Adobe Creative Cloud

February 1, 2016 /Digital Imaging /Learn /

How To Create 3D Models from Photos in Photoshop

In this tutorial I will show you how to create 3D models using Adobe Stock photographs.

To show you this technique we will create this composition resembling a smartphone ad using two Adobe Stock photos.

To follow along, you can import these two photographs to your Creative Cloud Library or save them to your desktop:

Mobile Phone:


If you have Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 you can search and download these photos directly from your Libraries panel search bar. Simply enter the File ID Number in the search bar.


Step 01 – Place The Stock Images in Your Working Document:

Place your files in a document that is 1920 x 1080. The phone layer will be above the background layer. Name the Layer with the smartphone “Phone” and the bar layer “Background”.

Step 02 – Create a Path Outlining the Edges of the Phone:

Select the Rounded Rectangle Tool and choose “Path” as the Tool Mode in the Options bar. Then create a path around the edges of the phone.

As you create the path don’t worry about the curvature of the corners. Once you match the edges, go to the Properties panel and adjust the curvature or the corners to match the phone.

In my case 66px of curvature was needed to match the roundness of the corner.


Step 03 – Create a Vector Mask to Remove The Phone’s Background:

Make sure that the “Phone” layer is selected and that the path you created is also selected, and go to Layer > Vector Mask > Current Path.

This will create a vector mask around the phone and hide the white background revealing the underlying layer.


Step 04 – Scale The Background:

Select the “Background” layer, and press Ctrl T (Mac: Command T) to transforms. Then scale the layer so that if covers the entire canvas.


Step 05 – Turn The Phone Layer into a 3D Object:

Turn your phone into a 3D model by selecting the “Phone” layer and going into the 3D menu and choosing “New 3D Extrusion from Selected Layer.”


Step 06 – Position Your 3D Camera So That It Matches The Scene:

Select the new newly created 3D layer and activate the Move tool. You should see the 3D ground plane along with the 3D tools in the Options bar, and the 3D camera tools on the bottom left of the screen. You can then click and drag the Orbit camera tool on the bottom left of the screen to position the camera accordingly.

The grid represents the ground plane of the 3D model, and you have to match the perspective of the table (the ground plane of the background) so that the perspective of the 3D model and the photograph match. In other words, make it seem as if the phone is sitting on the table.

** Remember that the three 3D camera tools on the bottom left only control the camera of the scene, they do not control the actual 3D object.


Step 07 – Save The Camera Position:

Once you have the camera in the position that you like, you will need to save it so that you can always come back to it when the camera is moved.

You will need to move the camera at a later point to make further adjustments to your 3D model.

To save your 3D camera, select “Current View” from your 3D panel, then in the Properties panel, under “View” select “Save…”

Give your camera position a name. I will call it “Final View”. You will then see a new camera under your 3D panel called “Final View” and you can click on it to return the camera to the position that you saved.


Step 8 – Adjust The Extrusion of the Phone:

Using the 3D camera tools on the bottom left, rotate the camera so that you see the side of the phone. Then on the 3D panel click on the “Phone” 3D object to select it (or Click on the actual 3D object), then in the Properties panel adjust the “Extrusion Depth”.

By simply dragging the slider you can control the thickness of the phone.


Step 9 – Remove The Texture from The Back of the Phone:

Using the 3D camera tools rotate the phone so that you can see the back of it. You will notice that the screen image is also appearing in the back.

To remove the image from the back of the phone you will need to remove the texture from the “Back Inflation Material”.

First click on the back side of the Phone once. If you did this correctly, you will see the “Back Inflation Material” highlighted in the 3D panel. If it’s not selected, you can also click on the label directly from the 3D panel.

Then in the Properties Panel under “Diffuse”, click on the file icon to the right of the label and choose “Remove Texture.”

Notice that this will remove the image of the screen from the back of the phone. You can then control the color of the phone by using the Diffuse color picker. Simply double-click on it and choose black.

Then select the “Phone Extrusion Material” from the 3D panel and change the Diffuse color to Black as well.

When you’re done, click on the “Final View” camera view to reset your camera.

09-remove-back-texture-b 09-remove-back-texture-a

Step 10 – Adjust the Infinite Light in your Scene:

Adjust the lighting of your scene by using the Infinite Light. On your 3D panel select the Infinite Light and with the Move tool selected use the interactive screen display to move the light around. The image below will show how I placed my light.

Notice that the ground plane catches the shadows of your 3D model. You can adjust the softness of the shadow from the properties panel. I set the softness to 69%.

Note: If your 3D model is not sitting directly on top of the ground plane this last step will yield unwanted results.

To make sure that your phone sitting directly on the Ground Plane go to 3D > Move Object to Ground Plane (while your 3D object is selected).


Step 11 – Adjust The Caps of The 3D Model:

Select your 3D Phone and in the Properties panel click on the Cap icon. The third one from the right.

Then click on “Contour”, and in the Contour Editor Chose “Cone” from the “Presets” Dropdown. Press OK when you’re done. The in the Properties panel adjust the width of the bevel. 1% or %2 will be enough.


Step 12: Rotate The Phone into Position:

With the Move tool active, select the 3D phone. You will notice the 3D handles appear in the center of the 3D object. Use these handles to rotate the phone into position on your scene. I will simply rotate the phone so that it faces inwards a bit.



The 3D handles allow you to move, rotate, and scale a 3D object in all 3 axis: X, Y, and Z.

The X axis is represented by the red handles, the Y axis is represented by the green handles, and the Z axis is represented by the blue handles.

Each handle has 3 interactive sections that allow you to manipulate the 3D object in that axis. The tip of the handle allows you to move the 3D object, the arch allows you to rotate it, and the cube allows you to scale it.

The center cube allows you to scale the object uniformly.


Step 13 – Adjust the Image Base Light (IBL)

Add an Image Based Light (IBL) to your scene to create reflections to the 3D Model. To do so, select “Environment” on the 3D panel. In the Properties panel select “Edit Texture…” From the IBL drop-down menu.

This will create a new document tab and it will display the current IBL, which is a gray background with white squares.

Then Go back to your working 3D phone document tab.


Step 14 – Duplicate the Background Into the IBL

Use the “Background” as the IBL so that the reflections and colors on the phone match the scene.

On the Layers Panel click on the bar “Background” layer, and right-click on the layer and choose “Duplicate.” (or select the “Background” layer and go to Layer > Duplicate Layer…)

On the Duplicate Layer window, under Document, choose “Default IBL.psb”. This will duplicate the background layer onto the IBL document.


Step 15 – Reveal All

The canvas size for the IBL will not be large enough to display the entire “Background” layer. To make every pixel in this layer visible go to Image > Reveal All.

This will increase the Canvas size and display the entire “Background” layer duplicate. Remember to Save the IBL document and close the tab.

Step 16 – Rotate IBL

With the Move tool and the Environment selected you will see an orb with the “Background” wrapped around it. This is an interactive display. Click-and-drag it to move the IBL around. Notice how the reflections on the phone are affected by rotating the IBL.

I will rotate it until the blue light is reflecting on the top left corner of the phone as shown in the image below.


Step 17 – Increase reflections on the 3D model


Step 18 –  Ground Plane Reflections

To match the reflection on the table, you can also make your Ground Plane reflect the 3D model.

Click on “Environment” in the 3D panel. Then in the Properties panel, under “Ground Plane” increase the Opacity and Roughness of the “Reflections”.

I will use an Opacity of 27% and Roughness of 33%.


Step 19 – Instance 3D Objects

To enhance the composition of the image we will add a second phone to the scene.

You can either Duplicate or Instance the 3D Object (Phone). Duplicating the phone will create a new 3D object identical to the original and it will not be tied to the original in any way.

Instancing a 3D object will also create a duplicate, but it will be tied to the original 3D object. Meaning that if the original 3D object is changed, the duplicate (or Instance) will reflect the changes.

I will Instance the 3D object to create a duplicate.


Step 20 – Move Duplicate

After you “Instance” the original model you can move the duplicate behind the original phone and rotate it so that the back of the phone is facing the camera.

To move it simply select the duplicate by clicking on it and use the 3D handles to push it back and to rotate it. See the image below for my results.

Note: When the Instance is created it will be directly on top of the original so you won’t be able to see it until you move it.


Step 21 – Create a Second Instance and Place It Flat on The Ground Plane.

You can follow the previous step to “Instance” a third 3D object. This time, move it to the right and rotate it so that it is lying flat on the ground plane.

To make sure that you rotate the phone appropriately you may want to use the “Coordinates” found in the Properties panel. Set the X rotation to 90°.

Note: To make sure that an object is flat on the ground plane, go to 3D > Move Object to Ground Plane.


Step 22 – Color Grade the Image Using a Gradient Map

Now that all the 3D objects are in position you can work with the look and feel of the composition. To go with a cooler and nightlife feel I will add a Gradient Map to adjust the scene.

Go to the Adjustment Layer icon on the bottom of the Layers panel and Choose “Gradient Map”.


Step 23– Use Photographic Toning

Make sure that the Gradient Map is Selected, the go to the Properties panel and click on the Fly-Out menu and choose “Photographic Toning”. Then Select the “Blue 2” gradient from the list.


Step 24 – Change The Gradient Map’s Blend Mode to Soft Light Adjust Opacity

Change the Gradient Map’s Blend Mode to Soft Light and Bring the Opacity down to 81%. This will change the feel of the image and make it colder with more contrast.


Step 25 – Render The 3D Scene

At this point you can render your 3D scene. Click on your Phone 3D layer, and in the Properties panel click the Render button.

You can also press Ctrl Alt Shift R (Mac: Command Option Shift R) to render.

After the rendering is complete remember to immediately save you document so that you don’t lose the render.

Note: Rendering can take quite a bit of time depending on your computer’s processing power and the complexity of your 3D model.


Step 26 – Inspect Your Image

After your render is complete, look at the results and look for areas that need improvement.

As you can see the screen of the phone looks a bit dull. In the next step I’ll show you one way in which you can enhance the brightness of the screen.

Note: This is what my rendered document looks like.


Step 27 – Select and Duplicate The Screen

Select the Polygonal Lasso Tool and make a selection around the screen. Then with the Phone 3D layer selected press Ctrl J (Mac: Command J) to duplicate the contents of the selection.


Step 28 – Color Dodge The Screen Duplicate

Make sure that the screen duplicate layer is selected and change the Blend Mode to Color Dodge.

You can also bring down the opacity if the effect is too strong. I set the opacity to 81%.


Final Image

Here’s my final result!


Another Example

Here’s another example of can be achieved using the same technique!


You can follow the video tutorial here.

Digital Imaging, Learn

Join the discussion

  • By MARGARET - 2:13 PM on February 1, 2016  

    this is a super tutorial

  • By sherry - 9:48 PM on February 1, 2016  

    Jesus! Be still my heart! This speaks to me! I am a 70-year old with a visual/kinesthetic learning style. I would give my right arm if all tutorials were written as well as visual! You stole my heart!
    Thanks so much!

    • By Jesus Ramirez - 9:13 AM on February 2, 2016  

      I will try to make more written tutorials! Thank you for the support, Sherry!