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Dramatic Depth on Dark Shirts

(June 2009) posted on Tue Jun 02, 2009

Striking a balance between vibrant colors and subtle details requires a careful approach to creating separations. Trimingham describes his favorite method in this month's column.

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By Thomas Trimingham

Taking something that is real and then hiding some of it or causing the viewer to question what is not seen is a powerful way to create interest and excitement visually. That’s one reason why some of the most dramatic and popular artwork is surrealistic or gothic in style. In surrealism the world is distorted to question the space, time, and reality of the environment. With gothic artwork the shadows become an active part of the design and there is a strong play between what is seen and what is hinted or imagined.

You can use these concepts in several ways to create drama on dark shirts, but a lot of the success of these ideas relates to how you separate the artwork. Creating elements that seem to form slowly out of the shadows in the fabric itself is a common tool that artists use to create the sensation that there is more there than meets the eye. Mystery and form combine to develop interest above a normal shirt and can create something that everyone will talk about (Figure 1).  

Developing a method that separates artwork for dark shirts with a lot of shadow drama requires a clear approach that is practiced from the ground up. Without some of the base testing and understanding of the production process, the separations will never have a high percentage of success. The key is to utilize the known properties of the inks and how they sit on the shirt with their inherent qualities and then adapt to the inks as necessary, or agree to change them if they won’t work. A functional method that has a high percentage of success is to start with some simple tests and then separate the design using your knowledge of the fall-off points to create depth and shadowy details. Once the you determine fall-off points for the ink, you can make a separation map to quickly create an image that will have the maximum illusion in the minimum amount of time.


Why spend the extra time?


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