When I told my business partner I was going to write an article about how to get vintage looking custom shirts, he said “oh good, because everyone wants that!”
And of course they do. They’re more interesting, they’re often better looking, and they can sell better if you’re ordering shirts to resell for your business.
Plus, you can often get vintage looking shirts while spending less per shirt.
Here are a few methods to get a vintage look and save money doing so:
A multi color process print on heather shirts for a vintage effect
We call this “punk rock white” at the shop.
With traditional ink, IE plastisol ink, you really need to put down two layers of white ink to make it pop and look bright.
So if you just put down one layer, it’s more faded looking, more vintage, if you will.
Punk rock white is the cheapest vintage method possible, because it’s just 1 color of ink (the cheapest way for us to print shirts anyway) and just 1 layer of the ink.
If you’re looking for a dark shirt with a vintage looking print, this is a great technique.
Punk Rock White on a Black Triblend shirt
This was a 2 color print, black ink and straight discharge ink on an orange 50/50 blend. Because it only partially discharged, it came out as a textured yellow print with the black as a trim color.
At Vacord, we specialize in discharge printing, which is a method of removing and replacing the shirt’s color so that you get a really soft, vibrant print.
Discharge ink only works on natural fibers, like cotton, so on 50/50 poly/cotton blend shirts or tri-blend shirts, using discharge doesn’t give you a super vibrant print, but that’s what you’re going for here!
The resultant print is going to be more faded, more subtle, and look vintage. It’s an easy way to get the look you’re going for.
Heather garments are the shirts or hoodies you see that aren’t a solid color, but instead have a variety of thread colors that are basically the same color, which gives it a non-solid look.
And that variety can show up in a discharge print, especially if you’re doing a clear discharge print (IE just going for the bleach effect of discharge and not adding color to the ink).
And often heather garments are a blend of polyester and cotton (and/or rayon, another common synthetic fiber) and remember that cotton discharges but polyester doesn’t, which will result in an imperfect discharge print, which leads to the vintage look that you’re going for!
This is just a 1 color print, but the fact that it's on a black heather shirt makes everything more interesting than yellow on a standard solid black shirt.
Both the white and the red ink in this print have some distressing to make it look vintage and to give it a 70s feel.
This one is done before your shirts get anywhere close to the press, and it isn’t done at all with screen printing itself.
If you search for “distress layer” or “texture overlay” you can find patterns that look sort of like marble or cracking, and you can take those into Photoshop or whatever image editing program you use and lay it on top of your artwork to make it look “distressed.”
This distressing is transferred from your artwork to the screen to the shirt, so your printing can end up looking worn and vintage, just from the artwork technique. And it’s all done pre-press.
We already talked about heather shirts, but if you print the same color on a heather shirt, you can get a really subtle print that looks vintage.
For example, if you print forest green on a heather green, those greens aren’t exactly the same so the design shows up because of the difference in the colors, and also because the print will be a solid green while the shirt color has some texture to it.
Red ink on red heather shirts presents an interesting monochromatic effect while still having plenty of contrast.
If you’re going for a vintage looking print, you can combine these methods to get a more dramatic or pronounced result.
Distress your artwork and print it with punk rock white!Print discharge on a heather shirt!
Choose a discharge ink that is similar to your shirt color but choose a blend shirt so that discharge print has a low contrast!
Hopefully some of these methods have given you some inspiration on how you can create your own vintage looking shirts.
If you’d like to talk with us about screen printing some vintage style shirts, use the contact form below and just let us know how we can help or what questions we can answer and we’ll get back to you soon. Thanks for reading.
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