Photoshop is mainly known for its photo retouching tools and adjustments, but it also has a lot of features for creating 3D animations. In this tutorial I’m going to explain how to create a short animation of the Earth spinning around in space. We are going to use some basic and advanced 3D options and a simple animation for the rotation. Let’s get started
You can download the necessary image files from links below:
And here is the final rendered video:
You will need Photoshop CS6 Extended or Photoshop CC to be able to follow this tutorial.
To start our project first we will need to create a New Document. I used 1500 px x 1000 px size with 72 ppi resolution:
We can also place the Space image into the document and resize it to fit the canvas. This layer can also be turned into the Background layer by merging it together with it by selecting both of them together and pressing Command/Control-E.
To create the sphere that we are going to use for the planet first we need to create an empty new layer. You can press Command/Control-Option/Alt-N and then choose Edit > Fill with white. Once you created the layer you can choose 3D > New Mesh from Layer > Mesh Preset > Sphere.
This is what you should see at this point:
At this stage it is advisable to switch to the 3D Workspace by choosing it from the Workspace Switcher drop-down on the top right. Make sure you have easy access to the Properties, 3D, Layers and Timeline panels.
This is the way I organise my Workspace for Photoshop 3D animation projects:
To add the texture of the Earth to the sphere layer first you need to select the Sphere_Material item in the 3D panel. Once you selected it your first option in the Properties panel should be Diffuse.
Click on the little icon next to the color swatch and choose Edit Texture. Place the Earth texture in here and use the Free Transform tool to match the size of the canvas. Once you are finished you can save the texture document and close it.
Still keeping the Sphere_Material selected from the 3D panel click on the icon next to the Bump value in the Properties panel. You should select Sphere_Material from the drop down.
You can increase the Bump level up to around 30-40%. The higher you set the value the more depth you add to the texture on the sphere. With 30% Bump you should see something like this:
To make the animation more realistic we will need to create a separate 3D layer for the clouds as they are not included in the planet texture. The easiest way is by duplicating the 3D layer that we already created for the planet. Select the layer and press Command/Control-J. Once you have the duplicate layer you can rename them. The one at the bottom can be named ‘Earth’ and the one on the top ‘Clouds’.
First of, we will have to remove both the Diffuse and the Bump maps from this layer. Make sure you select the Clouds layer from the Layers panel and Sphere_Material from the 3D panel. You can then click on the icon to the right of the Diffuse color swatch and choose Remove Texture. Do the same on the Bump value’s icon.
Now you can click on the Diffuse color swatch and adjust it to be pure white. This prepared our texture and now we just need to add transparency to it.
In this case the transparency map is going to define the shapes of our clouds around the planet. Click on the Opacity value’s icon in the Properties panel and choose New Texture. You should use the same settings for the new texture document as the settings for the original document.
Width: 1500 px
Height: 1000 px
Resolution: 72 ppi
Once this new texture document opens up you can place the clouds_transparency.jpg while into it, which you can find at the top of this article. Make sure you use the Free Transform tool to match the size of the canvas with the texture and save and close the document when ready.
This is what you should see now in your document area:
We are almost done with our model, just a couple of tweaks needed. First of all let’s select the Clouds layer and the Sphere item from the 3D panel. Now click on the he Coordinates tab in the Properties panel and increase the Clouds layer’s size using the third column in the Properties panel. You should change all 3 values to 103%.
Now you should merge the two 3D layers together by selecting them and pressing Command/Control-E. Once merged you should see two shape items in the 3D panel, which you should rename to Earth and Clouds accordingly. You should also make sure that for both of them the Cast Shadows option is turned off from the Properties panel.
Last but not least, to add the atmosphere around the planet let’s double-click on the merged 3D layer and choose Outer Glow from the Layer Styles. These are the values I used:
Now that we are ready with the 3D model, we can create the animation. First of all, you need to click on Create Video Timeline in the Timeline panel. To be able to start animating the 3D model, you have to click on the twirly triangle next to the layer’s name and then again on the other twirly triangle next to the 3D meshes.
You should also click on the stopwatch icons on both the Earth and Clouds values. This will define the first keyframes for the meshes.
To create a 360 degrees spin on the planet you will have to use a couple of steps as Photoshop can’t handle higher than 180 degrees rotations at a time. I used 3 keyframes spinning the meshes 120 degrees each time. You can decide how much seconds you want to use for the whole animation. Unfortunately at the moment 3D animations are limited to a maximum of 10 seconds.
To export your animation choose File > Export > Render Video. These are the settings I recommend to use:
Hopefully this tutorial will help you make the most of Photoshop’s 3D and animation features in your future projects. Good luck and have fun :)