A Powerful Photoshop 3D Tool
Messing around with the Adobe Photoshop 3D tools is one of my favorite design-related things to do. Even when using the same 3D technique over and over again, I can get such a variety of results just by starting with a different image. To make a really cool abstract design I like to use the Photoshop 3D tools, specifically the Depth Map to Plane tool which lets you create a 3D extrusion from a single 2D image. The more detail in the image, the more rough the extrusion will be. There are lots of settings to play around with so I usually keep things pretty simple. Once I create a depth map from an image it’s easy to manipulate it within its 3D space; rotating it, moving it in and out, and just generally exploring its 3D shape. Here are the steps for how I make an awesome, abstract background texture using the 3D tools in Photoshop.
Step One: Image Selection
The first thing you need to do is find an image to use. Here, I’ll be using a free stock photo from Unsplash. I love using space imagery to use with the 3D tools because the resulting 3D shape always makes an amazing texture. You can use the same image, or choose your own. Remember, the more information in the image, the busier the 3D texture will be. If you don’t want to use a photo, you can always just make something in Photoshop. Draw some colours with a variety of brushes then mix in some Difference Clouds (Filter > Render > Difference Clouds) for texture. For now though, we’ll use a photo.
Step Two: Make it 3D
Open your image inside Photoshop. Then go to 3D > New Mesh From Layer > Depth Map To > Plane. This will convert your workspace into a 3D area and you’ll immediately be able to rotate your newly extruded 3D shape to explore its texture.
Step Three: Eliminate Shadows
Next, go to Window > 3D and then Window > Properties to open both the 3D and Properties panels you’ll need to adjust your 3D shape. In the Properties panel, find the Presets pull down menu near the top, and select Unlit Texture from the list. This eliminates the heavy lighting from your 3D shape that created so many shadows. You can continue to rotate the image around to check out what it looks like now. Cool huh?
Step Four: Adjusting Field of Vision
By default, your entire 3D shape is pretty small on the screen. Photoshop zooms it back so you can rotate the shape around so much. When you’re ready to zoom in to the image, go to your 3D panel and click on Current View. This will change the setting options in your Properties panel. In the middle of the Properties panel, there’s a pull down menu for FOV (Field of vision) that opens a small scroll bar. Here you can adjust the field of vision for your 3D shape. Basically, you can zoom in or out on it. I like to bring it in pretty close, as you can see. You might also notice that your 3D image isn’t actually taking up the whole screen. That’s fine if that’s what your going for, but for me, I don’t want any empty pixels. That means I can either give this a bigger FOV, or I can bring the image down. I’m pretty happy with my FOV as it is, so I’m going to move the image down a little, then to the right a little. To do this, just click on the 3D image again. You’ll notice that now there’s a bunch of arrows showing up; a green, red, and blue on. These arrows allow you to pull your 3D shape along the X, Y, and Z axis without altering the rotation of your image or the FOV. I’m going to pull the blue arrow to move my 3D shape along the Z axis, bringing the entire thing forward. This covers up the empty area on the bottom.
Step Five: Render + Rasterize
Now you probably have a pretty cool looking 3D shape. From here, you can continue playing around with the rotation, FOV, or moving along the axis. To go back and adjust the rotation, click Scene on the 3D panel. Then you can go right back to your 3D shape and rotate it until you’re satisfied. I don’t usually play around with any of the other 3D options, but you can check them out to see what they do. But be warned, some of the 3D features are very heavy on your RAM usage. If you haven’t already saved your file, do it now. Once you’re happy with your creation, go to your Layers panel and right click on your 3D layer, and hit Render 3D Layer. This might take a few seconds. When that is complete, you can right click on the layer again, and hit Rasterize 3D. You can also duplicate the layer before rasterizing it, in case you want to come back to it later to re-adjust.
Step Six: Finishing Touches
Once your 3D shape is rasterized, Photoshop takes you out of the 3D workspace. From here, you can make any final adjustment to your image. For instance, you could play around with the temperature, tint, contrast, or clarity, etc. of your image. To do that, go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter. Adjust the sliders here until you have an image you’re happy with. And that’s it!
If you’re new to the 3D tools in Photoshop, explore them as much as you can. You can make some pretty amazing artwork with these tools, and they’re extremely fun to use. Just remember to save often because 3D stuff can be a lot of work for your computer to process. Photoshop crashed on me once during this tutorial and I hadn’t saved my work yet. Fortunately, it was able to recover my file. Whew. What do you like to create using the 3D tools in Photoshop? Abstract imagery? 3D text? Let me know in the comments!