use a crow quill pen I suggest using a Hunt Artist’s Pen tip #512 and 102.

quill pens


Once this Illustration is done, I scan it into my computer using our flat-bed scanner. We’re fortunate to have an over-sized scanner here at Go Media. This over sized scanner allows me to scan the whole illustration in one single pass.

flatbed scanner

Not long ago we only had a legal-size scanner. I would have to scan my larger drawings in two or three pieces then assemble them in Photoshop. That was always a pain in the ass, but hey – what can you do? As I am planning on live-tracing this drawing in Illustrator, the higher the resolution the scan is the better. I like to scan my inked drawings at 500 dpi.

finished back of illustration

finished back of illustration 3


At this point I have my finished inks are in Illustrator and I’m ready to add my copy and colors. For this design I wanted an edgy, almost medieval font that looked like it was hand painted so it would match the rest of the illustration. I did an extensive search and found the font you see here.


I won’t tell you where I got it – ancient Go Media secret. Obviously, it was perfect!
I used the Effect>Warp>Arch tool in Illustrator to get the copy to follow along the shape of my banners. Then it was just a lot of nudging, kerning, stretching and scaling to get all the letters where I wanted them.
font two


I started the coloring by creating one single shape that filled the entire design. I made this by simply making a copy of my vectorized line art, selecting it, and then doing the following: Object>Compound Path>Release, then Object>Ungroup, then Pathfinder>Add to Shape Area. Basically this process broke all these vector pieces up, then merged them into one single shape.


outlines 2

outlines 3

outlines 4

Next I pick my colors. Paul was printing this shirt with silk screens and has asked me to restrict my design to 4 colors. I know that I’ll need a range of color values so that I can color both shadows and highlights. Here are the four colors I picked. I would love to give you a long explanation for why I picked these exact colors, but I don’t have one. I just picked some colors that I liked and thought worked well together.

image of four colors

As I was planning on putting this design onto a black shirt, I start by swapping my line art’s black with my darkest purple. It needs to be bright enough to pop off the black, but dark enough to act as my darkest value color. Next I fill the entire design with the middle value of the three remaining colors. This allows me to add shadows and bright spots to the middle. That’s much easier to figure out than any other method.

back design

Once the middle value fills the shape I do my shadows next. If you’re wondering how I decide where to place my shadows – well, nothing magical here. I look at the shape, imagine it in 3D, imagine a light source and give my best guess at how the shadows will fall across the object. If I have a reference photograph or the actual object (like the skull) then I can hold it up to a light and see exactly how the light falls on the object.

back design without highlights

Once the shadows are done, then the highlights are fun and easy to drop on. Remember where your light source is!
back design without radials

The last step is to add some finishing touches. For this design I added some radial vector shapes from Go Media’s Arsenal. I use these types of stock design resources to finish off a lot of my designs. They’re another fantastic tool for saving time.
finished back design

And viola! The back design is finished. Last step is to pimp out the design on a sweet t-shirt template and present it to the client. (Designer’s Note: Taking a little extra time to mock-up your designs really has a huge impact on the client. It’s one thing to see a flat design, but to see an actual t-shirt with the client’s design ON it! Wow! Now it’s REAL.) For this, of course I use the FINEST t-shirt templates ever made – Go Media’s of course. And they’re ultra fast and easy to use because the shirt is already masked with the highlights and shadows on their own layer. So, you just drop in your design and poof! It looks like a real printed shirt! (Ok, gratuitous product plugs are done.)
mocked up back design

Now for the really good stuff.

At this point Paul was ecstatic with the design (correct me if I’m over-stating your satisfaction level here Paul.) But he wanted a little something for the front of the t-shirt as well. Since he liked the sketch #2 that I had done, he asked me to make that one as well.

This front design was intended to be printed smaller and was also on a very tight budget (since the back had taken so much time/money.) I needed an illustration short-cut. I needed a trick. I needed Go Media’s Rapid-Fire Illustration Technique!

So, here is the way to really speed up an illustration project: just rough-cut together a bunch of photographs into your intended illustration. This will be easier if I just show you.

Rough Sketch

original sketch
Here is the original sketch.

Rough Photo Collage

photo montage over original sketch
Now, obviously, this technique doesn’t work for all things. If Paul had asked me to illustrate a superhero flying with a dog under his arm, well, the likelihood of me finding that photograph would be remote. But this design had mostly common objects – roses, a skull, rib cage, bones and a banner (I couldn’t find a banner in the right pose, so I just left a spot open based on my original sketch.) Also, this is a fairly clean assembling of photos. In truth, it can be way rougher than this. This image is just to be used as a guide to help you get your illustration going. You can clean up and fix all the little details while you’re drawing.

Collage To Sketch

So, the next step is turning this photo montage into an illustration! Start by printing your photo montage at the appropriate size. In this case, I wanted it about 8 inches across. This is approximately twice the size the final design will get printed on the shirt. (Illustrator’s tip: Whenever working on an illustration – create it at about twice the size you’re going to print it. This allows you to be a little sloppy. Once it’s shrunk down to the final size it will look super tight! People will wonder how you got so much detail into it.) Ok, where was I? Oh yeah – turning our montage into an illustration. Now that you’ve printed out your photo montage, you want to tape it to a sheet of your Bristol paper. Make sure the printed side of your montage paper is facing the Bristol that you’ve taped it to.

photo montage front

photo montage frotn 2

Now take out your trusty-rusty light box and place your paper on top of it, Bristol paper up! Next, you’re going to draw your illustration using your photo montage like a draw-by-numbers guide.

photo montage on lightbox

If you need to change, exaggerate, or edit the photo montage, you can make corrections now. On this design, for instance, I thought the skull’s bottom jaw was waaaay too large. So, no problem, I just ignored the photo and drew it a little smaller.

photo montage held up to window

If you don’t have a light box, you can always use a window during the day! But make sure not to push too hard! I don’t want you falling through your window.

This phase of the drawing doesn’t have to be perfect. The photomontage is there to help act as a guide. While on your light box just get all the major shapes in place. Then you can turn your light box off and finish the drawing using your innate drawing ability (if you have that). You can strengthen your lines, add shading, details, etc.

In this case time was at a premium and I knew I would be inking this myself, so I really just hammered the drawing out quick. I trust my ability to do a sweet job during the inking phase. Here is the finished pencil drawing I did using the photo montage as my guide.

finished front pencil drawing

You can see that I invented a lot – particularly the banner. Now, obviously I have years of drawing experience, so it may be a bit easier for me to “invent” details that are not actually in the photomontage.

So, that’s really the end of the “shortcut.” While this shortcut may still seem labor intensive, I can assure you that this will save you some serious time. The photos give you all those little details that you would otherwise have to invent. Also, having the photomontage as a guide completely eliminates the possibility of total failure. If you’ve spent any time drawing you certainly know this is a real possibility. I’ve personally had plenty of days when I simply cannot draw what’s in my head. After several frustrating hours and a waste paper basket full of failed drawings, I’ll usually just quit for the day and start again the next. Using this photomontage technique will leap frog you right over any of these types of problems.


Now we proceed as we did with the back design. Using Higgins Calligraphy ink and a #1 paint brush, we ink our illustration. Here are a few inking tips. First, your lines should be thinner on the side of your light source. If you have no light source, assume it’s coming from the top. So, if it’s a bald head you’re drawing, the line beneath the chin should be thick and the line on top of the head should be thin. Also, objects in the distance should be drawn with thinner lines. Objects in the foreground should be drawn with thicker lines. Using these techniques will give your drawings a sense of depth and character.

Here is the finished Inking of this drawing:

finished ink of the front design

I was always a big fan of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, of course, who wasn’t. But it wasn’t just the brilliant writing. You could see that Calvin and Hobbes had been painted with a brush. Just look at all the character in the line art. You can see the thickness of the line weight varying dramatically.

closeup calvin hobbs photo strip

Compare that to another comic I love: Foxtrot. The writing is still great. The characters are hilarious. But the line art is kind of flat and boring in my opinion. This is the difference between using a brush (or crow quill pen) and using a regular felt tip pen when inking your illustration.


Now we go through the same process that we did for the back design. I’ll break it down into numbered steps for you here. Sometimes that’s easier to follow:

1. Scan the art at 500dpi – save as jpeg.

2. Place the art into Adobe Illustrator.

3. Select the image.

4. Convert the line art to vector: Object>Live Trace>Make and Expand
live traced
5. Get rid of all the white shapes that the Live Trace function creates. Using your open arrow tool, click on any one of the white areas of your art. Then select the rest by clicking: Select>Same>Fill and Stroke. Warning! In illustrator this function grabs EVERYTHING that has the same fill and stroke, so if you have other white objects with no stroke in your document, it will erase them too! Once all the white shapes have been selected, hit delete.

6. Make a copy of your line art. Either select it then Edit>Copy, Edit>paste. Or select it and hit control+C, then Control+v. Or, while using your arrow tool, hold down the alt key, grab your line art and drag it to a new location. All three of these methods will make a copy.
two copies line art
7. Create your primary color fill object. Select the copy of your line art and use function: Object>Compound Path>Release. Then Object>Ungroup, then Pathfinder>Add to shape area.

Ok, now at this point you should have your line art and a single shape “fill.”
line art next to fill

8. Add your copy. Now, just like on the back we’re going to use Adobe Illustrator to add our copy. It’s a simple text box with an effect>Warp>Arch applied to get it to fill our banner.
adding text

9. Color your design. The coloring on this side of the shirt is even simpler than the back. Paul asked for a simple 3-color design, so – that’s what I gave him. I’m going to be using the same colors I selected from the back. So, the line art is a dark purple and the primary fill color is a yellowish bone color.

purple fill

The one additional color I’ll add will be the shadows.

purple line art

After an initial proofing Paul felt that the rib cage was not working in the design. No problem! I just created a shape to remove the ribs and then used the Pathfinder>Subtract from shape area. I did this twice – once for the line art and once for the color fill.

knocking out rib cage

no rib cage

And that’s it. Here is the final design for the front of the shirt. I got this entire piece done in about 5 hrs. 1 hr. to find these pics, 30 minutes to piece them together, 1 hr. to do the pencil drawing, 2 hrs. to ink, and 1 hr. to scan, vectorize and color!

I want to give a big shout-out and thank you to Paul and Howard Davis for being such cool clients and allowing me to write this tutorial! For some reason a lot of our clients are overly protective of their assets and don’t let us show off our work! This shirt is NOW available for pre-order at or click here to get directly to this product.

Thanks for your time and attention. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and learned a few new tricks!

Create A Vector Art Twitter Bird Character Icon In Adobe Illustrator


Twitter is quite a social media juggernaut as of late. It’s getting to the point that one has to have a Twitter account. And what good is a Twitter account without a link to it? And what better way to link to your Twitter account than with a cool blue bird character illustration? This tutorial will walk you through the steps from sketch to vector in creating an original cartoon-style character vector illustration.

I currently work in Adobe Illustrator CS4, but most of the steps here can be retro-fitted to earlier version of Adobe Illustrator — or to alternate vector art graphics software. This tutorial also assumes you have a working knowledge of Adobe Illustrator, the basics of creating vector paths using the pen tool, and the basic vector art tools. What follows is a walkthrough of a method to go about creating cartoon-style illustrations in vector art giving them a clean, yet hand-drawn look. Hold on to your Beziér curves, and let’s get started…

How to Draw a Classic Hand using a Graphics Tablet

how to draw a hand 13


Hey! I’m Whyball and I’m a graphic designer. Since I was a little kid, I loved to draw; at first I started drawing all kind of things that I saw in the books – usually animals were my favorite subjects! After a while I started to create original drawings.

A few years ago I discovered the digital drawing and was excited to see the simplicity of using the graphic tablet. Once again I was combining those 2 ways of drawing: copying and using the imagination.

I recommend to use this technique of copying something when it helps you to save some time while you’re working, or to achieve better quality. For example, if you need to draw a hand in a specific position, and you’re not so sure you can draw it from imagination, my advice is to take a camera and capture the position & form of a hand. It’s useful to have a timer function so you can take picture of your own hand easily.

Here is an example of some wings I drew using this technique. These wings are yours to use in your designs royalty free and can be purchased from the Go Media Arsenal.

Fine Art wings download

In this tutorial I want to show you how I draw a hand using a picture plus some imagination, and make it all look like a classic pencil drawing!

I use this kind of drawing to give to the design an artistic look. In my opinion the hand drawing effect looks great applied on anything from animals to gothic ornaments. Another advantage of this style is that you can make great artwork using only one color.

Let’s get Drawing!

Step 1: Find a Reference
The first step is to take a picture of a hand, you can use the same picture that I used in this tutorial, see the download link below; it already has the opacity reduced to 30 % so it is exactly like the one i started here with .


how to draw a hand 1

Step 2: Sketch Guidelines
After that, you should sketch out how you will adjust on the picture. In this case I’ve increased the size of the fingernails, and made a a white area in the middle of the hand where I want to put a small brain. Just make a place holder for now, but make it a little smaller than the actual brain will be so you can draw the hand tightly around the brain without gaps. You can draw some drips too. You can put them between the fingers, and on one side of the hand, like i did. You will sketch all this on a separate layer.

how to draw a hand 2

All that being set up, you should start drawing the hand.

Step 3: Build the Outline
The file size that I us is somewhere between 50/ 50 cm and 70/70 cm at 300 DPI. Get your graphics tablet set up & operating properly. Take a look at the settings that I usually use for the brush. These settings work well for the file size we’re using; I recommend that you try them.

For drawing, use a dark brown or gray color (something like 3f311d ), not black. Black has a too strong of a contrast with the white background which gives your linework an overly sharp appearance. So my advice is to use those colors for the brush, but if you want to use black for the brush you can change the background color to a light cream or gray and everything will look OK.

how to draw a hand 3

Start by making a new layer where you will draw the outline, it should look like this. You will also draw the lines that you consider will help you in the next step; (the first level of shades), so look for thicker and darker lines from the picture and draw them too.

how to draw a hand 4

After the outline is done you can start making the shades, but first I made those red dashed lines which follow the shapes of the hand. You should always have lines like this in your mind when you start hachuring, so you can represent the volume in the right way.

how to draw a hand 5

Another thing that I recommend you to do before you start is to adjust the contrast of the picture until it will look like this. This will help you to see where to put the darker and most important shades. You will see that after this first level of shades are made, the subject will start to look good.

how to draw a hand 6

Step 4: Begin Hachuring
Now, when you start the hachure, don’t forget to make a new layer. I recommend that you always make a new layer when you do something new or different on your design and you’re not sure how it will going to look.

We all know how bad is to work on a wrong layer…. :)

Now your drawing should look like this. The hatchring it’s made from overlapping lines in different directions and different lengths, so where you want to make a darker area you will draw thicker lines. In lighter areas you will leave only a few lines and you can make them thinner for an even lighter tone.

how to draw a hand 7

The hachure should look something like this, here you can see how on the left/down side is darker then the rest. That’s because of the multiple overlapped lines. If you will make it smaller you will see the effect that I want to achieve; and that’s to look like a textured gradient.

how to draw a hand 8

Step 5: Add Details
After you have finished with the darker tones, make another layer, and start working on the details. You should not make too many details, or at least not small ones because you will not be able to see them when the drawing will be printed.

To assure that you have enough details you have have to look at the drawing at approximately the size that it will be printed and see how it looks. Or better yet you can print it on a paper at the real size so you can have a preview of the final work.

how to draw a hand 9

Drawing the Brain

Now in case you are not used to draw brains, find a picture of one and try to imitate the texture that you see on it. The most important thing when you will draw it is to respect the light source when you make all the ‘’wrinkles’’. This will actually make it to look like a brain.

Now it’s time to merge the layers you created while drawing the hand. Once merged, apply a color overlay effect to give it a red color. Now you can see the parts from the hand that you will have to erase, parts where the brain and the hand are overlapping.

Now you will understand better why I told you earlier to make the placeholder for the brain smaller than the brain will be. It’s easier to erase what’s behind the brain.

how to draw a hand 10

Now you can delete the color overlay effect and get rid of the unwanted layers, if you have some. If you think that you may want to color the drawing later, you can keep separate layers for the hand and for the brain.

how to draw a hand 11

Final Touches

Step 6: Add Extra Shading
Finally let’s put some shades around the brain as you think it would reflect on the hand. And you should remember to keep the same light source whenever you put new shading.

And now you can merge all the layers together, and you’re done!

You can use this technique for making t-shirt designs, illustrations, posters, you name it. From my experience I can tell you that it will be appreciated very well.

how to draw a hand 12
Step 7: Add Texture to the Final Presentation
If you want the drawing to have more impact when showed to a client, I recommend you to change the white background to one more ’’artistic’’. Usually I use a combination of different textures and old papers pictures, and it should look like this.

how to draw a hand 13

Here are some details from the drawing, and some designs that i created using this technique.

how to draw a hand 14
how to draw a hand 15
how to draw a hand 16

More Examples of this Technique

portfolio work
portfolio work
portfolio work
portfolio work
portfolio work
portfolio work
portfolio work

I hope you liked my tutorial and find it useful, for any other question, don’t hesitate to write here or contact me at [email protected] Thanks for reading!

57 Inspirational Sites from 7 Remarkable Apparel Designers

I gathered 7 of the top t-shirt designers today and asked each of them for a handful of sites they couldn’t live without; sites they surf for inspiration, design resources, advice, community, etc. I was surprised at what I found. A few sites that I didn’t expect and some I’ve never heard of. And of course, there were a few sites that made it into almost every list.

Most of these artists hang out on the t-shirt site and the shirts they’ve designed can be seen plastered all over the walls at retail stores like Hot Topic or winning tee of the month over at Design by Humans. So if you’re looking for the definitive list of what real pros are looking at for inspiration and resources, this is it.

Richard Minino (aka Horsebites):


Richard has been one of my favorite artists over the past 1-2 years. His illustrative style is a big influence in my work if you couldn’t tell. He’s done work for countless bands and he’s also the guy responsible for the distinctive branding behind The Fest – the best punk music weekend of the year. He also plays in the bands New Mexican Disaster Squad and Gatorface. Here are five sites he drools over (in his own words):

    Zack Johnsen is a bad ass. His style puts me to shame everytime I see it but it inspires the hell out of me. His work keeps getting better too. That’s what I love about him. He doesn’t stay complacent. He just keeps getting better. His use of watercolor mixed with pencil and ink is a perfect blend of mediums. I also love how evertyhing has an edge to it and is in your face.
    What can I say? Garbage Pail Kids were one of the best things to happen to me as a kid. I was obsessed with these wonderful illustrations. I mean how else can you go against the mainstream toy sensation Cabbage Patch Kids by making stickers mocking them with puke, guts, boogers, butts and everything else nasty for kids to laugh and stick them on everything? Amazing times.
    The late Ed Roth is a super hero to me. I really freaked the first time when I saw his work. I was super young and craving anything low brow and weird. Although I didn’t know it at the time but he completely changed my life because with out him the illustration on a t-shirt wouldn’t be the same. He made it what it is. That’s what made me so interested in GPK in the first place! I love going to his site and checking out the decals and images. His documentary that just came out is amazing!! A true legend.
  • jimphillips.comNow here is the guy who took all the things I loved as a kid and made them extremely bad ass. I remember sitting with all my friends and checking out everyones skate graphics and I would look at it way longer then they would and I would want to preserve it somehow instead of messing it up. I was way more of a drawer instead of a skater. Although his site is set up real bad and it doesn’t have too much stuff, the little stuff he has makes my brain hurt and scream for more!
  • emptees.comThe only reason I put this as number one is because I can’t stop going to it. Ever since I joined (thanx to you and a few others) It’s been interupting my work schedule. I love this site. I’ve met amazing people and have a first eye on which the newest designs are coming out by my best friends. It also opened my eyes to sharing more and knowing that people got your back when people rip you off. Super amazing site and a great creative release.

Dan Mumford

Dan Mumford

Dan Mumford is an amazing illustrator that popped up on my radar this past year. His use of color is astounding and the detail in his linework is just mind boggling. I’ve used some of his artwork as my desktop wallpaper for a while. The guy is a true pro.

    Great daily blogs from a core group of posters and guest posters every week, always something nice and interesting to look at, and always unearthing new talent.
    Again, another great site with interesting daily posts.
    And another, as you can see..i like my daily post websites!
    As ive gotten more into working digitally ive found digital arts quite a useful portal for tutorials etc. Good place to find some little tricks.
    I should probably explain this one, but being an avid movie fan i check this site everyday to see the latest trailers and posters, i have a great interest in movie posters etc and narrative, not really a design website though!

Advice from Dan: First and foremost, don’t take too much from other artists work, its all very well being inspired by someone, but there’s a fine line between inspiration and outright copying. Secondly i get a lot of people asking me how to get their work out there and get recognition, well unfortunately there is no easy answer here, you simply have to get it out there in anyway you can and get involved in anything you can.

There are always opportunities out there for young illustrators and designers, competitions, exhibitions, even just making fliers for various happenings in your local area, you just have to take these opportunities. Just because you did a degree for three years doesn’t mean you will automatically do well when you leave, its all about knowing people and having the contacts, like any industry, so if you are in university then take that opportunity to get out there and make contacts before you leave, its a tough industry and you need all the head start you can get!

Derek Deal

Derek Deal

Derek Deal is another talented illustrator who has appeared on my radar after he destroys the competition over at Winning Shirt of the Day countless times and also snagging a shirt of the month with his homage to Garbage Pail Kids tee.

    I’ve been a poster collector since I eyed my first Kozik at 17. Some of the best artists in the music industry post here.
    The majority of my work revolves around apparel, so I usually frequent this site a few times a day.
    Now that I’ve built up the network, its become an incredible resource. Receiving periodic updates from not only my favorite designers and illustrators, but also photographers and retro image archivers has created an invaluable collection of inspirational imagery.
    On the rare occasion that I do some branding, this is the place I go to see what’s working
    It came to my attention recently that its actually a publication…Ive been resourcing the apparel in their store for months…no idea.
    Every now and then I scan Computer Arts mag for tuts, to either brush up on my skills or try something new. When I had a subscription I learned more about Photoshop there than I did in school.
    The blog of John K, creator of Ren and Stimpy, I just started reading, but so far I’ve enjoyed reading about his inspirations and thoughts on animation and character development.

Some words from Derek: I usually feel the most inspired when I’m away from the screen. Every now and then ill find myself getting into a visual turnstyle, so I’ll mix it up and go to a library or an antique store. As much as I’m online, it’s almost startling how much of the world hasn’t been scanned in yet. Sometimes just taking walk or drive to some music, or taking a couple steps away from the computer to the drawing table or the couch to do some sketching does a lot of good. It’s easy to get too reliant on imagery to fuel your creativity, especially when its so accessible. Just putting the pencil to paper and letting everything you’ve been digesting spill out on the page whether you’ve got something in mind or not can do wonders.

AJ Dimarucot

Collision Theory

AJ is an artist that I see has a vision. He’s not content with looking like everyone else and oftentimes his designs are very experimental. He pushes the envelope conceptually of what can be printed on a t-shirt. And he was very generous with his list for us. He even broke it down into categories for everyone.


    Pure design/visual/art treat! Once you check out the way they lay out their features you can’t help but click on them. Lots of inspiration covering everything from design, architecture, art, photography etc.
    Similar to but features are more in-depth. I find inspiration not only in graphic design but in all aspects of art and design. These sites have an abundance.
    Pure eye candy. It’s a social bookmarking site for images. You can’t imagine how many images i’ve downloaded from this site alone. I keep a folder on my laptop that says “INSPIRATION” and most of the content there comes from this site.

All these are totally invaluable to me because anytime I feel like I’m
in a creative rut I just open up my folder of ‘inspiration’ or visit these sites.
The visual stimuli alone can jump start any design task.


    I’ve bunched these together because I use them to get my work out there. I’ve put up my folio and have networked with other artists and designers. This has led to some good leads and actual freelance work. Browsing other folios also gives you an idea what other designers are doing.
    Contrary to popular belief, I’ve actually found some decent clients over there who pay well. But it’s a matter of rummaging through the crap to find the good ones. Being a freelance t-shirt designer, work from here has partly sustained me for almost a year now.

Since July 07, I’ve been totally committed to t-shirt design work and it’s paid off quite well. Last February 08, I finally left my day job as an Art Director for an ad agency and have focused solely on freelance work. Halfway into the year and I’ve already earned twice as much as what I would have earned in a year in my previous job. So it’s been totally awesome!


    I’ve recently been successful in these two sites (threadless soon!) and it’s been great at giving me confidence in developing my own style. Working with clients, you have room to adjust based on the what hey want, as long as it’s close to your style. But submitting designs to these sites, it gives you total freedom to do your thing. As a younger designer, I tried too much to fit into the style of dbh and threadless, that didn’t work. But as soon as I started to do my own thing everything seems to fall into place. Getting loves and getting my designs printed. It’s also good for work because some clients have found me on these sites.


    My favorite site at the moment. I get to showcase my t-shirt designs, it’s a great way to find potential clients. But what I love about this site is the bonding and camaraderie that you form with other t-shirt artists/designers. Tons of drama on the message boards [from time to time] but it’s all good.
    Similar to but only for t-shirts. It also has a social networking aspect but not as vibrant as emptees. I love the variety of t-shirt styles over here compared to emptees though.


    Aside from Go Media, I visit these sites occasionally to pick up some skillzz or a few vectors and fonts here and there.
    Great resource for learning about the business aspects of putting up a clothing brand. Also has a social networking aspect but I’ve only started to use this.
    Tons of good advice for freelancers.



Godmachine (real name Aziz) is some fresh talent that has been exploding this year. That’s not an understatement. As of this writing, he’s been awarded with 15 Shirt of the Day awards and one Shirt of the Month for this design. His style is raw and very illustrative. As drawing makes a big push in the t-shirt design community, Godmachine is shoving his way to the front of the crowd. He’s someone to keep an eye on.

He provided us a quick list of sites he loves:

Chris Sandlin

Chris Sandlin

Chris is another talented illustrator that I noticed because of Emptees. He’s got a very pro-looking and dare I say “cartoony” style. He’s won his share of SOTD’s as well (13 as of this writing). He sent me a quick list of links that he loves as well as a few books that he finds inspirational.


Wes Allen

Wes Allen

Wes is a versatile designer that has been establishing himself as a premier artist for the music industry. He’s also on Emptees and his work is often seen in retail stores that sell band merch.

Wes says, “Here are a few sites that I always look at for inspiration. Just about all of them are well known for their collage work. I would not be doing the type of design work I do today without the inspiration of these people. I’m a sucker for crazy collages using vintage photos. In my opinion, keeping yourself inspired is one of the most important things about designing.”

So that’s about it. That’s a whole lot of resources for the aspiring artist who wants to break into the music industry. These guys are pros at what they do and are all around good people. They’re nice and were more than willing to share a few of their “secret” resources hidden behind their bookmarks.

Tell us YOUR thoughts

These artists want to hear what you think. Just post a comment and I’ll have them answer them right here on this post. And feel free to give us sites YOU can’t live without!

Jeff’s Moleskine Round 2

Here we are again with another round of scans from my Moleskine. Not much to say about these other than I was just having some fun drawing skulls and things. I was using just a regular ball point pen, which to my surprise, works great in these books. I think I’ll do so more often.


So the last time we posted some of my sketches, fellow Cleveland designer Geoff May ask for some close-ups. So, these are for you Geoff! By the way, he has some of his own sketches to feast your eyes on.