3D? in Photoshop? Wait. Don’t hide your screen from the people around you. It is possible. Not long ago, you had to take a screenshot of your 3D model created in another program, paste it into Photoshop and use your background removal tricks to get a nice clean product shot. Then they added the ability to import 3D. Now, with Photoshop CS5, you have added import goodness with direct download from sites like 3DVIA and Turbosquid. Best of all, you have 5 new ways to create actual 3D geometry in Photoshop.

Zorana Gee, Photoshop Extended Product Manager, has written all about it in her new book titled, 3D in Photoshop: The Ultimate Guide for Creative Professionals – 224 pages of how 3D is done in Photoshop. We had the opportunity to ask Zorana some questions about getting started and how it can be used alongside other 3D CAD and rendering programs.

Win the 3D in Photoshop book!

Yes. We also have a 3D in Photoshop book to giveaway to one lucky person! How can you win it? Just hit the comments and leave a pithy, snarky or otherwise comical comment about 3D and you could be the winner! The winner will be announced here Wednesday, February 9th, 2011. Good luck!! Now, on to the wonderful interview with Zorana Gee.

Interview with Zorana Gee

Adobe Photoshop Extended Product Manager

How would you explain getting started in using 3D for Photoshop Extended to someone that’s not a graphics person?
I would suggest starting with any of the tutorials found in the book or any of the tutorials I’ve published on Psdtuts+ as well as tutorials from NAPP’s Corey Barker. Further, since not all the concepts are always explained in detail within tutorials, I would suggest having the 3D in Photoshop book as a reference to get detailed explanations of 3D concepts.

The book is divided into three parts: the first part contains information on basic 3D concepts (meshes, lights, cameras, etc.), the second part of the book is all about how 3D works in Photoshop (workspace, tools, panels, features, etc.) and the last part are tutorials by Photoshop experts who have written great real-world 3D designer workflows.

Another alternative is with Knowledge Panels. These are interactive and step-by-step tutorials that walk you through about 70 tutorials written by expert authors. Click the little “CS Live” icon in the upper right corner of Photoshop and log in with your AdobeID. Then look for Knowledge under Window > Extensions and open up the extension panels. There are some basic 3D tutorials in this set of panels that are really easy to follow.

Can you explain a simple workflow for getting familiar with the 3D tools in Photoshop?
The simplest workflow is to take any photo and convert it to a 3D postcard (via 3D > New 3D Postcard from layer). Play around with the 3D object tool and rotate the image around in 3D space. A small step further would be to import any free 3D object and explore the 3D tools in Photoshop to create a realistic composite using both 2D and 3D layers. The book and online tutorials will be very helpful in finding these tools and learning tips for creating great effects. Repoussé (3D extrusions) is also a fun way to get started. Start with a text layer and go to 3D > Repoussé and start adding extrusions, twists, bevels, etc. to your 3D text.

When importing a 3D file, what are some important things to do to optimize the file?
Importing optimizations largely depend on which 3D modeling application is used. For instance, if exporting a model from Sketch-up 7.1, it is really important to check the “Preserve Component Hierarchies” checkbox. Sketch-up changed the way it handles export, which affected the way Collada models look in many 3D modeling applications. If exporting from C4D, export as Collada. Generally, Collada (.dae) is the format we recommend for interchange between applications. Also, make sure that you have the most up to date Collada exporter from your modeling application as well. Another good tool to know is the script created to invert opacities. Collada changed the way they handle transparency and many objects will come in 100% transparent when in fact they should be 100% opaque. The script (and more information) can be found http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/409/kb409030.html.

When creating 3D in Photoshop, I recommend starting with small image – about 72dpi. 3D is similar to working with vector for a web workflow where you can always resize your object and maintain resolution (non-destructively) plus this gives you optimum performance. Also, if possible, work with 32-bit since the Adobe RayTracer renders at 32-bits. You can tonemap your images in Photoshop to adjust the range of tones to use. The Adobe Raytracer renders at 32-bits so this will minimize color shifting.

How can Photoshop CS5 Extended tools be used alongside 3D CAD and rendering programs?
Photoshop is used throughout the architecture and manufacturing industries mainly as a tool to edit textures and create beautiful mock-ups. With the introduction of 3D into the application, models can now be brought directly into Photoshop (via Collada) to aid in visualization and compositing. Although we do not directly open 3D CAD models (unless you have Acrobat 3D), there are many conversion options out there that can facilitate this interchange. Photoshop CS5 Extended is also a great way to create simple animations of 3D models – just add keyframes for object or camera positions, render settings and/or cross-sections. There are also great visualization presets that would be important for anyone working with a 3D project.

Are there ways in which the 3D data brought into Photoshop Extended can be used across other Adobe products?
Photoshop can roundtrip (import and export) U3D [editor: .u3d formats can be save out from SolidWorks] which is the Acrobat 3D format (can also roundtrip Collada, OBJ and KMZ). With U3D, you can seamlessly interchange between Acrobat 3D and Photoshop. After Effects can also import Photoshop 3D layers.

I’d like to thank Zorana for the interview and the giveaway copy of here book. It is indeed the best book I’ve seen explaining how the 3D tools work and how you can used it to All of the 3D capability is in Photoshop CS5 Extended (US $999)

Other resources

Psdtuts+ is a treasure trove of Phtoshop knowledge. My #1 pick. Psdtuts+
Corey Barker’s Planet Photoshop covers Photoshop news and tuts. Planet Photoshop
There is an iPad app where you can check out the very first chapter. Free on iTunes.
Adobe TV has a 3 pages of video on using 3D in Photoshop CS5. Adobe TV.

3D in previous Photoshop versions?

By the way, you don’t need Photoshop CS5 to start exploring 3D in Photoshop. Even though it involves importing the 3D models into Photoshop, you gain control over the look and style of your design. This 3D type tutorial by Nik Ainley is an excellent example and uses many of the tools you’ll use in creating 3D effects. Have other resources you’ve used for 3D in Photoshop?

Win the 3D in Photoshop book!

Now, you could spend your hard-earned money and buy 3D in Photoshop (US $32.97 at Amazon), but why buy it when you can WIN IT! Hit the comments and leave a pithy, snarky or otherwise comical comment about 3D and you could be the winner! The winner will be announced here Wednesday, February 9th, 2011. Good luck!!


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.