This is a t-shirt design I created last month for my cousin's Boy Scout outing to Mammoth Cave. I had some fun creating it, and I'm waiting to post some commercial work, so I'll add some background info. about the process.
First comes the brainstorming and the sketches. I knew before I started that I was going to print a light color on a dark shirt, and that flashlights would be involved. I also knew that Mammoth Cave has nothing to do with the woolly creatures, but I've never been one to pass down the chance to draw a weird extinct animal, so I started with this:
This sketch was the first idea that entered into my head, and it was quickly obvious to me that it was too wordy and complex to make an effective design. I thought it was funny, so I sketched it up anyway, quickly hashing in some copy.
I then tried a simpler mammoth sketch. This was probably my favorite concept, and compositionally, I think it's the strongest. Even though the sketch is really rough, I felt it had a great deal of potential.
the sketch below was the one the scouts picked. —and in retrospect, a great choice.
I sometimes worry that my humor will be seen as trivializing the target audience, and let's face it —I am. Luckily, teenage boys have a sense of humor about themselves, so this concept moved on.
Once the basic idea was established, The first thing I had to do was get used to seeing the art as it would be printed: light-on-dark. A few minutes on Photoshop got me this:
Finally satisfied with the sketch, I started rendering the final art.
Some details were changed when I rendered the figures: I pushed the lankier kid behind the pudgy one and tilted him a bit toward the center.
Then I scanned in the new art and turned my focus to the text, attempting to replicate the type on the cave ceiling.
I played around with several creepy fonts, and applied a 3-D rotating filter to the type until I felt I had something appropriate. I was happy to arrive at a configuration that improved upon the sketch, even though that meant re-drawing some of the image to get it to work.
I also used the computer to add the goofy shadows to the kids' faces. I was a bit apprehensive about killing the kids' facial expressions, but I felt that the shadows added a lot to the humor, so I went ahead.
With the artwork 90% complete, I tried some color variations, exploring some trendier color combos before deciding that an acid yellow-green on plain black served the artwork best.
Before releasing the art, I added shadows to the stalactites in the foreground, re-drew the beams from the flashlights, and made some subtle changes to the bat.
In parting, I'd like to give a plug to The T-shirt Company in Cincinnati who did a fantastic job with the printing. Thanks, Tim!