advanced photoshop

Feature preview: Photoshop and the 3D pipeline

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Latest issue, by Tim Williamson

Take an in-depth look at how Photoshop fits into the 3D workflow

Feature preview: Photoshop and the 3D pipeline

Since its creation, Photoshop has made a household name for itself as the world’s premier graphics editing program. Renowned for its incredible 2D capabilities, it’s capable of producing some of the world’s most impressive design and illustration projects, and has little in the way of competition.

However, less well known or discussed are Photoshop’s 3D asset creation capabilities. Introduced to Photoshop CS3 in the spring of 2007, users were initially able to create 3D layers, or import 3D models and manipulate, light and render them. “CS4 allowed for editing of these materials, and even some limited 3D painting applications,” begins Kirk Nelson, a graphics artist with over 15 years of experience in the industry. “Following that, CS5 introduced us to Repoussé, which was a method of extruding a 2D layer into 3D space. CS6 revamped the 3D system with tighter tools and on-screen editing widgets, and now CC has expanded all the 3D features to be more robust and reliable.”

Richard Curtis is a principal solutions consultant at Adobe, and has a deep knowledge of Photoshop’s 3D tools and capabilities. “Currently, Photoshop CC provides users with the ability to create 3D text and objects, assemble them together with other 3D objects imported from external sources (Photoshop can read OBJ, KMZ, STL COLLADA and 3DS files) and then change the aesthetic of the assembled scene using all of the texturing tools within Photoshop CC,” he tells us. “The 3D capabilities in Photoshop CC are most often used to produce 3D effects that are output in two-dimensional form for print or online consumption.”

Although 3D can often seem like a difficult and challenging subject to tackle, the 3D capabilities within Photoshop CC have been designed to work in tandem with the rest of the application. “Any reasonably experienced Photoshop users should be able to quickly learn how to work with and design in 3D using Photoshop CC,” says Curtis.

Nevertheless, both Curtis and Nelson assert that Photoshop’s 3D tools are supplementary, rather than intended as any kind of competition to the thriving CGI market that has existed in some form since the late Seventies. “Photoshop CC is not intended to be a complete or robust 3D modelling tool,” asserts Curtis. “There are plenty of other tools on the market, each with unique capabilities depending on the type of content that needs to be produced.”

 Read more in issue 116 of Advanced Photoshop, available 28 November 2013.