Mockups! We all need mockups, whether to create listings for our products for selling on a website or social media, make up marketing materials or even giving customers a proof to approve for production.
Making mockups can be time-consuming and take some Photoshop skills to generate realistic-looking images. However, there are some simple programs available that take a lot of the guesswork out of building mockups, and Mug Animator is one of our favorites.
This software has been developed by Pawel Trzebuchowski, publisher of the How to Print Stuff blog. He says that he came across a program that enabled him to put images on 3D substrates, but it didn’t fit his needs. So, he decided to create a program that could be used specifically for sublimation printing and other complementary decorating businesses.
The name Mug Animator is a bit misleading, as the program itself has over 50 substrates available to create mockups with. Trzebuchowski continues to develop the software, and with each new update, he adds more products and functionality. For example, the latest release now offers a shirt that you can create an all-over-print mockup, and he is also working on a sister program specifically for making phone case mockups.
First, Mug Animator is free to download and use, though you can upgrade to the premium version for a one-time cost of $24.99. I do recommend making this investment, as the free version does have some limitations on how many mockups you can make per day and has some ads that clutter up the design screen. However, you can download and use the free version for as long as you like.
Next, the program is available for both Windows and Mac OS and it is NOT an executable file. This means that you don’t go through an installation process after download. Rather, you unpack the ZIP file you get into a folder anywhere you like on your computer and this is where all of your program files will live and be accessed.
Then, create a shortcut to the program itself and save that to your desktop (watch the video above to see a step-by-step tutorial for how to do this). You’ll be notified with a pop-up screen when there is a software update available, and you’ll go through the same process again. In all, it’s pretty simple.
Another thing to note is that when you go to the Mug Animator site to download the program, you’ll be prompted to sign up for e-mails from How to Print Stuff. In return for sharing your e-mail address, you’ll get 14 table-top mockup backgrounds, which are great to start off with, especially if you don’t have any backgrounds to work with.
Mug Animator offers 3 main categories of products:
- Kitchenware: Mugs, shot glasses, plates, pet bowls, can koozies, etc.
- Clothing and Fabrics: Shirts, hats, bags, socks, baby bodysuits, etc.
- Miscellaneous: Most of your hard products, such as plaques, slates, license plates, photo panels, etc., as well as some soft items, such as pillowcases.
You can upload your artwork directly to the program and place or size it to fit as you like on the substrate you choose. All substrates rotate, so you can see all angles of how the design fits on the product. Some substrates, such as raglans and t-shirts, allow you to choose different colors.
One thing to be aware of is that when you use these color options, your design will show on top of the colored portion of the mock-up. This works for vinyl or screen transfer mockups. But for sublimation, it doesn’t give a 100 percent accurate picture of how the color of the substrate will influence the color of the transfer. This is something to clarify for customers, as it is a limitation of building digital mock-ups in general, unless you’re able to manipulate the opacity of the design in a more robust design program, like Photoshop.
Mug Animator allows you to insert watermarks into your mockup, which is important if you’re publishing the images online. Wide logos, like the Sublimation Today one we use in the video, don’t place as well as tall logos. I recommend trying to go with a portrait-oriented image if you’ll be using this function.
When you’re happy with your mockup, you can download the image into three formats: MP4 video, GIF animation and PNG static image file. This gives you a lot of versatility for using these mockups for several types of applications.
Mug Animator is one of the better mockup programs I’ve come across, and given that it’s free to use, I definitely think it’s worth giving a try. You can get really creative with building your mockups, easily download them into the most applicable formats and protect your designs/branding with the watermarking feature. The free backgrounds are definitely worth signing up for e-mail alerts from How to Print, in any case.