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3D in Photoshop: The Ultimate Guide for Creative Professionals

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In this book chapter excerpt, artist Stephen Burns walks you through painting, texturing and lighting techniques with Photoshop CS5

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With the introduction of 3D capabilities starting in CS3, concept artists had the potential to introduce 3D models into their concept scene. It was best at that stage of development to texture the 3D model in its native program and allow Photoshop to simply read what was already created. Then CS4 came along which made some great improvements in how well it handled 3D geometry. Its ability to use its painting tools directly on the 3D object was a feature that artists greatly appreciated, but even then there were limitations.

Now we are going to explore what are, in my humble opinion, some great improvements in CS5’s 3D texturing engine.

Texturing infuses character into the 3D object to bring out the personality needed to tell a story. Without this your object is naked and lifeless. Texturing is an art within itself and some artists will specialize in just that. A great amount of time can be invested into this e days or weeks depending on the demands of the creative director.

Real-life objects absorb light to some degree and what we see is the results after absorption. If you look at objects around you, whether they are fabric, water, leaves or even a mountainous landscape, it is important to break down what we are seeing into their surface types. Basically, 3D programs identify and manipulate objects as several surface types by breaking them up into materials. For more information on materials, see Chapters 1 and 4.

Keep in mind that this chapter is written for the artist who has little or no knowledge of 3D creation; however there is the desire to add 3D content to their workflows, to introduce eye-catching effects as well as greater flexibility with their designs. We will accomplish this through the use of an online database that will provide quite a bit of the 3D content that we can use for our personal projects. Although we will provide a few companies for you to consider, we will focus on one online company that has created a plugin for CS5 that will import 3D objects directly into the 3D layers. The company is 3DVIA (www.3dvia.com).

We are going to illustrate a common compositing concept in this chapter. We will import a concept car from 3DVIA to use as the main character in our scene. We will illustrate it by showing it speeding through the wet streets of a downtown area of a city block that we will also download through 3DVIA database.

Note: This tutorial requires some basic knowledge of Photoshop tools such as the Clone Stamp, Transform, Various Shape Tools, Gradients and more. If you are not familiar with these tools, you should first learn these before proceeding.

Ok, let's start creating!

[heading]10.1. Importing 3D Using 3DVIA[/heading]

We are now going to look at some possible online databases where you can download the 3D object that you require and import and texture it to your needs. There are a few companies for you to consider that use 3D content. Most have online databases where you would download the 3D object in your required format through their websites. Some of these include: 3D Via (www.3dvia.com), Artists 3D (http://artist-3d.com/), Quality 3D Models (www.quality3dmodels.com/), 3D Content Central (www.3dcontentcentral.com/) DAZ 3D (www.daz3d.com) and Content Paradise (www.contentparadise.com/) to mention a few.

The one that we will focus on for this tutorial is 3DVIA. 3DVIA is owned by Dassault Systems (www.3ds.com) which specializes in CAD based products. Seeing the need for an extensive 3D database similar to what Corbis & Getty Images has done for photography, Dassaut Sytems created 3DVIA. We will use their 3D importer plugin for Photoshop to import the models for this tutorial. You can find their plugin on 3DVIA's website at http://www.3dvia.com...adobe-photoshop or on my personal website at http://www.chromeall.../tutorials.html. Please download the plugin and install it. The plugins are designed to function on versions CS3 through CS5 so download and install the one that matches your version of Photoshop and let's begin the importing process.

We are going to create a scene with a concept car speeding through the wet streets of a downtown city.

Note: You can follow along with this tutorial by downloading the content files from http://www.chromeall.../tutorials.html so look for the section titled “3D IN PHOTOSHOP EXTENDED”. Download and expand the zipped files into a folder titled “downloads” and we will refer to this for any content files that you will need for this tutorial. By the way, the 3D files used in this tutorial are included in the content files as well. So, let's download a 3D city and a sporty car through 3DVIA.

Step 1: Access the Import command (File > Import) and select “search 3DVIA” (Figure 10.1).

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Fig 10.1

Step 2: The “search 3DVIA” importer will open the model search dialog box that will allow you to search by model type as well as by the name of the model. You will also be given options to search through the store where you will usually find some of the better models; however, I have found that the Community models are quite detailed. In this example the UCI Concept car is chosen (Figure 10.2).

Notice that the format of this model is 3D XML. This is a proprietary format by Dassault System's designed for a seamless transfer from their web based system (3DVIA) into Photoshop's 3D layers. After you have imported the concept car, browse through the database to acquire your city titled “City Block.” We have provided both files for you in a PSD format so, if you like, access your downloads folder and open “skyscaper. psd” and “UCI Concept car Materials_AllCATPart 3D XML File.psd” (Figures 10.3 and 10.4).

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Fig 10.2

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Fig 10.3

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Fig 10.4 Open “skyscraper.psd.”


Feb 15 2011 09:41 AM
This is a fantastic article, exposing various techniques all of which I found very useful, as well as the integration and manipulation of 3D models, Bravo!
May 19 2011 05:03 AM
great job! I really liked it

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