Did you see...

How To Create A Composite In Photoshop With The PixelSquid 3D Extension

David on Twitter Josie's Site
Last week saw the release of the latest James Bond film, SPECTRE. Whilst I’m still yet to see the movie myself, I thought I’d mark my return to the TipSquirrel tree with a Photoshop compositing tutorial with a definite nod to the suave British super spy.


The main focus of the tutorial is an amazing stock image site named PixelSquid. If you haven’t heard of it before, PixelSquid specialises in pre-rendered 3D stock image objects that can be rotated in real time, enabling you to pick the perfect angle before placing the image into your designs and photo-montages. When the site first launched, it was necessary to download the object at the required angle before adding into your composites, which still left a little guesswork as to whether it was going to fit the scene properly. A recent update has changed this.


Now, as well as being able to choose your angles on-site, you can install the new Photoshop extension, which not only gives you access to your PixelSquid library in a new panel, it also lets you rotate the object and place it straight into your image as a Smart Object. Fantastic!


Here’s what we’ll be doing in this, the first part of a two part tutorial:
  • Setting up account on PixelSquid
  • Downloading and installing the Photoshop extension
  • Browsing and importing a 3D object to Photoshop
  • Inserting the object into an image


Let’s get started!


Signing up for a PixelSquid account

Sign up for a PixelSquid account

The first thing we need to do is sign up for an account on PixelSquid. Go to http://www.pixelsquid.com. Click Join Now in the top right-hand corner. A sign-up box appears. From here you can use your Facebook account or choose the old-school email and password method. It’s also well worthwhile signing up for the newsletter here to receive news when new objects are added and other useful updates. Click the button to create the account and log in to the site.


Install the plugin

Install the Photoshop extension

Next, we’ll install the extension plug-in. Click the link at the top-left of the page, next to the search box. This will open the download page on the Adobe Add-ons site. If you’re already signed in with your Adobe ID, you’ll be able to install the extension by clicking the Install button, otherwise, you’ll be asked to log in first. The plugin will download and install itself; you should see a notification from the Creative Cloud app. The Install button will change to View My Add-ons, which verifies that it’s been installed.


Open the PixelSquid Extension panel

Open the PixelSquid extension panel

Open Photoshop CC. Go to the Extensions item of the Window menu. If everything has gone to plan, we’ll see the PixelSquid item on the fly-out menu. If it’s not there, quit Photoshop and open it up again. If it still doesn’t show, refer to the troubleshooting guide on the download page.


Sign in to the extension

Sign in to the extension panel

Click the PixelSquid Menu item to open the extension panel. The latest version gives you some sample items to try out before signing up/logging in. We’ll skip this and go straight to the login by clicking the link just above the PixelSquid logo at the bottom of the panel. Enter the details you used in the sign-up process, or click the Facebook button if you signed in with that.


The PixelSquid extension image grid view

The image grid view

I’ve already been using the extension, of course, so I have a few items stored in my library. Your view will be empty if you’ve just started a new account.


The starting image for the tutorial

The starting image for the tutorial

I found this image on Fotolia.com (file number #39831801). It has a nice James Bond mood to it. Now to find something suitable for the background!


Choosing an image from PixelSquid

Choosing an object from PixelSquid

Go back to PixelSquid. Type in Car as the search term. The Aston Martin DB5 is perfect! As we hover over it, the object will spin round. We’ll also have the option to view the object in more detail or use the button to add it straight to Photoshop. For example purposes, we’ll open the item’s detail page but if we were sure this was the right object, we could just add it straight to the Photoshop collection here.


The PixelSquid item detail page

The PixelSquid item detail page

Here’s the item’s detail page. The main image can be rotated to in real time using the mouse. On the right you have 3 options: Add to Photoshop, Download PSD and Download PNG. Downloading the PSD or PNG options will give you a ‘frozen’ image at the angle you set on the left. We want to add it to Photoshop, so click the button to start the magic!


Refresh the extension panel

Refresh the extension panel to update with the new object

Go back to Photoshop. If we don’t see the car object in the panel, click the Refresh button just above the panel window. Once the thumbnail appears, we’re ready to add the car to our scene.


Add the image object to the scene

Add the image object to the scene

Click the car’s thumbnail. After a short time, the car object will be downloaded from the website and be placed into the image; placed in the centre by default. Not ideal, of course but this is just the start. If we look at the Layers panel, we can see the car has been added as a Smart Object. This is where it all happens.


Rotate the car object

Rotate the car object

Go over to the extension panel. Click and drag the thumbnail to rotate the object. Here I levelled it out but left it facing in the same direction. As soon as we release the mouse, the car in the image will be updated to match. Brilliant!


Transform the car to fit the scene

Transform the car to fit the scene

Once we have the car at the correct angle we can scale and position it using Free Transform, just as we would with a standard layer in Photoshop. As this is a Smart Object, it will always keep its detail. If we decided to change the angle again, we could adjust it in the panel to update it and it would keep it’s new size and position


The first part of the tutorial image completed

The first part of the tutorial image completed

This is where we’ll stop for this part of the tutorial. The car looks out of place, of course; we’ll be working on the blending in the next part of the tutorial, where we’ll use the Download PSD feature of the plugin, allowing us to work on individual parts of the image.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this part of the tutorial and working with the plugin as much as I have. There are hundreds of objects to explore and place in your own designs and, at the time of writing this, they’re all free to use both for personal and commercial use!


Until next month, take care and have fun!


All the best,




About David Asch (32 Articles)
David Asch is an accomplished author, artist and designer based in Brighton, UK. To date he has written two books on Adobe Photoshop Elements for Focal Press: Focus on Photoshop Elements and How to Cheat in Photoshop Elements, now in its 7th edition. He also co-wrote Digital Photo Doctor for Ilex Press and have had work featured in many UK magazines. As well as books on digital imaging, he is also the author of Creative Web Design with Adobe Muse, again for Focal Press. David also designs websites and the occasional logo. When he's not doing this, he likes to roam with a camera, capturing the sights. Some of these are posted to his photography gallery, others may make a guest appearance in his photomontage gallery.

2 Comments on How To Create A Composite In Photoshop With The PixelSquid 3D Extension

  1. Speaking as someone who, wanting to do a composite Spectre shot, spent several months researching public displays of DB5’s, reading up on the best scale world to find the best examples and then waiting two weeks for a DB5 Autoart collectors edition Goldfinger model to end on ebay and who spent all day today shooting the model, focus stacking it all the time whilst ignoring family who said, “Can’t you just use an image from the internet?!”. I salute you for your magnificent post.


  2. Hi David,
    Thanks for the very helpful Tuts for working with PixelSquid. One question…they’ve changed the options to ‘Embed Smart Object’, ‘Embed Layers’ or ‘Open Object as PSD’.
    Based on your training, I would think you’d choose Open Object but it opens it in a different file so you’re making adjustments outside of the main image. Any suggestions?
    Thank you!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.