Photoshop for 3D artists


Mari is becoming the standard painting software these days, but photoshop still have a lot of use for 3D artists. It’s such a versatile software that even if you not painting your textures inside photoshop you can use it to prepare your textures, projections, cleaning, etc. In this post I will share a few tips that I use in photoshop from a 3D artist point of view.

Tileable layers

tileable layers photoshop

When I am working in the base of my textures I like to use tileables as a starting point and build from there, selecting 2/3 tileable textures and mix them using different blending modes. Instead of copy and paste the tileables into your document and have to duplicate to fit your texture size, you can select your tileable textures and make a pattern: Edit >> Define Pattern. Then in your main texture document, go to Layer >> New fill layer >> Pattern. Now your tileable texture will fit your document and you have the control over the image repeat similar to the place2Dtexture control in maya. Anytime you need to change the scale/repeats just click on the pattern layer and edit the scale attribute.

Content aware

content aware photoshop

The content aware features are very useful when working with textures inside photoshop. You can select some areas of your texture and use the content aware fill to remove undesired patterns for example. In the above image I wanted to extend the leaking mask and content aware was perfect. I selected the part of the image I wanted to replace, shift + backspace, and selected content aware in the fill options. This trick will not always work as you wish, but in my experience it is really usefull to fill “broken” areas of your texture, make the textures more even and remove unwanted patterns.

Remove highlights

remove highlights photoshop

Removing highlights/shadows from your textures is a required step because all the lighting information in your images should come from the cg lights only. For this process I use 3 simple tools, the patch tool let’s you select an area that you want to replace and then you drag to a similar region with no highlights. Other option is to copy a clean part and place it over the highlights area removing the edges with a soft erase brush to blend with the original. And finally the clone stamp that lets you select a region to paint over another.

Straightening images and removing distortion

image distortion

Some images may have perspective/alignment issues. In this situations you can use the ruler tool dragging a line over the a part of the image where you think that should be straight and click in straighten layer in the tool settings.

remove distortion

If you have distortion issues you may want to play with the tools of the lens correction filter, under filters >> lens correction. For finer control, in the custom tab adjust the slider remove distortion until you feel it’s correct. Then just crop the edges around the image.

Clone Stamp brush hardness

clone stamp brush

When creating tileable textures or editing regions, the clone stamp tool is your best choice, but a common mistake is to not set the correct brush hardness. If your image is full of sharp details you should use an high hardness otherwise you will start to lose image quality introducing softness in your texture. It’s also true that hard brushes will reveal your paint strokes, so pay attention to the stroke edges to make sure the blending is natural.

Clone Stamp vs healing brush

healing brush

The clone stamp tool can quickly introduce a lot of repetition in your textures if you don’t constantly change the clone area and it may also cause unnatural blending between edges like we discussed in the previous tip. The healing brush is similar to the clone stamp but will attempt to blend the cloned pixels keeping the region’s hightlights and shadows. In some situations the healing brush is more useful since it’s not an “hard copy” of the clone region, in other hand may not work so well in some areas and smudge/blur your images.

Color range

color range alphas

Creating “alphas” to use inside other painting programs like mari is very easy with photoshops’s color range feature. Select the layer pixels (ctrl + a) and go to select >> color range, play with the fuzziness slider until you find the right spot.  When you finish, with the selected pixels fill a new layer with white and create a black background. Then use the levels adjustment to have final control over the image range. Other option to create alphas is to remove the saturation from the image and just play with the levels adjustment.

Image inside masks

image masks

Creating solid color fill layers (layer >> new fill layer >> solid color) is a good practice when you are painting inside photshop/mari, this way you can work in a non-destructive workflow painting inside the mask. Other useful trick is to paste textures inside the masks, copy the texture you want to paste, select the layer mask icon and alt click on the mask icon, you will “enter” in the mask itself, and here paste using ctrl+shift+v to paste in place. Now exit the mask by selection the color icon in the layers or selecting any other layer. if you want to do this inside mari check this very useful tip from Xuan Prada.

Flatten image into a new layer

flatten into new layer photoshop

Sometimes is useful to have a flatten version of your psd without actually flattening the image. To do this, select your top layer and use the ctrl + shift + alt + e shortcut. this will create a new layer with a flatten version of your visible layers in the document.

Paste special

paste special

Apart from “normal” paste and paste in place, you also have an option paste into, which lets you paste into a selection creating the mask for you. this is very handy for uv patches where you need to paste specific textures. Make the selection and then edit >> paste special >> paste into or ctrl+shift+alt+v.

Ok, hopefully you learned something from those tips, let me know if you have any questions or just leave your feedback in the comments area below.

  • Raskal Robbin

    Ps needs ptex support