How To: Make a T-shirt Look Vintage
There's nothing more fun than buying a new T-shirt just to make it look old. Right?

Design Master

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How do you make your brand new T-shirt look vintage at home? Is there an easy way to do it? Can you design the T-shirt with custom artwork? The answer to all these questions is, of course, very simple: Follow this short guide!

For this tutorial, I downloaded an old car silhouette file and opened the file in Illustrator.

I will use the third car silhouette in the vector pack. I copy the silhouette into a new document, sized 8” x 8.” This document will contain the final and edited artwork.

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I changed the color of the car to something different than the default black. I went for a dark teal color (R=53 G=65 B=73).

I also added some text under the car, using a retro font in the same fill color I used for the car itself. The text can be a slogan, a tagline, a quote or any other kind of message.

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I downloaded a grunge texture and opened the texture in Photoshop. I desaturated it (Image>Adjustments>Desaturate) and tweaked levels (Image>Adjustments>Levels) to increase its contrast.

When you are done, save the texture as a new file.

Open the edited texture in Illustrator and with the Live Trace (Object>Live Trace), turn the texture into black and white vector graphics.

Select “Ignore White” and try different settings to see what works best for you. Expand the object (Object>Expand) to make it editable.

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The texture I am using is way too big and I don’t actually need it all, so with the lasso tool, just select a smaller portion from it and copy it on top of the car artwork.

I resized and moved the texture to better fit the image underneath.

Then select both texture and car and within the Transparency window to create an Opacity Mask. The mask will conceal parts of the artwork where the texture is located, simulating a worn effect.

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Finally, all you have left is printing your T-Shirt. For the T-shirt, choose a color that will complement your artwork. Pastel tones can be a nice variation and much more “exciting” to wear than the classic white.

Use transfer iron-on sheets compatible with your inkjet printer. You will be able to find them in most craft and printing supplies stores.

Before printing, flip the artwork horizontally so it will be transferred properly. You don’t want to find out your artwork is backwards after ironing!

When you are done printing, lay the T-shirt on an even surface and smooth out all creases.

Position the sheet of transfer paper carefully on the shirt and pass the warm iron all over the printed paper. Let cool before peeling off.

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With this simple technique, you can create an endless amount of aged effects for your T-shirts. The hardest part of the job is just finding artworks and textures that will look nice together.

Stock resources by Craftmanspace and Lost & Taken. Edited in Illustrator & Photoshop CS5.

About the Author
Kristi Maddox is a master of graphic design, on-site design and ordering, and is the go-to for template and design tool usage.
Kristi and the team order print jobs from every major printer to test quality, value, customer service, and more. See their reviews here:


  1. wow that texture worked perfectly, exactly whast i was looking for. thanks!

  2. so weird, i have a shit that looks almost exactly like it. It’s one of my favotires!