Using a Displacement Map for T-Shirt Mock-ups

In this tutorial, we will take a blank t-shirt mockup and apply a color overlay with a white graphic. The tutorial uses a displacement map to achieve the effect of the graphic appearing to be contoured to the surface. A displacement map is a separate grayscale graphic that uses black and white pixel information to distort the graphic in horizontal and vertical directions. Lighter pixels will push the image up, darker pixels will push the graphic down, and 50% gray will not push pixels in either direction. For this tutorial, we will use a grayscale copy of the base image to control the displacement of the graphic so that it conforms to the figure.


First, a demonstration of what a displacement map is and how it works. The image below will act as a displacement map – areas that are white will push pixels in the base image up and black will push them down.


1.Download this graphic of the T-Shirt Base and open it in Photoshop. Go to the IMAGE menu > DUPLICATE and name it Blank T-Shirt Displacement Map and click OK. In the displacement map file go to the IMAGE menu > MODE > GRAYSCALE to remove all color from the image (we only want to use black and white information.) Next, go to the EFFECTS menu > BLUR > GAUSSIAN BLUR and blur the image 3 pixels – this removes the subtle texture from the image but retains dark and light information. Click OK

2. In order for the diplacement to have a greater effect the contrast of the displacement map should be increased. Go to IMAGE menu > ADJUSTMENTS > LEVELS and drag the black point towards the center (level 50) and slide Gamma (the gray point) over to the right to bring out more dark information. Save the file as Blank T-Shirt Displacement Map.PSD (it must be saved in PSD format in order for this effect to work.) Close the file and go back to the original document.

3. In this next step, we will make a selection for the T-Shirt so that we can replace the color. Select the Quick Selection Tool from the toolbar and drag the tool over the left-hand t-shirt. If the tool selects too much, hold the ALT/OPT key down to remove areas from the selection, use the left-hand bracket key ([) to decrease the size of the quick selection tool and right bracket keys (]) to increase the size – zoom in to finesse the selection. Save the selection by going to the SELECT menu > SAVE SELECTION and make a new channel called T-Shirt.

4. Make a selection with the Quick selection tool of the right-hand t-shirt, using the same techniques from the last step. Go to the SELECT menu > SAVE SELECTION and add the selection to the T-Shirt Channel. Click OK

5. Go to the SELECT menu > LOAD SELECTION and select the T-Shirt Channel. Click OK

6. In the Layers Panel, go to the Adjustment Layer Icon and select Solid Color, choose a color in the color picker – for this example, I am using #244aac, but you can choose whatever color works for your project.

Change the blending mode to Multiply to reveal the shadows and highlights from the base layer, change the opacity to about 90%.

7. Refine the color fill layer by directly editing the layer mask. Zoom into an area that needs to be edited and then click on the layer mask thumbnail next to the color fill (you will see brackets surround the thumbnail.) Type D on your keyboard to get to your default colors – white foreground, black background – and using a the paintbrush tool with a small brush paint in the color (white in a layer mask will reveal the color fill, black will hide it ), switch to the eraser tool to remove color from areas.

8. Placing the graphic. Download this Adobe Illustrator graphic or use one of your own images and scale it to fit the area of the T-Shirt you wish to fill.

(Do this next step if you wish to make a reverse-out of the graphic) Go to the FX icon in the Layers Panel and select Color Overlay, change the color overlay to white and the blending mode to Normal. Change the Opacity of your graphic’s layer to 85%.

9. With the Graphic Layer still active go to the FILTER menu > DISTORT > DISPLACE. Change the Horizontal and Vertical Scale to 5% and click OK. You will then be prompted to select a file to use as the displacement map, select Blank T-Shirt Displacement Map.PSD made in Step 2.

To move or scale the graphic with the filter applied, go to the EDIT menu > FREE TRANSFORM (cmd/ctrl + T) and make the transformation – the distortion will update after this.

10. Place in a second instance of the graphic for the back of the t-shirt and follow the same steps in Steps 8 and 9 to get the graphic to conform to the folds and wrinkles. If you feel the displacement is too extreme, double-click the Displace filter in the Layer Panel and change the horizontal and vertical percentage to 3% – you will be prompted to select the displacement map again.

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