Most of you might assume I was born into patch royalty, or that I was bioengineered in some sort of top-secret lab in East St. Louis. My story, however, is actually far stranger than that. It actually begins at a rainy Grateful Dead concert in 1973. That night would later be known as "Pudorem Nox Mortuus" which roughly translates to "The night modesty died". Hold onto your butts, it's about to get weird.
Ok, so none of that is true, but I got your attention and in this era of Instagram models and Candy Crush that's pretty good. My story is actually similar to everyone else's. Over the next four and a half hours (or five minutes if you read at a 3rd-grade level) I'm going to talk about a few of my favorite patches, how I started collecting them, and why I think Allison Brie should respond to my marriage proposals.
The first few patches I acquired as a child were patches I found that belonged to my Dad, which I then took or patches of BMX companies. The one I remember most was an embroidered patch that simply said: "Kiss this patch". I have no idea what happened to that patch, it's probably with my retainer and Ozzy Osbourne tapes at my parent's house.
I didn't really collect any patches from then until my first deployment in 2006. I was working with the Border Patrol doing surveillance in Southern Arizona when I acquired a velcro backed Border Patrol patch. I stuck that bad boy on my Camelbak which is where it lived through my next 4 years in the military.
In 2009 on my second deployment to Afghanistan is where I was introduced to morale patches. I'd always swapped patches with units I worked with in the AOR but had never purchased one. There was a lady on base that sold, what I now realize are terribly embroidered morale patches. I don't remember what I paid for the one below, but it was definitely too much.
Throughout the next handful of deployments, College, and joining the Fire Department I ended up with about 30 patches. Then in 2016, I was introduced to this Morale Patch company a few doors down from the photographer I was working for called Violent Little Machine Shop. They had a job opening so I walked down there to introduce myself and drop off my resume (Full disclosure, my resume was a picture of Bruce Jenner from the Olympics but I never gave it to Yanne). I didn't get the job that time around (I blame Obama), but a year later I found myself as the warehouse manager at VLMS. The patches were always cool online, but packing them all day every day really makes you want them. I started to collect a few of my favorites and eventually got to try my hand at designing them.
It's been a year since my first patch drop, and I've created more patches than I can even remember right now. The good news for you, I'm not stopping any time soon. You can continue to look forward to my slightly askew sense of humor and progressively offensive patches. Because if your patch doesn't start a conversation what's it even there for?
If you're wondering who's been designing patches around here nowadays, the answer is all of us as well as some of our artist friends. When we need something really fast though, one of us will whip something up right here in the office. To assist with this, I've been playing around a lot and found a fun and fast method for designing patches. It's crude and sometimes yields questionable results. Enjoy...and remember, this can be used for any type of product, not just patches.
Step 1: Brainstorm.
However you know how. What kind of patch would you like to make? Leather, PVC, embroidery? Your lines and style are dependent on what your final patch type is going to be.
Step 2: Find your inspiration.
I'm going to be showing you how I'd make a design for an embroidered patch. Because it's Tuesday, I will be using a picture of a taco (labeled for reuse on Google) and turning it into a design because I know nobody out there will be trying to steal it...tacos are just too plentiful.
Step 3: Photoshop it up.
I use Photoshop because it's my native language (others might know Illustrator better) and I am way faster with it. I'll open a new document, make it 10" x 10" inches at 300 DPI. After I add my example picture, I first trace my lines with the brush tool- using hard round brush in black. For an embroidered patch, I won't outline everything because that can end up messy and too detailed... I add color next by duplicating the line layer, placing it underneath the original line layer and dumping color inside each section with the paint bucket tool and then fine-tuning with the brush tool. For the taco design, I didn't make many lines so I just used the brush tool for the color layer and didn't duplicate any lines. Pay attention to how many overall colors you use (I stick to around 10 or less) and use the eyedropper tool on your original image to get exact colors. I then create the overall patch shape and background behind both line and color layers. I make sure to have my example photo that I trace, lines, color and background all on separate layers- that is probably the most important part. When it's done, I will save it as a .psd file with the example layer hidden.
Step 4: Turn into a vector.
I use Adobe Illustrator for this step. Simply import your .psd file, use the image trace function, expand it, then save as an .ai file. Manufacturers prefer vector artwork in the form of .ai files, but they will often accept .psd or .pdf files as well...so you might get away with skipping this step.
Step 5: Know your specs and order!
We won't be ordering this one, but for the example's sake, I would order at least 100, keep it around 3" inches wide or tall (with its corresponding height or width justified), hook Velcro backed, 100% embroidered (or dye sublimated over embroidery if it's too detailed), with merrowed or heat cut border. Voilà You've got a patch.
I used this process to make the following products!
Skateboards, Polaroid cameras, meatball subs and a broken hand, this story has it all. Let me start from the beginning. Since Munson showed up a few months ago from Florida, the entire gang has been talking about learning to skateboard. Why? Well, why not? We all had Skateboards, some of us were more skilled than others (Emily and I had about as much experience skating as we do hunting whales).
Fast forward a few weeks and there are nine skateboards floating around the office. Yanne and I had previously gotten a little carried away at a silent auction and, well, we bought a few skate decks. Yanne, always with the most fun ideas, said "Hey, lets ride our boards to lunch". It was a beautiful Friday up here in Sun Valley, Idaho, and we like to take advantage of the warm weather while we still can. The target was an easy, slightly uphill destination about two miles away on a smooth bike path. Easy enough.
The first part of our trip was pretty mild. Nobody got hurt, it was slow, and Emily was wearing a ski helmet. We arrived at lunch, talked about weird dreams over beer (or apple juice in Emily's case). I may have exaggerated on the meatball subs, I just really wanted to order two like I was in the movie Point Break.
Heading back to Violent Little HQ from the restaurant is a nice, gentle downhill, with one slightly steeper section at the beginning. I'd recently quadrupled the amount of time I'd spent on a skateboard so I thought "Shit, I got this". I hopped on and quickly discovered what loose trucks and speed wobbles are all about. I ditched it and rolled a few times before coming to rest in some sage brush. My hands suddenly looked like raw hamburger, but other than my ego nothing was too badly damaged.
We got that one crash out of the way, so it was just time to cruise the easy section. We were getting our legs under us, learning to carve, having fun. Cars passing by were looking at us, probably jealous that they don't have as much fun as we do. I was admiring the ski hill in the distance when all of a sudden I discovered a skateboarder's worst enemy...a pebble. This time I wasn't as fortunate and planted all my weight into my hands. If my hands looked like hamburger before, they just looked like unprocessed meat now. I brushed it off, Munson and I posed for Polaroid photos, and everyone driving by laughed at me (I ain't even mad). Once we got back to the shop, I knew I'd fractured my hand. It's not the first time I've done it, so I already knew what was up. I cleaned the wounds with some Dr. Little's Aids Cure, did the sensible thing and spent the next few hours with a cold beer in my hand.