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Mastering Car Designs By Kent Lind

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For these installments of T-shirt Tactics, I’m going to share my thoughts on how to paint a vehicle on a shirt. My approach to is very formulaic and metered. ” I don’t consider it very flashy, but it produces a very high quality shirt design that I get countless requests every year. In the end, you can decide if this method works for you “maybe you prefer the 300-hour Scott Jacobs approach, in which case, this is not for you. (Did I mention that he’s not quite right in the head?)

The first step is finding the right reference. I prefer a shot of the vehicle that has a ¾ view. That way you can see at least two sides of the vehicle, which in this case, is a truck. With this view, you can better capture the feel and muscle of the car. Head-on and side-view shots tend to be flat and extremely uninteresting. Also, try to get a picture from your client with good color quality. When the photo is taken outside or with a bad camera, the color can seem washed out. Try to get a few additional references to alleviate this problem.

With the photo safe in our sweaty little hands, we start the painting process. I’ve decided to use an athletic heater shirt for this particular example. First, I want to show you how it figures in with the other colors, but I also want to show you that there are other shirt options beside black and white. Also, as you’ll see, the highlights really come out when you use a heather shirt. Like I said, my approach is very formulaic; first the chrome, then black, then a midrange color, then a darker version of the same color, and finally the highlights. Often I will add a background and some lettering, which I consider separate from the vehicle execution. So with that in mind, fire up your compressor!

Step 1:

step 1

The first color I am using is gray, straight out of the bottle. I’m trying to lay down all of the chrome and get the details out, especially in the wheel rims and the front end of the year. You can also see that there are areas in the bumper, mirrors, and windows that require gray. Just remember to use his color sparingly, as overuse can make it look muddy.

Step 2:

step 2

Here is the completed version of the truck with just the gray. Notice how close I keep my reference so that it’s easy to see.

Step 3:

step 3

The next step is to use black to enhance your work in the chrome. Remember that there’s no such color as chrome. Chrome is a reflection of all the colors around it, but when doing this on a T-shirt, using gray is the easiest and quickest way to start. We will add color to this chrome later to enhance the surrounding colors. You can see how the black gives the design more definition and adds a feeling of weight to the truck.

Step 4:

step 4

Next find the midrange color in your reference, then saturate the corresponding area on your shirt with that color. I told you my way was simple, didn’t I? In this case, it’s a combination of tinting white and Caribbean blue. This step defines your areas more clearly and gives you a better understanding of the shape of each part of the vehicle. Now you can distinguish the bumps and raised areas from the chrome.

Step 5:

step 5

My next step is to add some deep blue to the same color. Just look at your reference to see where these darker areas are.

Step 6:

step 6

Here I want to enhance those darker areas, so I add a touch of violet to the already darker color. I also want to add some color to my wheel rims and certain parts of the chrome on the truck. In this case, a touch of phthalo blue and violet work nicely. I add that bit of color in the front emblem, too.

Step 7:

step 7

Now the fun begins — the highlights! Remember how I said that white shows up extremely well on heather shirt? Well, check it out. The important thing to remember here is to keep your reference handy and check it often so your light source remains consistent. Notice how the rims, grill, and bumpers just pop out.

This is opaque white here, so don’t confuse it with tinting white. And there you have it – my entire process for vehicles. How is easy is that?

Step 8:

step 8

The next things to consider are the lettering and background. Most of the time, my customer wants the year and make of the car, so that’s exactly what I do. I add a 57 Chevy. The blue for the Chevy is the same as the initial blue for the body of the car.

Step 9:

step 9

Now I added deep blue to the Chevy, filling in the 57 with that first blue and shading it with the deep blue. I’ve also added a gray drop-shadow on the whole thing. I add the highlights to keep the lettering in line with the look of the truck.

Step 10:

step 10

For the background, I’ve decided on a beach scene because it goes well this type of the truck. Plus, it looks good and it’s just plain easy! To start, I lay down my boundaries and my water with deep blue.

Step 11:

step 11

From there, I add Caribbean blue and violet to enhance the water and to lay down the initial cloud design in the sky.

Step 12:

step 12

Now I use black to add the reeds and the palm trees for more depth and definition. This helps further separate the foreground and background.

Step 13:

step 13

The final step is to bring everything together by highlighting the water and adding detail to the clouds. Once again, look at how the white stands out and really takes on a life all its own. There you have it–a simple but effective method for putting a realistic vehicle on a shirt. This technique takes me about an hour from start to finish-not too shabby, considering that I get from $65 to $75 per shirt. Try it out and you’ll see how easy this approach can be. It can help you conquer any type of cycle, car, truck, scooter, or anything on wheels. Good luck and see you next time!

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