#CreativeFriday – Create a simple 3D Design and 3D Print from just Photoshop and Illustrator

I’ve been working recently with more 3D Prints from Photoshop, and some ideas of a basic Photoshop 3D and 3D creation workflow. This time I wanted to show and create something super simple and explain how this can be achieved using Photoshop and Illustrator for Creative Cloud.

The idea was to make and print a 3D object which would carry a letter.  And I thought it would make an ideal gift.

The Letter is easy, with the introduction of TypeKit in all Creative Cloud plans, I can find a font that I like and make a 3D print out of it. The tricky bit was to suspend it on something interesting. Photoshop has got the Pen tool and it’s super simple to make something, however, illustrator has a more powerful and controllable engine for vector art work. So I decided that the workflow should start in Illustrator, as this would be the fastest way of working.

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Inside Illustrator I created a new canvas using File / New Canvas

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My object that I’d like to use needs to be curvy, and a spiral would be a good place to start.

Using the Spiral tool, available under the tool bar menu item marked in Red, a simple spiral can be created.

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Just by drawing it out on the canvas.

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Then, to give the spiral some shape, I applied the Variable Width Profile (marked in Green) and adjusted the size of the stroke (marked in Red).

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Then saved the Illustrator file and open it into Photoshop CC using the Place Linked Command into a new canvas. The Place linked command is new to CC, but as the ability of referencing the file as opposed to embedded it inside Photoshop. If the contents of the linked file change, then Photoshop will reflect any changes (If both applications are open, the changes will be instant, otherwise you will need to open the Photoshop file and apply any changes).

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Because the contents of the file are from a different application, Photoshop will ask which format is best. I chosen the default, ‘Page’.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 15.18.55Once the file is linked in Photoshop, the object and the transform tools will be shown. You can then scale this as you like using the handles. Once the transform has completed (if any) then the tick at the top of the page can be clicked to commit any changes.

Now inside Photoshop we can finish the design by adding a letter, as well as a way for the object to stand up once it’s printed.

First let’s add the letter.

To add a letter, the Text tool (marked Red) can be chosen and then marked up on the canvas. Once this is in place, a letter can be entered by using the keyboard, then it’s characteristics can be changed, it’s font family, weight, size, etc.

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Even after the initial letter has been entered it’s easy to change. Just select the text layer ((cmd+click directly on the object) or the layer can be selected). It’s not important at this stage to edit the text, as we are going to use the new Photoshop text preview to see which font works the best.

Let us change the font for a Typekit font.

When the Text tool is selected, other fonts are available from the drop down combo box. There are options to filter the fonts by Typekit fonts (marked in Red), as well as adding fonts from Typekit (marked Yellow). You are probably asking, what’s so great about Typekit fonts and why would it benefit me. Typekit fonts are available for all Creative Cloud subscribers, as both web fonts and desktop fonts. This means that where ever you use the font it will have the same look and feel (think about your brand, logo’s and printed artwork). It’s also especially useful if the artwork ever goes to another Creative Cloud user. Photoshop is now able to search for Typekit fonts within a document and if the font does not exist on the computer, is able to download it for you by using the Creative Cloud Desktop App. This is a great way to work especially if you are collaborating with another user.

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Filtering by Typekit fonts will make it easier to distinguish fonts from regular desktop loaded fonts. If the font that you want to use does not exist, it can be downloaded using the ‘Add fonts from Typekit’ button.

Once the button is selected, you will be taken to the Typekit service, from where you can search for fonts and preview them. Once the right font has been found, the ‘+ Use fonts’ button can be clicked.

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You can then instruct the Typekit service to sync the fonts for you

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As long as the Creative Cloud desktop Application is running and the fonts sync is turned on, the fonts will sync to your computer and be available in your desktop apps.

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Once the fonts have been synced, you can preview them in Photoshop within your artwork. However, if the font list is long you may not be able to see the artwork.

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One of my favorite features that’s now available in CC is the Overscroll option.

Turning on the Overscroll option will turn on the scroll bars (both horizontal and the vertical) on the canvas, so that the canvas can be freely moved around. This will enable the canvas to be moved into position, so you are able to see what’s happening, especially when a menu item will covers document that you wish to preview.

Now, by moving over the fonts you should be able to see the preview in real time.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 17.36.17we can move the text into position by just using the move tool (using the ‘V’ key).

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In this case, the output looks ok, however, if we need to modify to change it’s position, we can. Double clicking on the Spiral layer in the Photoshop layers panel, will open the file in it’s original application, in this case Illustrator. At which point the curves can be changed, by using the handles.

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Once the file is saved, it will be updated inside Photoshop (as long as Photoshop is open). If Photoshop is closed, then it will need to be opened to make the changes.

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To Finish the base so that the object will be self supporting, we most likely just need a flat section at the base that intersects with the object itself. This can be achieved by using a thin rectangle (marked in Green), using the 2D rectangle tool (marked in Red).

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The last thing to do is to convert this 2D layer into a 3D object.

Before we convert to 3D, the best thing i’ve found, is to convert all of the required components into a Smart Object. The Smart Object will place all of the selected layers into a single object, which can be edited at any time in the future (as long as the file is saved as a PSD or a TIFF).

To do this, multi select or just select the layers that are required to be converted (notice that the background white is not included). The Illustrator file was placed into Photoshop with a transparent background, which is what we need to successfully convert this object into a 3D object. Using the menu option choose Filter, Convert for Smart Filters, this will result in a single layer, with the others layers preserved inside it.

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The result should be similar to the following (marked in Yellow).

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To convert the contents as a single entity to a 3D object, make sure the Smart Object layer is selected, and choose the menu option 3D / New 3D Extrusion from Selected Layer. This will convert to a 3D Object and display the 3D mode of Photoshop.

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There will only be a few modifications made to the object before it’s printed. The extrusion/or the depth will be reduced to be around 2cm, and the way that the letter is supported by the spiral.

The extrusion of the whole object can be altered by selecting the 3D object and pressing the ‘V’ key once. Once the second widget in the series of 3 is shown (as shown below), hover over the middle area (extrusion) with the cursor, then either using something like a Wacom pen or mouse drag up/down which will in turn will increase /reduce the extrusion amount. The actual extrusion should be shown in real time. A small heads up display window will be shown, which will show the actual depth in the unit measure that has been selected (probably cm).

The other way of altering the extrusion, is to open the properties panel once the object has been selected and the navigation widget is shown. Then modify the extrusion depth (marked in Red below).

There are a couple of ideas left that we need to consider with the object. The ‘L’ letter is floating above the spiral, and if we printed this, it would be suspended in mid air and might create a failed print (depending on what is depending on it’s location/position).

One option is to lower the ‘L’ so that it intersects with the spiral. To do this, click on the 3D object, then open the properties panel and click on the ‘Edit Source’ button.

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This will re-open the smart object layer that we converted to previously. To open it’s content double click on the Smart Object layer. At this point, all the original layers will be available and the objects can be moved into position, just using the move tool. If the original spiral needs to be modified, then the Place Linked Illustrator Smart Object can be opened and re-edited inside Illustrator. The screen shot below is showing that the letter ‘L’ can be moved down, so that it intersects with the spiral (N.B it ideally needs to intersect with something, but depending on what the design is, it may be a requirement to print them separately, which of course is possible as well).

The Other option is to create some pegs that will hold the ‘L’ object into position.

The Photoshop standard 2D shape tools are an ideal way to create this type of object. The ellipse tool or an other shape tool can be selected. In the following screen shot, an ellipse/circle is created (Red) and a new Layer is created automatically (marked Yellow).


Once the 2S shape has been crated, a 3D object can be created from it by using the menu option 3D / New extrusion from Selected Path.

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This will create a simple 3D object in the shape of a pin (marked in Red below).

To move the camera that is viewing the object the controls marked in Yellow above can be used.

This object is not in the same 3D space as the original spiral shape, it’s within it’s own 3D environment. It can be merged with the main object, by selecting the main object first, then by holding the shift key down, select the pin object (many layers can also be selected using this method).

Once all 3D layers have been selected, they can be merged into the first selected layer using the menu option 3D / Merge Selected Layers.

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The result will be one 3D layer with at least 2 objects (depending on how many where selected during the merge process). Clicking on the object will result in the navigation widget being displayed. Using this widget, the object can be rotated and moved into position. In this case will be under the L.

The fastest way of making sure this object (marked in Red below), is in the correct position, the objects rotation (X/Y and Z axis, marked in Yellow) can be changed using the object position (marked in Green) on the properties panel.

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Objects may then be moved into position using the navigation widget (marked in Red below).

To place the pin in the correct location, the widgets marked in Yellow can be used to position the camera where the objects need to intersect. This will give a much better view of the model when working with this much precision. If you need to get closer, then the Dolly Camera (far right control in the yellow marked area) can be used, in conjunction with the camera up/down (middle control in the yellow marked area).

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In the example a second pin would be ideal. A duplicate of the first pin would be ideal for this use. Within the 3D menu (available on the menu item window/3D ), all objects in the scene can be seen. In here the single pin (marked in blue) is clearly visible. Right clicking on this object will being up the context menu, from here the duplicate or instance object can be selected to create another pin object.

A second object is then created and can then be moved into position. Notice that that pins are long enough so that they intersect the area below the letter, as well as into the letter ‘L’. When this object is printed, this whole section will become a single piece and will hold together, both during the print process, as well as in the finished piece.

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Now the objects have been secured together, it’s time to print it.

In this example below a simple FDM style plastic printer with a single extrusion head will be used.

To access the 3D print menu, open the menu item 3D / 3D Print Settings. The print options will be show (marked in Red). There are many printers available, either local printers, or printers provided by 3D Print services.

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Once the printer and resolution has been selected, the print button can be pressed (marked Yellow). The only issue that may occur and stop the next part of the process, is when the object is larger than the print bed, in this case it will need to be resized. If this is the case, the button ‘Scale to Print Volume’ can be selected, which will reduce the print to be the maximum size of the print bed. Or the model can be reduced manually by using the white square in the middle of the navigation widget from the main 3D view.

The Photoshop 3D print pipeline will be run and the print engine will look at fixing the model for any errors, create a single printable shell and make sure that the model is supported using scaffolding when required. This fixing, repair and scaffolding will be generated specifically to the printer that has been selected. As opposed to a generic fix and scaffolding process.

N.B. This unique process ensures that Photoshop will always create the correct model geometry to ensure a printable object.

Once the mesh fixing and scaffolding has been created (if required). The object and it’s scaffolding will be shown in the preview window.

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Marked in Red above, there are preview options. These options are to  display the mesh only, show the repairs (which are colour coded to the right hand side of these options). Or to show a Raytrace Preview. The Raytrace preview will attempt to show the resolution or the printer, so for example, you are able to what a 100micron print looks like compared to a 50micron print for example.

In this case, the chosen orientation of the model is not best way to print it. Printing this way will print the supports which takes up time and material that may not be needed. A better way is to print the model on it’s side, against the bed. This way, no scaffolding will be required because the object is self supporting.

To go back to the model and re-orientate it, just click cancel and click on the object.

To select all parts that need moving (including the pins, object and base), the 3D menu is used and all components are selected (marked in Red). The properties of the model (marked Green) can be modified, this change will have an impact on all selected components (marked Orange). In this example the X axis has been rotated by 90 degrees. The object can be manually moved into position using the navigation widget, direct on the model if required.

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Now when the 3D print pipeline is selected, the model is fixed and no supports are created because the model is self supporting, even when using a FDM printer. Having no supports will also allow the materials to be used more efficiently, with less waste, and the model will print much faster.

In the following example the object can be clearly seen on the print bed.

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Once the print pipeline has completed, the object and how it will be printed will be shown Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 00.58.31

The actual output on the print bed

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Final piece

I hope this piece is useful and shows what can be achieved extremely quickly using Photoshop CC as a 3D creation tool, then using it’s powerful 3D print engine to print a highly effective object. Please get in touch by leaving a comment if there is something that you would like to see more about in the world of 3D printing with Photoshop CC.




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