To 3D or Not to 3D?

I can remember working in Photoshop CS2 a few years ago and thinking how cool it would be to be able to work with 3D inside Photoshop. Not so much with 3D objects but rather in 3D space, similar to After Effects. Then CS3 Extended came along and gave us our first 3D tools right inside Photoshop. I was, of course, intrigued and couldn’t wait to experiment. Much to my disappointment, it wasn’t entirely what I had hoped. It was very limited in its capabilities and was kinda slow. It was clearly meant for working 3D artists and the average Photoshop artist or designer.

Then came CS4 Extended with its new-and-improved 3D features. Not only did they improve what was already there, but they added even more 3D tools that almost anyone can take advantage of. With the ability to convert layers into 3D planes and even wrapping layers around primitive 3D shapes, now we were talking. Since then I have been going crazy with all kinds of 3D techniques. What I am amazed about is that it doesn’t seem to have caught on with the rest of the Photoshop community out there. Which brings us to the big question: To 3D or Not to 3D? I wanna know what you think. Please post your comments to this blog post and give me your take on 3D in Photoshop. Do you use it? What do you use it for? If not, what is stopping you? What kind of training would you like to see? Or any other thoughts you may have on this subject.

By the way, the above graphic was created entirely in Photoshop CS4 Extended using the native 3D tools.



  1. Temple Hill 9 February, 2009 at 11:45 Reply

    I have been using with the tutorials you have presented, (cue balls, wireframe designs) I like it just haven’t had time to really go crazy with it like you. I would love to know more!!!!!

  2. Ray 9 February, 2009 at 12:12 Reply

    I love 3d, I just use it to mess around and see what I can come up with, I’d definitely love to see some more 3d tutorials on here.

  3. magik eraser 9 February, 2009 at 15:51 Reply

    I would love some tutorials just going thru all the 3D tools and how
    you use them. texturing, lighting and so forth.

  4. Kirk Nelson 9 February, 2009 at 16:00 Reply

    Honestly, I think if Adobe would give Photoshop a simple 3D extrude command, (even if it is similar to the one in Illustrator) that can turn a text shape (or any other path) into a honest-to-goodness 3D object, people would flock to the 3D features.

    I’m not saying Photoshop needs to turn into a 3D modeler, but creating true 3D text is a common enough request that it would hugely benefit the package.

    But right now, the 3D tools still feel rough and cumbersome. I use them from time to time and am happy with the results, but often times the process is a painful one.

  5. janelle 9 February, 2009 at 16:21 Reply

    I am upgrading specifically because I want to learn all I can about incorporating 3D into my photographic work in all kinds of unconventional ways! I would love to see videos, books, workshops,etc. on how to integrate photoshop’s 3D capabilities with other programs like zbrush, poser pro, and others.

  6. huzsy 9 February, 2009 at 16:41 Reply

    I think 3D is very exeting, and interested in how can be used Google SketchUp Warehouse 3D objects, how can be improved them in Photoshop, how can be a model more realistic using photoshop, etc.

  7. Ricardo Galvão 9 February, 2009 at 18:55 Reply

    Dear Corey,
    my name is Ricardo Galvão, 49, Brazilian, photographer, Adobe Certified Expert CS3, and Image Editing teacher…
    I’m a great admirer of you and your PHOTOSHOP Skills.

    I think that ADOBE wants to put in photoshop any tool that could help people need them (3D, Vídeo etc etc) in order to edit…
    But, Photoshop Is not a DREAMWEAVER (web), Photoshop is not a 3Dmax (3D)
    And even Premier (video).
    I understand what ADOBE wants…but I think it was more important to put in Photoshop:
    1. LIVE TRACE (illustrator)
    2. Blend Tool (illustrator)
    3. A Better Web album galery (clean code and faster – e.g. Porta Album generator)
    etc etc
    4. Improve Phoshop and NOT Lightroom…to beat Capture or Aperture
    Content Aware Scale is EXCELLENT!!!!! (the best improvement)
    5. More tools with flash (saving in flash) to make web galleries to mobile…(clean and faster)
    AND SO ON…

    I use much more 3D tools to design LOGOs (like you teach, :))
    but not 3D exactly…like 3Dmax…
    all my pupils think the same…sometimes I prefer Google Sketchup…
    But I’m Photoshop addict…like you

    sorry my poor english

    your best admirer

    Ricardo Galvão

  8. Nathan J Stone 10 February, 2009 at 00:26 Reply

    I’m with Kirk, I will really get ‘excited’ when there are simple extrude and face commands. Not on the scope of Maya or 3D Studio Max, but something. I am not a 3D modeler, but working in After Effects a lot, it would be nice to make simple shapes without having to do a million work arounds.

    With that said, I am excited that the gap is being bridged, for those of us who do not want complex models, and would like to take advantage of what looks like an Adobe advancement. Corey, your tutorials on Layers TV and here are what keep the simple folk like me constantly challenging ourselves with ‘what-ifs’. Keep up the great work!

  9. Márcio Guerra 10 February, 2009 at 10:09 Reply

    Hi Corey! That was some great question! I wonder why did you asked it, but I assume that is was mosttly because of your tutorials comments…
    Well, from my point of view I feel that, so far, none of the 3D tools «call me» too much to use them, Though I must be honest and say also that I did not payed much attention to your 3D tutorials either… For example, if this image was made in the 3D tools of Photoshop, then this is more of what I would like to use Photoshop for… To apply it in text. Eventually, and merelly remote, I guess, just to develop 3D objects like Kirk Nelson mentions… Well, if the tools are there they don’t hurt, if they don’t… We need to remember that Photoshop is, mainly, a image editor. I understand that Adobe wants to capture the most possible audience, for their products, but I feel that they are going a bit off road now. Like I said, if they are there, ok, but if not, that is not a problem.
    Well, you mentioned Photoshop CS2, remembered some thoughts, I remember Photoshop 5.5, and some thoughts either, on how could they develop even more the software. They did, and for at least 4 versions, besides the 3D tools, they did. But now, for the sake of the marketing/selling of their products, they are moving from the road of the image editor. This is my opinion… I didn’t tried CS4 yet, but just for those innovations it doesn’t appeal me yet. That, along the shorter and shorter times between versions is kepting me skeptic (hope that is properly wrote) about Adobe’s perspective of innovation.
    Well, I think I said too much already… Just one last tip, why don’t you do a separate section, well 2 sections, of Photoshop tutorials, for those who want 2D and for those who want 3D… Like a tutorial each week for any of them, or, one week one, the other week the other… Regarding the contest, well, is your contest, and I feel that both kind of tutorials should be in it, as long as you do tutorials for both!
    Keep, like this, the VERY GOOD WORK…

    Márcio Guerra

  10. Jason 10 February, 2009 at 13:37 Reply

    Personally I don’t use the photoshop 3D tools due to the fact that I own a copy of Lightwave 3D. But if adobe did incorporate a simple extrude feature like mentioned in some of the comments above I would probably use it for things such as 3D text just because it would be much faster and easier for me to do that within photoshop rather than switch over to lightwave.

  11. Fish 10 February, 2009 at 14:13 Reply

    I haven’t used the 3d features much in CS3, but I tried. I would agree it was slow and difficult. I know you have been playing in CS4 but I have yet to upgrade.

    I concur with the post from Kirk – a simple 3D extrude feature would be very useful. Can CS4 do that in PS?

    I use PS to supplement / enhance my work that I do in AE…so bring on the 3D or as many aspects of it as possible without it becoming a 3D program. Keep teaching it Corey, we will keep watching.

  12. Dan Enloe 10 February, 2009 at 15:06 Reply

    I think Kirk hit the nail on its head… not only is it cumbersome but it seems from your tutorials that PS needs many work around’s in order to achieve the look that you want…

    If Illustrators extrude was implemented in PS I would experiment a little more, maybe much more.

    As of today I believe that you, Corey, are the only major player in the PS arena that offers 3D tutorials. Maybe if you could have several back-to-back-to-back it would reinforce some 3D skills and interests.

    Really though, you are a great teacher and mentor.

  13. Jon 10 February, 2009 at 19:56 Reply

    I’ve used the 3D tools in the new Photoshop a couple times but I dont really understand how it works and how to achieve some effects, I tried your tutorials and got through them fine but I could use some more for some of the other options avaliable.

    P.S That graphic you made looks pretty cool. I wouldnt mind seeing a tutorial on that sometime soon. 🙂

  14. Matt Stark 10 February, 2009 at 20:13 Reply

    I would love to see more tutorials on the 3D in CS4. I soak up every second of your tutorials, ALL of them. I was excited when the pool ball tutorial was posted, because I would have never thought of that being possible. I work a full time job plus run a sign/graphics business after that, so I don’t have as much time as I would like to play around. I keep hoping you would make a dvd on the new 3d features, since it seams that there is a lot possible with the new features in CS4.

    On a side note, PLEASE bring the Down and Dirty Tricks seminar tour to Minneapolis, MN!!

  15. Joe Quinlivan 11 February, 2009 at 08:51 Reply

    3D In CS4 is excellent. I just used your billiard ball tutorial for creating 2 different signs. It’s great for sign’s, ad’s, and greeting cards. It also helps with collages of old family photos.

    Thank you very much for your 3D tutorials, Joe

  16. James 11 February, 2009 at 12:46 Reply

    Hey Corey, I’m still waiting for my copy of CS4 to arrive, but I’ve looked at the 3D in CS3 and well, it is quite useless. It looks like there is a bit more you can do in CS4 but from the tutorials it looks very cumbersome to work with 3D in Photoshop. I think the focus of 3D in Photoshop should be on how the program can work with 3D files and not how to create 3D objects. There are many programs out there for 3D modeling and for the most part the tools and dialog panes are similar, unlike Photoshops approach. I view Photoshop as a Graphics program and would only create a 3D object in it as a last resort, as true 3D programs are more efficient at the task. I may change my mind about this when I start playing with CS4. I think the thing to remember is that Photoshop is a 2D program and as the artists we create the illusion of 3D in a 2D medium. Just my thoughts on the topic. Thanks for the well done tutorials.


  17. ToTreeD 11 February, 2009 at 20:55 Reply

    Corey, first I want to say thank you for all of your hard work. I love your tuts. I think you’re doing a fantastic job, you’re the best. 2nd, this title reminds me of an ad I did last year for advertising and concepts class “To Tree or not To Tree”, for Arbor Day Foundation.
    3rd, I would like to learn as much as I can about the 3D features of PS. I’m sure you have plenty of goodies in store for us. Your creativity knows no bounds. I look forward to learning how to create Planets in Photoshop (in 3D). He he…
    Keep up the good work!

  18. Frank 12 February, 2009 at 16:29 Reply

    Dear Corey,

    I love the new feature of 3D in CS4. I’m a dutch student and due to your tutorials i’m having loads of fun with photoshop for over half a year now. I’m recommending your site to fellow students because it really teaches you how to use photoshop even if you have never used the program before. What i would like to see is a tutorial on textures in combination with 3d objects. i’m thinking of the borg cubes from startrek maybe something in that area or maybe how to create optical illusion wrapping custom made layers around serveral pyramids.I’m just making some suggestions. anyway keep up the good work and i can’t wait ’till the next tutorial.

    greetings, Frank

  19. Alex Chan 16 February, 2009 at 12:24 Reply

    I’m happy that Adobe is trying to extend the 3D features in their Creative Suite, but is still very basic the 3D features in Photoshop. I would like to see advanced 3D features like Nuke which we can integrated with After Effects. Maybe Adobe have to acquire third party technologies, like they do with Mocha and Cycore in After Effects.

  20. Faith 9 March, 2009 at 17:51 Reply

    I like using the 3D features in CS4. I have some great ideas … more like creative ideas I’m trying to master. I like 3D because it really sets the image off the page if you know what I mean. I would love to see more tutorials on 3D, more specifically, I would like to see an image where someone has jumped through something (maybe glass for example) and you can see how the glass was broken! Thanks for sharing all that you do!

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