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6 steps to turn ordinary photos into amazing 3D anaglyphs with Photoshop

Added on Thursday 18th of June 2009 12:26 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3/CS4

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows

Most of what the art we create in Photoshop is two-dimensional. Even when we add form and shading, the art is still limited to the flat page or monitor. But there is a way you can create awesome 3D images and make your art literally jump off the page—make an anaglyph. We’ll show you how.


To create amazing anaglyphs in Photoshop, we’ll:

       Explain what an anaglyph is and how it works.

       Show you what kinds of images work best for this technique and explain how to prepare your own photos for this process.

       Provide the steps you’ll need to remove the appropriate amount of color from each image and then combine the images for eye-catching results.


As designers, we’re always looking for different approaches to enthrall viewers. One way to make your images really jump off the page is to do just that, make your images jump off the page. Rather than presenting work two-dimensionally, you can use Photoshop to create three-dimensional imagery. Now, we’re not talking about adding dimension to an otherwise flat design graphically, we’re taking this a step further and creating anaglyphs.


What’s an anaglyph?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term anaglyph, just think of those little red and blue 3-D glasses. The basic truth as we know it is this: Paper is flat (unless you fold it into a shape of some sort, but that doesn’t count). So, in order to create a 3-D image on paper, you have to fool the eye into seeing 3-D. You can do this by superimposing two images, creating an anaglyph, and then viewing the combined image with special 3-D glasses. So, now that you can see where we’re going with this, let’s make an anaglyph.


Tip: Don’t have a pair of 3D viewing glasses? Make your own! See our companion article “Make your own hand-held 3-D glasses” in this issue of Inside Photoshop for details.”


Step 1: Take some pictures

First things first, grab your camera, digital or 35 mm and a mini ruler. The tricky part is determining your subject matter. In order to create the best 3-D effect, you must find a scene to shoot that encompasses three main focal points: one being about 7 feet back, another 15 feet back, and a final focal point that’s about 45 feet back. Keep in mind that this isn’t an exact science; the image should just have varying depth levels.


To shoot your photos:

1.          Decide on your subject matter.

2.          Place your camera on a level surface or a tripod. You’ll take two pictures.

3.          Take your first picture.

4.          Slide your camera over so that the center of the lens is 2 1/2 inches to the right (this is when the ruler comes in handy), keeping it at the same height and distance from the subject matter, and then re-shoot the scene.

5.          Once you have your two images, bring them into Photoshop. Make sure that the images are the same size, color mode and resolution.

6.          Rename the images Shot1 and Shot2, representing the first shot and second shot.


Note: By taking the two photos you’re actually mimicking how our eyes see things. The 2 1/2 inches is representative of the distance between our eyes.

If you don’t have time go to out and shoot photos, that’s okay. To follow along with our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, extract the files Shot1.tif and Shot2.tif, launch Photoshop, and open the files shown in Figure A.



Step 2: Saturate the images

First we’ll saturate the images a bit to boost the overall color.


To saturate the images:

1.          Click on Shot1.tif to make it the active image.

2.          Select Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. In the resulting dialog box, increase the Master Saturation slider to 50, as shown in Figure B, and click OK.

3.          Select Shot2.tif and repeat step 2. Your images should now resemble those shown in Figure C.






Step 3: Remove the red

Now that you’ve boosted the colors within your images, you’re ready to apply the 3-D effect. The next step is to remove all of the red from the Shot2.tif image.


To remove the red:

1.        ...