Tutorial - Making a shirt mock-up template from a photo
This is a quick and dirty tutorial on the methods and principles of turning a photo into a mock-up template with shadows and highlights. I'm not an expert on this so I know this could be done even better by someone else! But at least this is a starting point for experiments and should be good enough for the Threadless submission slides.
The photo I've chosen is this photo of Craig Shimala that was once upon a time distributed by Threadless in an old submission kit. Thanks for posing, Craig! This and other photos from that kit can now be found in xiv's super useful thread that everyone should have bookmarked.
This is a good photo for this tutorial because the shirt has lots of interesting creases and wrinkles and the base color is not too light or dark so we can get good shadows and highlights out of it.
Step 1: Extract shirt
This is the tedious and boring part and there really isn't a quick method for doing it well so I just use an eraser and a tablet. Make a duplicate of the photo on a new layer and erase everything but the shirt. Be careful and patient. It helps to make a temporary layer underneath that you fill with a contrasting color so you don't have any white edges left. If you want to, you can also erase the white background around Craig but I was lazy and said nope.
Here's what I prepared earlier
Step 2: Shadows and highlights
Depending on the photo you're using this step may need some experimenting but it's actually quite simple.
First, make a duplicate of the shirt. Always make duplicates, always leave an original one intact.
Then, turn it grayscale from Image -> Adjustment -> Desaturate. It'll look like this now:
Make a duplicate of this layer too, one is going to be shadows, the other highlights.
To create the shadow layer, go to Image -> Adjustment -> Levels and tweak it something like this
When you bring down the middle and right side sliders you should end up with something like this
This layer will be set to Multiply.
The other grayscale shirt you made also gets the Levels treatment but this time like this:
Notice you bring up the left and the middle slider. It should look like this:
This layer goes on top of the shadow layer and is set to Screen.
You can adjust the opacity of these layers if you feel they are too intense:
Step 3: Color layer and design layer
Again, make a duplicate of the shirt. The color layer is just a flat slab of color and the layers on top will make it look real. Simply lock the layer transparency and fill with a color:
Now, this is the point where you notice I'm not an expert. While erasing the background I didn't manage to get it all nice and clean, there was an irritating thin outline of the original shirt color that looked dumb. As a sort of solution I merged a copy of the color layer filled with white with the background where the rest of Craig was and then using the Sponge tool (quick key O) I desaturated the thin red strands. When they're grey they don't look too bad when you change the shirt color. You can try and do a better job erasing than I did.
The final step is to make a shirt shaped mask for the design you will be pasting on this bad boy. This is not absolutely necessary but if you're mocking up a pattern or other all over print it's nice to have. Note to Photoshop Elements users: Elements doesn't have layer groups so you'll have to apply the mask directly to a layer. Not as convenient but does the same thing.
First, make a new layer group. Then, while still having the group selected make a selection of one of the shirt layers and apply that as a mask to the the layer group. You can then drop anything inside this group and it will only be visible on the shirt. The picture explains it better:
And that's it, I guess
Download this template here! Use it in your subs if you want, but most of all use it for learning.