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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. T-Shirt Design

How to Make a Distressed T-Shirt Design in Photoshop

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Wondering how to make a distressed T-shirt design in Photoshop? In this tutorial, I will show you a few simple and effective ways to create a design for vintage distressed T-shirts. We'll use different types of textures, brushes, and mask layers, and then combine these methods. Let's dive into it!

What You'll Learn in This Distressed Texture Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to make your own distressed textures and brushes
  • How to make a distressed T-shirt design using transparent PNG textures
  • How to make a distressed effect in Photoshop using JPEG textures
  • How to make distressed T-shirt designs with Photoshop brushes
  • How to combine textures and brushes to design a distressed T-shirt

What You'll Need

1. How to Make Your Own Distressed Textures and Brushes

Step 1

Let's start with the free texture I created for you. You could also create your own just by taking a photo of any metal surface (even with your smartphone!). Open the metal texture in Photoshop and then Double-Click on the background layer to rasterize it.

Opening the metal texture in Photoshop

Step 2

After that, select the layer and press Shift-Control-Alt-B to convert the image to black and white.

Converting the layer to black and white

Step 3

Hit Control-I to invert the colors of the image, and then go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast and use the following settings: Brightness: 132Contrast: 100.

setting up brightness and contrast

Step 4

Go to Select > Color Range and then select white with the Eyedropper Tool and set the Fuzziness to 50.

Step 5

Once you've selected the white area of the texture, press the Delete button, and then Control-D to deselect.

deleting the white part of the texture

Step 6

And for the last step, Double-Click on the layer and put a tick on Color Overlay, and select black with Normal Blend Mode and 100% Opacity. After that, just save the texture in transparent PNG file format.

adding color overlay to the layer

Step 7

Now, let's make a brush from our texture. Open the PNG file and select a part of the document with the Lasso Tool (L). (I added a white background layer here, so you could see the texture better)

selecting the part of the texture for brush

Step 8

Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset and press OK to create a new brush.

creating a new distressed brush

Step 9

Let's set up the brush. Hit the Brush Settings icon and use the following settings:

  • Shape Dynamics: On; Size Jitter: 100%, Angle Jitter: 100%
  • Scattering: On; Scatter: 129%.

In the next sections, we'll discover how to use these brushes/textures and any others.

setting up distressed brush

2. How to Make Distressed T-Shirt Designs With PNG Textures

Step 1

Before starting to create a distressed tee shirt design, let's create a new document with the following settings:

  • 2000x2000 px
  • 300 dpi
  • Background Color: Black.
Creating a new document

Step 2

Go to File > Place and then select the lettering for your distressed tee shirt design. Once you've placed the image, press Alt-Shift-Control-I to invert the colors of the lettering.

inverting the color of the image

Step 3

Now we are ready to create a distressed texture Photoshop effect! Let's place one of the textures from the 15 Grandpa's Textures pack. I chose distressed Photoshop overlay №3.

adding a distressed texture to the lettering

As you can see, our vintage T-shirt design already looks pretty cool!

distressed t shirt design with one texture

And here is a variation with the texture we've created previously, applied the same way:

handmade distressed texture applied

Step 4

The important thing here is that you need to apply the distressed Photoshop overlay only to the lettering layer. If you make the background Invisible, you'll see that distressed texture applied to the whole document.

making the background layer invisible

Step 5

So, to add the distressed texture Photoshop effect only to the desired layer, you need to select the layer with your texture and then Right Click > Create a Clipping Mask.

creating a clipping mask

Step 6

If you want to make your vintage distressed T-shirts look even older, let's apply another texture. I chose texture №14. Don't forget to Create a Clipping Mask for this new texture. 

adding second distressed texture to the image

This is how our distressed T-shirt design looks now:

distressed t shirt design photoshop

Step 7

If this still doesn't look grungy enough, let's add one more texture (I selected texture №4) to our vintage shirt design.

distressed t shirt design with three textures

3. How to Make a Vintage T-Shirt Design in Photoshop Using JPEG Textures

Step 1

Now, let's try to use JPEG textures from another pack and apply them to our vintage distressed T-shirt design. Place texture №13 from the 14 Distressed Ink Overlays pack above the lettering and Create a Clipping Mask.

adding a jpeg texture to the lettering

Step 2

Change the Blending of the texture to Hard Light, to make our distressed effect Photoshop design less evident.

changing the blending mode of the layer

Step 3

Now, let's add a distressed texture Photoshop effect one more time. I chose texture №3 and changed the Blending Mode to Multiply and the Opacity to 50%.

adding a second jpeg texture

Here is our vintage T-shirt design with JPEG textures applied.

distressed t shirt design with two jpeg textures applied

4. How to Make a Distressed Effect in Photoshop With Brushes

Step 1

Now, we'll use distressed Photoshop brushes to create a design for distressed shirts. Let's create a new layer with the Alt-Shift-Control-N shortcut.

creating a new layer

If you want to learn how to install distressed Photoshop brushes, check out this amazing tutorial:

Step 2

Select any subtle distressed brush and paint on this new layer with black. Combine a few brushes to make your design for distressed shirts truly unique, and don't forget to create a clipping mask!

adding distressed effect with the brushes

Here is how the distressed graphic T-shirt design looks with our own custom brush applied to it:

texture created with brush applied

Step 3

Another way to use the brushes to add texture to a distressed graphic T-shirt is with a mask. Select the layer with your lettering and press Add a Mask.

adding a mask to the layer

Step 4

Let's take a heavy grunge brush from the pack and then select the mask of the layer (or use Alt-Right Click to open it) and add a few strokes. 

painting with the brushes on the maks of the layer

This is how my retro T-shirt design looks now:

adding strokes to the mask of the layer

And another variation of the final distressed graphic T-shirt design with our own brushes:

distressed t shirt design with custom brushes used

5. How to Combine Textures and Brushes to Create a Distressed Graphic T-Shirt

Step 1

To design a distressed T-shirt, we'll use all the methods we've discovered before. Let's Add a Mask to the layer.

adding a mask to the lettering

Step 2

This time, we won't use the brushes on the mask, but we'll paste the texture onto it. So place and resize JPEG texture №1.

placing the jpeg texture

Step 3

Now, we need to select the whole texture using the Rectangular Marquee Tool, and then press Control-C.

selecting the texture with rectangular marquee tool

Step 4

After that, Control-Right Click to open the mask of the layer, and then hit Control-V to paste the texture.

pasting the texture to the mask of the layer

Step 5

Delete the layer with the texture, and then select the mask of the lettering layer and press Control-I to invert the image.

inverting the color of the mask

Step 6

Select the mask of the layer one more time, and go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast and use the following settings: Brightness: 105; Contrast: -15.

adding adjustments to the layer

Step 7

Now, let's add a layer with PNG texture №2, and Create a Clipping Mask.

adding a png texture to the layer

Step 8

And in this step of creating our retro T-shirt design, let's add a distressed texture Photoshop effect using JPEG texture №12 with Hard Light blend mode and 50% Opacity.

Step 9

And finally, let's save our vintage shirt design, make the background layer Invisible, and then just save the image as a transparent PNG file.

making the background layer invisible and saving it

Awesome Work, You're Now Done!

Today, you've learned how to make a vintage T-shirt design in Photoshop using different techniques. I hope you've enjoyed the tutorial and you have a lot of retro T-shirt design ideas now! Let us know about your favorite distressed T-shirt design Photoshop effects in the comments below!

how to make distressed t shirt desing in Photoshop preview

You may be wondering where I find these amazing mockups for the previews of our distressed effect Photoshop design. The answer is Placeit! Placeit is an amazing site with hundreds of mockups and templates, which you can use and customize in a few simple clicks! Try your retro T-shirt design ideas on different mockups here to find the best preview of your product.

Placeit promo image

Want to learn more about how to make a vintage T-shirt design in Photoshop or find the best distressed effect Photoshop action? Check out our awesome tutorials and articles:

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