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Working With 3D Elements In Adobe's Photoshop CS3 Extended

By Kevin McAuliffe
Whether I am working on a broadcast or print project, I use Photoshop a lot, and these days I always find myself using elements from many different sources when creating my Photoshop masterpiece. I thought that in this tutorial I would show you how easy it is to use 3D Studio Max (.3ds) files in Adobe's Photoshop CS3 Extended. For the purposes of this tutorial, I downloaded a free model of a Rubik's Cube from Turbo Squid (www.turbosquid.com). If you are in need of a pre-designed model, Turbo Squid is a great resource as they have an expansive library of models, many of which are free of charge. Let's get started.

The first thing I'm going to do is open my .3ds Rubik's Cube in Cinema 4D to make sure I have it just the way I want it. This isn't necessary, but having a 3D application is great if you need to make any minor adjustments to the model before you bring it into Photoshop. As you can see, the artist who originally created the Rubik's Cube gave it a "floor" layer that I don't want, so I'm going to get rid of it.

Now, my Rubik's Cube is floating in mid-air, just the way I want it.

Now, since the original file was a .3ds file (3D Studio Max), I want to keep that format of file, so I'm going to export it from Cinema 4D as the same type of file.

In the past, the problem that most Photoshop artists had was that if they were going to use a "3D" element in their project, they would take a TGA or TIFF still frame that was exported from a 3D application and put that into their comp. The problem was that if they needed to make a change to that "3D" element, they would need to go back to the 3D application, make the change, re-render out the still image, and bring it back in Photoshop.  Thankfully, that is no longer the case. Adobe has included the ability to create "3D Layers", and import .3ds files into those layers to have the flexibility to adjust these layers in Photoshop, without having to go back to your 3D application to make changes. Let's take a look at what I mean.

As you can see from the image below, I have created an awesome text treatment for my 3D Rubik's Cube.

Now, I need to insert my .3ds model into my frame. I can do that by simply navigating to LAYER>3D LAYERS>NEW 3D LAYER FROM FILE.

Once I let go of the mouse, I will be greeted by the usual "File Open" screen, so I can navigate to my .3ds file (which happens to be called Rubik Cube REV.3ds), and open it from here. Because we have chosen to import our 3D file this way, if you click on the drop down menu, Photoshop will show you the 3D files that are supported in CS3 extended, which include Alias/Wavefront and even Google Earth 4 files.

Once I have selected my 3D file, and clicked open, I will see the file appear right away in my composition, and Photoshop will automatically place the file as the top most layer. I'm going to drag it to the bottom, so it's behind my awesome text, but now I'm presented with a problem. I don't like the side of the Cube that Photoshop is showing me, and I want to change it, but if I grab the "Move" tool, and drag, it only moves left to right and up and down, and I can't seem to actually manipulate it in 3D space. Well, that's actually quite simple to do. If you look at your "Layer" palette, you will notice an icon in the lower right side of the imported 3D Rubik's Cube that looks like a little 3D box.

You can double click on this icon to open the "3D Transformation" tool, or you can get to it by navigating to LAYER>3D LAYERS>TRANSFORM 3D MODELS. Either way, once you open the "3D Transformation" tool, you will immediately notice the tool bar at the top of your window change.

Now, not only can you adjust either the 3D Object or the Camera with fine adjustments to Rotation, Roll, Drag, Slide and Scale, but you can change the view of the camera to any one of six presets or even a camera you had created in your 3D application. Believe it or not, if there was animation on your model, Photoshop would play it back for you, with the playback controls located to the right side of the "3D Transformation" toolbar.

Take a look at the movie below to see how easy it is to adjust the Rubik's Cube in true 3D space.

The best part about this feature is that once I commit to the changes, I really haven't committed to anything, because if I need to change my model again, I can simply double click on the 3D icon (or navigate to it through the "Layer" drop down menu), and make whatever changes I need. The other thing to keep in mind is that once this 3D layer is in your Photoshop file, saving, closing and re-opening the file will not flatten or merge the layers, so you can still manipulate that layer in 3D at any time.

Remember that this feature is available in the Extended version of Photoshop CS3 only, and for designers out there who do a lot of this type of work on a regular basis, it's well worth the upgrade. For more information on Cinema 4D, you can head over to www.maxon.net, and for more information on Adobe's Photoshop CS3 extended, you can head over to www.adobe.com.

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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at kevinpmcauliffe@gmail.com

Related Keywords:3D elements Photoshop cs3, broadcast graphics, 3D broadcast graphics

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