#CreativeFriday – Moving 3D Objects, Cameras and Rendering in Photoshop CC

I was asked a while ago to create an article on how to move 3D objects and cameras around in Photoshop CC and, in general how to work with the 3D scene. Having an ability to moving objects around a scene is the basic building blocks of putting something interesting in 3D in Photoshop CC together. Knowledge of this will smooth out the 3D Photoshop experience.

The exercise and objective of this post is to take two individual objects, place them both into one scene and align them against each other, by using just Photoshop’s move and camera tools. The final part of the exercise will be to light the scene using Image Based Lights (IBL’s).

Importing 3D objects into Photoshop CC is straight forward, you can either open then as you would regular file, the 3D file formats that Photoshop CC supports are :-

OBJ, STL, PLY, 3D PDF, VRML, Flash 3D, Collada (DAE), IGES. The Collada, (STL and OBJ are the most common in this arena), Collada is a wonderful format, which is highly flexible and was designed to be an interchange format between 3D applications. Collada, also has the ability to contain animation of the models, which can also be processed and leveraged in Photoshop CC.

3D Objects will be imported into separate canvases and will at some point need to be merged into a single scene, if  the objects need to interact and occupy the same space.

In the following screen shot, you can see there are two canvas, each with a 3D Object. 3D Objects are represented in the Layers panel as a special 3D layer. This 3D layer also contains references to any materials and other specific 3D obejcts that are associated with the scene (i.e below you can see the diffuse/texure map, as well as the Image Based Light (IBL)).

When a 3D object has been selected (by using the regular Photoshop Move tool, accessed by using the ‘V’ key), the ground plane will become visible (if not already). Also, any lights (white circle on the lower part of the interface) will become accessible. The Photoshop CC 3D environment also has the option to have the secondary orthographic view available (window in top left below), we will discuss this in more detail later, but essentially it’s useful when lining items up in the scene.

Moving the camera

There are two ways to move the camera(s) in Photoshop CC. The original 3D move tools are highlighted in yellow below and the new CC tools are highlighted in red. You may ask, what’s the difference? The yellow tools are only available when the Photoshop move tool is selected, while the red tools are available when in the move tool or in the brush tool. This enhancement was made so that the cameras could be moved when you are painting directly on the model and wish to move to another area, or zoom in/out of the model.

Both sets of tools are equal :-

  • Dolly – This moves the camera toward or away from the object
  • Orbit – This moves the camera around the object
  • Pan – This moves the camera above, below and to either side of the object

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To get another 3D layer into a single canvas, you can either drag and drop it in from another canvas (the same as in 2D), or use the 3D menu 3D / New 3D Layer from File.


Once the objects exist in the same canvas, you will need to merge them into the same scene to allow them to interact with each other.

Combining objects into a single scene

When multiple objects are brought into a Photoshop canvas, they will be on separate layers. To merge them together,  select the destination scene, then select the source scene and choose from the 3D menu / Merge 3D Layers.

N.B. How to choose the destination 3D scene.

This is an important consideration. When you are merging 3D layers you need to be conscious of any environment configurations (Lights, IBL setup etc). You should always select a single destination which contains your desired lighting setup and merge into this one. As Photoshop will preserve the lights in the destination and when merging, will only move the object from the source.


In the following example, two layers have been selected (the rocket scene being the destination that contains the lighting will be set up). Then the menu option 3D / Merge 3D Layers is selected.


Once the merge has completed, the two objects (marked yellow and red below) will be in the same scene, any materials will be available in the layers panel (as shown below).

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Once the objects are merged, they can interact with each other. Each item is also independently selectable as well as they are jointly selectable with other objects (for moving or rotation as a group etc).

Whilst the move tool is selected, a click on the object(s), this in turn will select the cage and will activate the 3D navigation widget. At this point, the object(s) can be :-

  • Moved – At the end of each axis on the widget an arrow is available that will move the object in direction (as well as the opposite) direction.
  • Rotated – The second feature (from each axis end) is the rotation tool, this will rotate the object along the axis.
  • Scaled – The third feature will scale the object along the desired axis
  • Scaled Uniformly – The centre point of the widget, will uniformly scale the object to be smaller or larger.


Move – The example below shows the Move point of the widget.

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Rotation – The example below shows the rotation point of the widget.

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You might notice the yellow points on the cage, these points allow interaction, supporting movement and rotation of the cage. Also, by selecting the cage, the properties of the object will allow direct input of new positions of the object (marked in red).

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The scene lights are accessible using the light object (marked in red). Once selected, the light widget will appear (marked in Yellow). This widget allows the light source (in this case the infinite light) to be moved, along with any shadows that might be created on the ground plane. The Light properties (marked in green), show which parts of the light can be modified (including, colour of the light, intensity, as well as and shadow presence and softness required).

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The colour of the light can be changed, and a new colour selected from the colour picker. By clicking on the area marked in red below (any lighting modification will only affect the render and not the final colour print, to alter the colour prints, the materials will need to be changed, this will be covered in a separate blog post).

3D Panel 

The 3D menu is available from the Photoshop menu bar (Window / 3D ). This menu will show the structure for the scene (marked in red below) :-

  • Environment
  • Scene
  • Current View
  • Default Camera
  • Model(s) (There will one of these for each model in the scene)
    • Material(s)

Individual or multiple Object(s) can be selected from the 3D menu (using a single click or CTRL+Click on multiple objects), this action, will in turn will select the physical object(s).

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(Screenshot showing the 2nd object selected by using the 3D menu.)

Moving and aligning objects 

Successfully lining objects to other objects in the scene works best when you have more than one view of the scene. The secondary view (marked in purple below) certainly helps with this task. The secondary view (if not already enabled), is available on the regular Photoshop menu View / Show / Secondary view, and is only available when the 3D layer is selected. This view will show an orthographic view of the model(s) and helps the moving/aligning process.

Using the arrows that are available on each axis of the Move tool widget (marked in Purple), allows the object to be moved into position (you may also need to scale, uniform scale or rotation to get the objects into the correct position). Moving the object in the main window, will also move the object in the secondary view as well, therefore aiding the lining up process.

Creating Other 3D Extrusions from 2D Objects

In this example, I would like to have the logo attached to the Rocket. But there is some existing geometry which I cannot remove in Photoshop. I would need to open a 3D application to remove the polygons manually. In this example, a shape will be extruded which will be used to cover the existing geometry. This process is being used to show the extrusion of a shape, rather than show how to correctly replace polygons/geometry. If i was in a production environment, I would open in 3D software and remove the polygons manually. A quick way to fix this issue, is to place a blank area over original polygons and hide them. This can be achieved by extruding a simple ellipse shape from the shapes menu.


Once the ellipse has been created, it can be extruded into a 3D shape, as shown below.

This shape can then be merged (the same as before, by selecting the relevant layers in the correct order, then moving into place, intersecting the place on the 3D object where the logo needs to be placed).


Switching views

Within the secondary view, it’s possible to change the orthographic view. The menu for this is available from the down arrow icon on the secondary view (marked in green below).

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Once the new view has been selected on the secondary view, it can then be switched to the main view by clicking on the switch arrow (marked yellow below). Sometimes, it can be simpler to work in orthographic view in the main window, especially when moving and aligning objects.

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The following screen shows when the objects are aligned.


Once the object has been aligned, it may need to have it’s material changed. In this case i would like it to stand proud of the rest of the model.

The example below shows how a simple material (shipped with Photoshop) can be applied to a model(s). The material element is available on the 3D menu (marked in Red, there may be more materials depending on the complexity and number of surfaces of the object selected). The shipped materials (marked in purple) are available from the materials selector, within the same marked area. Selecting a new material here, will update the object in the main scene window as well as the secondary view.

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Once the objects are in position, we can finish the lighting of the object

Image Based Lights – IBL

Image Based Lights (IBL’s) are extremely powerful and will allow the Photoshop rendering to look amazing. IBL’s will give a natural lighting effect to the scene and are based on a simple black and white mask, but can get more complex when required.

Accessing the IBL is available from the Environment tab of the 3D menu (marked red). Within the properties (marked yellow) the IBL textures can be replaced or removed etc.

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The IBL is a simple 2D texture that will control how ambient light will hit the model in the scene. You can create your own, or download the two setup’s from the photoshop.com web site (under IBL’s here, and navigate to ‘Stages and Sets’). For this example i’m going to use a simple one, which will give the model a realistic look and feel.


Once loaded into the scene, the IBL can be moved and controlled. The IBL and it’s properties can be accessed on the Environment tab in the 3D menu. Once selected, the IBL can be rotated into the best position by dragging the ball marked in Yellow. The ball shows the orientation of the mask and how the light source will be transmitted into the scene.

The IBL environment properties can be found in the standard properties panel (marked in Blue). Here you can manage the colour and intensity, as well as shadows and other ground plane parameters.

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The next step in this example is to create a background with a gradient (marked in red), then it’s positioned using the transform tool (CTRL+T).

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The rendering of the scene can be done by clicking the rendering button within the properties panel (marked in red below, there are many different places to render the scene).

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Saving 3D models as .PSD or .TIFF.

The last stage is to save the object and it’s layers to either a TIFF or PSD file.


We hope that from this post you are able to successfully navigate around the 3D scene and use the Photoshop CC navigation tools to make your objects interact and start some basic 3D modelling.

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