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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 movie, I'll show you how to create this cool subwoofer from the future as a 3D object using a depth map. But here is a special thing about this technique. We'll actually be drawing the contours of these curves that define the subwoofer using a Curves adjustment layer that directly translates to the shape of the object. So I am going to switch over to my base image here, and we're going to start by building the object inside of a new document, for the simple reason that we need to be working inside of a square and this image is rectangular.
So I will go up to the File menu and I'll choose the New command. And this image should be 900 pixels wide--it's very important that you're working in pixels--by 900 pixels tall. The Resolution value doesn't matter at all; however, we want to change the Color mode from RGB to Grayscale. This is very important. And also very important is that you're working in 16-bit-per-channel mode. If you're creating 8-bit-per-channel image, you're going to get lumpy results. The Background Content should be set to Transparent, and then go ahead and click the OK button in order to create that image.
I am going to rename this "layer gradient" because it's going to contain a radial gradient in just a moment. But before I draw the gradient, I want to give this layer a vector mask. And the reason we're going with a vector mask is I want some very sharp results, as sharp as I can get them, around the feet, here at the base of the subwoofer, and we're not going to get that if we use a layer mask. So, drop down to the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the panel, and instead of clicking on it, press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and click on it, and that will give you a vector mask.
Now, click on that vector mask thumbnail to select it and then drop down to the Shape tool flyout menu and select the Ellipse tool, because we're going to be drawing a circle to contain the depth map gradient. Now, we want to create the circle from the center outwards, so we need to create some center guides. And the easiest way to do that is to go to the View menu and choose the New Guide command and then change the Position value to 450 px, for pixels--450 being half of 900. And by default, the orientation will be set to Horizontal. That's just fine. Click OK.
Then, go back up to the View menu, choose that exact same command again. This time, enter another position value of 450 px, and this time switch the Orientation to Vertical, and then click OK. Now, I want you to go up to the options bar and change that first setting from Shape to Path, and then go over to this icon right here, the first icon, which is Path operations. Click on it and choose Combine Shapes, and that way it will create a path outline inside of this vector mask. And then, I want you to click right there at the intersection of those two guidelines to bring up the Create Ellipse dialog box.
Change both values to 1200 pixels and then turn on the From Center checkbox and click OK, and you'll create a big ellipse, like so. Now, I'll go ahead and switch over to the Gradient tool, because what we're going to do is draw a base gradient. It's going to be a radial gradient. So go up to the options bar and click on the Radial Gradient icon and then click on this down-pointing arrowhead next to the Gradient bar. Make sure that your gradient is set to Foreground to Background. Most likely, your foreground to background colors are going to be black and white respectively.
Assuming they are, go ahead and press the X key in order to swap them so white is the foreground color and black is the background color. And just so we get the smoothest results possible, turn off the Dither checkbox. Then go ahead and draw from the intersection of those two guides to the outer edge of the circle. And I am pressing the Shift key in order to constrain the angle of my drag to exactly diagonal. That's not absolutely necessary but can be helpful. And you'll end up getting this radial gradient right here. Now, let's convert the gradient to a depth map, and you do that by going up to the Window menu and choosing 3D to bring up the 3D panel.
Again, we're working in Photoshop CS6 Extended. Go ahead and select this option, Mesh from Depth Map, and make sure that the next setting down is set to Plane, and then click on the Create button. If Photoshop asks you if you want to switch to the 3D workspace, that's entirely up to you. I am going to say no. And you will end up with this sort of pointy-looking thing coming at you here. Now, we're going to move this object into the background image. But before we do, we need to expand the canvas so that it matches the size of the background image, and you do that by going up to the Image menu and choosing the Canvas Size command.
Then, inside of this dialog box, go up to the Window menu, if you're working along with me, and choose Fading floor.psd which is the name of that background image, and Photoshop will automatically expand the image size. And the real size here--I will switch to Pixels--is 1300 pixels wide by 900 pixels tall. You should have that center square selected. Then go ahead and click OK in order to expand the canvas. Now, I want you to press the M key to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee tool, right-click anywhere inside the layer, and choose the Duplicate layer command. And then go ahead and switch the document to Fading floor.psd and I'll go ahead and call this new layer "subwoofer" and then click OK.
We're done with this image. You can save it or not--it doesn't really matter, because it's now embedded inside the other image. I'm going to switch back to it, and there is our depth map waiting for us to change it. Go ahead and switch to the Move tool, which you can do by selecting it or pressing the V key, and then double-click on the item called Depth Map here inside the 3D panel to bring up the Properties panel. And I want you to switch over to Coordinates by clicking on that second icon. And we need to make a couple of modifications here. First of all, you want to change the X value in the second column to 90 degrees, and that will rotate this guy upright.
I also want you to change the X value here in the third column to 110%; tab to the Y value and change it to 110% as well; leave the Z value set to 100%. Now, let's adjust the view by clicking on Current View inside this list. And for the sake of expediency, I am just going to dial in some coordinates. This isn't the way you really work. You start just dragging around inside of the image window like so to determine the angle of your view. However, I ended up coming up with some specific numerical values, and they are, for the first X value -390, and then for the Y value, 360.
And by the way, if you're working along with me and the object just totally goes off-screen, don't worry about it; it will come back. Tab to the Z value and change it to 146. Then tab to the X value at the top of the second column and change it to 27.5 degrees. Tab to the Y value and take it down to -62 degrees and then leave the Z value set to 0 degrees, and we'll end up with this effect here. Now, the reason it looks all pointy is because we haven't assigned the Curves modification.
So let's go ahead and do that. I am going to hide my Properties panel for a moment. And notice this item here under the subwoofer layer that says gradient Depth Map. Go ahead and double-click on it in order to open the gradient that's embedded inside of the image. And next, press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, click and hold on that Black/White icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose the Curves command. And because you have the Alt or Option key down, that will force the display of the New Layer dialog box. Just go ahead and call this layer "contours" and then click OK.
I'm going to expand the size of my Curves graph by dragging from the bottom-left corner of the Properties panel here. What you want to do is you just want to click in order to set some points and start dragging them up and down, like so, in order to define the contours of that subwoofer. And finally, you want this guy to round off at the top. So, in other words, you want to create a nice smooth rounding there. Now, I went ahead and saved a Curves graph that I created in advance, and I am going to load it up by clicking on the flyout menu icon in the top-right corner of the Properties panel, and I will choose Load Curves Preset.
And if you download my exercise files, you'll find a file called Subwoofer.acv. Go ahead and click the Load button in order to load it on up. If you're working on your own and you don't have the exercise files, just try to rough in something that looks generally like this. If you don't get the exact same results, you can always go back and modify them later if you like. Now, let's see what the results look like, by clicking the Close box in order to close this image, and then you go ahead and click the Yes button here on the PC or the Save button on the Mac in order to update your 3D object.
Notice now we've gone ahead and drawn a full subwoofer. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean it looks all that great at this point, because we haven't lit it properly and it needs some adjustment to the materials. So I am going to press the M key to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee tool so I get all that 3D folderal off the screen. And there is one issue with the subwoofer: it's not on the floor. So just to make sure that the subwoofer isn't hovering above the floor, go up to the 3D menu and choose Snap Object to Ground Plane, and that should just slightly adjust the placement of the subwoofer.
If you're seeing shadows kind of in the air, don't worry about that; we'll take care of that issue in just a moment. Now, let's load up some lights by bringing up the 3D Panel flyout menu and choosing Replace Lights Presets. Again, if you have my exercise files, you'll find a file called Two lights.p3l. Go ahead and select it and load it on up, and that will cast a couple of different lights on the scene. Now, let's make a couple of environmental adjustments by double-clicking on Environment here inside the 3D panel. And you can now make your Properties panel thinner if you want to, but it needs to be pretty tall in order to see everything here.
Click on this gray Global Ambience swatch in order to bring up the Color Picker dialog box, and I am going to change the Brightness value to 15% in order to knock down the ambient light. Drop down to the Shadows option here, click on the word Opacity, and change it to 100% so we have opaque shadows. Now, notice this item called Gradient, under Depth Map. Go ahead and double-click on it and rename it Materials because it represents materials that are assigned to our object. And we want to make a few modifications here.
Go ahead and click on this little page next to the word Diffuse and choose Remove Texture, and that will result in this bizarre transparency. Drop down to Opacity here, click on its little page, and choose Remove Texture as well, and that will get rid of that opacity mask. Then, click on the gray swatch next to Diffuse and take the Brightness value down to 15%, then click OK, because we want a nice dark subwoofer here. Click on the very dark-gray swatch next to Specular, and let's take that Brightness value up to 100%, because we want some bright light reflections. And then click on the black swatch next to Ambient, and we'll take its Brightness value up to 50%, and then click OK.
Finally, I want you to change the Reflection value from 0%, which is the default setting, to 25%. Now, you can go ahead and hide the Properties panel. You can hide the 3D panel as well. All that's left is to render the scene, so go up to the 3D menu and choose Render. Notice you also have this keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+Shift +Alt+R on the PC, Command+Shift+Option+R on the Mac. Now, Photoshop is not super fast at rendering, so this is going to take a minute or two to complete on your machine. We're speeding the process up in the video because I don't really want to waste your time here.
Now, the only thing left is to turn on a couple of text layers that I've created in advance here, and we end up with this final effect: a space-age subwoofer, created using a combination of a depth map and a Curves adjustment layer, here in Photoshop CS6 Extended.
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