In 2008, I was part of a team that helped design the first third-party 3D plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended. The plug-in enabled you to create 3D text and shape extrusions as a 3D layer. Today, Photoshop CS6 Extended does all this and far more natively, with the usability you would expect from an integrated Adobe toolset.
Photoshop CS6 Extended is not merely capable of extruding shapes, paths, text, marquee selections, and layers. It also offers a wide range of ways to create 3D meshes and import 3D models. More importantly, it provides an excellent toolset and workflow for lighting your 3D scenes, creating textures, manipulating 3D objects, and performing other tasks that are unique to 3D design.
There are simply too many 3D tools, functions, and concepts to cover in a single tutorial. This tutorial introduces you to some of the basics of 3D to give you a foundation so you can explore further on your own. I show you how to create a 3D puzzle of a stack of US$100 bills from start to finish. You can follow along by downloading the project files (ZIP, 24 MB). Along the way, you'll save a base 3D scene, which can act as a starting point for creating endless variations in the future. The scene includes the location of the puzzle pieces, lighting, shadows, materials, camera views, reflections, and more — all within a single 3D layer in Photoshop.
Note: Photoshop CS6 Extended is included as part of Adobe Creative Cloud. You can download a trial version of Photoshop CS6 Extended by becoming a member of Adobe Creative Cloud (basic membership is free). Photoshop CS6 Extended delivers all the image-editing power of Photoshop CS6 plus tools for creating and editing 3D images and performing quantitative image analysis.
Since you are working in 3D, I recommend selecting the 3D workspace from the Workspace pull-down menu on the upper right side of the Photoshop interface.
The first step is to create a new canvas for your scene. Keep in mind that larger sizes and higher resolutions will take longer to render, so think ahead about how you will use the final renders. For this project, I used a 1200 × 1200 canvas at 96dpi.
To start off, download and open the project files. This ZIP file includes the puzzle pieces and the dollar-bill texture to get you started. You will also find a Photoshop file titled Stack Texture, which you will use in the project.
I created my vector puzzle pieces in Adobe Illustrator and pasted them as a Smart Object into the Photoshop file, but they could just as easily be created directly in Photoshop using the Pen tool.
After creating the puzzle pieces, I sized them to match the dollar-bill texture. You can hide Layer 1 in the file titled Start File before getting started. You will use it later to texture the 3D puzzle.
Now that the shape is in place, follow these steps:
You should now see the front view of the 3D puzzle in your scene, and the 2D canvas will change to a 3D viewport.
Before you start working in this 3D environment, look at the hierarchy of the 3D palette in Figure 2.
The 3D hierarchy is much like the standard layer hierarchy in Photoshop:
With Current View selected in the 3D palette as shown in Figure 2, choose the first icon from the 3D Mode toolbar under the main menu. This is the Rotate 3D Object control.
The Rotate 3D Object control rotates whatever is selected in the 3D palette, so if a 3D object is selected, this control will rotate that object. In this case, Current View is selected, so the tool will change the current view of the scene as you move it within the viewport, which makes it look as if you are walking around this 3D object. To use the Rotate 3D Object control, just click and drag within the viewport as you would if your scene resided within a crystal ball. As you begin to rotate the camera view, you can see your 3D extrusion depth along the z axis.
In the 3D palette, select your 3D extrusion and go to the Properties tab. In the Shape Preset pull-down menu, select the beveled edge option.
As you can see in Figure 3, the default setting creates an overly deep bevel into the face of your object, so you'll need to correct that.
To fix the deep bevel, select the Cap icon in the Properties menu, which enables you to customize the face and bevel of your extrusion. Reduce the width of the bevel to 8% using the slider. You may also want to use the Contour option to make the bevel more rounded like the edges of jigsaw puzzle pieces.
To the right of the Cap icon is the Coordinates button. Click the Coordinates button to change the x-axis rotation to 90 degrees and then choose Snap Object To Ground Plane from the main 3D menu. This snaps the 3D object to the visible grid and allows shadows to be cast as if the object were sitting on a table, rather than floating above it in a random position.
In the 3D palette, select Front Inflation Material and open the Properties palette. Choose Edit Texture from the Diffuse Material pull-down menu and click OK when you get the notification that the texture is contained in multiple places.
The texture for the front inflation material will appear in a new window and will be similar to the face of your jigsaw pieces. In the original project window, unhide the dollar texture (Layer 1). After you select and copy that texture, paste it on top of the jigsaw pieces in the window that contains the default texture. Size and position it to match the existing default texture layer.
Texturing can be challenging to learn and is often far more involved than this, so do some studying on your own about textures and UV texture mapping. This is also a good opportunity to look at how the texture is being mapped to the 3D mesh. Choose 3D > Create Painting Overlay > Wireframe.
Before proceeding, hide the layers that do not include the dollar texture and then save the file. The texture automatically updates in your 3D Scene (see Figure 4).
Now it's time to add another texture to make your extrusion look like a stack of money. From the 3D palette, choose Vector Smart Object Extrusion Material and proceed to the Properties panel. In the Diffuse material drop-down, choose Remove Texture. Now if you select the drop-down again, you can choose Load Texture. Navigate to the stack_texture.psd file that was included with the sample project files and click Open to load the texture.
I mimicked the color of money by first desaturating the stack of paper and then filling a layer above it with the color of money. I then changed the layer mode of that layer to Color Burn, which casts the color onto the paper, resulting in a texture that works great for this scene.
The bump map material is like a depth map that renders different shades of gray at different depths. To give the sides of the money variance in depth, use this same texture as a bump. To do this, select Bump from the Materials menu and load the same texture you loaded for the extrusion material. This should ensure that the bump map is aligned with the texture map. Figure 5 shows the difference the bump map has made on this 3D object.
You may want to make one more change before saving your base 3D scene. Money is very thin. If you reduce the bevel width a little further, you can make the bills look more realistic while keeping the rounded look of a puzzle piece edge.
You have completed the base 3D scene. From here, you can create all kinds of variations. Save your file and start the rest of the project using a different filename.
It's time to turn your block of puzzle pieces into individual pieces. Choose 3D > Split Extrusion. In the 3D palette, you will see that you have a new group with eight extrusions in it. Each of those can now be controlled independently of the others.
This is a great time to get more familiar with the 3D manipulation controls within the viewport. As you select each piece, you will see a small three-axis control with some widgets at the end of each axis. Using your mouse, select the appropriate arrow widget at the end of the control axis to move the object along that axis. Select the colored box widget to scale the object along that axis, or select the curved widget to rotate the object around the axis that appears when the widget is rotated. To scale an object uniformly, use the box at the center of the control (see Figure 6). To return to the previous state, just use the Undo command.
Use the 3D manipulation controls to randomly move each piece to create a unique 3D scene.
Once the pieces are positioned, choose Infinite Light from the 3D palette and a lighting control appears in the 3D scene. Grab the handle at the end of the control and drag it to point the light onto your scene at an angle you like. This controls where your shadows are cast if you want to render shadows onto the ground plane or other objects (see Figure 7).
3D rendering can be a science. The first thing that anyone who is new to 3D needs to know is that 3D rendering is very processor intensive and can take a long time to complete, especially when you get into large, complex scenes with shadows, reflections, refractions, bump maps, and more. Once you are familiar with render times, you can easily build them into your 3D workflow. For example, you may make it a practice to start final renders before your lunch break or before you go to bed, so they can process while you are doing other things.
Before rendering, select Scene in the 3D palette and scroll to the bottom. Below the Remove Hidden controls, enable the Backfaces option. Since the opacity of your objects is 100%, you can't see the hidden faces of your jigsaw puzzle pieces. If the renderer doesn't have to worry about how every face in the scene appears, it speeds up the rendering process. When you see how long it takes to render this scene, you will appreciate any performance enhancement.
To render your scene, use the Render button at the bottom of the Properties panel, or choose 3D > Render. You can pause your render at any time by pressing the button again. If you make any scene changes, a new render will start the next time the Render button is pressed. Otherwise, the scene will simply resume rendering when the Render button is pressed again.
Most of the time, you will not want to sit through a complete render, but you might want to get an idea of what something looks like when rendered. To do this, you can select a smaller area of your scene with the Marquee Selection tool before rendering and only render that area. This is a great way to check out a soft shadow, material reflectivity, bump maps, and more.
Shadows add realism to most scenes, so look at how the shadows are being cast. You can see in your scene that the shadows have very hard edges. You may want this effect, but to soften these shadows, go to the Properties panel of Infinite Light and increase the Shadow Softness slider. Figure 8 shows 0% softness vs. 25% softness.
To finish this scene (see Figure 9), you may want to make one more adjustment to the lighting before your final render, just to get a little more light to cast on the sides of the floating puzzle pieces. You can always place additional lights into your 3D scene by clicking the button that looks like the New Layer icon at the bottom of the 3D palette.
This tutorial only scratched the surface of the 3D capabilities in Adobe Photoshop CS6 Extended, but I hope it has helped you navigate the 3D landscape and understand some of the important aspects of the Photoshop CS6 3D workflow and interface.
Some people may argue that they could create this scene in Photoshop without 3D capabilities. I don't disagree, but the benefits of 3D are undeniable. Now that this 3D scene is set up, you can save any number of camera angles, settings with depth of field, textures, environment settings, and more. The possibilities are endless, and all it takes is the original base 3D scene.
Dave Klein is an online marketing consultant based in Boulder, Colorado. He has worked with several Adobe partners focusing on 3D software and technologies since early 2000. Reach him at kleinnewmedia.com.