Corey Presents: The Evolution of 3D in Photoshop

So with all the excitement surrounding the pending release of Photoshop CS5 and the rest of the Creative Suite I feel it incumbent upon me to talk a bit about 3D in Photoshop because, like anything new or different, there are always divided opinions. Do I really need 3D? What will it do for me as a photographer or as a designer? Why is it in Extended and not Standard? Why is 3D even in Photoshop? While I cannot answer all of these questions I will at least start with that last question.

Why 3D in Photoshop? I think a better question is why did it take so long to get 3D in Photoshop? To answer this let is first look at where 3D started in Photoshop and where it’s going. Look around the world right now. 3D is everywhere. Movies, TV and print advertising, web, everywhere and for the longest time 3D effects were only the domain of those using really involved and expensive 3D applications. Plus the amount of training involved was enough to make almost everyone run for the hills. So 3D remained to those few who endured and learned there way through it. Which was great. However most of the design world was using Photoshop and to get 3D in Photoshop you would have to render a 3D object out of its native application then import into Photoshop without the ability to edit in 3D. Which was a lot of work and not very practical. Then Photoshop CS3 burst on the scene and boasted new 3D features. While I was very excited about this I was soon disappointed as I discovered that the CS3 3D features only allowed you to work with existing 3D art created elsewhere. Making the previously mentioned scenario a bit more feasible, but again this was only for someone already using another 3D application with Photoshop.

Then there was the release of Photoshop CS4, being on the beta program for this version I remember talking to Russell Brown from Adobe at Photoshop World and he was hinting to me that Photoshop has some added 3D features including primitive shapes, 3D lights, and 3D Postcards. Along with some new panels and features the 3D workspace was growing but was still missing one thing. I remember asking Russell about 3D text. Because to me that is what Photoshop users, especially designers would love to have. Well let’s just say I got the short answer and it was left to that. However, despite the lack of 3D text I ventured to explore the newest CS4 3D features and discovered a new world of possibilities. Though greatly limited compared to a full 3D app it a huge leap from what was available in CS3. So after a lot of experimenting I discovered some really interesting techniques. At was thrilled at the direction 3D in Photoshop was headed but there was still plenty of room to grow.

Enter Photoshop CS5. While Photoshop CS5 boasts a number of truly remarkable features, the 3D features have taken another giant, quantum leap forward with the addition of a great new feature called Repoussé. Which, among many things, allows you to create 3D text, but more on that later. For now back to our question. Why 3D in Photoshop? One reason perhaps is because it can. What I mean is technology. Working in 3D in any application is processor intensive. It will chew up RAM in a hurry. I am not kidding! So you can imagine older machines would have been crashing all the time and no one would have liked that. So, as machines have become more powerful and more affordable, the software continues to as well.

Another reason is perhaps because it is the next logical step. As I mentioned earlier 3D is everywhere and to be able to create seemingly complex 3D art all in Photoshop is a huge plus for the Photoshop designer. One last reason is just because users want it. They want to be able to create 3D without knowing 3D. Sounds weird but what I mean is that while having pre-existing knowledge of 3D is a big help, the way they have developed Repoussé in Photoshop will have you creating 3D text or shapes in minutes complete with lighting and reflections, textures, etc. Added to the fact that you are already in Photoshop. Which will allow you combine all the other features Photoshop has to offer.

My answer to why 3D is in Photoshop: Why not?

So What is Repoussé?

I can only imagine the number of different ways this is going to mispronounced. It has a been a running joke here in the office as well. It is actually pronounced reh-poo-zay and comes from a French term meaning ‘formed in relief.’ Which is the practice of hammering a sheet of metal from behind to form a relief sculpture on the other side. Now how did such a name come to describe a new 3D feature in Photoshop? Well about a month ago I was actually out in San Jose at the Adobe HQ building meeting with some of the 3D engineers and some of the Photoshop product managers and finally asked this very question. It just so happened I was talking to the very man who came up with the name. He said when they first started building this feature they were developing a tool that would allow you to attach internal constraint objects to a 3D surface and then push and pull those constraints to form a relief on the textured surface, hence Repoussé. When all was said and done there were considerably more new features than just doing Repoussé, however the name stuck and now we have cool 3D tools with the fancy French name. The best part, all the Repoussé features are conveniently located in a single window.


Despite this peculiar nomenclature, I feel Repoussé is a game changer for 3D in Photoshop as we know it. While CS4 gave us some pretty cool 3D tools, CS5 has made that giant leap forward and among many other things we can now create and modify 3D text entirely inside Photoshop. How cool is that!!

Below is a video that I have done to just give you a quick look at the possibilities with Repoussé.

Other Photoshop 3D Q&A’s:

Is 3D in Standard & Extended versions of Photoshop?

It is only in the Extended version of Photoshop. I wish I had an answer why but it is what it is.

Can you animate 3D in Photoshop?

Yes actually you can. When you have a 3D layer selected. Open the Animation panel and look at the properties for that layer and you will see some 3D properties you can animate using keyframe based animation.

I use Illustrator to create 3D text then bring onto Photoshop. Do I not have to do this anymore?

Nope. You can do it all inside Photoshop if you want. You can certainly continue using Illustrator for that, but why?

Will I need a faster machine to accommodate these new 3D features?

As I mentioned, 3D is very processor intensive so if you are working on an older machine with a slower processor, you will get some lag over time. Though a complete new system is not required. You can do no wrong by at least getting more RAM and more hard disk space.

Do I need any special training for the new 3D features?

Not as much as you think. The features are pretty intuitive, but sometimes just being shown something once can help you pick it up pretty quickly. You can find new 3D tuts over at, and I have a new course over at the Kelby Training website: Mastering 3D in Photoshop CS5. Whether you are new to 3D or been playing with it for a while, this course will have you up to speed in a hurry. Check it out!!

Dig Deeper

As a parting thought I would just like to say that when you get your copy of Photoshop CS5 Extended. I want you to do one thing: EXPERIMENT!! I know I say that a lot but that is the only way to really come up with something cool and original. At the very least it’s a way to get familiar with the features beyond what the manual says or what a tutorial shows you. Really push the software to the edge. What I have discovered is that if Photoshop isn’t crashing while you are experimenting then you aren’t pushing it enough. Well that may not actually be the case. It could just be buggy, but the point is to really see what these features can do and what the thresholds are. You never will know until you try.

Also do not be discouraged. 3D in Photoshop is still a new concept and for many people it’s a brand new concept so be bold, be creative, and be patient! 3D can be time-consuming but the rewards speak for themselves. Here are just a few samples of what I have playing around with using Repoussé in CS5. Hopefully this will give you a good idea of being able to do so much with so little.




Well that’s it. I hope you are as excited about 3D in Photoshop as I am!

Stay tuned, there is more to come.

Corey Barker

Experiment. Have Fun. Be Creative.

  1. Your “repoussé” pronunciation: close, but not quite.

    It’s more like /ruh-poo-SAY/. First ‘e’ is not accented, so it’s like an English schwa. And ‘ss’ is always pronounced like /s/, not /z/.

    Your pronunciation would be correct if it were spelled “répousé’

  2. I stopped reading at “and learned there way through it.” Come on, don’t you have a basic understanding of English, or copy editors to back up the ignorant?

    1. Out of everything that was talked about in the post – plus video, the ONLY thing that stands out to you is the ability to make this post to show the use of a possessive pronoun?

      Rather than comment on technique, comment on whether its useful to you, rather than say thanks for something that you got for free – you’d rather show everyone you have a better command of grammar.

      To answer your questions: No. We -dont- really have copy editors available to edit the ‘free’ blog that we do not out of a job requirement, but out of the fun of doing it. We usually rely on the crack copy editing team that READ our blog and point it out without being snarky about it.


      1. RC,

        Reading that comment that “@zz whole” just now posted pissed me off as well…oh wait did I spell that right??? I don’t think it matters though; Because the high-school English teacher got the memo and I hope he gets the picture..and the frame as well haha…but yo for real chillllll out cuzzzz!!!!

        Scott and the team is doing a S**T load to help the community and have been doing so for how many days, weeks and years now???

        Man if I saw you face to face right now!

        Everyone have a great day…btw nice post Corey; thank you.

        Nassau, Bahamas | Miami, Florida

    2. The only ignorance I see here, is the one who wouldn’t take advantage of Corey’s knowledge when it comes to art and photoshop. The man has mad ninja skills when it comes to this software and is always sharing it with other. Put your rudeness back on the shelf. There is no room for it here. Nor was it warranted.

      Corey, thanks for great article. As always you ROCK!

    3. I stopped reading at “you’re a dick”.

      Why don’t you just enjoy the free tutorial and learn something useful or go on some other website to bitch about something else in your perfect little world.

      Thanks for the FREE post, Corey! Some of us actually appreciate it.

      1. Je suis désolé Wayne, mais Monsieur Teal a raison…
        The double “s” followed by the “e accent aigu” (é) in Repoussé is pronouced “say” and not “zay”. As for the “reh” vs “ruh”, they’re equally fine as English does not have the same sounds so you couldn’t expect it to ever be pronounced properly by an Anglo.

        Chris, I realize that pronounciation is about as interesting as 3D in Photoshop, but Corey opened it up for discussion by writing about it. :P

  3. Thanks your guide line
    because photoshop 3D Problem is use 3d layers file.
    basic my concept is simple photoshop file and use 3D effects so OK

  4. very nice…good for us especially to all graphic artist… it’s look like 3ds max… we can already animate through photoshop….tnx…

  5. So excited to see some 3d modeling getting into more designers arsenal.

    Looking forward to see how this affects product and interior design as graphic designers can shift across and experiment.

    Will also start to see more physical objects 3D printed from photoshop using shapeways, makerbot and alike…

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