Photorealistic tin soda can mockup for photoshop

Soda can mockup for photoshop combines real photography with 3D

The creative market is flooded with soda can mockups, so why I hear you ask, have I created one? That’s a good question.

An excellent question, to which I have a very long, bizarre, and very protracted answer.

In my quest to make my soda can mockup it saw me steaming cans in a pressure cooker, buying nail varnish remover and visiting my local fishing tackle shop to get fishing line.

As a designer, all these things I wouldn’t have imagined would be in the same sentence let along part of my job description.

But when you are on a mission, you’re on a mission—and I was going to see this mission out, right to the end.

Soda Can Mockups

From what I can see at least 90% of soda can mockups are created in 3D.

There is nothing wrong with that, per say. But a lot of them don’t look realistic enough. The cans usually look fine, the better designs look hyper-realistic—but the soda can label not so fine.

wrong soda can

Is it me, or is everything about this soda can wrong

Lost in translation

It appears that in the rush from going from 3dstudio, C4D, Lightwave or whatever program the 3d artist is using to photoshop, something is getting lost in translation.

They soda can labels look kind of fake—there I’ve said it.

I noticed that a lot of the mockups don’t show text or artwork at the top of the can. They flood it with colour to mask the fact that it looks terrible.

Perhaps that’s too harsh; they don’t look too bad, but they don’t have proper distortions along the top of the can.

Soda Can mockup in Photoshop

In this example, the design does go right to the edge of the soda can, but look how it’s not correctly warping at the can edge.

Badly drawn soda can smart object

Look how badly the smart objects curve is. And those fake droplets—please.

Photoshop warp tool

And no matter how good a 3D artist you are, you still have to create a smart object inside Photoshop. And that is the great leveller—Photoshop warp only has four points, not enough to do the job properly. I wish Adobe would sort this out—and don’t mention puppet warp, its a joke.

Not so smart objects

When you have a can with a bevelled shape, its tough, if not impossible in photoshop to make your smart object fit the shape or profile of a soda can.

Combine that with tilted cans, or cans in perspective—its impossible. You have to fake it—and thus most look fake.

Can mockup with smart object

Why does this soda can look frosty? How will that smart object distort on the neck of the soda can

That’s why, in my opinion, a lot of the designers fudge it. They only create mockups in a front facing view or at set angles with no perspective. And the cans have a perfectly cylindrical, shapes, without the bevel.

weird soda can scale

Is it me or does this soda can look weird? It’s not to scale

If you look at the above mockup, you can see they have not even got the scale of the can right—and where is the label?

Combine photography with 3d

That’s not good enough. It got me to thinking why can’t I try and combine photography with 3D. Real photography for the top and bottom of the soda can, and a real 3D model for the can label.

That way you get the best of both worlds, a real can but with proper warping of the can label. Better still no 3D rendering required, that’s far to complicated for the average photoshop user.

This is my mission, and I’m locked and loaded.

Soda can photography

I didn’t know at the time, the amount of effort I would need to put in to get these pictures.

I thought buy the can, take the pictures—how hard could it be. But then thinking about it, it dawned on me I would need to remove the ink design from the soda can.

Okay, buy the cans, remove the label, take the pictures—yeah right.

How to remove a soda can label

My first thought was sandpaper, but that would leave a texture. Then I thought paint stripper, but that would be too messy and might tarnish the aluminium.

I decided I would go to the supermarket and get a pack of soda cans—I’ll mull over how to get the label off while I’m there.

I ended up getting a multi-pack of Diet Irn Bru, because

  • It was my favourite drink
  • I was on a diet
  • It had less ink on the label

A google search later

I’m never surprised what you can find on the internet. I saw a video on youtube, where someone explained precisely how to remove the ink from a soda can.

The chap worked out that if you put an empty soda can in a pressure cooker for 30 mins, it does something strange to the ink. It enables you to (with the help of nail varnish remover) to wipe off the ink. He was removing the ink to create little plant pots.

Back to the supermarket to buy nail varnish remover.

Knowing that the internet is full of jokers, the thought did cross my mind that this was some elaborate wind-up.

Only one way to find out, I had a pressure cooker. I now had nail varnish remover— let’s do this.

I dusted off the pressure cooker and filled it with water. If my friends could see me now, they would laugh their tits off, and probably think I was going ever so slightly mad.

Who would ever find out, it’s not like I’m ever going to blog about it!

Empty the soda can

Now I would not recommend putting full soda cans in a pressure cooker—that’s just asking for trouble.

Using a scalpel, I ever so carefully made two holes in the bottom of the can. Allowing the liquid to drain out from the bottom, but leaving the ring pull intact.

If you do this at home, please be very careful and whatever you do don’t shake those cans, or you will get a face full of soda. Tip the can slightly to one side and jab in the blade then twist back and forth.

A most excellent side effect of all this soda can nonsense was a never-ending supply or Irn Bru.

The pressure is on

I load up the pressure cooker with the cans, locking the lid in place with a reassuring click. I never did like this pressure cooker thing—it’s noisy and a bit scary.

After 30 minutes of cooking the soda cans, I slowly let the pressure out of the cooker. I soaked tissue in nail varnish remover and slowly wiped the soda can, and to my surprise, the ink came off—and it came off easy.

It worked, and I had in front of my a shining new aluminium can. Like it had just come out of the factory. After I did my happy dance, it was time to start the photo shoot.

Taking the pictures

For the photo shoot, I decided to use three lights. I have 3 Elinchrom d-lights, all with large softboxes, on tripods.

My camera is Nikon, the D610. I have my camera hooked up to my MacBook Pro so I can adjust the exposure on my laptop, and trigger the camera remotely.

I use camera control pro, and that sends the pictures to Nikon picture viewer. So I can look at the histogram, and see the image in full size.

I decide to do a quick test shoot and throw up an old white sheet. I put two lights either side of the can, and at the front. I stick the can to a tripod and see how it looks.

It looks terrible.

Soda can lighting

Please excuse the wrinkled backdrop, this was just a test shoot, to test the lighting on the naked soda can.

Shaping the light on such a reflective surface is a total nightmare. I wanted a few reflections but not this many— it’s literally reflecting my living room inside the can.

A rethink on the shiny aluminium

I’m not happy, not happy at all. No matter how you set up, aluminium will always reflect its environment. Too much black it will look black, too much white its going to look white.

I decide that the only way to remove the reflections would be to paint the soda can white. Something that I didn’t want to do.

I mask off the top and bottom of the can with masking tape and carefully paint it white, with enamel paint.

Inside my head, I think this is an impossible task, but while the can is drying, I re-think the studio setup.

A lighting tent of sorts

I set up my lighting again, but this time I use three large pieces of semi-transparent plastic sheets to use as a scrim. I’ve used the same technique before when shooting bottles and it worked so much better.

It makes the light softer but also blocks out any unwanted reflections. So I have a kind of three-sided box and place the soda can within it—its a light tent of sorts.

This time the lighting should be much more diffused.

new soda can

My new soda can and lighting setup, more natural lighting.

Soda can with three lights, top, left and right.

I like the look of the soda can, but my painting is not perfect. But now I didn’t have enough reflection.

It was a little too matt looking, a little bit on the flat side. I decided that while not perfect, this is how it would appear with a real label. The label covers the shiny aluminium and does make it more matt, less reflective.

I’m going to have to run with it and fix the shoddy paint job in photoshop.

Finishing the shoot

I spend the next few hours taking different shots. I wanted my soda cans tilted towards the camera and facing away from it.

I suspended the can in the air with fishing line. With just enough height that it cast a shadow on the background. A very fiddly setup, for one person. Lots of gaffa tape and fishing line and blue tac.

I was aiming to light the subject evenly, especially the background. I knew I had to cut the soda can out, and its shadow. Having the background lighting to just below full pure white would make this job easier.

Photoshop my digital darkroom

Opening the raw files in photoshop, I’m immediately aware that my paint skills are not what they should be. Under the microscope, I can see flaws everywhere. Oh boy, this is going to take some time to fix.

I find the best five shots and get to work. My basic workflow is this.

1. Remove all the dust and crud from the soda cans (takes forever)
2. Cut out the soda can
3. Cut out the soda can drop shadow
4. Use frequency separation to try and remove any brushmarks
5. Separate out the soda can highlights and shadows into layers.

Fixing these images takes what seems like forever. I’m quickly regretting my decision to paint the cans white. Much better to get the bulk of the work done with the camera rather than photoshop. Hindsight is such a beautiful thing.

Eventually, everything is as clean as it could be. And now I need to brush up on my 3D skills or lack of them. If you have read this far, then this is about to get a lot geekier (is that even a word).

Photoshop 3D

I move onto the 3d side of this mockup. So far this is just an idea, an experiment to see what I have in my head is possible.

Before I start to model, I open illustrator and draw out the profile of the can. I’m not interested in the top or bottom of the can; only the can label.

I’m not sure if all cans are made the same, so I’m using my real images within illustrator to trace out the profile of the Irn Bru can as precisely as I can.

That was easy.

Cinema 4D

I fire up c4d, and load in the illustrator soda can profile as a spline.

I apply a lathe modifier to the spline and a subdivision to increase the mesh count. I tweak the settings of the lathe modifier until it looks about right.

Then apply a basic soda can texture map and save, ready to be loaded into photoshop. The soda can texture, may I remind you, is the full-sized texture, that wraps around the whole object.

The C4D spline extruded, this is how the mesh looks

The C4D spline extruded, this is how the mesh looks

To export the can to photoshop and to keep the texture, I had to install a plugin located inside the Maxon plugins folder.

The only thing I could not get to work correctly was UV mapping. Photoshop just seemed to ignore any mapping that I did in c4d. I just decided to not apply UV mapping in c4d—but the default seemed to work.

Importing 3d into Photoshop

I’ve never used 3d inside photoshop before so I’m going to have to wing it.

The panels and the way photoshop deals with 3D seems weird, almost counter-intuitive.

Multiple menus that are hidden in various sub-menus, vital options are hidden and disappear if you’ve not clicked on just the right thing.

It’s hard to find stuff, that’s hidden away. When I do, I’m never sure how to get back to that menu—come on Adobe sort this mess out.

Eventually, I start to get used to the interface, but it takes a good few hours of messing around. It didn’t help that photoshop randomly decides to crash. So regular saving is a must.

I load the c4d soda can model into photoshop. Under the 3d palette, I select the scene tab and set the surface to style/unlit texture and set the texture to the diffuse layer.

photoshop 3d panel

This is the photoshop 3d panel. I set the surface to style/unlit texture and set the texture to the diffuse layer.

I turn off all lights and other effects. I’m only interested in the unlit texture. I will do the lighting with the real picture of the soda can. Remember that I separated out the highlights and shadows of the can label. I must have about 4 or 5 layers of light and shadow at my disposal.

Position the soda can label

I just had to position the 3d soda can to perfectly match the real photograph—a tricky job.

I figured out that the photoshop 3d lenses don’t work like real camera lenses. I took the pictures with a prime 35mm lens. But back in photoshop, I had to use a much wider 100mm setting to get a close match.

3d soda can mockup

The 3d soda can label on the left (with no lighting), the real photo on the right.

Pushing the can back, tilting and rotating and scaling I wrestled it into place. I was determined to get this to work. And it did work. It just took a while to get there. The overlap perfectly with just a little bit of overlap that I would block out with a layer mask.

3D smart object

By double-clicking on the diffuse layer on the 3d object, Photoshop opens it in a new window. I think Adobe call this a 3D smart object; it’s a shame I can’t separate or duplicate this layer so I can move it to the top of the layer order making it easier for other users to update.

I added my artwork. In my artwork, I had deliberately added text where the can bevel’s, so I could see how it would deform.

It worked and looked great. Much better than I expected. This crazy experiment had worked. Fulled on excitement and Irn-Bru it was time for a fist pump and a happy dance.

Irn Bru soda can mockup

Irn Bru soda can mockup, how cool is that.

Rotate soda can label

One of the things I like most about this soda can mockup is the ability to rotate the can texture a full 360 degrees. No need to render for hours and hours, now anyone could update this thing without any knowledge of 3D.

I’m not sure if anyone has done this before, I’m sure they have, but it felt great to work it out for myself.

The five different soda can mockups

The five different soda can mockups

Buy the soda can mockups for £10

The mockups come with five different soda can views, and they all have a bunch of Instagram effects too as a bonus.

The pack includes

  • Five separate can mockups (with different views)
  • Rotate can label 360 degrees
  • All can labels are 3D smart objects
  • Fully editable background colour
  • Adjust the can highlights and shadows
  • Fully transparent
  • Bonus Instagram style layer effects
  • Full video tutorial
  • Compatible with Adobe Photoshop CS6++

Perfect for branding projects

The can mockups are ideal to show off your branding designs. They are not just limited to soft drinks. Use it for any 330ml drink like coffee, beer, cider and energy drinks.

Get Soda Can Mockups


You can buy this soda can mockup on my Creative Market shop

Soda Can mockup

Soda Can mockup

Buy on Creative Market

That is all.

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