PSD to 3D: Turn Photoshop images into 3D scenes

PSD to 3D
(Image credit: e.d. films)

PSD to 3D, the latest plugin released by e.d. films, aims to bypass the 3D modelling phase of production and help artists with little to no 3D experience turn their Photoshop CC sketches into mouldable, animation-ready scenes and characters.

"An illustrated look is hard to replicate in 3D, even if you know the software," says Daniel Gies, art and tech director at e.d. films. "With PSD to 3D, every line and brush stroke is passed onto the 3D meshes, so artists can bring a unique look to their animations."

The tool was produced in-house at e.d. films' Montreal studio, an establishment that has actively avoided fully 3D productions and characters in favour of capturing an illustrative, handmade style. "As our projects became more ambitious, we found that After Effects could no longer support the style we were doing without slowing us down," Gies continues. 

As the studio began incorporating Maya and game engine technology into their work, they had to resist the urge to fully embrace 3D, doing so would increase their workload and necessitate a higher level of expertise than they had. "We found that, in many cases, it was faster just to paint a new 2D asset, bring it into Maya and deform it a little, than it was to make a fully 3D prop," adds Gies.

PSD to 3D

PSD to 3D can convert a layered painting into a 3D landscape (Image credit: e.d. films)

Although PSD to 3D's conversion technology is production-grade, it is designed to be simple enough for a novice to start converting Photoshop drawings and paintings into 3D art within mere minutes. "We've been working with Maya for over 15 years and recognise how daunting that program can be," says Gies.

"We also see where other programs, like After Effects, have done a really good job at being accessible to Photoshop users by making the entry point really easy. This became an important reference point for us."

e.d. films ultimately landed on a two-tier approach, one method was to automate the process, meaning a Photoshop artist could export their painting and have the whole thing modelled and textured in Maya within a few minutes. This approach, however, was deemed limiting for more advanced users. 

PSD to 3D

It can also turn flat characters into solid-looking 3D models (Image credit: e.d. films)

"We added another export method that would enable a Photoshop artist to create the exact geometry they want," Gies explains, "by using the Pen tool they can draw a mesh in Photoshop that will then be regenerated in Maya, point for point." Not only have Gies and the team delivered a tool for quickly creating meshes for 3D geometry, they've presented users with a new way to learn Maya.

"There is so much coming up at the studio in the next two years," says Gies, looking towards the future of e.d. films. First up is a short entitled Giant Bear, which premiered at Annecy 2019. "We're wrapping up another internal short film that is actually using PSD to 3D and a bunch of our store assets extensively," adds Gies. 

The studio also has a roadmap for the next PSD to 3D release, which will include OSX support, more robust mesh generation options, faster import, better texture management and interactive mesh tweaking that won't stretch UVs. 

PSD to 3D is available from the e.d. films shop in both Pro and Lite versions.

This article was originally published in issue 134 of 3D Artist. Buy issue 134.

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