How To: Make a Textured T-shirt
Textures add dimension and that extra special something to plain old T-shirts.

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Even beautifully designed T-shirts can sometimes look a little flat. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right combination of design elements, and it’s hard to deny that some designs need additional aid to really pop.

Using textures can be a quick way to save a cool T-shirt from a dull fate. This tutorial will show you how to make a textured T-shirt in just a few easy steps.


Create a new document and give it a name. The size of the document can vary. It mainly depends on your idea and requirements.

A standard 8.5” x 11” with a 300 pixels per inch resolution will probably work pretty well in most cases and will be compatible with most printers.

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The way you create the artwork doesn’t matter. You can start with a sketch on paper or draw directly into Photoshop, Illustrator and so on.

Use the Pen tool to create clean ink-like strokes in black or any other color. Move the handles of your path to adjust it to your original sketch.

Once you’re finished with the outlines, create a new layer and place it underneath the ink strokes. Add color with a hard brush and merge the layers when you are done.

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If you have a clear idea in mind, you will know what kind of texture you want. However, if you are undecided, you can select more textures and try them with your original artwork.

In some cases, actually looking at the result is much better than just imagining it. Here are some places you can go to download textures: Texture King, Flickr, DeviantART.

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If you have both your artwork and your texture ready, it’s time to combine them. Open both files. Turn the texture image into black and white (Image>Adjustments>Desaturate) and increase its contrast with Levels (Image>Adjustments>Levels).

Invert the texture’s colors if necessary (CTRL+I on PC and CMD+I on Mac). Copy and paste the texture over the artwork and right click on its icon in the layer’s palette to create a clipping mask so the texture will only appear over your artwork.

Change the texture’s blend mode to Screen. White represents areas where the design will be transparent, so take the time to make sure important elements of your artwork will be visible in the final shirt.

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For printing, you will need iron-on inkjet transfers compatible with your printer. Before printing, flip the artwork horizontally to make sure it will appear correctly on the shirt.

After printing, put the T-shirt face up on an even surface and carefully place the sheet with your artwork face down on it. Pass the warm iron on the sheet while applying even pressure. Let it cool a few minutes before peeling off.

If you cannot print at home, you can upload the artwork to an online printing service and let them handle the job for you.

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Adding a texture to your T-shirt is a very easy way to spice it up. Apart from the step where you have to apply the texture over your original artwork, the process is basically the same as the one you would follow when making any T-shirt.

Edited in Illustrator and Photoshop CS5. Cat image courtesy of manicowl.com.

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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.
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3 Comments

  1. hmm, i had a client a few years back that wanted a bark like look on their shirts. turned out pretty cool, but was almost a disaster.

    • have seen shirts like that and they mostly look pretty dumb.

    • Kenny Austin
      Kevin Austin (Printaholic.com)

      If done correctly, a bark or tree design might look kind of cool for the right purpose or business. But, yes, if just done quickly and for no reason, that could look a little odd :).