Recently I've been getting a lot of work with T-shirts and they ask me to distress t-shirts. This is a simple matter if the graphic is only one color, but occasionally I will get a graphic that's 4 or more colors and layered on top of each other. I will then have to apply a distressed texture to each separate shape. This can get tedious and time consuming. Not to mention the texture file is huge because it's distressed and creates a lot of points.

Do you guys know of a way that I can place a distressed texture on top of a vector graphic with multiple colors and shapes and just punch through or knockout all the way to the back of the stack? I hope that makes sense.

Here is an example.


There is white around the letters and the filled in areas on the face are white as well. I want the distressed graphic to punch through all the way, but when I use the minus front, it ends up only punching through some shapes or it all fuses together as one big mess.

If it helps the t-shirts will be screen printed.

Edit - Thanks for the answer, it works. Here is a rundown of how I created it this

Copied the graphic, and fused everything together as one solid shape. Placed distressed graphic over solid shape graphic. Create clipping mask of that. Place that over the original with the option clip checked.

  • 1
    An Opacity Mask is what you want. Check the duplicate link above your question. Feel free to click the "flag" link and ask a moderator to reopen if that duplicate isn't helpful.
    – Scott
    Jan 28, 2015 at 0:32
  • I'm not entirely sure this is a duplicate as it doesn't quite address the OP's question (which appears wanting to keep it pure solid vectors).
    – DA01
    Jan 28, 2015 at 0:34
  • ...that said, The easiest way is to not bother keeping it vector. Open the vector illustration in something like Photoshop and then apply some textures there--or even easier, use a distressing plugin like the Mister Retro products misterretro.com/filters/machine-wash-deluxe/about
    – DA01
    Jan 28, 2015 at 0:34
  • @DA01 opacity masks can be 100% vector. (as shown in the video at the duplicate) Don't let the word "mask" make you think it has to be raster related. It can be raster, but it's not required.
    – Scott
    Jan 28, 2015 at 0:37
  • @Scot I guess I don't know if that'd work for the oP or not. Seems like if he wants it to 'punch all the way through' there's no need for a mask (solid white on top would accomplish the same). We'd have to have the OP clarify.
    – DA01
    Jan 28, 2015 at 0:40

1 Answer 1


I think Opacity Masks are the easiest here.

set up


They are essentially a one-click method which is non-destructive. If you use 100% solid vector objects for the mask, then there's no concern about half toning either and the mask is just as infinitely scalable as the artwork under it. In addition, this method allows the mask artwork to be scaled, rotated, or changed separately from the underlying artwork. Being non-destructive, there's never a need to "start over". You can always adjust the texture or the artwork without a problem.

Masked artwork needs to be one object (group) for best results.

In many cases this method can increase the work speed in Illustrator compared to using Minus Front on each and every object. In addition, the mask tends to be faster with screen redraw as opposed to all the tiny objects Minus Front creates.

You could always expand and flatten the artwork after applying the mask to "bake in" the distressing (which is what Minus Front does).

  • Thank you!, I forgot to tick the clip box! It's resolved.!!!!! Jan 28, 2015 at 1:37
  • The "Clip" and "Invert" options are on an as-needed basis. Those depend upon the artwork and the mask being used. Sometimes they are needed, sometimes not.
    – Scott
    Jan 28, 2015 at 1:38
  • Here is proof that it works for anyone that is interested. proof Jan 28, 2015 at 2:02

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