Photoshop CS5 Extended One-on-One: 3D Scenes Goes Live @

Although Photoshop has the word “photo” in its title, a remarkably small percentage of Photoshop users identify themselves as photographers. In contrast, more than half call themselves designers. (In case you’re wondering who the heck else uses the program, think realtors, medical practitioners, lawyers, law-enforcement professionals, insurance investigators, scientists, and anyone else who makes for good TV drama.) If you fall into this superhuge “designer” bucket—which includes all walks of visual artists, btw—there’s nothing better you can do to get a leg up on the competition than learn and eventually master 3D in Photoshop CS5 Extended. Why? Because 3D is exciting, liberating, and outlandishly powerful. Not to mention, no one else in your immediate vicinity has a clue to how it works.

Which is why, just yesterday, I released the Part 3 of my 4-part Photoshop 3D series in the Online Training Library. Titled Photoshop CS5 Extended One-on-One: 3D Scenes, this nearly 9-hour video course takes you to the far reaches of 3D, including scene building, lighting, shadow casting, camera manipulation, and stereoscopic imaging. Below you see me introducing 3D lighting. Note that I’m taking the topic so seriously that I’m wearing a jacket, even though the temperature on the set is roughly that of the sun. And I’m so bulging with 3D info that my left arm (the one on right) looks like I borrowed it from the Michelin Man.

Photoshop CS5 Extended One-on-One: 3D Scenes intro

I should mention that the live-action illustrations and many of the 3D models hail from Paul Roper, an incredibly talented guy at

Meanwhile, here’s an illuminating chapter-by-chapter description of this transformative and, I freely admit, life-affirming course.

Chapter 13, Advanced Scene Building

In this chapter, I fill you in on the stuff that you haven’t yet learned about 3D scenes in my previous two courses, 3D Fundamentals and 3D Objects. Specifically, I show you how to combine objects into a scene so that you can make them interact with each other, and in a systematic manner so that you don’t altogether losing your mind. We start with the dozen-or-so simple shape layers shown below:

Photoshop CS5 Extended: 3D Scenes, Chapter 13 start

Then we extrude and assemble them into this 3D scene. All set inside a giant spherical panorama that serves as an ambient environment for reflections and shadows. It looks pretty impressive, but we’re not done yet.

Photoshop CS5 Extended: 3D Scenes, Chapter 13 finish

Chapter 14, Working with Glass

In case you missed the last two courses, a material is a combination of color, texture, and reflective attributes that makes a 3D object look like a real-world thing. Examples of materials include leather, metal, and plastic. But the ultimate material is glass. Translucent, reflective, and refractive, glass is that one material that contributes the most to a scene by calling the least attention to itself and providing support for everything around it. Check out the lens element below, which sports multiple layers of glass interacting with each other as well as the larger scene.

Photoshop CS5 Extended: 3D Scenes, Chapter 14 glass

Chapter 15, Lighting Your Scene

In Photoshop, we typically think of each pixel as having a single, distinct color. But in the realm of 3D, an object has what’s known as a diffuse texture, which means a color or photographic image spread across a 3D surface. Photoshop then casts lights on that texture to calculate the final color of a pixel. I demonstrate the wonders of light and diffuse texture in the context of the strangely mirrored-wall bedroom scene below.

Photoshop CS5 Extended: 3D Scenes, Chapter 15 lighting

Chapter 16, Advanced Lights and Shadows

In this chapter, we finish off the bedroom, replete with an embossed bedspread, shiny hardwood floor, moonlight streaming in the windows, and light shining through type-shaped holes in the ceiling. Plus, two stuffed giraffes fall in love. Seriously, this chapter not only teaches, it’ll make your crusty old heart young again.

Photoshop CS5 Extended: 3D Scenes, Chapter 16 shadows

Chapter 17, Mastering the Camera

Have you ever wanted to create a 3D automobile? (Don’t sass me, just say yes!) In this chapter, we import the following plastic-looking SUV and set it against a photographic background from the Fotolia image library:

Photoshop CS5 Extended: 3D Scenes, Chapter 17 start

And then we transform it into the next forced-perspective work of automotive engineering. Along the way, I show you how to work with cameras, which represent your view into a 3D scene: objects, materials, lights, and all. I even demonstrate such real-world camera controls as depth-of-field and field-of-view.

Photoshop CS5 Extended: 3D Scenes, Chapter 17 finish

The resulting composite looks pretty good, but not great. Which is why we keep working at it in the follow chapter.

Chapter 18, The Art of the Mesh

Have you ever wanted to drive an SUV with horns? (Don’t sass me, just say yes!) In this chapter, we make such a thing. More importantly, we spend some quality time with that most important ingredient in a 3D scene, the individual wireframe object, better known as the mesh. Meshes are wildly powerful. Can you spot the four boulders, two horns, and three reflected (out-of-frame) self-illuminating tubes that integrate the car into its background? These are meshes, every one. And once you come to terms with meshes, you’ll have mastered an art that’ll make your scenes sing.

Photoshop CS5 Extended: 3D Scenes, Chapter 18 meshes

Chapter 19, Customizing the Render

Photoshop provides three primary render modes: Interactive (no shadows or reflections), Ray Traced Draft (relatively fast, but rough), and Ray Trace Final (beautiful, but slow as molasses). And yet, that’s just the beginning. You can render flat art, wireframe outlines, and 3D anaglyphs. Remember the stereoscopic photograph I documented in my recent Me in Real 3D post? You can do the same in 3D as well, but from whole cloth, as pictured below.

Photoshop CS5 Extended 3D stereoscopic camera

Click the image to see it larger. You’ll need a pair of red/blue 3D glasses to view the camera in stereoscopic depth. (Those wearing 3D glasses may see some artifacts. The red lens imperfectly filters screen images, the blue lens imperfectly filters printed ones. It’s not Photoshop’s fault; it’s the glasses.) Try backing away and moving your head from side-to-side. And if you have kids, show it off to them. My two boys went nuts.

In the course, I demonstrate stereoscopic imaging in the context of another image, the bedroom scene below (also clickable). But I’m thinking of showing off the 3D camera (above) in a future Deke’s Techniques. Would you like to see that? Lemme know.

Photoshop CS5 Extended 3D stereoscopic bedroom

Invest in yourself. Join Check out Photoshop CS5 Extended One-on-One: 3D Scenes. Feed your head. And, please, let me now what you think.

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 022: Removing People with Image Stacks

Previous entry:Deke’s Techniques 021: Assembling a Flawless Panorama


  • Ray Tracing

    Hi Deke… this is the first time I have posted here, usually happy to just learn from watching and reading. I am currently enjoying your latest series, 3D scenes, on and I was wondering if it is possible to save out the 3D file to an appropriate format and use another app to do the Ray Tracing, since Photoshop is so slow at it? Thanks.


  • Magic Eye Images


    Not had a chance yet to look at the 3D Scenes title yet but I posted, with your name in the suggested authors list, over at NAPP about the 3D Magic Eye pictures. I am interested in recreating or actually creating novel 3D Magic Eye Images - popular in the 1990’s and seemingly gaining a resurgence. With your understanding now on PS 3D I thought this could be a cool topic for you or Corey Barker to tackle. Would be a fun topic I think with interest to others. I tried my hand at it and think it is a matter of choosing the right patterns, blend modes and opacity. Is is something you might be able to do and of sufficient interest to others to consider doing?

    Note: I do not refer to simple stereogram images but to those repeating patterns which if looked at correctly show a hidden 3D object. The simplest one I ever saw was a series of butterflies whith quite a bit of “white” space between them but a 3D butterfly popped out of the scene when viewed correctly. Others are a series of repeating (semi definable or disctinct thumbnails if you will) pictures or patterns and much more complex. It is the latter that I think could be done with the new versions of PS (Extended) and its many tools.

    Thanks for at least considering this request.

  • I bet this is possible

    It would entail a repeating pattern, so your eyes can easily lock and unlock on the details. That’s easily done.

    And then two stereoscopic displacement maps? Applied to the same pattern?

    Not sure. Must research. Will take a moment or two, but excellent idea!

  • I explain how to export scenes

    In my previous course, Photoshop CS5 Extended One-on-One: 3D Models. See Chapter 9, “Importing 3D Models.” Then watch the movies “Prepping 3D models for export” and “Exporting a model as a 3D shape preset.” These show you how to export a 3D layer (i.e., a scene) as an OBJ, DAE, or whatever.

  • Frustration my pc can’t cope with demands of 3D—help please?

    Hi Deke,  I need some serious help / advice here when you have a moment (!! LOL).  First the good news.  Last time I wrote here I was in near despair trying to understand the new 3D stuff in CS5, but I’ve been doing your course on, and after advanced and mastery am now well into the 3D stuff.

    Your gift for clarifying even the most complex things is well to the fore and bit by bit it’s all—at last, phew!—falling into place.  However I have a serious pc problem, which has only got really troublesome with Chapter 5, the tutorial, “Adding precisely symmetrical spheres”.

    What happens is I get to a certain point, and then get this message: “Your 3D scene now exceeds the limits of lights and/or textures for the video card’s hardware-accelerated 3D rendering.  As long as the limits are exceeded, 3D rendering will be done in software only, and some features (eg Repoussé) will be disabled”.

    Now this happened before, but either closing the software or rebooting solved it, but two goes at the same solution didn’t work this time.  The screen goes completely blank and everything slows to a crawl, although the image does come back after some mucking about with (aborted) ray tracing.

    I don’t know if it would help to give my pc specs, but here goes.

    Intel Core2 Quad CPU Q6600 @ 2.40 GHz

    Memory 3 GB 32-bit OS Vista
    Display ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT

    I’ve set to let Photoshop use 242 MB ie 100% of available VRAM (Open GL Drawing enabled)    Ticked Allow Direct to Screen

    Ground Plane size set to Large (Grid spacing small)

    Active Light Source Limit 8 (I’ve now increased this to 16 but I don’t think it’s the relevant issue)
    Default Diffuse Texture Limit 10 (also now increased to 16, but ditto as above)

    I’m using a separate fast ext. hard drive as scratch card for Photoshop only,—ie I don’t use it to store other data.

    Available RAM 1655 MB.  Preferences box says ideal range is 910 - 1191, but I have set it for 1655, ie 100% max.


    Do I need a better computer to do PS extended 3D properly?  I do have a laptop with 4 gig RAM (64-bit, Windows 7) and it does seem to cope better, but I’ve got so used to working on a large-ish monitor, I can’t really work well with the small laptop screen for image work.

    Or do I need a much better video / graphics card?  If so, could you or one of your members here advise me?  Should I have a pc specially built?  Or just get something that’s good for gaming?  (I’ve never got into computer games!)

    It’s so frustrating, not being able to get further with chap 5 til I solve this problem.  But you seem to manage perfectly well on that little laptop of yours with its somewhat challenged memory!!  How do you do it?  And what can I do to improve things at this end?

    Thanks in advance to you or anyone who can help with this.  You put in so much thought and sheer hard work, it’s a shame not to be able to do justice to your skill—‘cos it’s not just hard work, it’s the sheer inspiration you bring to your teaching.

    all best


    PS Friday.  Just doing some more research—eg

    It looks as if my video card has been tested by Adobe and found suitable, ie ATI Radeon

    2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 series (as I said, mine is ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT)

    It doesn’t say anything under ‘Known Issues’ to do with this card.

    Maybe it’s just something one has to live with?

    Or should I upgrade and invest in a better video card, and if so, which one?

    thanks again

    all best


  • Windows Vista wont install Material Downloads (chap 9)

    Re ‘Importing 3D models’ from http www photoshop com products photoshop 3d

    The stupid Vista thing keeps telling me, every time I get to opening and trying to install the ‘Materials’ folder, that “I don’t have permission”—it starts to install the extension, then I get a message to say Accept the Material Presets, and as soon as I click Accept, up pops a message telling me to contact the System Administrator.  Well heck I *am* the system admin since I bought and own the darn thing—there seems to be no option to right-click and “Run as administrator”.

    The sooner I get rid of this wretched Vista and get Windows 7 the better, I’m thinking.

    But is there any way around this?  I do already have the Adobe Extension Manager on my system from my first attempts several months ago to understand PS-3D (vastly better this time thanks to Deke McC!)?

    Thanks in advance for any help.  By the way, I’ve checked, and there are no new materials installed.


    PS   Thought I’d try opening Photoshop by rt-clicking and running as admin—no difference, still get same message, still can’t install ...

    PPS Aha!  Crikey, these things are fussy—I just thought, guess you have to run the **Extension Manager**  as admin—and you do.  All is now working.  Just a thought—I guess you guys all know this sort of thing second nature, but perhaps Adobe ought to make this clear for the rest of us, ie it’s no use trying to install from the download by double clicking on it if you don’t have those ridiculous admin / supervisor rights or whatever they’re called.  Grouse / rant over for today.  Sorry for troubling you!

    Cheers grin)


  • Ray Tracer

    Hello Deke.

    In some chapters of Photoshop CS5 Extended One-on-One: 3D,  the Ray Tracer appear to have different number of tiles.  How can I set this character?



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