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One of the very first reasons i was attracted to screen printing, back in the day when it was me, a heat press and a small vinyl plotter. I dreamed of being able to achieve a distressed vintage effect that simply could not be achieved using vinyl, the weeding alone would’ve taken like.. a million years. Skip forward to today and here we are, screen print nuts!

So my personal favorite, the distressed print finish. Ever wondered how we achieve this pre-loved effect?
Well fear not, buckle in and take a butchers below where all is revealed.


Whether Plastisol or Waterbased ink we can add a range of additives to achieve various effects. One such additive is a Crack additive. During the curing process the ink not only cures dry but further cracks. This creates a genuine distressed effect.

Fantastic effect however effects can vary from garment to garment, print to print as the effect is random. If you’re looking for a consistent distressed effect across every print then take a look at the below methods.


Typically a screen printer will use a process called “print, flash, print”. This is how we build up a good opaque vibrant print. Essentially we print, part cure (or flash as it is called) the top layer and then print again on top which fills out the ink and builds an opaque vibrant finish. A method we can use to aid the vintage effect is to simply put down one print of ink without a flash and extra print. This gives a less opaque finish allowing some of the t-shirt texture/colour to show through the print.


The easiest way to achieve a distressed print finish is to create the effect during the artwork process. One way to achieve this is to use a texture overlay. The internet is your friend and a quick google search will bring up tons of free vector distressed texture overlays, or you can check out our resources page

Simply import the texture file, drag, size and overlay your completed artwork choosing a colour that matches your background and bobs your aunties best friends uncle!


One thing to look for when printing 50/50 or Triblend garments is dye migration. Dye migration is an unwanted reaction between plastisol or waterbased ink and the dye used in the garment fabric—polyester fabrics and blends, in particular. A fresh printed white on a royal blue garment may very well look perfectly opaque and pearly white. However given a short period of time the dye gases released from the garment during curing can gradually seep in to the ink. This dye’s the ink giving a faded effect to the print.

Normally, not ideal! However taken into consideration when looking for a distressed, pre-loved finish. Choosing your garments wisely can aid the overall distressed effect with very little effort.


In summary the vintage, pre-loved, distressed effect can transform your designs. Used carefully it can be the difference between hit or miss. As always if any of the above has left you stumped, holla at us and we’ll recommend or take care of the technical stuff for you.


About the author

The “Gaffer” and screen printer. Danny splits his workload between ruling the roost and screen printing duties. Fueled by copious amounts of monster energy, an unhealthy obsession with motor sport and rock and roll music!

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2 Responses
  1. Simon

    I’m just getting into screen printing and have been looking for either an additive or white ink that cracks. Can you recommend any additive that you have found?

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