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3D printing with Photoshop CC – Part 1 An Overview

When Adobe announced their major version 14.2 update to Photoshop CC, there were several exciting new features that photographers and digital artist could work with right out the gate. With new features like Perspective Warp, and Linked Smart Objects, the significant feature innovation may well be the ability to do 3D printing within Photoshop. While traditional 3D software is designed primarily for exporting data content for digital rendering on screen, Photoshop’s export engines have always been able to output for digital display and print. Photoshop’s new 3D print takes advantage of its capability of working with 3D meshes plus its unique printing power to prepare, preview, and print 3D models.

A new feature in Photoshop CC version 14.2 is the ability to print 3D models, Let's explore how that works with this overview.
Jarvis Grant

The 3D engine in Photoshop has come a long way from when it was first introduced in Photoshop CS3. Back then the only thing you could do with a 3D import was to dress it with color and texture. And that was a very big deal. Before that when I needed to work in 3D with Photoshop I had to use third party plugins. As much as I wanted to work with 3D, every time I opened a program, like the 3D landscape generator, Bryce, after about an hour I was exhausted. So having some 3D capabilities in Photoshop CS3 was welcomed yet still daunting.

Now 3D in Photoshop CC is almost like having a full 3D program within the 3D panel. It’s comforting having all those familiar tools around you in Photoshop, however, it still takes a bit of work to wrap your creative head around using 3D. This article is not about how to do 3D in Photoshop, but just to give an idea of how to get around before printing, here’s a quick overview. First, you’re working in three dimensions. Along with working pixels on the width and height axes of x and y, there’s depth on the z axis. So in Photoshop language, we are working an algorithmic space similar to working in Adobe Camera RAW or Lightroom. In ACR, algorithmic sensor image data is translated into pixels for the user to manipulate. The same is true when working in 3D image software.

This 3D algorithmic image data is mapped along a mesh on the x, y, and z coordinates. This mesh is similar to the mesh found in the Liquify filter, the Vanishing Point command, the Warp and Puppet Warp commands. Once mapped out on this mesh, a 3D object is created. Next, the skin on the mesh is given color and texture. Once the object has these attributes it is made “realistic” with lights to give it form. The ability to turn the object in 3D space is determined by the camera angle set by the user. Finally, this 3D object is placed in a 3D environment know as a “scene”. The scene has the same attributes that the objects have including lights and cameras.

As you might suspect, there’s a lot of computer processing going on when working with 3D. So if you don’t want all of to move at a snail’s pace or simply grind to a halt, you need a computer with a powerful CPU, GPU, and lots of RAM. Fortunately for 3D printing you’ll only need to work with objects.Plus, for most people they will be importing 3D models made by others, so much of the #D voodoo will be by passed. Yet, Photoshop offers designers and photographers an opportunity to use these tools in a very comfortable environment. This tech innovation looks to have the same potential that postscript desktop laser printers gave digital designer and artists back in the 1990s.

So that’s a base overview of 3D in Photoshop. In the next part of this series we’ll go over the basics of prepping a file for printing.For more information on 3D in Photoshop, checkout the links below:

  1. 3D Fundamentals by Deke McClelland - PDF
  2. Corey Barker Exclusive 3D Tutorial - YouTube
  3. Overview of 3D in Photoshop - Adobe TV Tutorial Series
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