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Working with 3D Layers in Photoshop

Compositing images in Photoshop just got more exiting with the release of Photoshop CS3 Extended. “Extended” indicates a special version of Photoshop with added features such as 3D and Video layer support in Photoshop documents. In this tutorial, we are going to concentrate on the 3D layer feature now offered in Adobe’s CS3 product suite.

The use of Photoshop in the world of 3D is not new. CG Artists, 2D Digital Painters, and Texture Artists have used Photoshop as part of their workflow for several years. One application CG Artist’s employ to create a new digital illustration would be to render out their 3D model into a flat image with an alpha layer also contained in the file. They would then import that layer into Photoshop and begin compositing the image from there. If they needed the model at a different angle, they would have to render out another frame in their 3D program and re-import it into Photoshop. Now, with 3D layers the artist has the creative freedom to rotate, scale, and translate the model directly inside the Photoshop document. This ability allows the artist to mock up many different design options for their projects from a single 3D model file.

Photoshop CS3 Extended offers these 3D file import options:

  • 3D Studio Max (.3DS)
  • Alias|Wavefront (.OBJ)
  • Google Earth 4 (.KMZ)
  • U3D (.U3D)
  • Collada (.DAE)

Today, we will be working with 3D Studio Max (.3DS) file format. This is a well known file format that has been around for years. There is a large 3D Studio Max community online and you can often find .3DS files for free or for purchase to suit your project requirements. For this project I will be looking for a 3D model of an airplane.

To start our project we will be using the 3D files from Turbo Squid has a large repository of 3D files available. You only need to become a member to download FREE 3D files. Membership is free as well. At Turbo Squid I look in their products section under “Aircraft” to browse through all available Aircraft 3D models. For this project I am looking specifically for a 3D Studio Max file that contains a model with textures and is free (those are my requirements).


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