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The Eye on Design Guide to the Intimate, Small-Batch, DIY World of Illustrated T-Shirts

Five of our favorite illustrators on where to buy, who to follow + their own beloved tees.

Counting down the days until spring? We are. And what better way to pass the time than to spruce up the old wardrobe in anticipation for future sunny afternoons; for that perfect time of year when we all shed our thick coats and pack away the wool?

Painters Shirt, by Grace Miceli of Art Baby Girl. Buy the tee yourself at http://shop.gracemiceli.com

Nothing adds a bit of energetic color and life to an outfit like an illustrated tee does, which is why we asked five of our favorite illustrators to dig through their wardrobes and pull out the ones they come back to time and again. Each illustrator has selected the designs of a fellow doodler, and as some of these folk also print their own tops, they’ve also shared their own favorite e-commerce platforms with us.

Window by Manjit Thapp for Good Day Club. Get one yourself at www.gooddayclub.com

1
The Eco Conscious Tee

Clay Hickson selects Nathanial Russell

“I got this shirt from the man himself at the LA Art Book Fair a couple of years ago (it’s still available from &Pens Press). It’s an excerpt from Nat’s extremely (and rightfully) popular ‘Fake Flier’ series. Nat has been one of my favorite artists and dudes for a few years now because of his amazing ability to pack a whole lot of weight and meaning into simple designs. He is able to strip a piece down to a single word or image without losing any of its soul or ‘Nat-ness’.

“To me, this shirt reads as both an overwhelming reality and a desperate plea to take better care of this world.”

If you’re looking for more than one way to wear your heart on your sleeve, Hickson co-runs political zine The Smudge, which has just released it’s very first screen printed t-shirt.

2
The Magazine-Lover’s Tee

Brie Moreno selects The Editorial Magazine

“The shirt was sent to me by The Editorial Magazine when I collaborated with them on a T-shirt for their online store back in 2016. They sent me a bunch of the T-shirts I designed along with the charming pink and blue Poor Gray tee, illustrated by Claire Milbrath. It’s a simplified design of the Poor Gray character that appears in her paintings.

“I really admire how many of her paintings evoke a narrative. Her Poor Gray series really pull at my heart strings with their pastel palette, delicate yet expressive line quality, imaginative interiors, and of course, the sombre and composed Poor Gray.”

Other places Moreno likes to shop for narrative-led designs: Printed Matter, and Come Tees and Cutcross on Storenvy. She also recommends the DIY fare of Art Baby Girl and Emma Kohlmann.

Send It Up Full Bleed, by Come Tees.

3
The Tee That’s Not Just a Tee

John F. Malta selects Paul Windle

“This shirt is a one of a kind airbrushed tee by the Los Angeles-based illustrator Paul Windle, various tees are available through his Instagram. I met Paul in NYC seven years ago when we were first starting out as illustrators. We began freelancing as illustrators for a lot of the same publications and have remained friends since.

“I love Paul’s work because he is constantly pushing it beyond the confines of just ‘illustration’ and this T-shirt is a great example of that.”

Malta also recommends T-shirts by artist Elevator Teeth, artist Kendra Yee, and pretty much everything on Witchsy.com.

Joker t-shirt, by Kendra Yee.

4
The Tee with a Sense of Humor

Nadine Kolodziey selects Jan Buchczik

“The illustrator behind this T-shirt is Jan Buchczik, an close friend from Frankfurt, Germany who combines witty drawings with a lot of down-to-earth humor. For these, he actually draws on the T-shirt, so each shirt is a unique original.

“Jan works a lot with digital, so I like the idea of promoting the value of a handmade drawing in a time of a very pixel-based image making process.”

Other places Kolodziey like to shop for tongue-in-cheek tees? Everpress. It’s here that you can also find the illustrator’s own brightly colored swag up for sale.

Limited Edition T-shirt by Nadine Kolodziey for Everpress.

5
The Tee for BFFs

Martina Paukova selects Jonathan Vermersch

“This T-shirt was given to by my friend Jonathan Vermersch, a French illustrator based in London. Every now and then Jonathan prints out a small edition of tees and gives them out to friends, which is just such a sweet gesture! They’re usually done on this unpretentious, easy to buy cotton, the print quality is decent, and Jonathan’s pictures just work.

“I am a big fan of the world he keeps creating, and his characters and stories; I love the slightly distorted perspective he uses along with the darker edge that all of his pictures have, juxtaposing with the candy color scheme.” (You can get the design yourself by sending Vermersch a DM on Instagram)

When Paukova’s not swapping tops with her friends, she’s browsing Good Day Club’s range of T-shirts designed by illustrators.

Daiana Ruiz’s Hotel Cisne, available via Good Day Club.

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