For Those About to Rock…

Using both Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop together to bring back that classic rock design

A dealer client and partner asked us to develop the art and print the shirts for the upcoming year’s open-house events. The theme was “We Are GSG!” The marketing team presented their idea: they wanted a rock ‘n’ roll tour shirt. You know, a black concert T-shirt with the tour dates (open house dates) on the back. Brilliant! Too easy. Old skool sim process on black. We loved that!

We do simulated process quite often, and we got to fill up the press, so to speak, with this project. That gave us more freedom in the coloring process than in some cases. You know we love coloring! That classic rock design style that is so retro and popular again still has solid color theory.

As great and influential musicians such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky were, they never had great album-cover art. Cover art was pretty boring up until the late ‘40s. There seemed to be a Renaissance around the ‘60s and an all-out movement by the ‘70s. There were beautiful covers all across the music spectrum, none more spectacular than in rock and roll. Rock music has always broken barriers.

We salute you

AC/DC is a rock band formed in Australia in 1973 by guitarist brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. Their music has been described as hard rock, blues rock, and heavy metal. The band calls it simply rock and roll.

The debut album, High Voltage, rolled out in 1975 with Bon Scott on vocals. The band’s breakthrough album was Highway to Hell in ‘79. When Bon Scott died unexpectedly, AC/DC considered calling it quits. However, at the request of Scott’s parents, they continued and recruited current lead singer Brian Johnson as their new frontman.

The first album with Johnson, Back in Black in 1980, was dedicated to Scott’s memory and was a massive success. The lineup remained the same for 20 years until 2014, when Malcolm Young retired and eventually passed. He was replaced by his nephew, Stevie Young. Johnson had to stop touring due to worsening hearing loss, among other troubles.

Upon a reunion in 2020, the band released their 17th and 18th studio albums. AC/DC has sold more than 200 million records worldwide, making them the 16th best-selling band in the world. Back in Black is the second-best-selling album of all time and the highest-selling album by a band.

They ranked fourth on VH1‘s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock and were named the seventh Greatest Heavy Metal Band of All Time. They ranked No. 72 on the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

An AC/DC adapter is a type of external power supply. Use of an external power supply allows portability of equipment. Wait, we aren’t talking about that AC/DC. We are talking about maybe one of the greatest hard rock bands of all time. All rock bands have a story, right? AC/DC was our inspiration for this rock ‘n’ roll concert tour shirt.

Dirty deeds

Using both Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop together, we set up our layout. We pushed the boundaries of the rendering with some Photoshop tricks. Photoshop allowed freeform painting and effects while Illustrator made it easy to move elements around.

We laid it out in Illustrator, then moved to Photoshop for the candy coating. This was a series of vector graphics working together to give the appearance of a live, on-site flavor. We incorporated a series of heads at the base. Since we were looking for the live feel, we needed some fans. Screaming and rocking would help convey the intensity.

Using photos of stock imagery, we adjusted the exposure to have high contrast for the shadows. These were added effects using the Filter Menu. Under the Filter Gallery, we found effect filters for a dramatic flare. We chose the Distort option and moved the levers to our liking with the texture option on Frosted.

For reference, we made a duplicate of original source photos from researched concert Ts and changed the color mode to grayscale, changed it to bitmap, and chose the styles. We pasted it back into the working rendered file and created the overlay.

We filled in some of the breaks for a more seamless transition. For the stone and framing imagery, to give it some flare, we duplicated the shapes and layered behind the originals. Then we filled it and applied a Gaussian blur, found under Filter. To complete it, we used Layer Effects and Outer Glow, which did exactly what it implies.

For the classic type in the center, we used bold, clear colors brought over from Illustrator. Fortunately, with thousands of fonts at our disposal, finding the style from the classic AC/DC logo was easy. We added some more layer effects, Bevel and Emboss, to take some of the flatness out of the shapes. Big-time distress and patterns added to the whole thing. To give it more drama, the highlight and shadow modes were instrumental for contrast.

We output on CTS that matched the registration system on press. Halftone frequency was 55 lpi at a 22.5-degree angle. We chose an N-166 tpi mesh and followed up with a flash and a smoothing screen. The colors and hi-white printed wet on wet within lightest to darkest and least coverage to most on N-272s, all at 45 N/cm2 tension. Squeegees were 75/90/75 for the colors and 65/90/65 on the whites and were triple-ply, dual durometer.

What better way to put a bow on the project than to recreate a tour-like list for the back print? Each of the open house dates was set up like they would be on a concert T using a simplified color theory from the front. All attendees of the open house events were given their very own tour shirt.

Lon Winters

Lon Winters

Graphic Elephants

At 21 years old, Lon Winters was the production manager for Ocean Pacific and started his 30+ year career reclaiming screens. His companies have won 50+ garment decorating awards and honors, and he's served 15+ years as an honorary Golden Image Judge, published hundreds of articles and columns, led various industry seminars and workshops, and consulted on projects large and small. He's the president and founder of Colorado-based Graphic Elephants, an international consulting firm and apparel decoration studio specializing in screen printing technical advances, plant design, layout, troubleshooting, productivity, quality analysis and complete apparel decorating solutions. He was inducted into the Academy of Screen Printing Technology in 2013 and is recognized for his contribution to the graphic printing industry. www.graphicelephants.com.

View all articles by Lon Winters  

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