There are a number of different ways to create authentic looking, distressed styled artwork that’s suitable for digital Direct To Garment printing. My name is Chloe, I’m a Graphic Designer here at Icon Printing and I’m going to show you what I think is the easiest way to create this artwork effect. I shall be using Adobe Photoshop for this tutorial, this is a great way of making your custom t-shirt printing designs unique.



Firstly, create your main image in either Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator. For example, my main image is this “Let’s Rock!” hand image and text. Open this piece of artwork in Photoshop. You will need to create a new canvas or artboard. When creating print ready artwork for Direct To Garment printing, create your artboard as follows…


File > New > Width: 35cm, Height: 45cm (these are our maximum print dimensions – put in whatever print size you would like you intended print to be).
Resolution: 300dpi – this is important! A file with lower dpi or resolution will not print as well.
Colour Mode: RGB Colour. You will need to create your file as RGB in order to save it as a PNG file later.
Background Contents: Transparent (your canvas will come up grey and white checkered, see bellow).
So go ahead and paste your artwork onto your transparent canvas. My artwork is this red hand and “Let’s Rock!” text. It’s sitting centered in my transparent background, ready to go.

how to set up the correct artboard for DTG printing


If you would like to work on a background colour close to the colour t-shirt you’ll be printing on – just create a new layer and fill that layer the colour of your intended t-shirt. This will help you see what your distressed artwork will looking like against the t-shirt colour you have in mind.

I have decided I would like to print onto an “Ash” coloured t-shirt, so I have made a new layer (see Layer 1 shown below), and I have filled it in.


how to add a layer in under your artwork


Right, now you will need to get hold of some good quality “grunge” Photoshop brushes. This is easy. Just go to Google and type in ‘Free Grunge Photoshop Brushes’. Once you’ve found what you’re after, download them and double click on the file. They’ll then automatically load into Photoshop. If you fancy getting a feel for them first, have a play with them within a separate canvas. This will help you get the hang of how they work and the effect they give. Once you’re ready to work on your actual artwork, you need to make sure of two things.

1. That your artwork layer is selected – so the layer you wish to distress (not your background or anything else).

2. That you have selected the ERASE option. I have highlighted this with a yellow arrow below.


erase tool in Photoshop


You need to select the erase option/rubber symbol because you will be using this brush type in the shape of your chosen grunge brush shape. This will erase away your artwork, creating your desired distressed look, so you’ll need to be pretty brave with it. You can always undo an action you’re not happy with.

final distressed artwork example



Repeat the process with a range of different grunge brush types, this will insure your distressed artwork looks authentic, try not to have any areas with obvious repeat grunge effected sections. Less is more here too, so don’t get too carried away. Once you’re happy with your results, delete the t-shirt colour layer (the Ash layer shown behind my distressed hand artwork) and save your artwork as a PNG file. Do not flatten your artwork, remember to save it as a transparent file – the grey and white textured background should be visible. As shown below…


my distreesed artwork with a transparent background

Remember to save you custom t-shirt printing artwork at 100% of the intended print size.

Your custom t-shirt printing outcome would look something like this…

mock t-shirt with my distressed design...

Icon Printing specialise in digital Direct to Garment printing and a range of other clothing customisation methods. For any further information on custom t-shirt printing, please get in touch!


phone: 0207 183 8431