How To: Create a Torn Shirt Design

How To: Create a Torn Shirt Design

You’ve seen it on everything from tattoos to T-shirts. The “torn to reveal something under the surface” look has become increasingly popular in the past few years. For many people, it’s a form of self expression that says to the world, “Hey! There’s more to me than what you see.” We want to help you create this popular look for your customers. Here are the step-by-step instructions for creating a torn shirt image.

There is certainly more than one way to set up your files to create this look. In this tutorial, we’ll be using Photoshop® CC 2018, but the steps can be recreated in the program you’re most comfortable with. If you’re looking for a shortcut, at the end of this article there is a Photoshop .psd file that will allow you to drop your artwork into the pre-created layer mask and save your file for production. It is truly production-ready!

Remember, you can click on a photo to enlarge it for more detail.

Let’s get started!

Step 1:

Open the “G6372-DIGITAL.png” file in Adobe® Photoshop®.

G6372 Torn Shirt Artwork

Step 2:

Create a new layer (Layer 1). Place it below the artwork layer (Layer 0), and fill it with white. This will make the next step a bit easier to do as you trace the opening of the tear.

Step 3:

Before we start, with the Pen tool selected first make sure the “Path Operations” (the button next to “Shape” at the top left of the Photoshop interface) is set to “Combine Shapes.” Now with the Pen tool, we can begin to trace the opening of all the torn areas to create a path. Your Work Path can be found in the Paths palette. If you need to adjust your path, you can do it at any time by using the Direct Selection tool.

Once you have traced the entire opening, you’ll need to save your path. Click on your Work Path and choose Save Path. You can choose what to name it (we chose Rip Opening) but the default is “Path 1.”

Step 4:

Now that you have created and saved your path, right-click (or control-click) on the path and choose “Make Selection” from the menu. Your path should now be a selection.

Step 5:

With your path selected, go back to the layers palette and make sure you are still on Layer 1 – the white fill layer. Then, go to the Layer menu at the top of the screen, select Layer Mask and choose Reveal Selection in the sub-menu. Your selection, sometimes called “dancing ants” or “marching ants,” should now be visible.

Step 6:

Back in the Layers palette, add a new layer – Layer 3. This is the layer where you will add your logo or any other type of artwork you’d like to see behind the tear. In our example, we’re using the Great Dane Graphics logo.

Step 7:

Go back to your white layer (Layer 1), and select the Mask icon to mask this layer. Then, while pressing the Alt key (or Option key on Mac), click and drag the mask to your logo/artwork layer. Both layers should now be masked.

Step 8:

Click the chain icon that sits between the two thumbnails on the logo/artwork layer. This will allow you to adjust the artwork within the mask. Don’t forget to click on the artwork before moving the image. This will ensure you move the art and not the mask.

Step 9:

You can now change the background fill color (Layer 1) and adjust your artwork while maintaining the mask.

Step 10:

Save your file, and get ready to print your new torn-shirt design!


As mentioned at the beginning of this article, included with the Digital Printing version of the Torn Shirt art, is a pre-setup Photoshop® file. All you need to do is place the artwork you’d like to use on the layer labeled “PLACE YOUR ART HERE.” Simple enough! We’d love to see what you’ve created! Share your pictures with us in the comments or on social media (be sure to tag us).

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