Creating the Ideal Vintage Style T-Shirt

When people hear the word “vintage” associated with a t-shirt, most immediately think of an old, faded or distressed design. While this is true, there are plenty more elements that must be included to ensure the design matches the overall era that will be represented. These elements include: the image texture, color palette used, style of t-shirt and font style and will be expanded upon throughout this guide.

Image Texture

When creating a vintage style t-shirt, the texture of the image is one of the first things people will notice. The design should look like it has seen years of wear and tear as soon as it comes off the press. This can be done by properly distressing an image.


Distressing can be created through image editing software. When distressing the artwork, the designer adds unfilled areas to the design, allowing for the shirt material to show through after it is printed. An example of this can be found above. The grey markings on the image represent the distressed areas added in by the designer.

Warmer Color Palette

Vintage style t-shirts tend to have a warmer, less vibrant color palette, so keep this in mind when the design is being created. These warm colors will represent an old, worn out look a lot better than bold, bright colors. Here are a few of our stock ink colors for reference.


The color of the t-shirt should also follow this same guidelines. Avoid using bold, bright t-shirts, as it will immediately take away the feel of a well-aged shirt. Instead, the following shirt colors should be considered: beige, pale yellow, off-white, distressed grey, pale blue, faded red, faded green and faded orange.


Fonts to Consider

One of the most important aspects of a vintage style t-shirt is the font style used. Whether the shirt and/or design is distressed or not, using the wrong font could bring the overall shirt straight back to present day. There are plenty of reputable free font sites to draw inspiration from, such as The font style should adequately represent the era the design was created to match.

70s-style-font 50s-style-font

T-Shirt Style

Luckily, with vintage style t-shirts, standard crew neck t-shirts will often work just fine. Other recommended styles include baseball tees and ringer t-shirts. All shirts should follow the color palette above or be similar in the style of color.

Port & Company PC54R from SanMar
Port & Company PC450 from SanMar
Sport-Tek ST205 from SanMar
Creating the Ideal Vintage Style T-Shirt

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