Iris Apfel shirt photorealism.png

Course: Digital Imaging - Wellesley College

Tools: Adobe Illustrator, Transparencies, Screens, UV Light, Emulsion, Ink


For our final assignment in this course, we could apply anything that we had learned during the semester as well as use any of the tools available in our media lab. I decided to go through the process of designing and screen printing a t-shirt of 93-year-old fashion icon, Iris Apfel. I liked the idea of a simple line drawing emphasizing her most noticeable and iconic feature, her glasses. I focused around this concept and included a ribbon wrapping around the image labeled "Iris." The simplicity of the drawing provides ambiguity, and the labeled name hints towards the person the design is depicting. 



I began by selecting the image I wanted to base my t-shirt design off of. I chose the Iris Apfel for M.A.C. cosmetics shopping bag. After this, I used the sketch tool in Adobe Illustrator to create precise lines that defined her features and emphasized her glasses. I decided to stylize my t-shirt similarly to Deer Dana designs with the raw sketch aesthetic and labeled ribbon wrapping around the design. 

After finalizing my drawing, I printed the entire picture (except for the lips) onto one transparency paper, and then printed another transparency solely with the lips. Both of these had to be printed separately because each color is done in layers when screen printing, and I wanted the lips to be red, Iris's signature lip color.

Once the transparencies were dry, I exposed them onto an emulsion-coated, empty screen using UV light. Once the designs were fully exposed, I scrubbed the screens to remove the emulsion and reveal the full design. 

Lastly was the process of screen printing onto white t-shirts. I began by printing the black ink design first. I laid the screen over the white t-shirt and used a squeegee to squeeze the ink through the screen and onto the t-shirt. I waited a day until the black on all of the t-shirts dried, and then returned to print the red lips. I used an extra transparency of the design to help line the lips up with the design, but ultimately had to estimate where the lips would fall during the second printing.