Repairing Cracked Print on Shirts: How to Make Your Favorite Shirt Look Good as New!

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    It’s disheartening when prints start to crack prematurely. It is especially disheartening when you are the one who is printing the design and rely on such prints for the success of your business.

    The frustration of cracked prints can be attributed to a range of factors: it might stem from printer-related issues, the choice of ink not being ideal for your shirt material, or even improper curing times.

    Other times, it’s as straightforward as wear and tear, or the relentless cycle of laundry taking its toll over time.

    Very old t-shirt worn by man with cracks in design

    In this article we’ll dig into the root causes and offer advice that works well in restoring your shirts to their former glory. Note though, sometimes it is not possible to fix the issue in its entirety, but steps can be taken to improve the outcome.

    Key Takeaways

    Importance of prep work

    Clean the area in and around the crack with a cotton ball and alcohol. This will remove any interfering debris and dirt.

    Fixing cracks on natural materials

    Natural fabrics such as cotton, linen or silk may be remedied by ironing them. Consider fabric color (for example, white cotton can yellow with excessive heat).

    Fixing crack on synthetic materials

    The steam iron method won’t repair cracks in synthetic fabrics like polyester. Instead, use matching fabric paint to cover them.

    Understanding the Causes of Cracked Shirt Prints

    In order to fix cracked print designs, we must take into account why it is happening. So here we included a list of factors that could cause print cracking:

    1. Inadequate care
    2. Low quality prints
    3. Material quality

    1. Inadequate care of apparel

    To maintain your t-shirts effectively, avoid chemical detergents. Some cleaners can damage printed designs, affecting their durability and appearance over multiple washes.

    This can result in cracked prints and or fading of color vibrancy, both of wish aren’t pleasing to the eye!

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      Follow these steps to increase the chances of prolonging not only the print, but the shirt material too:

      1. Choose gentle detergents: Opt for cleaners that are free from harsh chemicals to safeguard your fabric and prints.
      1. Embrace lower washing temperatures: Discover the impact of washing temperatures on your clothes’ quality and longevity.
      1. Slow down the spin cycle: Extend your clothing’s lifespan by selecting slower speed settings for both washing and drying.
      1. Iron with caution: Preserve your prints by adjusting your iron’s temperature to a lower setting and using gentle pressure.
      1. Use the inside out method: Turning garments inside out shields screen prints from friction and abrasion during laundering.

      2. Low ink or print quality

      Poor-quality inks and printers can lead to dull and lackluster designs. While investing in top-tier materials isn’t always necessary, frequent cracking may indicate a need for higher-quality inks. By exploring options, you can strike a balance between quality and affordability.

      3. Garment quality & its effects to cracking

      If the above suggestions prove ineffective, it’s worth examining whether the material you’re using is exacerbating the issue.

      Designer discovering his artwork is cracking on his garment. He checks through picking at it with his fingers.
      Cracking usually occurs due to under or over curing.

      Different fabrics interact differently with specific inks, and this could be the root cause of the problem.

      Ink Types and Suitable Materials

      Ink Type Suitable Materials Characteristics
      Water-Based Inks Cotton, blends, natural fibers Soft feel, vibrant colors, may not adhere to synthetics
      Plastisol Inks Polyester, nylon, synthetic fabrics Excellent opacity, durability, may be thick
      Discharge Inks Dark-colored cotton fabrics Bleaches fabric for vibrant prints, specific fabric types
      Sublimation Inks Polyester, polyester-coated substrates Vivid, long-lasting prints, not for natural fibers
      UV-Curable Inks Paper, plastics, certain fabrics Fast curing, excellent adhesion, requires UV curing

      Restoring Cracked Prints on T-Shirts

      If you want to effectively fix the cracks and extend the life of your prints, you should know how the print was printed on a shirt. There are different methods used for printing, and we will list the most common ones:

      • You can identify sublimation printing by closely examining the fabric of your shirt; if you can see the fabric fibers and your shirt is crafted from synthetic materials, it likely underwent sublimation, a technique that utilizes high-temperature-evaporating ink for transferring the design onto the fabric.
      • How to fix: Unfortunately, this print cannot be removed, but it can be salvaged by concealing the cracked portion with glitter, sequins, or embroidery, adding a touch of personality to your shirt.
      Thermal Transfer
      • If you closely inspect your shirt’s fabric and observe a slightly denser texture in a particular area, it’s a strong indicator that the manufacturer opted for thermal transfer as the printing method.
      • How to fix: To address a cracked print created using this method, you can effortlessly employ either the iron method or the paint masking technique, both of which we will delve into in more detail later on.
      Flex Foil
      • If you closely inspect your shirt’s fabric and observe a slightly denser texture in a particular area, it’s a strong indicator that the manufacturer opted for thermal transfer as the printing method.
      • To address a cracked print created using this method, you can effortlessly employ either the iron method or the paint masking technique, both of which we will delve into in more detail later on.
      The Hot Iron Method
      • If you closely inspect your shirt’s fabric and observe a slightly denser texture in a particular area, it’s a strong indicator that the manufacturer opted for thermal transfer as the printing method.
      • To address a cracked print created using this method, you can effortlessly employ either the iron method or the paint masking technique, both of which we will delve into in more detail later on.

      Here are the steps for this process:

      1. Firstly, you will have to turn the t-shirt inside out and put a piece of cardboard or a different kind of board inside of it in order to protect it.
      2. Then, a medium-sized white paper should be put around the cracked prints, covering both sides. Be careful not to use any paper that has a shiny finish, and only use pure white paper that can cover the entire image.
      3. Next, put the appropriate amount of water in the water compartment of your iron. Put the temperature on the maximum setting. The high temperatures will melt the print.
      4. Now, you should turn on the steam function on your iron and go over the top piece of medium-sized white paper you put on previously. You will see that the molten print has now transferred onto the bottom piece of paper you put under it. Using a plastic card or some other tool, carefully remove the whole molten print.
      5. If the print cannot be removed at first, repeat all the steps mentioned below until the print can easily be removed. Make sure that you are careful when doing this as the print is very hot.
      6. Upon the removal of the entirety of the print, wipe the whole t-shirt using nail cleaner. Normal cooking vinegar can help with the removal of the adhesive base that could be left after removing the print. After completing all of the steps, you can start wearing your shirt again!
        1. Using medical alcohol

      This method is not as popular as the previous one, but it can be just as effective as it! Also, thermal print is known to easily be broken down with alcohol, so this method is even simpler than the last one.

      Here are the steps needed for this method to work:

      1. Make sure that you wash your shirt thoroughly and that there is no residue of dust or other particles because these could temper the removal.
      2. Soak the whole shirt with medical alcohol and wait for a bit until you see that the print has become a bit more delicate. Now you will be able to easily remove it completely and print out a new design on your shirt.

      These methods will help you mend a cracked print on a shirt.

      1. Paint masking method

      In order to fix a cracked print with this method, you will have to cover the t-shirt print with paint. This method will not remove any of the mistakes in the cracked print. If you want to do that, you should use different methods. This method will actually fix the cracked print.

      Here is how to achieve the best results using the paint masking method:

      1. Firstly, you will have to match the color of the print with the color of your paint. So, you will have to mix different colors in order to achieve the desired one.
      2. Next, with a thin paintbrush, carefully fill up the cracked print. You should put the paint only on the parts where you can see the material between the cracks and not on the actual print.
      3. Make sure that you use a generous amount of paint so that it is on the same level as the rest of the print. By doing this, you will achieve a cleaner look and guarantee that it lasts for a while.
      4. That’s it! Wait until the paint is completely dry and you can wear your shirt again.
      5. The toothpaste/baking soda method

      This method is perfect for fixing a smaller crack in your shirt. Instead of having to throw out the shirt because of a small imperfection, you can fix it and wear it for as long as you want. For this method, you can use either toothpaste or baking soda. Both will work.

      Here is a step-by-step guide for utilizing this method:

      1. Smear a layer of either toothpaste or baking soda on the cracked print.
      2. Wipe off any excess product that may be present.
      3. Leave it to sit for at least 15 minutes.
      4. Use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process.
      5. Wear the shirt as normal!


      Noticing a print crack on your t-shirt is annoying. However, there are plenty of solutions you can choose from! Depending on whether or not you want to completely remove the cracked print or find a way to fix the cracked print by applying paint to fabric fibers, resolving this issue is not as difficult as you may think it is.

      A design on a shirt can crack because of a few things: for example, the manufacturer created the shirt with a thermal transfer-in which case you can easily use the iron method to fix it; or just the fact that you’ve been wearing this piece of clothing for a while can all cause the print cracking. It is important to know why this has happened so that you can fix the print crack using an appropriate method.

      We have listed the most effective ways of fixing cracked shirts with simple enough information for anyone to follow. When using these methods, be careful yet persistent. You do not need to follow the letter of the law, but a little practice and patience will help figure out what works best for you!

      Detailed Answers to Most Frequently Asked Questions

      Q1. Why does print cracking happen?

      The print on your t-shirt can crack because of a few things. Perhaps the shirt is old and the natural thing happened-the print cracked because you’ve had this shirt for a long time. Or maybe you were using harsh chemicals when cleaning the shirt and those chemicals destroyed the print.

      Q2. How to fix the print without removing it?

      If you don’t want to completely get rid of the print on your shirt that has cracked, there are a few things that could help you in the process of fixing it. You could use paint masking to fix the printed shirt by filling in the design or use toothpaste or baking soda to fill in the cracks.

      Q3. How to fix a peeling print on a shirt?

      If you notice that the print on your shirt has started to peel, the best method for you will be the iron method. But, make sure that you remove the iron before it starts to melt the print. This method ensures that the print will be stuck down again.

      Q4. How to stop a print from cracking?

      We have discussed various techniques in which you can prevent this from happening, but another helpful tip is to completely stop using the dryer and instead dry your clothes outside. This is good for both the environment and your clothes.

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