How to Create Photorealistic T-Shirt Mockups

When designing for apparel, presentation of your proofs is very important. A detailed image of a piece simply will not suffice as an adequate proof. You want to hit the design home, and mocking it up on a t-shirt is what’s going to do the job. Apparel designs are much different than regular print jobs because you can potentially design around every nook and cranny of the garment, this is something you won’t be able to illustrate to your client with some large .jpeg. They hired you for your creative knack, and that’s what you’re going to need to bring to the table.

Now here at Go Media, we’re always mocking up something – many of them tees – and after a while we realized that providing a pack of tees geared towards designers for presentation purposes would be very cool. And we did just that… here at the Arsenal we’re hooking you with a bundle of 55 mockup templates that include all the essentials you need. Fronts and backs, clipping masks to isolate your artwork onto the appropriate areas, and even a shadow layer to placed conveniently on top to give it that authentic printed look! We took a lot of time and pride out on these to make sure they came out just right, because bringing the best to our clients is a goal we all share as designers.


In this tutorial, I’ll be using a design that I created for Kick Rocks – an up and coming apparel company.

Author’s note: This process will also cover how I mocked up the “Designing on a Budget” tutorial’s end result (Vomit Whistle) onto a tee – which is the very thing that helped spark the idea to make the pack and this accompanying tutorial (thanks “nobahdi” who asked the initial question of how the shadows were applied to the tee, and everyone else who commented on the tutorial!).

Now we’re going to take our tee from the pack (Blue Front Wrinkled.tiff file) and open it up in Photoshop.

Now focus on your layer panel. This is the structure we came up with for these files.

Since the design that we’ll be using is intended for a white shirt, we’ll need to change the shirt layer that’s currently blue, to white. Before hand, I make the background layer a dull grey so we can distinguish the white shirt completely from the background. I then use the following settings using the Hue/Saturation tool to achieve the desired look.

Automatically you’ll notice that the shadow layers look way too dark. So we’re going to bump the opacity down to 50%.

Now we import our art. Open the file in Photoshop (and make sure it’s a hi-res export) and place it in the Your Art layer. Dragging it will work, copy and pasting, etcetera, etcetera.

Now we’re going to use the mask layer to make our printable area the only visible spot on the design. Grab the actual mask from the “Mask” layer (not the whole layer), and drag and drop it right onto the “Your Art” layer. You should now have no excess left around your shirt, and all wrinkles, the collar, and overlaps are preserved as if the shirt were truly printed. The best part is that you can still edit and move around your design. Make it bigger – move it off the edge – whatever – it will stay within the bounds of the shirt because of the mask. Check out the following image to get a better idea of what I mean here.

Now your mockup is done. If you feel you need more shadow now that the design has been placed in… then bump up the opacity of the shadow layer and you’re good to go.

Author’s note: I like to get snazzy so I’ll place some crazy texture on the background and fidget with it to make look all dark and complimenting to the garment. These additional presentation doo-dads often get the client very excited and way more interested in your work, versus a dull and boring round of proofs. And nobody wants to be stuck re-illustrating 3 to 5 times because of a half-assed proof’s inability to wow the client.

We’ve also got a quick video of how to set up the layers on vimeo.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and got to learn a little about the functionality of our new Apparel Template pack. Taking a progressive approach to the mock-up phase of apparel design is something that should be taken very seriously. As always, we provide (and use) the necessary tools to do so. Thanks for reading everybody, take care.

How to Draw Your Own Vector Wings

Ok, I lied. We’re not entering the Food Service industry. But a tutorial on how to make some chicken wings would be pretty cool, none the less. This tutorial is all about how to make those really cool hyper detailed wings that all those bro-dawg brands are rocking.

First things first, we’re gonna need to find a reference photo of a feather. After some searching on the information superhighway, I found one that I liked. The reason I chose it is because it had good curvature and a good amount of disheveled strands. Check it out below.

So I placed it into a new Illustrator file (by going to File > Place). Once in there, like a lot of the other tutorials on here that require tracing from a photo reference – I’ll be turning down the opacity of the image and locking it’s sub-layer.

So we’re gonna start tracing the feather out. We don’t need the plume on it, just the feathery part. I put enough crazy ridges and stray strands to keep it as a good base. I didn’t go too hyper on the first one because we’ll be duplicating the base shape and adding further detail to prevent the feathers from being so repetitive. We can’t have a boring wing, you know?

So I duplicated the feather base once and dragged it off to the side. I made a couple of my own tapered brushes for the detail. If you’re unfamiliar with making tapered brushes, we have more than a couple tutorials that touch on how to achieve this effect. It’s a whole tutorial in itself, so like last time, I’m omitting it from this one too. I added a ton of detailed strands all around both base shapes. I expanded the appearance on the brush strokes, deleted the invisible stroke marks (by making a transparent box, using the magic wand to select all the invisible lines, and hit the delete key) then added the shape of the details and the corresponding base feather together with the pathfinder. And we’ve got two feathers.

Now I start building the wing. The curvature comes into play here, because it’s what is going to give our wing a legit look. I duplicated each feather, and switched off each style to keep it different, while decreasing the size little by little. I know I reached a good stopping point when the detail in the wing begins to get lossy with the naked eye.

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Now we need to add the secondary part of the wing. I duplicated the wing we have so far and added it with the pathfinder. I turned down the opacity (locking it’s sub-layer is up to you, but not necessary) and got to work with the additional part. I added the detail strands much like I did in the feather. I also added some more smaller feathers to give it some more character and kill off a little of the negative space.

Now I repeated the expanding of the brush strokes, deleted stray transparent lines, and merged the wing all together with the pathfinder tool. We have a wing! Now let’s duplicate it and mirror it like it’s shown below.

So let’s align this bad boy properly, and group it together.

You’re now equipped with a pretty nice set of wings to put behind your logo or graphic. I used a skull here from the Arsenal, well, because I can… and there you have it.

Now I’m gonna go look up some Hot Wing recipes and throw down in the kitchen. Adios!


The feather used as the photo reference was aquired by using Google’s image search, from the website Owl Prowl. Just giving them credit where it’s due.

How to design a t-shirt on a budget and a tight deadline

Monday morning. You’re walking into work (or in some of your cases, waking up in your undies and walking 10 feet to your desk). You pound some coffee and peruse your inbox. You have a present. One of your regulars needs a t-shirt designed for the band Vomit Whistle, but can’t spend much money. To add to the chaos, they needed it last week so your deadline is within the business day. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO!?

You know damn well that drawing some hyper-magical illustration is out of the question. You’re not gonna go balls to the wall on some typographic masterpiece either. You need a solution that’s fast and looks good. You need to take some design detours because this design is on a time constraint and a BUDGET. You need stock vector art, and you need it now.

Create a stunning undersea painting using Vector Packs

So Set 10 is out. It’s sort of sentimental because I remember when Set 1 was released and wondering to myself, “Wow, if people dig this and find some real usability out of it… we could keep cranking out sets… one day we’ll release Set 10… I wonder what that’s gonna be like!”

Well here we are. As Jeff mentioned before, we took some of the popular suggestions and created the set with them in mind. And if that’s not enough, I’ve whipped up this tutorial as well.

A Pseudo-Sugar Skull: From Start to Finish.


Hey people! It’s Dave again giving you all yet another excuse to get your knowledge on. This isn’t as direct as my previous Gigposter Tutorial (by the way – thanks to everyone who found that helpful!) because I’m actually covering a piece of my own artwork, and as we all know, there are just some things that are hard to explain during the process. Hence why I’m condensing it down to the nitty gritty. Kinda like a walk through my process if you will.

Gigposter Design Tutorial: The New Sex

The Fall of Troy gigposter design

Tutorial Introduction:


A lot of people are making them. A lot of people suck. The graphic designers here at Go Media don’t suck, and neither do you. This tutorial requires NO drawing talent… so don’t trip folks. You will however need Adobe Photoshop 7.0 or higher and Illustrator CS2 or higher. My name’s Dave, and this is my first ever solo tutorial. I’m very unorthodox and direct… so forgive me if I lose you guys during any part of this. I’ll do what I can to answer questions for people who think my tutorial is too confusing. So we’re going to make a gig poster! Subject matter: Deftones and The Fall of Troy in Cleveland, Ohio at the House of Blues on May 30th. Why are the Deftones not first, you ask? Because I like The Fall of Troy better and this is an unofficial poster, who cares?

Winged Scrolls

Those winged scrolls are new from Vector Set 16. They would look great in this design!

Let’s get to business.

So what to make? Hmmm… something fierce. Maybe something militaristic? Considering the legendary event of the fall of Troy… we’ll go that route. After searching through some public domain photos from WWII, I found a picture of Dwight D. (Ike) Eisenhower on D-day lecturing some troops.

Ike Eisenhower photo

We’re going to use this as the base of our initial illustration… but the hand, it lacks emotion. It’s ok. We’re all designers and we can fix this, right guys? (a lifesaver for all stock photo needs) will be our resource. If you do not have an account, get one. If you would rather go the free route –, better known as Stock Exchange, has a slick selection of free stock photos. You’ll still need an account, but it’s free.

istock citation

I found this chick holding a gun on istock. We’re gonna get the cheapest one because the resolution doesn’t matter so much in this tutorial yet. Her hand will become Ike’s hand… holding a gun.

Next we have to cut out Ike and the girl’s gun so we can combine these different pieces into the same image. We’re going to use the pen tool to cut these out. I trust we can all accomplish this through knowledge gained in previous tutorials. WARNING: Using the pen tool in Photoshop is tricky… to keep your anchor points from drifting off into oblivion, you have to alt+click them (The same way you would click your anchor points in Illustrator). Make sure your shapes fill color is an obnoxious color so you don’t lose it in the photo.

Ike Red Shape

Chick red shape

Once you have the shapes made to cut them out (and it’s ok if it took 3000 shapes and layers to make it) you’re going to merge them all to one layer. Ctrl+click your “shape layer” to make a selection and then click the actual image’s layer. Press Ctrl+C to copy and then press Ctrl+V to paste it into it’s own layer. Do the same for the girl’s gun. Save your PSD’s in case you fumble up. The hardest part is over.

Now take both shapes and tastefully combine them on a fresh canvas. Some airbrushing or cutting may be needed to make it look real. It’s up to you. The rotating of the hand will be needed to make it fit on Ike’s arm. Make your image 300 dpi (image>image size) and don’t worry about the image quality. Merge the hand layer with the Ike layer and make it gray scale.

Ike complete

You now have Ike pissed off and holding a gun.

Here is where it gets a little interesting and it might be hard to follow here. Create three files in Photoshop that overcompensate in size for the Ike-shape – you don’t have to save them or anything. They’re there for copying purposes only. Throw a copy of Ike into each of them. Make sure they all remain on their own layers. We’ll be playing with the contrast next.


contrast third

Above are the setting you’re going to make Ike the first two files. The third will be -100% on both Brightness and Contrast. It will result in just a shape of him in solid black. Now open Illustrator and make a new file at 11×17 portrait orientation.

Size down the Photoshop window and drag over each of the layers that have been brightness/contrast-adjusted into Illustrator. Line them up horizontally and start Live Tracing them one-by-one using the “Black and White logo” option. The option is located on the top tool bar once your photo is selected. Copy these attributes in the photo below.

live trace settings

Live Trace is basically Illustrator’s tool for deciphering and creating graphics into vector art automatically. It was a new feature in CS2 and it’s way cool, but can have some backlashes. Like all automated solutions to things done best by hand, there are sacrifices made with the result. A lot of times, your Live Traced images get lossy. Having them at a high resolution most times solves this but not always. In our case though… the dirtier, the better.

magic wand white

Now make sure each image is expanded. Use your magic wand tool and select the white areas that Illustrator assumed when you dragged in the Photoshop layer. They’re there, trust me. Once all selected – delete them. They’re not needed. Now’s your time to start figuring out a color scheme for this big project. Here’s what I chose.

color scheme

Having 1 dark color, 1 to 3 medium tones, a light color, and a wild-card color is pretty mandatory when making 4 to 6 color prints. They work better. Although this wouldn’t be a silk screened poster, following this limited color rule assists in giving it an authentic gig poster appearance.

Doodads are always the hot ish in your designs, so we’re using some from our arsenal, the Go Media Vectorpacks. Along with a few we’ll be making from scratch. Below is what we’ll be using from the packs. (side note: we’ll be using a bunch of stuff from Go Media’s Arsenal. If you haven’t any cash to purchase some of the packs, we’ve got some samples here).

vector shapes

We’re using 5 splatters from the various Splatter packs and one wheel-type doodad from Set 5’s Decorative Ornaments pack. Now we’re going to get all these shapes ready and drag em over into our Illustrator file. Mind you we have not touched Ike yet… don’t worry about him or the colors. Let’s get trendy.

Make a long, skinny rectangle and duplicate it about 80 times (alt+click and drag it to copy it once, and then press Ctrl+D over and over again until you get a lot of bars) or more depending on your preference. Align them to the center and space them evenly. Now use the add function in your pathfinder box and expand the selection. Now that it’s own shape – rotate it 45 degrees (holding shift + rotate will rotate the shape in increments of 45 degrees). Duplicate that shape about 3 or 4 times.

rectangle lines

45 degree turn

Now duplicate/take a splatter from the vector art we’ll be using and place it on top of that shape you made. Select both objects and intersect them (it’s an option in the pathfinder box as well). Expand the appearance of your object.



You now have a distressted pattern of diagonally running lines. It’s a pretty neat trick to add some organized distress to your designs. Do this a few times with different splatters. That is why I’m encouraging duplicating your objects and not just dragging and dropping. A lot of these shapes need to be kept preserved because they’ll be used over and over again throughout this project.

Now make sure your actual poster area is clear of any objects. Moving them to the sides of the artboard and separated is always a good thing to do so you can just drag in what you need when you need it. Make a rectangle in the 11×17 area. Bleed of the edges a little bit for good measure. Now fill it with a gradient of color 1 and 2. Throw a medium color in there if you want it to blend smoother (I added some earthy-red in the middle). It might help, or it might not, who knows. Experiment and be different.


Now we turn to the Go Media Texture Packs. I want a concrete-looking surface to start this off with. We’re going to use Concrete8.jpg. It’s a nice and has lots of good grainy tones. Place it into your file (file>place).

texture grad

Stretch the image to fit the poster size. Now go to your transparency settings and choose the multiply setting. All the dark ridged areas of the texture are now accented onto the gradient. Drop the opacity down to like 30% or so. Lock these two objects in place at the very bottom and we’re onto designing the focal piece of the poster.

texture opacity

So now back to good ole’ Ike. Make the Solid shape of his body Color 3, The medium-detailed shape Color 4, and the least detailed shape Color 2. Align them in this order – Color 3, Color 4, Color 2. You have your focal image almost intact. Add a stroke of the same color to Color 3’s shape to bring it all in. Expand the stroke if you need to, in case we do any abnormal sizing to the figure. Group the three objects, and there you have Ike.

3 ikes
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ikey ikey

Take the wheel object we chose from Set 5’s Decorative Elements pack and place it right in the middle of the poster (above the gradient/texture combo). Size it up huge if you have to. It will accentuate Ike’s figure in the design. Fill it with Color 1 and drop the opacity down to 30%. We’re done with that.


Grab all those crazy diagonal line objects we made and fill them with color 3 or 4′ (your call, color 3 was too strong for my liking – I chose 4). I duplicated them and threw them in the middle-area of the poster, kinda outlining where Ike will be. Grab Ike and throw him in the mix. Make sure he’s the top layer. We’re almost there.

Let’s play with our text options. I want something nice and organized, but already beaten up with some grunge. I don’t want it a grungy impact font because those are way too common for post-hardcore bands nowadays… Luckily we created the Affliction font (located at our Arsenal site). It’s styled well and beat up tastefully. We’re using it!


So we’re gonna play with the font and sizing. After a few options, I think stacking the text all the same size by breaking up “THE FALL” and “OF TROY”and adjusting the tracking and leading should do it. Check out the settings I used below.

header font stuff

Duplicate that in case it gets messed up and right click the text and create outlines. Color it with color 3 and place it right above Ike in the poster. Add the Deftones with a larger tracking size and smaller font size and we’re in business.

bottom text
text bottom detail

I added a rectangle at the bottom for the venue information. I applied a stroke to the rectangle, broke up Ike’s group, and wedged it between the Color 4 object of him and the Color 2. Since we won’t be moving Ike at this point, we’ll leave him ungrouped, but the effect just created makes Ike’s figure look almost like a part of the rectangle; eliminating the look of the area being an afterthought. Now add your venue’s information and all that good stuff. Adjust your bleeds, save it out… and you are DONE!

final gig poster

Thanks for reading my first tutorial, I hope you learned something. I’m now going to go eat a hot dog.


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