We’re going to Photoshop’s 3D features in this tutorial and don’t worry if you think that you’re not good at Photoshop 3D. This is the perfect tutorial to watch if you’re just starting out with Photoshop 3D. I’m going to go very slow, one step at a time and I’ve divided everything into small, digestible chunks, so that you can follow along. Also, I’m going to show you cool compositing techniques that you could use on any project.
By the way if after watching this video you feel like you still don’t get 3D, I have a tutorial, it’s actually a free course on Adobe Dimension. Dimension is Adobe’s 3D compositing app. It’s a tool that allows you to combine background images and 3D objects together seamlessly. So, I have a free course on that on my YouTube channel. So, check it out. I’ll place a link right below in the description and actually, about a year ago, I was in Sydney, Australia at the Adobe Make It Conference where I had a session where I demoed Adobe Dimension and after that conference, I made this course and placed it on YouTube. At the time, it was the only free course on Adobe Dimension. So, check it out if you want to learn more about compositing 3D objects into photos. In this tutorial, I’m going to focus on a text layer, but keep in mind that everything that I do to this text layer, you could also apply to a vector graphic or really any other layer.
So, you could use your company logo or anything else that you like. Okay, let’s get started. We’re going to work with this document and it contains a background. You can of course use any background that you like to follow on and the first thing that I’m going to do is select the Horizontal Type Tool and I’m just going to select the font that is easy to see. I’m going to use Proxima Nova and select Black, but you can use something else. If you don’t have Proxima Nova installed, a very similar font would be Ariel Black, but anyway, I’m just going to type in two characters, the number three and the letter D for 3D of course and I’m going to click on the check mark to commit the changes. Then I’m going to press Ctrl T, Command T on the Mac and click and drag the corner handles to enlarge the text and then I’m just gonna move it an place it here.
The positioning at that point is not that important, we’re gonna worry about that more when we convert this layer into 3D. So, with the text layer selected, we can easily convert that into a 3D model by clicking on 3D. If you’re following along with your company logo or another layer that is not a text layer, you will not see this 3D icon. Instead you need to go into the 3D Menu and select New Extrusion from Selected Layer. They will both do the same thing, covert the text layer into a 3D layer. Now really quickly, just to explain what 3D means in Photoshop at least in case you don’t know, basically what Photoshop does in order to create a 3D object is extruded in the Z axis. You can think of it as a cookie dough cutter when you push dough through a particular shape, that shape gets extruded. So, you have a thicker version of that original shape. So, in this case we have the 3D text. I like to navigate my 3D camera using these icons here and I’ll explain what the camera is in a moment.
This icon here on the left orbits the camera. This one here pans the camera. You can think about it as a pan, like what the hand tool does with a regular photo and the dolly camera icon which is very similar to what the zoom tool does in a regular photo. Now, what is the camera? The camera is this here in the 3D Panel. It’s what we see. So, whatever we see in the canvas is what the camera is. So, when we control the camera, we can control what we’re looking at. You can control the position of the camera within the scene. So, the first that you need to do is make sure that your scene matches the background, that it has the same perspectives, so that the composite looks more realistic. So, if I collapse the 3D options here and click on the eye icon just to make everything less distracting, you can see what we have. We have our background in this grid here at the bottom. This grid here at the bottom represents the ground plane of the scene.
The ground plane is a 3D grid that Photoshop automatically generates. It collects shadows and reflections, but the grid does not save on your final image. The blue line represents the Z axis and the red line represents the X axis. The Y axis, which is height, is not represented. The background photo also has a ground plane. In this case, the ground of the background is the pier and you can see all these parallel converging lines. They all end up at some vanishing point in the background and I’ll just briefly disable my 3D layer back in the layers panel so that you can see.
So, if I follow all those converging lines, they will all meet up somewhere right about here. I don’t have to be very precise, I can just look with my eyes and see where they all will probably end up. Another way of thinking about it is where does the ground meet the sky and it’s somewhere around here. So, what do we have to do in the 3D Panel in order to match the scene? We have to get the perspective right. So, if enable the 3D layer again and just double-click on the layer, it bring us into the 3D Panel. So, with the camera selected, I can move it around and you’ll notice that we have these parallel lines here that are very similar to the planks on this pier and they all end up at a vanishing point in the background, which is at the horizon line.
You see this horizon line here? This is where the ground plane meets the sky. So, all we need to do is match the horizon line of the 3D scene to the horizon line of the background. We’ve already determined that the horizon line in the background is more or less where this guide is that I clicked and dragged down. By the way, if you don’t see the rulers, you can press Ctrl R, Command R on the Mac to enable them and disable them. But anyway, so we have this guide and we need to make sure that the 3D layer matches in terms of perspective.
So, all we really need to do is click and drag this down until it matches. Now, in some cases it may be a bit difficult to get this to match. So, if you’re having issues like I am here, the best thing to do is try to get it as close as possible. Then in the Properties panel, you’ll see this icon here, which is the Coordinates and you can simply use the X input box and you can click and drag on the label to drag it down or up. So, I’ll drag it down and once the horizon line matches, then our scene will be in perspective. I can also enable the 3D model once again and notice that as soon as I do that, it looks like the text is actually sitting on that pier.
I’m going to press Ctrl Semicolon to disable the guide. Ctrl H hides all extras. I don’t want to hide all the extras. Ctrl Semicolon only hides the guides, but anyway, now with these handles I can control the 3D model. So, if I hover over the pointy area, I can move the model up or down. Notice that if I go too far down or too far up, it won’t be sitting on the ground plane, it’ll look like it’s floating. To move it down so that it sits right on the ground plane.
You can simply click on Move to Ground and the 3D model sits on that ground plane. So, that’s what the pointy handle does. It controls the movement in that particular axis. The little curve in the center rotates in that axis and the cube scales in the axis. Also, notice the cube here in the center, that scales uniformly. So, all axis at the same time. Also, heres a quick tip, if you hold Shift and click and drag on that cube, you actually make the handles, the little overlay to control the 3D model smaller or larger. Once again, holding Shift and clicking on this cube controls the size of the handles. So, that’s a hidden tip there for you. Talking about Photoshop’s hidden tips and tricks, check out my last video, 19 Photoshop Tricks That You Probably Don’t Know.
It’s a great video that shows you a lot of Photoshop’s hidden tips and tricks that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. I’ll place a link right below in the description, but anyway, now that you know what these handles do, you can control the 3D text. Notice that if I receded back into the Z axis, it looks like the 3D model is really going back on that pier. So, what we need to do now is simply position the 3D model where we wanted. Maybe I’ll rotate it just a bit so that it’s facing us. Now, before we do anything else, we need to make sure that we save this view because we may need to rotate the 3D model in the future to make sure that the changes we apply are working. So, we don’t wanna lose this camera angle. So, I’m going to click on Current View. Then I’m going to click on this icon here for the 3D Camera Panel and under View, I’m going to save this view and you can give it whatever name you like.
I’m just going to call it Final View and pres Okay. So, now when I decide to maybe rotate the camera to a different angle to see a different part of my 3D text, I can always come back into the view menu and select Final View and it will bring my camera right back to that position. So, always remember to save your view. But, anyway. So, now we’re gonna work on the actual 3D model, and we’re going to apply an IBL, an image based light, to create the reflection effect. So, the first thing that I’m gonna do is click on my 3D object in the properties panel. I’m going to click on this shape preset drop down and select any one of these presets. For this tutorial I recommend using this one here, the second one from the second row titled Inflate. It just shows off that reflection effect much better, but after you practice it once, I recommend going back and checking out the the other ones, just because they can also give you a really interesting effects.
Then I’m going to control the extrusion depth. I’m gonna click and drag. Notice how in this view, I really can’t see how deep that extrusion is going. It’s a little difficult. So I’m going to click and drag on the orbit, the 3D camera icon so I can really see how thick that extrusion is. So then I can control it from this view and once I’m happy with that extrusion, I can go back into the camera and then change the view to final view. And there it is. Then I can continue working on my 3D model.
I’ve already applied a shape preset, adjusted the extrusion. Now it’s time to work on the materials to apply the reflection effect. So, I’m going to click on this right pointing arrow to expand it and reveal the different materials that make up the 3D model. Notice that when I click on a material, a different section of the 3D model gets highlighted. That just simply shows you what is being controlled by that material. You can think of a material sort of as a wallpaper. Something that gets wrapped around the 3D model or pasted onto the 3D model to create the visual appearance of a 3D object surface.
So, for example, if I click on this 3D material, the front inflation material, then hold Shift and click on the 3D back inflation material, it’ll select all the materials. Then, I can change the color, for example. I can click on diffuse, which controls the color of the 3D model, and change the color. In this case, I want black, which is what we had before, so I’m just gonna press cancel, but I just wanted to show you how these different controls adjust how the 3D model looks. So , or you can apply a texture, a file, to lay it over the 3D model. So if I had a photo of bricks, I can select new texture, apply my photo of bricks, and then it would look like my 3D model was made of bricks. But that’s not what we’re learning in this tutorial. What we’re doing in this tutorial, is simply increasing the reflection. See, this is a property for how that surface material is affected by the Environment. So I can click and drag the reflection all the way to the right so that it reflects the Environment.
Right now, it’s reflecting an image based light, but it’s not the image based light that we want, it’s simply a default image based light. So, let me show you what an image based light is. I’m gonna collapse the 3D model and I’m just gonna go into the Environment properties. Notice now that in the Properties panel we have an image based light. Here it is. IBL. Image based light. If I click on this icon and select add a texture, you can see what that image based light is. It’s just gray with these white circles and squares. If I go back into this tab to see my image, you can now see what that 3D model is reflecting, those white squares with those circles.
So, we can actually replace the imaged based light and that’s what we’re going to do. So, what I’m going to do is right click on this icon and remove the texture, because we don’t really want that texture. We want our own texture. So I’m going to click on this icon and select new texture. And press OK. So now we have a new texture, and you can see that that new texture made the 3D model completely white because, as you can see from this preview, that layer is completely white. So it’s reflecting nothing but white. But if we go into the layers panel, click on this background layer, then press Ctrl A, Command A on the Mac to make a selection around the canvas, then go into edit, copy. We copy all those pixels, then I’m going to press Ctrl D, Command D to deselect, and go back into the 3D model under Environment.
I’m gonna go into the IBL, and then select, edit, texture. That’s gonna open up a new tab where I can simply go into edit and paste, or you can use the keyboard shortcuts to paste that image. Now, obviously, the image is being cropped. So I can go into image, reveal all to reveal all the pixels in this canvas which reveals the entire image. Then I can simply close this imaged based light, saving it, of course. Pressing OK. And notice now that our 3D model is reflecting that Environment. The Environment is the same as the background, so it’s reflecting the background. I don’t need this default IBL anymore, in fact I’ve already deleted it, so I will close this tab and not save it, obviously. So this is what that reflection effect looks like.
Something that I didn’t mention in the beginning is that even though we are in the 3D panel, we cannot see all the 3D handles and controls, because the move tool is not selected. So these controls are only visible when the move tool is selected. Something I like to do, is have my left hand over the V and M key on the keyboard, or the marquee tool in the move tool. I’m right handed, so I’m controlling my wokem or my mouse with my right hand, and with my left hand I’m controlling the visibility of the controls. So, once again, M for the Rectangular Marquee Tool. When I select it it hides all those overlays, and if I want to see them again, I can press V to select the move tool.
So now that I’m in the Environment tab, and I have that image based light that IBL applied to my 3D scene, you can see this sphere that I can click and drag to control how that is applied to my 3D model. So, I can just click and rotate it and find an area that I think is suitable for my scene. So maybe something like this, because I’m trying to make it seem as if the benches and the side of the pier is being reflected onto this 3D model. So I think this will work. And I can now press the M key on the keyboard to disable and see how everything is looking. What I’m gonna do now, is simply make a selection with the marquee tool around the 3D text. And I’m going to click on the render button just to see how it will look. Once we finish making adjustments to our 3D model we do have to render it, so that Photoshop can do all the math and get the shadows, reflections, and everything right.
But anyway, I’m going to cancel it by pressing the escape key. Everything is looking pretty good. The next thing I’m gonna do is control the lighting of the scene. So I’m going to click on infinite light. This basically controls the directions of the light. You can think of it as the sunlight. So I’m going to select the move tool and click and drag this handle so that you can see how the light is affecting the ground planes. See that? And from the photo in the background you can see that the sun is on the left hand side, so I’m gonna move this, and more or less match where the sunlight will come through. Also I can control the color of the light. So, I don’t want it to be pure white. I think the light would be just a little yellow.
So I’ll just select this yellow here, and I think that works. Also, the shadow. So, I’m just going to increase the softness of the shadow just because I don’t want the sharp line that I saw earlier. If I select the rectangular marquee tool, and click and drag to make a selection around the shadow, I can click on the render button and see how that shadow is going to be represented once it’s rendered. I still think it may be a little too sharp, so I’ll increase the softness. You can either try to make it scientific and really try and figure out what the right softness would be for the scene, or you can use your creative discretion and adjust it based on how you would like your design to look like. And you can, of course, increase the intensity of the light to see how much it’ll affect the 3D model, so I’m gonna bring down the intensity just a bit. Something like that. And with your own image, you may need to make different adjustments, but use these as a starting point. I’m gonna press the escape key.
And what I’m gonna do now that we have the lighting and the image based light is work with the actual 3D model. So right now, the 3D model’s still editable. You see how if I select 3D I can click on edit source, and I can change my 3 to a 2 if I commit the changes, press Ctrl S, Command S, to save and go back into my working document, you can see now that I’ve changed that 3 into a 2. But what I’m gonna do instead, is break it apart. And the reason that I’m going to break it is so that I can control each character individually. To break this 3D model apart, you need to select the 3D layer, then go into 3D, split extrusion. Once you do that, just press OK, and you’ll notice now how I have two 3D models. A 3, and a D. Which means that I can control them individually. Also notice one thing, I can no longer edit it. It’s no longer editable text.
So, I can select the 3, click on the move tool, and then just rotate it any way I want. Maybe rotate it inward and I can do the same thing with the D. I can rotate it the opposite way. And I can reposition it any way that I want. Once you move the 3D models around, you may need to reposition the Environment. So select the Environment, and click and drag on the sphere to reposition the reflection if you need to. When you’re done, tap the M key on the keyboard, then click on the render button and let your computer render the entire scene. The render time may vary depending on the document size that you’re working with, the power of your computer, and the objects that you’re working with, but obviously, the faster your computer is, the faster this render will take. In my case, it’s going to be about five minutes, so I’ll pause the video and I’ll come back to you when it’s finished rendering.
Okay. I’ll post the video and I’ll come back to you when it’s finished rendering. OK. Once your scene finishes rendering, if you like what you see, you can move on to the next step. I like what I see so I’ll move on. What I’ll do is I’ll go into the layers panel and I’m gonna work on making this a more realistic composite. So have you seen my tutorial on blending images together using luminosity, saturation and color, then these next steps are gonna look very familiar.
By the way, if you wanna watch that video, I’ll place a link right below in the description. It’s a great compositing video that you don’t wanna miss. But anyway, the first thing that I like to do when making composites is creating a black and white adjustment layer, just to remove all the color from the image because then the imperfections are easier to see. The first thing that I’m gonna do is click on the 3D layer and create a levels adjustment layer. You can also do it with curves but in this case I’ll use levels since I think I’ve used curves in other tutorials. So just to show you a little bit of variety, I’ll use levels. So with the levels adjustment layers selected, I’m going to click on this icon to clip it to the layer below. A Clipping Mask simply means that a layer below, in this case a 3D layer is controlling the visibility of that layer. In this case we have an adjustment so this adjustment will only be applied to the 3D model.
So the black and white adjustment layer is removing the color from the image and we’re going to work with luminosity. That’s what this levels adjustment is going to control, the luminosity the 3D model. And when you’re making composites, no matter what they are, 3D, people, anything, you need to make sure that the luminance values of the background match the luminance values of the foreground. In other words, we need to make sure that they both have a similar brightness. In this case, the 3D model is way brighter than the background.
So we need to change that. With levels, you can control how many pixels are dark or how many pixels are bright with the black and white point. Then you can use this point in the center to control the contrast. Then with this point, you can decide how dark the darkest pixels are. So if s- I decided that I want my 3D model to be that dark, how dark is the darkest pixel?is it completely black or a shade of gray? And the opposite is true at the white point. So if I decide to make my 3D model this bright, how bright do I want the brightest point to be? White or that shade of gray? So with that information, we’re simply going to try to match the 3D model to the background. So, it looks like the 3D model is way too bright so I’ll darken a few more pixels. And the darkest color in the background doesn’t seem to be black. It’s just off-black. So I’ll move the black point over to the right and since this is too bright, I’m just going to click and drag this to the right and also move the white point to the left so that the brightest point is not necessarily white.
So, something like that. And that already looks much more realistic. Before and after. Also since we want this layer to control luminosity and not affect the colors of layer, I’m going to change the blending mode to luminosity. So when I disable my black and white adjustment layer, you can see the result. That’s before, and that’s after. And of course when you bring back the color, you may need to slightly fine-tune the image to make it look better. And there it is. That looks much, much better. And you can of course keep adjusting the saturation and color of the image. In this case we don’t really have to worry about color because we’re using the colors of the background so those are the colors that are there. And also the saturation doesn’t seem to be a problem so we’re not gonna worry about that. What I’ll do instead is select the levels adjustment layer then hold Shift and click in the background to select all the layers.
Then I’m going to right-click and convert it into a smart object. The reason that I’m converting it into a smart object is so that I can work on the entire composite as a single image, and work non-destructively. What I can do now is go into the filter menu and select Camera Raw Filter. From here I can adjust the tone and color of the image. A few other things that I’ll do is I’ll decrease the highlights to get more detail in the highlight and you can see here in the clouds behind the text how that looks much better. And I’ll brighten up the shadows just a little bit to bring in more detail in the shadows. Then I’ll increase clarity to apply contrast in the mid-tones and also add vibrance to increase the saturation of lowly saturated pixels. Then in the detail panel, I can increase the sharpening. So I’m just gonna click and drag the sharpening slider, right about to 50, and actually when you’re working with sharpening what you want to do is set the view to 100% so that you can really see what’s going on.
Any other view could be misleading. Also when sharpening, you can’t really see what you’re affecting unless of course you hold ALT option in the Mac and click on the masking slider. If you drag to the right, you can see what you’re affecting. Essentially anything that is white will have the sharpening effect and anything that is black will not. So i don’t want any sharpening in the clouds and I want most of the sharpening to occur on the actual 3D model and the pier.
So maybe at about 84 will be a good setting and then I can increase accordingly. Notice now that when I increase the sharpening, it only affects those areas. So I’ll leave it at 60. Then I can go into the effects panel and add just a little bit of noise and that’s a trick that I like using on all my composites to create a more cohesive effect. And I’ll fit the image to screen and I’ll add a little bit of vignetting. And actually I’m gonna drag the vignette slider all the way to the left and I’ll increase the highlight slider so you can see what the slider controls. It makes the bright pixels come through as well but I don’t want the vignette hiding those bright pixels.
I want then coming through and I’ll of course adjust the vignette accordingly. So maybe at about -20. Then I can press OK. The advantage of using a smart object is that we’re working non-destructively. We can double click on the camera filter to fine-tune those adjustments or I can double-click on the smart object to open up the contents in a new tab. I can also right-click on that background and convert it into a smart object so that I can apply filters to it. For example, I can go into Filter, Blurred Gallery, Tilt Shift, and I’m just going to blur the background.
So I can click and drag this down and use these sliders to control the areas that are in focus and the areas that are not. By the way, I do have a tutorial that’s all about blurring backgrounds and an advanced technique to get a blurry background effect. I’ll place a link right below in the description. But anyway, basically from these two lines, anything in between is in focus, from this line to the dash line, the image progressively gets out of focused.
And the same thing goes from this solid line to the dash line at the bottom so I can click and drag these handles and adjust them accordingly. And then of course adjust the blur so that the image is not too blurry and it’s a realistic shallow depth of field effect. Then press OK, and if I close this tab and save it, notice that the smart object now has the blurry background image and it was able to keep the camera raw adjustments that we applied earlier in the tutorial. So that’s the great thing about smart objects.
You can work non-destructively and you can always update the contents. And at this point, all you need to do is just fine-tune the image. A couple of things that you can do is go back into the 3D models, do a double click on the smart object to open it up in a new tab and then I’ll double click on the 3D layer to open up the 3D panel. And one thing that you can do under Environment, is adjust the reflections and the ground plane. So if I increase the opacity on the reflections, notice that the ground plane will get a reflection. Also you can change the color of the shadow. So I can select a different color for a shadow and I could make them red for example.
Actually for this example, maybe selecting a dark blue for our shadow will be a good idea. And of course I would have to come back and re-render the image if I decide to fine-tune it. Obviously your image will require different tweaking, but always remember to re-render the image once you’re done. And since we’re working with smart objects, we are working non-destructively and you can always update your image. By the way, if you follow along this tutorial and make anything with it, feel free to share your results on Instagram with the hashtag #PTCVIDS. I’d love to see what you came up with. Also, if this is your first time at the Photoshop training channel, then don’t forget to click on that Subscribe and Notification buttons.
At this point, all you really need to do is fine-tune the image, but these are all the steps that you need to create 3D text in Photoshop.
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