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Creating a 3D Effect in Photoshop

How to use Photoshop's Filter Factory to shift an image's color channels By Dave Nagel
Here's a tutorial whose main purpose will probably be of little use to most of you. Sound enticing? Well, even if it won't be of direct use to you, you can still learn something from it and prepare yourself a bit for an upcoming tutorial series on writing your own Photoshop filters. (That's a little better, isn't it? Everybody wants to know how to create their own filters!)

This week we're going to use Photoshop's Filter Factory plugin to create a 3D effect on an image. Now, before you get all excited, I'm not talking about the kind of 3D used in movies like Final Fantasy. To accomplish that kind of 3D, all you have to do is go out and buy a 3D program, work in it for about 72 million hours and then shoot yourself when all anybody can say about it is that the lip synch was off. No, what I'm talking about is oldee-tymee 3D, the kind where you have to wear special red and blue glasses to get the effect. (I told you this would be of little use to most of you.)

We're going to accomplish this through the use of one of the most basic features of Photoshop's Filter Factory. By way of introduction, Filter Factory is a tool included with every copy of Photoshop that allows you to make your own Photoshop plugins. We're not going to go into much depth on Filter Factory itself except to show how you can build a filter that allows you to make this 3D effect. (In the future I'll post a more in depth tutorial on using the Filter Factory, which I've already written, so you won't have to wait too long for it.)

The basic function I'm referring to is a channel shift. To turn a 2D image into a 3D image, all you have to do is shift the red channel to the left. Well, that's not really all you need to do, but that's at the heart of it.

A bit about 3D
There's very little you need to know about the way 3D works. Basically, if you have glasses that have the red lens on the left side (as most do), then you want to shift the red channel to the left. With the other kind of glasses the opposite is true. The amount of red channel shift determines how near or far an object or layer appears to the aided eye. The more shift, the farther away it looks. The less shift, the nearer it looks. (No shift at all is about as near as you can get.)

One important consideration is just how eye-popping you want your 3D image to look. If you really care about the 3D, you should work on a grayscale image. If you really care about the image, you can leave it in color, but it just won't appear to pop as much. I'll show you how to do it both ways, along with examples.

(By the way, it would probably help if you had some 3D glasses for this tutorial. Make sure the red lens is on the left. If it's not, well, uh, turn the glasses around. If you don't have them, you can find them on the Web through a number of sources. Just do a search on any search engine for "3D glasses." I found mine at a local Barnes & Noble. They were included free in a children's book about dinosaurs. As an added bonus, the glasses themselves are shaped like a dinosaur, and they're made out of green and purple foam. Now, special glasses like these will cost you a little extra, but you can find the theatrical-quality glasses for about $0.50 each, or less in larger quantities.)

A bit about Filter Factory
As I say, Filter Factory is included with every version of Photoshop. You can find it under the Filter menu (Filter > Synthetic > Filter Factory). If it's not there, it's located in the Extras folder on your CD. To install it, just drag it into your Photoshop "Plug-Ins" folder.

Filter Factory's interface looks a little daunting, to be sure. But, in fact, all we're going to be doing is adding a simple formula to the first data entry field you see. I'll get to that in a minute. First I want to tell you the cool thing about Filter Factory: Any settings you create can be saved for later use as a plugin of your very own. What we're doing today doesn't really merit much in the way of complexity, but it will still be cool to wow your friends with a Photoshop plugin that bears your name. Later, I'll even show you how to customize your plugin with your own logos, preview windows and everything. Bet you can't wait!

But first the 3D tutorial....

The actual tutorial part of the tutorial
As I say, this is a very simple tutorial. For my example, I'm going to take an image and create three separate layers. Each one will be a part of the scene that will be farther away than the next. Take a look at the image below.

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Related Keywords:Photoshop, 3D, Effects, graphics, design


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