I am trying to create the effect in the below 2 photos for a t-shirt.

enter image description here

enter image description here

How can that background (maybe called marl) be created in Photoshop or Illustrator?

I've have limited success creating it with Filter > Sketch > Graphic Pen. What would be the best method. If possible something which could easily allow me to change the colours in it, on an ongoing basis.

  • 1
    Hi mmc501, welcome to GDSE and thanks for your question. If you want to know more about the site or the SE model in general, please see the tour or the help center to get you up to speed. Keep contributing and enjoy the site!
    – Vincent
    Sep 3, 2018 at 9:53
  • A practical comment (which is why its not an answer), the T shirt printer is not going to like any complex bitmap so after Photoshop you would be better creating a vector (VectorMagic better than Illustrator for bitmap to vector). Then he can print in a single ink. Also, I tend to go for a patterned fabric base shirt (i.e. a cotton with marl in it) and print graphics over the top - simpler, more reliable if you repeat run. Sep 7, 2018 at 10:09

3 Answers 3


In Photoshop, make a brush like this

enter image description here

Then in the Brush Settings, add the following settings

  • Brush Tip Shape: Spacing 10%
  • Shape Dynamics: Size jitter 70%
  • Scattering: Scatter 360%, count 2
  • Noise

enter image description here

Note: my screen recorder seems to mess up the brush cursor, so please ignore that.

  • How can i make the initial brush that shape?
    – mmc501
    Sep 3, 2018 at 11:16
  • @mmc501 I used the Pen Tool to draw a shape, then filled it black.
    – Billy Kerr
    Sep 3, 2018 at 14:01


  • From an ellipse, create a Scatter Brush

Scatter Brush

  • Make two vertical paths and apply this brush on each one separately


  • Select both paths, apply a stroke color
  • Select both paths, Menu Object > Blend > Make
  • Menu Object > Blend > Blend Options > Specified Steps = increase the number of steps


  • Select the Blend, Menu Effect > Stylize > Feather


  • Make a rectangle on top of the Blend
  • Select the Blend and the Rectangle, Menu Object > Clipping Mask > Make
  • Using the Direct Selection Tool click the mask edge to select it and fill it with color


  • 1
    Nice technique. How heavy, byte-wise does this become? Same question for 'oh-my-graphics-card-is-starting-to-sweat-wise' ;)
    – Vincent
    Sep 3, 2018 at 9:55

This is a randomised 'Clouds' pattern that has been scaled down vertically but not horizontally. In Photoshop:

  1. Create a document as wide as you want the pattern to be, and twenty times as high;
  2. In that document, choose the darkest you want the pattern to become as your foreground colour; and the lightest colour you want as background colour;
  3. Choose Filter > Render > Clouds;

enter image description here

  1. Select all contents of the current layer with Cmd/Ctrl+A;
  2. Choose Image > Free Transform (or press Cmd/Ctrl+T);
  3. In the control bar on top, find the 'H' value (100% now) and make sure the link it has with 'W' (width) is broken (click the link icon to switch between linked and broken);
  4. Click in the H value's field and key in a value around 5% and press Return / Enter;
  5. Crop your image as needed (Image > Crop with the selection still active works great) or copy and paste the result as needed.

marl result in Photoshop

In practice, I'd advice you to take black and white as the original colours (as I did in the example), so you can tweak the colours using a gradient map layer later.

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