4FRNT Skis Graphics

For the past 8 years I’ve been creating top-sheet ski graphics for 4FRNT Skis. I started my first designs right after I gradated high school in 2005 and have been doing it ever since. To date I’ve designed around 45 different graphics of varying lines of skis over the years. My longest run was 6 years of the 4FRNT MSP ski, their premiere all mountain ski that was discontinued last year. Since then I’ve picked up designing the Switchblade over the last 2 years – their primary park ski. Below are my designs for the 2013-2014 line of Switchblades that will become available to the public starting next fall; 4frnt athletes should have all received them over the past few weeks.  These designs were debuted at the SIA (Snowsports Industries America) trade show last week in Denver, CO and will be at ISPO in Munich all this week.

*Disclaimer* – the graphics here may not represent the finalized designs 4frnt creates for production.


The skis this year are a little more basic but I focused a lot on materials and ski layers. They were designed entirely using Adobe Illustrator and were exported to be all screened layers rather than sublimated (printed) layers. The advantage to having vector graphics and screened layers is crisp lines and more versatility with materials. You’ll see there are windows straight to the natural wood core, there’s gloss overlays and then separate matte overlays so when you look at the ski in the sun or light it’ll reflect light in different ways at different places. It’s tough to get an idea of what the skis will really look like until I get photos of them in person (4frnt you know my address!).

Depending on the graphics and artwork, there’s always a different creative process that goes into the making of the skis. For me this year I started in Photoshop and sketched out ideas for how I wanted the text and logos to look. Once I drew out a few solid ideas, I took those sketches into Illustrator and traced them out to be made into vector graphics. This way all my logos are custom made and not created from pre-made fonts. Once I had the logo design in Illustrator I started toying with different ideas for elements that could go into the skis. I know I wanted to do something with solid lines & trees interacting with the natural wood core.  I created a large sandbox of design elements that I could pull from and see how they worked in various locations on the ski template.  Below is a little piece of my sandbox design file.


From there it just took a lot of messing with shapes and colors to find the right path. I couldn’t decide whether I liked all black and white or the black – red – white versions so I decided to alternate the color scheme depending on length. Here’s a secret – I always try to make my favorite graphic or color scheme in my size (175-180).  I’m pretty sure it’s the most commonly sold length for that ski so it’s a good guide to go with my gut for the most popular length! It usually takes about 2 weeks of working nights to get a design to where I want it to be.  The thing about graphics is it’s hard to bust it out and be happy with the first round.  I usually have to sit with a set of graphics for a few days and tinker with things until I get to a spot where I’m happier with the results. Once the final graphics are complete I take design elements from the topsheets and begin designing the bases.  The bases are usually simple designs that will look good in photos from afar.  Pro athletes are often photographed from below while they’re in the air so the bases get a lot of facetime. Logos are first and foremost the focus with design elements coming in 2nd.  I was pretty stoked on these bases; however, I haven’t seen the final skis in person so I’m not sure if they got changed slightly.  These bases are also vector designs and will be di-cut of different materials including clear base material showing the wood core.


It’s fun to look at the creative process from start to finish.  Take the MSP models I designed from 2011 for example.  These ones I actually had a pretty clear idea from the start what I wanted, but just knew it would be a process.  I wanted a full mountain scene across all of the skis but have a stained glass sort of look made from a ton of little shapes. Up close it would be very geometric – from afar it would look mural-esque.  I started by sketching out a scene in Photoshop (I use a Wacom Intuos tablet for my sketching).  I left areas where the wood core of the skis would show through as the ‘snow-cover’ on the mountains.  From the first rough sketch I refined it a bit then imported the design into Illustrator.  In Illustrator I started from the top down on each ski and just went to town with the pen tool creating shapes that were all connected.  I’d pick about 4 different shades of gray to fill in all of the geometric shapes and one bright color.  The bright color would be the ‘theme color’ for the ski and show up in the logos and what not.  Once all of my shapes were finished it was back to photoshop to add shading and refine the design.  This is also where I’d add elements for the printing.  These skis in particular had a screen printed white layer directly on the wood behind the entire graphic with small 4FRNT text repeating across the whole ski.  The hardest part back then was working with enormous files in Photoshop.  This was back before my computing needs were supported by GoPro so I was running off of the computers I could afford after I was finished paying for food/college/housing.  I’m sure many can relate! Spinning wheel of death anyone?


      If you haven’t seen my other designs check out some of the photos below from years past.



  • Sean Lynch

    very cool! i really like the ones with the mountains and the neon colorways! looking forward to these this season

  • Adam Hurd

    abe you’re stuff is rad.

  • Andreas

    Sick! Cool designs! 😉

  • ben

    do you take into consideration the area where the bindings and boots are going to cover up? or do you design them as if nothing is going to be on them?

    • Yep, I usually think about what the design will look like with the middle section covered

  • You have some serious talent. Did you design the 2011 – 2012 Switchblades? (I think it was the first year they switched to the Switchblade from the MSP?) That’s what I’m riding now along with the Full Tilt Drop Kick boots, absolutely love the combo.

    Your creativity is inspiring.

    • Nope I didn’t do those ones. A mutual friend of mine in the Bay Area did those – Jacob George van Leeuwen! He works for Lucas Arts – super talented artist

  • Sean Brenker

    Dude I was so pumped when I got my 181 Switchblades this season and saw your name on them, by far my favorite topsheet of any ski i’ve owned. Such a simple but classy scheme and color layout. Keep it up man, those 2014’s are super tight! Can’t wait to get another set, looking down at my skis always gets me stoked.

    • Haha Sick Sean thanks! They always end up looking a little different than you envision on the computer screen so I’m glad you like em!

  • Mike D.

    Great work! I really like the older ones with the plane flying over the glacier. I don’t know if I could ride those, I’d rather have them mounted in my living room sans bindings. It looks like the Hercules we see fly out of Elmendorf all the time and the glacier looks like Portage right by Alyeska. If it isn’t, have you guys ever talk about doing an Alaska themed pair? Armada widened the JJ and called it the AK-JJ and they sell like hotcakes up here because they kill in deep powder. But the graphics are pretty blah and they have nothing to do with the area. We’re easy to please just stick a Big Dipper and North Star on it and we’re good!

    • Ooh yeah Alaska theme would be pretty radical. Alaska was definitely my inspiration on those old MSP skis for sure! I like the idea of some stars! I was up in Fairbanks last March filming the Aurora, got some good inspirational images in my head still 🙂

  • Aoife Farmer

    Agreed, amazing talent and designs. If only I could get my hands on a pair… In Ireland.

    • Thanks Aoife! Just make another trip to Whistler and grab a pair!

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  • Patrick Schmidt

    Nice work! I really dig the way the 2014’s flow, and the exposed core looks sweet! How did you manage to land the job of designing skis right out of high school?

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  • Niklas T.

    Great explanation of everything Abe! Super helpful and interesting. I’ll definitely be trying to design some of my own skis later tonight 🙂 Haha, thanks for sharing!

  • Sam Page

    Im 13 years old and when I am older I really aspire to design skis and videos just like you. Keep up the good work and hopefully one day I will own a pair of your skis.

  • Nate

    I’ve been absolutely inspired by GoPro through you. I’ve owned a GoPro HD Hero 2 for two years now, and really got into filming. I was about to purchase the Canon T4i, and keep my GoPro 2 and NOT get the Hero 3. I was over thinking my idea of maybe just getting the Hero 3 and not the Canon T4i since I would love to go all GoPro and have smaller film luggage to carry on trips. Downside is, you can take much better photos and videos, especially with the blur background on Canon cameras. I’m puzzled. Event though you’re all for GoPro and you work for them, can I have your honest opinion of getting the Hero 3 or keeping my Hero 2 and getting a Canon and using both??
    Thanks a ton

    • Thanks Nate! Well I’m a proponent of all sorts of art forms. I’ve got a canon 5d myself and use it all the time for photos. It depends on how serious a photographer you want to be. I’m pretty dedicated to bringing all my camera gear everywhere I go. That being said the Hero3 is a huge leap ahead of the hero2 but even that step is only necessary if you are unhappy with the quality and results of your hero2

  • Thomas

    What programme did you use to design this awesome skis

  • Jayden B

    Amazing Abe… being apassionate artist myself you have inspired me to mix me dreams painting and skiing and your gopro videos are awesome and photos are true insperation. PLEASE COME TO AUSTRALIA!

  • leslie

    Do you have any advice for someone looking into designing ski top-sheets?

    • I would say keep designing and putting your artwork out there. If you don’t have any “ins” with a specific company, start creating some relationships!

    • I’d say just keep designing and getting your artwork out there. If you don’t have any “ins” to a specific ski company, I’d start making some friends!

  • Ian Houghton

    I’ve always loved the sunset/wind tower MSPs. Great work Abe!

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  • Nate

    Are you still working with them today?

  • Jayden

    Hey Abe was wondering how do u get the ski template from your sketch in Photoshop like erase the outsides of the skis or do u design straight Into a ski template