How I Designed My Own T-Shirt Mockups From Scratch

February 15, 2016

As a freelance graphic designer specializing in t-shirt design, mockups are an essential asset to my business and play a key role in my design process.

My t-shirt mockups serve as a way to professionally deliver my design work to the client, and a way I realistically display my work in my portfolio.

Since there aren't any particular mockup products that fit all of my needs, I decided to invest in creating my own. Back in October I wrote a blog post on What I Learned From Spending $1k on Photographing Blank T-Shirts, and since releasing my first few mockup products, I've been getting lots of demand for more. Many people wanted back options, women styles, tank tops, and so on.

With the demand and some experience under my belt, I took to the camera again to create all new mockups! I decided to record my process and share how I create my t-shirt mockups from start to finish.

Here's a list of equipment and supplies needed to shoot and design my t-shirt mockups:

A quick run-through of how I design my t-shirt mockups

With all of the equipment set up, I shot each shirt style one by one. I'd slightly shift and relay the same shirt down to get different wrinkle patterns. I'd do the same for the back and I'd repeat this for every shirt style.

I use red shirts for my mockups because they aren't too dark or too light and give the best range of shadows. This is essential for these t-shirt mockups.

With all of the t-shirts shot, I jump onto my computer and picked which photos I'd use for my mockups.

Inside Photoshop I start by isolating the t-shirt. I use the Quick Selection Tool to roughly grab the shirt, then I'd use Refine Edge to clean up the selection.

With the t-shirt isolated from the background, I then desaturate it and create three different shades using the Levels adjustment:

  1. Shadows
  2. Highlights
  3. Color Highlights

Those three shades placed over any color make up the mockup. At this point I create a displacement map for the t-shirt and add the artwork.

Here's a tutorial that walks you through how to use displacement maps and create your own t-shirt mockups.

There are many tedious steps in making these t-shirt mockups, but hopefully sharing this process can give you a rough look into what goes into making these assets.

The Return On My Investment

Selling digital products is one of the ways I diversify my freelance income, and these t-shirt mockups have proven to be a success.

Since my initial investment (~$1,000), I've created four complete t-shirt mockup products. With those alone being sold on Creative Market, I've almost tripled my initial investment.

I'm wrapping up cotton and tri-blend women styles right now, and then moving onto additional specialty styles like tank tops and v-necks.

Having this side project to work on has been great for me when I need a break from client work.

Have you considered creating your own design assets and selling them to others? I'd love to know in the comments below!

See my latest work and more on Instagram @BrentGalloway