Need your logo displayed on something like a coffee cup or packaging? Learn how to do a 3D logo mockup on all kinds of objects with these killer techniques.
Cover image background via Stanislav Salamanov
A big part of branding design is creating a realistic environment for the product or service at hand. This is where mockups come into play. If you’re a designer, you’ll need to use mockups to present your design concepts to clients. If you’re not a designer, but you’re bringing a brand to life through marketing or other initiatives (think crowdfunding), mockups can also come in handy. Taking the extra step to present branding in the environment in which it will ultimately live can help a client – or even a customer – see your vision.
We’re going to use these tools in Illustrator:
- Smart Objects – for non-destructively transforming artwork
- Transform – to size the art appropriately
- Distort – to change the perspective and angle according to the environment
- Warp – to conform the art to a contoured surface
- Blend If sliders (in the Layer Style menu) – to show textured surfaces and weathering effects
Define Your Setting, Environment, and Scenery
This technique sets up the rest because it’s the consideration for placing a digital design in a realistic space. This not only helps a client or customer visualize it as a solution, but you can see for yourself if your concept makes sense.
Think of relevant backgrounds and settings to show your mockups. Use industry-related scenery, such as a specific kind of desk, showing tools of the trade, outdoor shots for an outdoor brand. Simply pair the subjects with like settings so the client can visualize the design in the real world. Search Shutterstock for keywords like “poster mockup.” We also offer this convenient package of device mockups pictures so you don’t have to do any searching.
Whether it’s a logo on a t-shirt or letterhead sitting on a desk, this extra step connects the concept to the final product, and it works wonders.
How to Do a Mockup on a Flat Surface (Like Stationery)
Use this section for any flat-surface setting you want to show. This is simple and takes no time at all, but it’s a great way to show stationery in action.
I’m going to use the same pseudo-branding that I made for this letterhead tutorial. You want to start with a vector file and place it in Photoshop as a Smart Object so that it remains editable.
Select all in Illustrator, copy, then go to your Photoshop mockup file. Hit Command + Shift + N or the New Layer button, and OK. Right-click on the new layer and select Convert to Smart Object.
Double click the layer’s icon to open the smart object. Size the file to 8.5 x 11″, or whatever the size of your letterhead document, by hitting Command + Option + I. Then hit Command + V, and select Smart Object from the Paste As: list. Grab the handles of the transform box, hold the Shift key, then size it to fit. Save and close that file.
In the mockup file, you see the layer updated with your artwork in it. Hit Command + T to activate the Transform controls. Right-click in the box and choose Distort from the list. Now you can grab each corner handle and stretch it proportionally to match the paper’s angles and corners.
Hit Enter/Return to commit the transformations. All the artwork will proportionally be fitted to the perspective and angle of the paper.
The real power of this process lies in being able to distort and transform a Smart Object image in your mockup file, but leaving the actual artwork intact in the Smart Object file itself. In other words, you can warp or distort the Smart Object in your mockup to unidentifiable lengths, but when you double-click the Smart Object to open it, that artwork remains unchanged. The transformations are only performed in the mockup file.
Image via Alex Veresovich.
Now do the same with the business card and envelope, and you’ll have a realistic layout that’s much easier to imagine in real life than a simple pasteboard layout of rectangles.
3. How to Mockup a Logo on a Contoured Surface (Like a Mug)
One thing you’ll see a lot in presentations is a flat, undistorted logo on a contoured surface, making it look slapped-on without care. Don’t do that. Instead, use a very simple technique to make it look way more realistic.
Once you’ve made a logo, do the same steps as above to create an editable Smart Object. To summarize:
- Copy the art in Illustrator
- Go to Photoshop, add a new layer
- Convert to Smart Object, and double-click the layer icon to open
- Paste and crop the file’s dimensions to the art
- Close and save
Back in the mockup file, just as above, we’ll transform the Smart Object layer. Hit Command + T to enter Transform mode. Use Distort and move the corner handles to match the general perspective if necessary. Once that is done, right click again while still in Transform mode, and choose Warp from the list.
In the Options menu bar at the top of the screen, click the Warp: Drop-down menu, and choose Arch.
Grab the single handle at the top of the artwork’s transform box and drag it to match the curve of the mug.
Now we have a logo that curves with the cup.
Use this technique for a number of applications, where you want to show the artwork following actual contours of its host object. The side of a car, key fobs, bottles, cans, etc. Keep the object and composition simple to avoid bending the perspective as it wraps further around a round object. You don’t want to get too crazy bending a logo. We can tell the areas that were straight follow the curvature, and that’s enough to take it from “Obviously fake” to “Did you actually get that printed and photograph it on that log?”
Image via Stanislav Salamanov
4. How to Mockup a Logo on a Textured Surface (Like a Wooden Sign)
After you use the above techniques to make your art fit its environment, you can use Blend If sliders in the Layer Style menu in Photoshop layers.
I made a composite image of an old sign in the woods, since that matches the outdoorsy type of business that pseudo-brand “Outdoors Adventure Co.” might be. I chose this particularly craggy and old-looking sign to show the depth and textures the Blend If controls can give you.
After doing the Smart Object, copy/paste dance seen above, the artwork is ready to destroy. I’m only sort of kidding.
Double-click the layer in the Layers window. This opens the Layer Style menu, where you’ll find Drop Shadows and other layer effects.
You only need to be concerned with the slider called Underlying Layer (in the red circle). This will be used to reveal the dark areas on the layer beneath the layer we’re working with. In this case, the gaps and grain in the wood on the sign, which will be revealed through the logo in the Smart Object layer.
When you try to move the slider you’ll notice that the changes are sudden and in sharp contrast, which isn’t realistic. So we’ll employ some NEXT-LEVEL TECHNIQUE (explosion sound).
Hold Option/Alt, then click on the slider and move it. Now it’s split into halves, which will affect the reveal in a more subtle way. You can now move them independently to find the threshold for revealing the darkest darks with the left half-slider, and soften the blend with the right half-slider. Check out what I mean below.
On the left the slider is whole and not doing what we want. On the right, the slider is split and showing a more realistic faded effect.
Here is another example where a wood background, specifically, can be used to great effect by adjusting the Blend If sliders.
It’s not just for wood though – use this technique whenever you want to show your art on something textured, rough, or uneven.
For instance, here is how you can use the Blend If sliders, in addition to the Warp tool, on the mug image from above to give it a more weathered look.
Notice how far to the right the two halves are. On different backgrounds and imagery, you’ll need to move it around to find the sweet spot. The trick for this example was to move the whole slider to the right until the mug started to show, then hold Option/Alt and move that half a little more to the right to fade it a little.
Use these techniques in concert to knock your branding presentation out of the park. Once you learn these techniques they will become well-loved and oft-used tools for adding the finishing touches that make your work really stand out.
For more design techniques and branding how-to’s, keep reading:
- Make Your Mark: How to Create a Lettermark Logo for Your Business
- 7 Easy Steps to Create a Logo for Your Small Business
- Create a Professional Letterhead for Your Business
- How to Tie a Brand or Campaign Together with Unifying Design Elements
- Make Networking Easy With This Simple Business Card Design Tutorial