Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Twirling slowly into madness

More shirt designs!
This time, based loosely on the word "Twirl" I made this shirt design, based on the sugar skulls made on the Day of the dead!

I actually had a really hard time coming up for a design for the word 'twirl'. Initially, dance came to mind, as twirling is a large part of cutting a rug and busting a move, but I found a lot of other people I knew who participated in illustration friday were going the same route, so I tried to branch off a bit.

And as if by magic, "Day of the Dead" By Voltaire shuffled into my playlist. Still trying to think of  a design, the song reminded me of an animation I had seen some years ago with the same song, and some really fun graphics!

And I was inspired. I'd been wanting to Illustrate something with skulls, and what better opportunity than to incorporate some colourful sugar skulls!
I'm a bit late for Day of the Dead, but like Christmas, why only celebrate once a year? :D

I took initial inspiration from this design by Merle Bassett, loving the look of a large thing (in this case, cat. in my case, skulls!) surrounded by smaller versions of itself.

See the finished product at the end, but please browse my process shots too!

Thumbnail sketches

Initially, I was going to make the design a lot more sinister, with a toothy grin on the large skull. I decided to (in a marginally less sinister fashion) remove the lower jaw and have the twirling ribbons coming out from the bottom of the skull, rather than floating around it.

Then it was time for liiiine aaaart!
Liiiiiine aaaaart!

Followed by laying in base colours and simple shading for the headbones.
Fun Fact: I originally had the small skulls simply 'adhered'
to the larger one. Then I thought having them growing
out of it would be way cooler.

And then the fun really began! I went on a tour of the internet, picking up different inspiration images for the sugar skull designs. Here's some I chose at random.

I gathered several key concepts from my research:
  • Colourful.
  • Lots of detail.
  • Flowers.
So I took some ideas and references from my research and incorporated them into my design. I also coloured the ribbons with a subtle reference to the Mexican flag :)
thought that was a nice touch, and subtle.

Next, and final step was to add some texture to it! I thought it looked a bit too pristine for a heap of skulls, so I added a gritty paper texture with a hint of yellow to the design.

And here it is, mocked up on a shirt.

I went with a dark grey shirt again, just because the lightness of the design really pops against it.
I tried it against a white tee, but it looked really flat and boring.
The ribbon tails would wrap around to the back of the shirt, just to add that little bit of extra movement to the design!

Thanks for checking this out :D I'd love to hear your feedback and comments!



  1. Jess this is amazing!! like the dull and vibrant colors against the dark background ... good work!!

  2. This is great!!! I love the colours! Keep em coming, Jess.


  3. Very cool, Jess -- a very strong and eye-catching design -- and a really excellent process post. I feel like this could benefit from some sort of typographic component, if you could think of something appropriate... perhaps "Day of the Dead" in Spanish!

  4. Thank you everyone :D

    Leif: I was toying with the idea of adding those very words, actually. At the time I couldn't decide how to do it. I might go back later and add that, however :D Thank you!

  5. Love what you decided to do with the scarf and texture jess, you know I love it, and I want you to make thousands of tshirts I can wear!!

  6. This is awesome, you should pop that up on threadless!!!