Intro to Three Dimensional Space
Three dimensional (3D) space is what we experience on a daily basis in real life. Unlike two-dimensional (2D) photographs and drawings on a flat picture plane, three dimensional space occupies a third dimension of depth. Both 2D and 3D space utilize the x-axis (horizontal plane) and the y-axis (vertical plane), but only 3D space utilizes the x-axis (depth plane).
When using perfect geometry, these three planes can be viewed in separate, flat 2D views referred to as “orthographic” or “orthogonal” views. For instance, a 3D object can have a top, bottom, left, right, front, and back view that give us an idea how something will look from specific angles. It is common for 3D software to provide both interactive (3D and orthographic 2D) views of the objects in the 3D space so that the designer can better visualize what s/he is working with.
Basic Photoshop 3D Tools
First, when you use 3D tools in Photoshop, it is extremely beneficial to switch to the 3D Workspace. To do so, go to Window > Workspace >3D. This will give you access to all of the panels that you will frequently need while modifying your objects.
The Layers panel will still be available, and other options in some panels will change depending on which layer you have selected. Once you have changed a layer’s contents into a 3D mesh or extrusion, you will see a little cube shape appear in the layer’s thumbnail.
The 3D Panel is crucial in working with 3D objects in Photoshop. In this screenshot example, a 3D extrusion called “logo” is selected so that it can be manipulated. Notice that the “logo” is made up of materials, or meshes, in the drop-down menu below. These extrusion edges create the faces of the 3D object.
The Properties Panel will make different properties available relative to the object that is currently selected in the 3D Panel. Depending on the object selected, you might see completely different property options appear in the Properties Panel. The example below is displaying properties based on the “logo” extrusion’s selection in the 3D Panel illustrated above.
Moving 3D Objects in Photoshop
To move 3D objects in Photoshop, you need to first select the traditional Move Tool in the normal Tools Panel.
Once you have made that tool selection, you will see the tool options in the Options Panel change. If you have also selected a 3D object in the 3D Panel or in the Layers Panel, then the Move Tool’s options will also give you 3D Options. These 3D options are as follows: Rotate, Roll, Drag, Slide, and Scale. View the screenshot below to see what these tool icons look like.
To read more about Adobe’s 3D tools and space, you can read their Essential 3D Concepts page.
For a very quick overview tutorial using Photoshop’s 3D tools, you can watch a short tutorial on creating 3D models.
For a more in-depth tutorial on how to create a more complex scene, you will see how to do the following:
- Setting up the basic scene elements
- Creating 3D “Postcard” Mesh to use as a mapped material
- Creating 3D “Postcard” Mesh to use as an object in space
- Creating 3D extruded object
- Creating and mapping custom materials to objects
- Moving object to the ground plane
- Merging 3D objects
- Setting up different types of light sources
- Using move and scale tools to manipulate the scene
- Placing 3D objects into a photographic environment to look natural
- Rendering and output
Playlist of 6 videos (~67minutes total)
If you want to follow along, you can download the 3D Photoshop Demo Starter Files.