Behind the Seams: AE Photo Real

Behind the Seams: AE Photo Real

We’re all about the photo-real graphic tee trend for Spring and Summer. The photo-real trend has been seen on celebs like Emma Roberts to bloggers like NYCPretty and ManRepeller. Learn more about the inspiration and design process behind the photo-real trend from our New York Design Team.

What is the difference between a graphic tee and a photo-real graphic tee?

A graphic tee and a photo-real graphic tee are fundamentally the exact same thing – they are both tees with a graphic.  Instead of a cute message or an American Eagle Outfitters logo, a photo-real tee uses an actual photograph. The designer manipulates a cool photo that they bought or actually took by blurring it, cropping it, fading it, making it black and white, blowing it up, or adding textures to it… anything to make the photo look cool!

emma roberts american eagle outfitters photo real tee

Emma Roberts sports an American Eagle Outfitters Photo Real Tee this month in LA.

What was inspiration behind the images chosen for the AE collection?

The inspiration behind these tee’s were a few different things. First, the Spring/Summer season is always an inspiration to us. We knew these would be arriving in stores just as the weather was getting nicer and people would be excited to start buying fun summer clothes. The photos we used are of summery things: palm trees, a girl riding her bike, surfers, and a girl on a hammock.  As far as the actual layout of the graphics, we get inspiration from things that we see out in the world.  Whether it’s from high fashion, the market place, or cool things happening in the graphic design world – like a cool book cover or magazine spread we saw.

Is there a special process used on photo-real tees and what is it called?  

There are a couple of different processes we use to print the photo-real graphics, one being sublimation. Sublimation is a print technique we use to get the detail you see in the photos and to achieve the beautiful colors. Inks are placed on the fabric in layers of dots that combine together to create the illusion of many more colors, the prints tend to be faded and less real looking. Sublimation uses a special heat transfer to permanently dye the fabric.  Imagine printing out a photo and using an iron to transfer the photo right on to a shirt.

From design perspective, what inspired this trend?

Photo-real as a trend is always around to some degree. We do photo-real tees every season for the most part. Cityscapes in Times Square are always our best sellers! I think people like wearing photo-real graphics because maybe it’s a photo of the city you are from or something you love, like palm trees or surfers. It’s a great way to express yourself without having to wear a shirt that says something. Instagram and sharing your photos and videos on Vine is super trendy right now – everyone has become a photographer!

man repeller photo real tee american eagle outfitters

Fashion blogger ManRepeller shows off a customized AE Photo Real tank featuring a picture from her Instagram account that we created for her.

Is this trend limited to tees?

Absolutely not! You can find photo real graphics on tees to tanks to board shorts.

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