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Unlock Photoshop CS4’s 3D tools

If you’ve been debating whether to upgrade to Photoshop CS4, here’s a powerful reason to take the plunge: the new version introduces 3D capabilities, so you can bring incredible new elements into your canvas without having to turn to specialist 3D packages.
Best of all, the tools are user-friendly and require no previous experience of working with 3D. You can even export 3D objects you’ve created in Photoshop to other popular 3D formats, such as 3DS Max and Collada.
In this tutorial, Jeff Huang shows you just a little of what you can achieve with this new tool, giving you the skills to start integrating 3D elements into your designs, as well as tricks to help you blend them in seamlessly. The possibilities are endless.
01. Download the free stock.xchng image from Cut the room in half, delete the left-hand side, duplicate the right-hand side and flip it over to the left and stitch it together again. Merge the layers and name it ‘BG’.
02. Now let’s start using CS4’s 3D menu. Select 3D > New Layer From 3D File. As you can see, there are several extensions available: 3DS is the native format for 3D Studio Max and Collada, while .KMZ is for Google Earth files. We’ll be using Wavefront|OBJ files – OBJ is a universal 3D format. Import SwirlAbstractObj.obj from the cover CD into your working document.
03. Pretty cool, right? You can tell if a layer is 3D by looking at the layer’s thumbnail box – it will have a small 3D box logo. Now that our abstract 3D model is in our scene, we can begin to dig into CS4’s extended 3D features. At the moment, our model looks very generic and doesn’t seem to belong to the empty room at all: now our task is to make it sit seamlessly in the room. Select Window > 3D.
04. This is an overwhelming window at first, but you’ll soon get to grips with it. The four icons at the top of the window serve as filters when displaying the elements in the lower Scene menu. For this tutorial, we will just leave it at the default Filter By: Whole Scene. We’ll also leave the render settings at Default for now. If your graphics card is good, switch Anti- Alias to Better, which will smooth out the model. However, you may find it faster to work in draft mode and then switch this at the final stage. Finally, we’ll leave Paint-On at Diffuse for now. We won’t be using Cross-Section in this tutorial, but play around with it on other projects as it has some great effects.
05. Now we’ll rotate the 3D model and 3D camera. Under Scene, select ObjMesh – the lower submenu will change. We can rotate our 3D model from here, but there is an easier alternative. CS4’s Tools menu has two new sets of tools that deal strictly with CS4’s 3D capabilities: the 3D Rotate tools (K), which deal with the 3D model in space; and the 3D Orbit tools (N), which deal strictly with the 3D camera of the 3D layer. Next, we’ll use these tools to match the perspective of our 3D mesh with the perspective of the empty room.
06. Hit the icon in the lower righthand corner – this will toggle on the 3D grid. Use the 3D Orbit tool (N) and the alternate 3D camera tools to match our grid into the perspective of our empty room. Matching the perspective of an object to the scene is crucial in creating realism. Open PerspectiveGrid.psd on the cover CD and hold down Shift as you drag the image onto our canvas. Place the layer under the ‘SwirlAbstractObj’ layer. You should have a perfectly accurate perspective grid of the floor.
07. Using the 3D camera tools, match the 3D grid to our perspective grid so that all the lines match, as shown here. Use the 3D Orbit tool, 3D Pan View tool, 3D Roll View tool, and 3D Zoom tool. Now that we’re sure that our perspective matches our environment, play with the 3D model a bit. You could fit the model into the canvas a little better and rotate it using the 3D Rotate tool and 3D Roll tool. It’s crucial that you’re using the 3D Rotate tool and not the 3D Orbit tool (which is right beneath it), as the 3D Orbit tool will alter the perspective we just matched by rotating the camera.
08. Next we need to match the lighting. To view how the lights are placed, hit the Toggle Lights icon at the lower righthand corner. The three default infinites will be shown in the canvas, displaying their light direction and where they are in 3D space. However, our room is lit from ceiling lights: delete the three default infinite lights by clicking on each light layer in our 3D window and hitting the Bin icon. Create four new point lights using the Create Light icon: lights 1 and 2 emulate the two lights that can be seen in the background photo; lights 3 and 4 emulate the lighting that’s just out of the picture that you can see on the floor. With Point Light 1 selected, hit the Drag the Light icon to the left of the Point Light attributes. You can now drag the light in 3D space, or enter a value. Enter these values: Point Light 1: X = 46, Y = 12, Z = 40; Point Light 2: X = 46, Y = -18, Z = 40; Point Light 3: X = -33, Y = -30, Z = 40; Point Light 4: X = -33, Y = 30, Z = 40. Finally, set the Intensity values of Point Lights 3 and 4 to 0.5 instead of 1.
09. The lighting is starting to look more convincing and our 3D model is fitting in better, but the point lights we’ve just added aren’t casting proper shadow onto our mesh. It’s time to take a look at the Render Settings option: in the 3D window, click Scene and then Render Settings. Change the Face Style from Solid to Ray Traced: your mesh should now be receiving ray-traced shadows from the four-point lights.
10. Now let’s review our Materials options (See tip box). In CS4 you can now paint texture maps directly onto the 3D model from CS4’s canvas. Doubleclick on __PS_3D_Default in the ‘Scene’ tab under objMesh and rename it ‘Material’ to make it easier to find. First set the ambient colour – the light on the reflective surfaces, which is usually the darkest colour close to the space of the 3D model. In this case, that will be the vents on the ceiling: click on the colour icon next to Ambient and use the Eyedropper tool to set the colour. You may not notice any change – this is because the ambient colour of the material works hand-in-hand with the Global Ambient Color, so we would have to change that as well. Click on Scene again in our 3D window and change the Global Ambient Color to match the vents, using the Eyedropper. The dark areas of the 3D model will now be tinted brownish-beige. The whole model will instantly seem to fit into the room better.
11. Now let’s look at the Diffuse section. This sets the colour of the material. The diffuse map can be a solid colour or any 2D content. You can also create a diffuse map by painting directly on the model. We’ll use a cloud photo as the model’s diffuse texture. First, delete the existing diffuse texture map by clicking on the icon next to the colour. Click on the same icon again and choose Load Texture. Open Material - Diffuse. psb from the cover CD. You’ll notice that under our ‘SwirlAbstractObj’ layer, there is now a Diffuse texture layer, which you could use to toggle visibility.
12. Next, we’ll use the Environment setting: create a new texture for this attribute with the same settings as our Diffuse – 1024-x-1024 pixels. The environment attribute stores the image of the environment surrounding the 3D model. Since we’re not looking for precise reflections, copy the ‘BG’ layer, which is the photo of the empty room, and paste it into the newly created Environment texture map. Scale it down to fit the document size (there’s pre-made environment texture map on the cover CD). Go back to the main canvas. Notice any difference? No? That’s good, because nothing is supposed to happen until you turn Reflections on.
13. In the Reflectivity attribute, set the input to 20 – there’ll now be 20% reflectivity of the environment. If you’d like your 3D model to be super-reflective, you would set the reflectivity higher. Your 3D model should now look seamlessly integrated into the photograph’s environment. All that’s missing is shadows on the floor, some depth of field, and some final colour adjustments.
14. We’ll now create a lens blur. Open Depth.psd from the cover CD, copy it into the canvas, create a new channel layer (in the Channels palette) and copy-and-paste the depth map into the layer. Rename this layer ‘Depth’. With the ‘BG’ layer selected, go to Filter > Blur > Lens Blur. Where it says ‘Source’, you could choose a channel in which the lens blur will derive its blur data. Select Depth from the drop-down menu and set the blur radius to 20. The room should now be blurred at the back but in focus near the 3D model.
15. We’re down to final adjustments and tweaks now. For speed, open FinalAdjustments.psd and shift-drag it on top of the canvas. This document includes a premade shadow and some final adjustments in colour and contrast.