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Faking the 3D look using Photoshop

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Date Added: 9th December 2009
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This image was inspired by a similar XSI render done by Baruch Zevolun, Israel. The design credit goes to him. You can compare the original at : Please do not view this as plagarism. The aim of this tutorial is to show you a different use of Photoshop other than image editing. It is my tribute to the original artist's work. Besides, I wanted to break a tradition here. Most of the 3D work of animators is inspired from 2D work (sketch/painting/photo). This 2D work was inspired from a 3D render. Hats off to Baruch Zevolun !The following example can be done by anyone who is familiar with Photoshop. You don't have to be an artist. Only the basic tools of the software along with a keyboard & mouse have been used. A tablet or digital pen is not required.To playback the full sequence as a slideshow (in ACDSee), you can download the zip file here "".
Ok, lets start now.

Creating the ball

I started by drawing a circle & filling it with white color. A simple linear gradient was then applied and tada - the flat 2D ball is transformed into a 3D ball ! Only the shadows are missing. Lets fix that. I drew an ellipse & filled it with black. Rotated & blurred it slightly. To simulate the effect of area lights (i.e. shadow fades with distance), I used the 'Distort' tool under Edit\Transform menu. Put the shadow back in place & it looks just likean FG/Global Illumination render.

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Now for the reflection. Imagine the ball is on a table. The ball would show in its reflection, the opposite edge of the table. To do this, I made a black ellipse on top of the ball layer (I forgot to mention, I am working in layers !) and retained only the part inside the ball area. Blurred it slightly to soften the edge. But the ball still isn't looking glossy & reflective. This is because it is reflecting only the table & pitch black area over it. If we had a white board (reflector) nearby, its reflection would be seen on the ball. With the 'Path' tool in Photshop, I drew a shape on top of the ball layer. Converted it into a selection, filled it with white, followed by a slight dash of color on it.

If the table was also reflective, then white board's reflection would be seen on it. And this, in turn would be visible on the ball. So I flip the shape which I made just now & reduced the scale & opacity of the layer. Now, add the ball's reflection on the floor, add a little glow on the highlight & voila !. A shiny chrome ball is ready !

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continued on next page >

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Phil B on Tue, 16 August 2016 6:14pm
Great technique lesson. My issue is that the lighting is completely wrong. The shadow for the vase indicates that the light is coming from behind it, yet the highlights come from another direction with no corresponding shadow, and wrap around to a point that would be in full shadow based on the primary source. And by duplicating the spheres without adjusting the shadow angle, they no longer use the same light source. The technique really is great, but these things need to be factored in to make it a realistic looking image.
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