Photoshop tutorial: Discover Photoshop CS6's new 3D tools

Photoshop CS6 allows you to import 3D files, texture them, apply lighting and render objects better than before. Find out how.


Photoshop CS6 Extended incorporates a new 3D tools engine taps the power of your graphics card to deliver blazing fast performance.

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The Photoshop CS6 3D engine enables the end user to import 3D objects in a wide range of formats including OBJ, Collada DAE, Flash 3D and Google Earth 4 KMZ. It also enables the creation, import and manipulate of 3D objects directly on the canvas, which in turn provides a higher degree of intuition, greater control and flexibility when dealing with these types of objects.

This step-by-step guide demonstrates how the new Photoshop CS6 3D engine can be used to combine 3D sources and naturally blend in additional light sources, textures and position with traditional 2D original photographs.

STEP 1

Open a photograph, which will be used as the background for the 3D object into Photoshop CS6 and switch to the 3D workspace.

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STEP 3

Using the mouse or tablet, draw a grid in line with the floor, and other objects that define the 3D dimension (in this case the wooden wall panel). This will provide the vanishing point based on the angles within the photograph.

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STEP 4

Using the handles, extend the grid as far as it will go and press the OK button. This will provide Photoshop with an accurate 2D grid that defines the vanishing point. The wider you pull out the handles, the better you can see if your original points that were placed are accurate.

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STEP 5

Import a 3D object as a layer to the photograph, using 3D > New 3D Layer From File. Notice the 3D object is inserted as a layer above the background photograph and the object textures are displayed in the layer. 

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STEP 6

Switch to the 3D panel to show all of the 3D property settings. Using these panels you are able to control the textures, colours and other facets within the object: including the lighting types, shadow and object position.

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STEP 7

Select the 3D object layer on the canvas (in this case the chair). The Move tool is used for all manipulation of the image whilst on the canvas as well as turning on the 3D tools automatically. 

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STEP 8

Using the manipulation tool that is overlaid over the object, rotate it to match the position of the scene, as well scaling the object up and down to make sure it is in context of the chosen background. Once complete, select 3D > Snap Object to Ground Plane. This will make sure the object is positioned on the 3D plane as opposed to above or below it.

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STEP 9

The object is currently white as there are no textures or colours applied. To apply a texture to the object, either double-click the section of the object that will be worked on – the first click will select the mesh, the second will select the component – or you are able to select the 3D panel and the component directly. 

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STEP 10

The Properties panel for the Component will allow you to see and change the materials, texture and colours for the selected object (I added a wood texture to the chair). Click on the Texture drop-down menu and choose Replace Texture and choose the desired texture image.  

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STEP 11

To change the texture properties of the pillow, I double clicked on it, then clicked on the Diffuse drop-down in the Properties panel and chose Replace Texture. I added a cross-hatch bump map.

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STEP 12

Next, I wanted to edit this texture of the pillow. Again I double-clicked on the cushion, clicked the Diffuse drop-down, then selected Edit UV Properties. I tightened up the pattern representation by changing the U Scale to 500% and the V scale to 1000%.

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STEP 13

Next I wanted to change the colour of the pillow. I clicked on the Material Type sphere to bring up a material browser and chose the type of material that best suited the pillow fabric.

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STEP 14

I clicked on the colour box next to Diffuse and chose the desired colour from the Colour Picker. 

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STEP 15

To add realism to the image, we need to add and modify the lighting and shadows to be in line with the background image. Select the default light (Infinite Light 1) in the 3D panel and the light modifier will be displayed on the canvas.

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This enables you to drag the light source around in order to control the shadows. Grab and move the widget until the shadows match the scene, or you are able to use Shift + Click to drag the actual shadow around (this enables much more control of shadow placement).


STEP 16

The light is too hard, so I select the Infinite Light and increased the Softness to 60% in the Properties panel.

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STEP 17

You’ll likely need an additional fill light. At the base of the 3D panel, click on the Add New Light icon. Select New Infinite Light. Reposition the second light until the shadows match the scene. You can use Shift + Click to drag the shadow around, which allows much more control of shadow placement.

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In my scene, the second light is too intense. I reduced the intensity slider on the properties panel of the second light to 20%.

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STEP 18

The last step is to render the object to create the final look and feel. Place a marquee around the just the area with your 3D element/s in it. Then click Render in the Properties panel  (or 3D > Render). A blue box will appear and run within the selection and render the final image.

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STEP 19

Richard Curtis is a digital imaging architect at Adobe. Follow Richard on Twitter at @richardcurtis.

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For more on Photoshop CS6, check out our exclusive special edition for the iPad and Android tablets through the Digital Arts app.