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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
In this video, I am going to show you how to take advantage of what's known as the Ground Plane Shadow Catcher. Now, this feature is not found in the standard version of Photoshop, which does not have any 3D features. It's exclusively found inside Photoshop CS5 Extended. I want to make that perfectly clear upfront. Here we are looking at our progress so far. This is the point at which we arrived in the previous video. So I had managed to break apart those wedges into their independent meshes, so that we could modify each and every wedge independently of course.
Now then, what I ultimately want to do is render the scene, like so. This is the final version of the pie chart. You can see, not only are the various wedges casting shadows onto each other because they are all part of the same scene, but they're also casting shadows onto the ground. Normally, by default, there is no ground. If you want to add a ground, you either have to add it as a separate object, which you can then integrate into your scene, or you take advantage of this automatic transparent ground plane that becomes part of the 3D layer.
You can see it represented there inside that thumbnail. All right! So here's how it works. I'll switch back to my image at hand here. Step one is to make sure your 3D layer is active, and then go up to the 3D menu and choose Snap Object To Ground Plane. The reason I like to do this is because you don't really know where that ground plane is. Photoshop does, but you don't, and you can't see it because it's invisible. So the last thing you want to do is start ray tracing your scene if your object is miles away from the ground and it's not going to cast a shadow. So go ahead and choose that command.
When you do, you'll probably notice that your 3D object moves to a different location. In my case, it just slightly moved there, but it's still off its mark. So if I turn on that FPO object, you can see that my pie layer wants to be a little higher. Now, if I were to move it the way I normally do in 3D space using the Object Rotate tool or the Widget or what have you, then I would end up moving the object away from the ground again. I don't want to do that. I want to move the entire scene, ground, and all. So to do that, you go ahead and switch to the Move tool here, the standard, everyday, average Move tool, which moves the entire layer in 2D space.
So just go ahead and drag it up like so, and it's now in the proper position, and the ground moved with it as well. All right! I am going to turn off that FPO layer. The next thing I need to do is load some lights. If I double-click on that pie thumbnail there, I will see here inside my 3D panel-- if I go ahead and twirl closed all these meshes--I'll see that I have the default Infinite Lights. Well, I want three spotlights in order to create some dramatic lighting here. That would take me several minutes to show you how I position these lights, and we've seen that in the previous Deke's Techniques. So, you know what? I went ahead and saved my lights off, so that I can load them for you.
And I did that by going up to the flyout menu and choosing Save Lights Preset. So you can save all the lights associated with the scene and then be able to bring them back later into a different scene. The way you do that, if you want to replace your existing lights, is you choose the Replace Lights Presets command. So I am going to go ahead and choose that command. I've got this p3l file. That's what Photoshop saves. I'll go ahead and load it up, and those Infinite Lights right there will be replaced with spots, and you'll see the lighting change slightly in the background.
All right! So far so good. We're almost ready to ray trace, but we've got to do one more thing. First of all, I am going to hide these right-side panels just so that I have a little more room to work. By the way, here's the most essential step of all and the purpose of this video: go up to the 3D menu, and choose this command right there Ground Plane Shadow Catcher. Go ahead and choose the command, and you'll be told that you're only going to see the effects of the Shadow Catcher when you've ray traced the scene, which is fairly obvious, by the way, if you're familiar with 3D in Photoshop because you don't see shadows-- shadows are not cast by one mesh onto another--unless you ray trace.
So go ahead and click OK. In other words, the shadow will not appear immediately. What you're going to need to do next is go to your Quality setting and change it. This scene is going to take a while to render, by the way. It's pretty complicated. So if you choose Ray Traced Draft, it's going to take like 15-20 minutes. If you choose Ray Traced Final, you better be ready to completely walk away from your machine. It might take an hour. Anyway, I am going to choose Draft here. For obvious reasons, we're going to speed up this process. But I do want you to see it run in the background so that you can watch the scene render in something resembling real time, and you can see those shadows begin to form.
They'll be somewhat noisy shadows, by the way, because I've set the lights so that they're casting very, very soft shadows in many cases. But they should be nice dark, dramatic shadows as well. So in a matter of seconds for me, thanks to the miracle of video editing, I've managed to render out this entire scene, but it will take much longer for you--bear that in mind. And here comes the Shadow Catcher in the background. You can see it's begin to develop. We've got these nice dark shadows. They are a little bit noisy because I've set the lights up so that they have very soft shadows.
However, it ends up creating a fairly brilliant effect I think, definitely a dramatic one. All right! So here's the final ray traced version of the scene. Now, I should mention, by the way, if you're working along with me, pausing the movie, and you're growing impatient with the process, go ahead and click on screen after the first couple three passes because that's where the heavy lifting is done. Now what I find to be amazing about this is not only the shadow detail--this thing just looks so good--but also notice this little blue highlight at the bottom of the orange wedge. That's color that's being integrated from not this scene, not this 3D scene, but rather one of the underlying 2D layers.
So Photoshop has really got its stuff together where this ray tracing is concerned. All right! Just a couple of more things that I want to do. I am going to hide the 3D panel, bring back my Layers panel here. The scene is a little light for me. It lacks contrast. So I went ahead and pumped up the contrast using this levels adjustment layer. You can see the settings if I double-click on it. I've gone ahead and brought this black point value up considerably, and maybe I'd like to back off actually for this specific version of the scene, and drag down on the white point slider a little bit and darken up the scene as well.
I'll go ahead and take this Gamma value down. So I end up getting this effect here. So I'm just basically trying to capture the histogram inside my black point and white point sliders. All right! And then I'll go ahead and add the legend, which I went ahead and recreated inside of Photoshop. I didn't bring it over from Illustrator because there's not really an efficient means for doing that. Then I went ahead and added this headline, too. That is the final effect. I am just going to go ahead and press the F key a couple of times in order to fill the screen with this image. And that friends is how you take advantage of the incredibly powerful Ground Plane Shadow Catcher here inside Photoshop CS5 Extended.
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