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Photoshop 3D Materials Fun

Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended has a wonderfully capable 3D environment. It isn’t high powered like some advanced 3D modeling software, but the capabilities are really good, and the learning curve is nowhere near as steep. In today’s tutorial, we’ll create some Christmas ornaments using some very simple Photoshop 3D capabilities.

We’ll start with this simple Photoshop document. We have a background, and 3 plain neutral gray layers, which will become our 3D objects. Notice we have two layers turned off for now:


Let’s turn the first gray layer into a 3D Sphere. From the menu, choose 3D > New Shape From Layer > Sphere:


This creates a plain gray sphere, like so:


Now, let’s make this look more like an ornament. We can open the Diffuse texture by double clicking the Layer 1 entry under Diffuse, in the Textures section of the layer:


When you double click the Diffuse texture, it opens up the original gray layer in a new file – this works very similar to the way Smart Objects work. We’ll modify this texture, and save it – which will update the master 3D object:


We’re going to simply add a stock image (I got the images used in this example from stock.xchg), something with a holiday feature, as a new layer to this file. Once we have it in place, we can save and then close this document:


When we close the document, we can see that the 3D object is updated with the new texture. We can use the 3D Object rotate tool to spin it around to the desired view:


Next, we can turn on layer 2. We’ll repeat the same process, to create a second ornament with a different texture. In this example, I’ve used the 3D Object Pan Tool to move the new object to the side just a bit so we can see what’s happening:


Now, let’s repeat the process once more with the third gray layer, this time adding an image that has a winter scene for a nice holiday effect:


Now that we have our three ornaments created, we’ll need to merge the 3D layers together. This is necessary so we can light them together, and let them interact. To merge 3D layers, we must select TWO layers at a time, then choose 3D > Merge 3D Layers:


With the two layers merged, select the merged layer and the remaining single 3D layer, and repeat the process:


Now, we have a single 3D layer with all three ornaments on it – and the ornaments seem to be intersecting, occupying the same space:


Now, let’s switch to the 3D Panel (Window > 3D). First, choose the second icon at the top (Filter by: Meshes). Second, choose the first mesh in the list. Third, use the 3D Mesh Pan and 3D Mesh Slide tools to maneuver the ornament back and to the side a bit compared to the other two:


Select the second mesh in the list and repeat:


Finally, choose the third and move it around to your taste as well. Keep adjusting by panning and sliding the spheres until you get a configuration that you like:


Next,. we’ll adjust the lights a bit. First, switch to the fourth icon at the top of the 3D Panel (Filter By: Lights). Second, choose the icon at the bottom to show 3D features. Third, choose 3D Lights. This will show the icons representing the lights:


Now comes the experimentation: Use the Rotate Lights tool and move one or both lights to get a bit of shading on the spheres. Let’s change the softness of the light to 50% as well:


Once you have the light positioned, go to the first icon in the 3D Panel (Filter By: Scene). Make sure the Scene is selected, and change the Quality to Ray Traced Draft. You’ll see the render grid crawl across the image. Looks nice!


But wait, we’re not done yet. Most Christmas ornaments are glossy, reflective metallic things, and we can simulate that, too. Choose the Sphere_Material, and change the Reflection value from 0 to 80:


Now, repeat for the other two entries for Sphere_Material, and you’ll have created 3 highly reflective orbs. Let the render complete and you’ll have a nice holiday scene:


The possibilities are endless – any combination of textures and reflectivity, and you have an entire new scene. Mix and match all you want! Experiment, have fun, and enjoy yourselves! See you next week.

About Michael Hoffman (224 Articles)
Mike has been a photographer, artist, educator, and technophile for most of his life. Early in his career, he created technical illustrations and photographs for electronic equipment manufacturers, and taught classes in computer aided drafting and 3D modeling software. When digital cameras became widely available in the late 1990s, the move was a natural one, and has led to a happy combination of technology, software, photography and art. Mike is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and Acrobat, and is well versed in Lightroom and Photoshop Elements, as well as Illustrator and InDesign. He has also contributed his time and efforts to the excellent work being done by Operation Photo Rescue, in restoring photographs damaged by natural disasters. As an active member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, he continues his quest for excellence in art, excellence in design, and excellence in education.

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