How to Trace Artwork for T-Shirt Designs

We mentioned last week that our main administrative offices moved and we are still getting settled in. The most exciting thing for me is that I live on the same exact street that the new offices are located on. In fact, saying that I live on the same street just doesn’t do it justice, because I live on the same block. In our attempt to go more green, we have been getting pretty creative with the commute to save on gas and to decrease energy consumption.

Just like with anything else we do, we have to create a t-shirt design and print t-shirts for the occasion. We also felt this would be a great chance to give a short t-shirt design tutorial on how to trace something in Adobe Illustrator. We chose an illustration of a bicycle, because it is pretty simple geometric shapes that are easy to re-create using the preset shape tools and pen tool in Illustrator.

Here’s the final design we are going to create:
Environmental T-Shirt

The image that we are going to trace comes from a standard bike route sign that you see on many streets today. We first open up that image in Adobe Illustrator.
Bike T-Shirt

The first tool we will be using is the preset circle tool. We are going to create the two wheels on the bike by sizing up the circle tool and giving it a 9 pt stroke. The color we are going to use to make it easy to see what we are doing is pink.

Green Bike T-Shirt

For this next step, we are still going to use the circle tool, but we are going to create two circles with the fill color of pink instead of an outline.
Green Environmental T-Shirt

Next we are going to use the pen tool to trace all of the straight-line pieces of the frame of the bicycle.

Enviro T-Shirt

Now we are going to increase the stroke on the line we just created with the pen tool to match the bike.
Tracing an Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

The last part of the process for the tracing is to take the square tool and create the two pedals and use the pen tool to trace the seat.
Go Green T-Shirt Design

Since we used a lot of strokes in this illustration, it is always good practice to expand the strokes so everything is a fill color.

Bike T-Shirt Design

Another suggested step that isn’t required, but helps polish off the design, is to merge all of the pieces.

Green Tee Shirt Design

The last thing we’re going to do is delete the bike sign that we used for tracing and change the color of the bike. We added a little text just to get our point across and provide a little smile. Here’s another look at the final tee shirt design:

Zero Dollars Per Gallon T-Shirt

*For custom t-shirt printing, please visit You Design It.

1 Comment

One Response to “How to Trace Artwork for T-Shirt Designs”

  1. tony andrews Says:

    Nice tutorial! This is a great and easy technique for making some cool looking urban t shirts.