#CreativeFriday – 3D Extrusions in Photoshop CC using the Pen Tool

Sometimes all you need is a simple “thing”, i.e. like a Smart Phone holder, or something to hold the rose bush in place in the garden, but there just isn’t the exact object in store anywhere. I find this situation now quite interesting and rather than moving in to a state of panic, I can actually design  something and prototype an idea until I get it to work to way that I need it to.  However, i’m not a dedicated designer and I don’t have the 3D tools or the inclination to work in polygons or other 3D technologies. The solution, is that I need something really easy to use, that will allow me to take my idea(s) and allow me to use the knowledge that I already have within the Photoshop tools, to make something.

As an initial ideal and after seeing Paul Trani’s iPhone holder, I decided to make my own Smart Phone holder using the Adobe Logo shape as a base.

The design will be very simple, not pretty or designed out, but functional at best. This object will become a simple smart phone holder (ok. i have an iPhone, so that’s what i designed it for, but it could be re-designed very quickly for any other device

The object that will be made in this tutorial can be seen on the Sketchfab platform (as shown below).

Adobe iPhone Holder
by rcurtis
on Sketchfab

The design was built with the standard Adobe logo. The first thing to do is to trace the outline of the white area and create the front/side face of the model. The logo is opened into Photoshop CC and then using the Pen Tool the edge is traced.

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The white background is all that is needed for the model, the easiest approach is to use a guide (make sure rulers are turned on (View / Rulers)), then a guide is pulled down from the top (you can turn guides off later by choosing view / show / guides). The guide will be used to align the base of path that will be created for the final object. The guide is shown in light blue.

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Pen tool is selected (marked in Red).

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The Pen tool is used to follow the edge of the white area and make the outline of the Adobe Logo.

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Once the initial design is complete, there needs to be a place to put the Smart phone. In this example, an element of the right hand side of the logo can be used as the holder for the phone. There are many alternative design considerations here, so it’s just a working example.

The Pen tool can be used to cut the section out of right hand edge by intersecting the existing edge, and make a small lip to hold the bottom edge of the phone in place. Just remember that there might be a home button that needs to be accessed while it’s in the cradle, in this case there needs to be enough room to firmly hold the phone and provide access for this button.

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The great thing about using Photoshop CC and the Pen tool, is that the design can be modified after it has been converted into a 3D model. Think of this as a non destructive shape. You can create anything similar to this using the Pen tool, but be aware that that there is a limit to path complexity.

An empty layer is created (marked Red), to hold the 3D object, otherwise Photoshop will use the logo as a template for the 3D object.

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Select the new empty layer and make a 3D extrusion select from the menu bar by choosing 3D / New 3D Extrusion from Path (marked red). This will convert the simple shape outline into a 3D object. This option can also available when using the Pen tool, and right clicking on the path and choosing “Convert path to extrusion” (marked Yellow).

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The 3D extrusion will be created

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Once the 3D geometry has been created you can use the 3D tools inside Photoshop to finish your design. This maybe compositing it into a 2D scene using the Vanishing point, or maybe even 3D printing it.

The next step for this example was to 3D print it and see if it would do the job of holding the smart phone.

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The object was printed in just a couple of hours. This was a great way to see if the object would work before a better print and more of them were printed. This process is typically called Rapid Prototyping and provided valuable in this example. It turned out that the actual holder part was to small. The path design can be re-edit at any time, make sure the move tool is selected (marked Red), then click on the 3D object to show the cage (yellow box).  With the properties dialog being open at the same time, clicking the  Edit Source (Marked Yellow), will allow you to modify the original path.

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Once the original path is loaded into a second window. The Direct selection tool (White pointer) (marked Red), can be used to change the original path (the vector).

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Once editing has completed, the window can be closed and the modifications saved. This will dynamically update the 3D object back in Photoshop. CC.

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Once the design has be re-worked and maybe printed again, the final working model could be printed multiple times. In fact the object was quickly duplicated 5 times more in Photoshop on the 3D layer, and then exported as a MakerBot x3g file. The final print took a whopping 17hrs to print, but leaving the printer over night certainly did the trick.


You can see here that Photoshop CC is a great way to try 3D and create some 3D content that can be very useful and not to intimidating as you already know how to use most of it from your existing knowledge of Photoshop 2D.

For some inspiration head over to Francois Veraart recent Photooshop 3D artwork project  on Behance. We would love to see and hear what you make in Photoshop CC. Why not upload your creations to SketchFab.com with the free account and tweet me at @richardcurtis.

SketchFab is integrated into Photoshop CC, and available by choosing the menu item 3D / Share 3D layer on SketchFAB.

Best of luck..Please also let me know there there is anything else that you would like to see written on Photoshop CC 3D tools.

If you don’t currently have Photoshop CC then why not try it for 30 days using this link, look at all of the available plans here.

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