Is there a simple way for me to create a distressed look on decorated apparel?
Screen-printed transfers are probably the easiest option to achieve a distressed look on your apparel because the distressing is done in your artwork preparation, as compared to the manual post-print production process of distressing.
When creating your artwork, you won’t do anything different until the end of the artwork process. Once you’ve created your art, you will essentially create your distress pattern. This pattern is going to be a series of dots, dashes, chunks, and spots that you will overlay on your artwork in your graphics software of choice.
Once the pattern is created, you can save it as a template to be used again later. Lay the pattern on top of your graphic in a clear color that won’t be printed. Once you have the pattern placed where the distress marks won’t negatively affect the quality of your design, select all of the graphic, pattern included, and merge the lines together.
This step should remove the graphic where it meets your distress pattern and leave you with a distressed-looking design. Some design software will do this for you, and some transfer manufacturers have this capability built in to the online design software.
Note that distressed transfers tend to look best on garments that share distressed or vintage characteristics. Look for fabrics that are heathered or weathered in some way and ones that are thin.