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Not Just for the Faint of 'Art': Learning 3D Basics in Photoshop CS4

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Andrew Faulkner, part of the Adobe Creative Team that produced Adobe Photoshop CS4 Classroom in a Book, presents this tutorial on how to use the 3D capabilities of Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended.

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Manipulating 3D Objects

Manipulating 3D Objects

The advantage of working with 3D objects is, obviously, that you can work with them in three dimensions. Photoshop CS4 Extended includes several basic tools that make it easy to rotate, resize, and position 3D objects. The 3D Rotate tool and the other tools grouped with it in the Tools panel let you manipulate the object itself. In addition, the 3D Orbit tool and its group let you change the camera positions and angles, which can have a dramatic effect on your object.

You can use the 3D tools whenever a 3D layer is selected in the Layers panel. A 3D layer behaves like any other layer—you can apply layer styles, mask it, and so on. However, a 3D layer can be quite complex.

Unlike a regular layer, a 3D layer contains one or more meshes. A mesh defines the 3D object. In the layer you just created, the mesh is the hat shape. Each mesh, in turn, includes one or more materials, the appearance of a part or all of the mesh. Each material includes one or more maps, which are the components of the appearance. There are nine typical maps, including the Bump map, and there can be only one of each kind; however, you can also use custom maps. Each map contains one texture, the image that defines what the maps and materials look like. The texture may be a simple bitmap graphic or a set of layers. The same texture might be used by many different maps and materials. In the layer you just created, the image of the brick wall composes the texture.

In addition to meshes, a 3D layer includes one or more lights, which affect the appearance of 3D objects and remain in a fixed position as you spin or move the object. A 3D layer also includes cameras, which are saved views, with the objects in a particular position. The shader creates the final appearance based on the materials, object properties, and renderer.

This may all sound complicated, but the most important thing to remember is that some tools move objects in 3D space, and some tools move the cameras that view the object.

  1. In the Tools panel, select the 3D Orbit tool. When you select the 3D Orbit tool, several other 3D tools become available in the options bar.
  2. In the options bar, choose Top from the View pop-up menu. You're now viewing the top of the hat (see Figure 5).
  3. Options in the View menu determine the angle from which you see the object.

  4. In the Tools panel, select the 3D Rotate tool.
  5. Click in the center of the hat and drag outward in a circle, around the edge of the composition. Drag diagonally as well to get a feel for how the 3D Rotate tool moves the object on the x and y axes (see Figure 6).
  6. Select the 3D Roll tool in the options bar, and drag the hat. Notice that you can flip the hat around, but you're constrained to movement on a single axis (see Figure 7).
  7. Select the 3D Pan tool in the options bar. Drag the hat from side to side, vertically, or horizontally. With the 3D Pan tool you can move the object on the plane, but you cannot rotate it.
  8. Select the 3D Scale tool in the options bar. Click just above the hat, and drag toward the center of the hat until the X, Y, and Z values in the options bar are each 0.75 (see Figure 8). The hat is now 75% of its original size.
  9. You've used several tools to manipulate the hat. Now, you'll enter values to position the hat precisely.

  10. Select the 3D Rotate tool in the options bar. In the Orientation area of the options bar, enter 11 for X, 45 for Y, and -37 for Z, as shown in Figure 9.
  11. You can use the 3D tools to reposition and rotate a 3D object manually, or, if you know where you want the object to be, select the 3D Rotate tool and type values in the options bar.

  12. Choose File > Save As, and save the file as 12Working.psd. Click OK if the Photoshop Format Options dialog box appears.
6. Using the 3D Panel to Adjust Lighting and Surface Texture | Next Section Previous Section