How to design vintage-looking T-shirts – Printsome style

Vintage T-shirts have become an increasingly popular fashion must-have in recent years, leading to complaints and confusion from mums all over the world saying ‘Why would you buy clothes that already look worn out?’

I guess it’s simply another way to look casual and like you haven’t tried too hard. It’s also a pretty clever way to ensure style success, since if a garment has survived all these years, it has to be cool, right? We take a look at vintage personalised T-shirt design with a few designs and tips of our own on how to get the best vintage look.

Vintage T-shirts

What is it about vintage T-shirts that makes them so popular? Firstly, we’re talking about a garment that is highly accessible to all, whether you have a budget to blow, or want to root through the charity shops bins, or even steal from your parents, vintage T-shirts are for everyone. Secondly, they carry with them a whole load of nostalgia, supporting the concept of the T-shirt as a storytelling mechanism and ‘personal archaeology.’ They become a trip down memory lane and a reminder of our former selves. On a more practical level, theses types of retro and vintage designs have a high probability of being reprinted on the masses, you only have to understand the basics of copyright legislation to understand why every high street shop seems to sell the Ramones and Nirvana T-shirts.

Vintage vs Retro

As my colleague Harald kindly clarified:

“retro and/or vintage design is a term broadly used to reference any design that’s reminiscent of the recent past.”

Typically referring to the 80’s, 70’s, 60’s, and 50’s. The terms are generally interchangeable. This got us to thinking, what does a t-shirt need to be like in order to be considered vintage or retro? Basically, old, either to the touch or in terms of its design.

Texture (washed out-looks)

The most common types of article you’ll find on the Net if you search for vintage T-shirts, (other than online vintage stores), are do-it-yourself guides on how to make your T-shirt look, well, old. Since at Printsome, we’re more concerned with the print design, as opposed to manipulating the garments themselves, from bleach to sandpaper the internet has it covered. We recommend a few handy tutorials.

  1. Make a New T-Shirt Look Feel Vintage
  2. How to Make a Vintage T-shirt design 
  3. How to Make a New Shirt Look Vintage

Colour Palette

In general, vintage tees tend to follow quite a warm colour palette. Expect to see more creams than whites, and distressed greys than blacks, and the printing palette isn’t too dissimilar either. When designed vintage prints, use a palette of less vibrant colours, although this doesn’t mean that you can’t use primary colours – it’s all about reds, yellows and blues with the older T-shirt look. If you’re not sure about the difference between different palettes, check out our article on Best T-shirt Colour Combinations for some inspiration and guidance. Here are some examples of typically retro T-shirts, along with their related colour palettes and you’ll see what we mean.







Styles of T-shirt

The ringer T-shirt makes a regular appearance on the scene of retro T-shirts, the classic retro Adidas originals T-shirts spring to mind. Otherwise, depending on the decade look you’re going for, crop tops and your typically round-necked T-shirt are equally valid choices.


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Following these guides, but not paying attention to the font you use can take your vintage T-shirt look from the 50s right into the future if you’re not careful. We recommend analysing the typography used on the vintage t-shirt designs that inspire you, and choosing one of the thousands of ‘retro/vintage’ fonts out there free for download. To get you started try one from this list by Creativebloq, or one of these from Vectorian.

Note: Learn how to pimp your T-shirts with typography.


To show you all the vintage T-shirt look possibilities, we’ve put together a few designs that may serve as inspiration for your own designs. As you will see, vintage T-shirt design follows many different trends and styles, making the possibilities quite limitless in terms of creating something quite unique.

1# The Rock Poster Vintage T-shirt

Use 70s inspired rock posters to create your own unique vintage design.


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2# The Lettering Vintage T-shirt

Never underestimate the power of lettering in T-shirt design in general, using a chalkboard look with a texture overlay makes for the perfect vintage tee.




Do you have your very own T-shirt brand? Would you like to delegate the production and inventory stuff – for free? ? That’s right, Printsome’s Print on Demand services are free for a limited time. Join now!

3# The Illustrated Vintage T-shirt

Think back to trashy horror movies and scenes from Mars Attacks and Total Recall to create these 80s style illustrations, which combined with the right colours and a dissolved texture make for a great retro look.


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4# The California Vintage Surf T-shirt

This one is all about colour and getting the right typography. Do your research and you’ll get it spot on.


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5# The Vintage Space T-shirt

With a whole load of NASA’s photographic content and old logos, you can’t go wrong with a vintage space T-shirt – and it’s all above board since their content is in public domain.


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6# The Old-Skool Themed T-shirt

Any subject matter that reminds you of your childhood and feel nostalgic is probably good content for a retro T-shirt. Here, we’ve gone for a classic TV test card.


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Print on Demand

Here at Printsome, we’ve always supported creative endeavours which is why we’re proud to announce our brand new ‘print on demand’ service.

Thanks to our five years of experience in the apparel-printing industry, we were able to design a platform catered towards the needs of artists and designers who want to start their own T-shirt line. Printsome’s ‘Print on demand’ service has no minimum orders and can print any design with no colour limitations.

From the moment you connect your online shop (like Shopify) with our platform, anyone can buy one of your designs. We deliver all over the UK and Europe. Drop shipping has never been this easy.

Why worry about inventory or logistics when we can take care of that? We deal with the boring stuff so you have more time to do what you love. To find out more, simply visit our brand new website.

print on demand, drop shipping, printsome

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