If you’ve ever used Photoshop before, you know how much fun you can have been creative. Whether you’re Photoshopping your friends head onto an animal’s body or if you’re using Photoshop for more professional reasons, the ability to create something that looks real is brilliant.
One of the advantages for me, as I work for a T-Shirt printing company, is the ability to create realistic T-Shirt mockups, showing how a design could look on a T-Shirt or creating my own designs. Photoshop is an incredibly useful tool for this task and I’m going to share with you how I create designs on Photoshop to look realistic.
So, in this post, I’m going to talk about how to use a Displacement Map to create the mockup. The Displacement Map is an excellent tool which maps and distort an image into another. This means that you can add your design over the top of the T-Shirt and it will blend the two together so the shadows and creases of the T-Shirt will show on the design helping to make it look more real than just overlaying two images.
If you’re going to create a T-Shirt mockup, the first thing you’ll need is a T-Shirt. There are a few different options available for doing this, you could take a picture of one of your T-Shirts or you can do a Google search to find an image.
Remember that you need to get a blank T-Shirt for this to work as it’s too much effort removing a pre-existing pattern for a T-Shirt.
As you can see in the image above I found a great image of a grey T-Shirt which has plenty of creases and shadows on it.
Once you have the T-Shirt, open it in Photoshop and then you can start to define the Displacement Map. This is basically the image that will determine how your artwork will get distorted and blend around the creases of the T-Shirts.
To do this, click on the channels panel (on the panel to the right of the image). Once there, run through the different colour channels until you find one which brings out the shadows and the highlights best.
For my image, the green channel looked best, but make sure you select the channel which works best for you.
With the only the channel, you want visible, select the channel, right-click and then select ‘Duplicate Channel’. Under the ‘Destination’ heading select ‘New’ and then rename it. I prefer to call it ‘Displacement’ but you can call it whatever you like. Once renamed click ‘Save’ and then your Displacement Map will open in a completely new document.
Your Displacement Map isn’t finished yet if you used this version of the map your artwork will get distorted weirdly and you’ll also notice a subtle heather texture to your T-Shirt.
To avoid the heather texture and the incorrect distortion, firstly you want to bring out the shadows and the highlights, so on the menu click ‘Image’ – ‘Adjustments’ – ‘Brightness/Contrast’ and then move the toggles until you have an image which highlights the shadows and the highlights perfectly.
After you’ve done this, you then want to add a Gaussian Blur to remove the heather texture. To this, click Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and then adjust the radius to blur the image.
When you’re happy with the Displacement Map, save it and then close it and that’s it your Displacement Map is done.
Now you want to go back to your T-Shirt file and make the RGB channel visible and click back to the ‘Layers’ panel. Once done, you can then drop your artwork file onto the image.
For this example, I’ve used a Leather Face / Texas Chainsaw Massacre design that I’ve created but you can use any design with this to make it work. As you can see with the image, when you overlay the artwork, the creases and the texture of the T-Shirt aren’t visible on the artwork file.
Now, you want to blend your artwork file with the T-Shirt to make the artwork file bend around the creases which will make it look like it’s actually part of the T-Shirt. To do this, you’ll need to refer to the Displacement Map that, luckily, you’ve just created!
Click Filter>Distort>Displace and then load the Displacement Map that you’ve created. When you load it you’ll get a pop-up asking you to select the displacement level, for the majority of images, selected between 5 and 10 will be perfect, I’ve used 10 for my design.
Remember, the higher the number you select the more drastic the distortion will be so you could end up ruining your image if you go to high.
Once you’ve done this, you should notice that your artwork file is now looking more like its part of the T-Shirt. The image should bend where the T-Shirt does to make look like it’s actually printed onto the T-Shirt rather just overlayed in Photoshop.
To make it look more realistic, you now want to make the texture of the T-Shirt show through your artwork. To achieve this, double click on your artwork layer which will then bring up a ‘Layer Style’ window.
At the bottom of this window, you’ll see a section which is called ‘Blend If’ and under this, there are two sliders. On the slider for the Underlying layer, hold down the ‘alt’ key and click on one-half of the adjustable pointer and then slowly split the slider and fine tune your design.
This process will take your artwork layer and blend it with the shadows and the highlights of the T-Shirt so you can see the texture of your T-Shirt begin to show through. If you go too far, you’ll notice that the artwork will begin to disappear, simply drag the slider back until it looks perfect.
You’re T-Shirt is now done, you should notice your artwork file bends with the creases of the T-Shirt and you should also notice that the shadows of the T-Shirt are showing through the artwork.
You can either save your customised T-Shirt now or you can go one step further to making it look awesome. This bit is easy, though.
On the right-hand panel, you’ll notice a drop-down selector which says ‘Normal’ if you click to drop down the other options you can then click on either ‘Overlay’ which will overlay your artwork further and increase the amount of texture which shows through the T-Shirt.
The other alternative is to click on ‘Multiply’ and it’ll then almost imprint your artwork onto the T-Shirt.
Depending on the colour of your artwork file, you may notice that your artwork changes colour, and in some cases, your artwork will turn invisible. Don’t worry this is just because the colour isn’t compatible with the selection so the steps above should be perfect.
So there you have it, you’ve now successfully created a T-Shirt mockup in Photoshop. Your design should look like it’s actually part of the T-Shirt rather than you’ve just put your artwork over the top of the image.
If you’ve found this article useful, or if you have any questions regarding how to do this, leave a comment below and I’ll help with any issues that you may have.