In this tutorial, I will show you how to create a perspective 3D scene and the illusion of depth with Photoshop’s basic features like transform tools, masking, blending, adjustment layers, and more. I will try to explain it in a very easy way so the beginners can follow along.
What you’ll be creating
We will start this tutorial by creating perspective background, then adding shadows and some elements, such as chains, pipe and wires. Finally, we will finish it up by adding some nice textures to it. You will need Photoshop CS5 or newer to follow this tutorial.
- Man – Shutterstock
- Metal Texture – Markpiet
- Vault – Kiyoi-Stock
- Sci-Fi Prop – Inadesign-Stock
- Steam Stock – Random-Acts-Stock
- Chain – Lemurianwanderer
- Wire – Enframed
- Crack Texture – Obsidian-Fox-Stock
- Metal Texture 2 – Mercurycode
- Rivets – Enframed
- Barcode – SXC.hu
- Stain Texture – Kizistock
Let’s start by open the image of Man. First thing we need to do is to extract the Man from the background. Before we start anything, double click the Background layer in the Layers panel to unlock it, then select the Magic Wand Tool (W) from the Tool panel. Magic Wand Tool is a great way to select this kind of images – that have areas of similar tone and color. In the Option bar, Set the Tolerance to 25 and simply click on the background area.
You’ll see that the selection isn’t perfect, but we can always fix it in Quick Mask Mode by pressing the (Q) key on the keybord. Now grab the Brush Tool (B) in the Tools panel and start painting with a hard-edged brush preset. The red overlay indicates areas that are not selected. Keep painting until you have a smooth line that you are happy with.
Once you’ve done with Quick Mask Mode, press the (Q) again to go back to the Normal Mode, then press Delete to remove the background.
Now Go to Image > Canvas Size, uncheck the Relative option and change the dimensions to 3362 x 3719 pixels. An alert box will pop up telling you that clipping will occur. Just click Proceed and we are good to go. Move the Man down slightly so we can see the part of his head, then add the new layer below the currently selected layer by hold down the Ctrl key and click on the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Go to > Edit > Fill and select Black from the Contents drop down menu.
What we are going to do next is create a perspective guide for the background. This guide will help us develop perspective view to build 3D scene for the background. Create a new layer below the Man layer, draw a rectangle with Retangular Marquee Tool (M) in the middle of the canvas, something around 1952 x 2432 pixels. With the selection still active, again Go to > Edit > Fill, but this time choose 50% Grey.
Open the Vault image. Press the Ctrl+A from the keyboard to select the entire image, then Go to > Edit > Copy, and Paste (Ctrl+V) it to our canvas. Drag the layer beneath the Man layer in the Layers panel. Press the Ctrl+T and scale the image as big as perspective guide we created earlier. As you can see, the Vault is leaning a bit so we want to turn it to look a little bit more symmetrical. To do that, press Ctrl+T again, right click on the bounding box around the object, choose Warp, and start to pull the the Vault into a better alignment.
Adjust tone and the color of the image a little bit. Go to > Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (Ctrl+U) and reduce the Saturation to -89. Then go to Layers panel, create a new adjustment layer and select Level. Make sure you turn on the Clipping Mask button and set the settings as shown in the 1st image. Now Go to > Layer > Layer Style and select Color Overlay, or you can also simply clicking the (fx) icon in the Layers panel. Apply similar settings in the 2nd image below.
When you analyze the image of a Man, the light seems to come from the front, and when the object is further from the light, it should get darker. So the idea is to keep the darker part of the Metal texture further next by the Vault.
Before we go to the next step, turn off the layer visibility of Man layer by clicking the eye icon in the Layers panel. Open the Metal Texture image, and drag it to our canvas. Press Ctrl+T, right click in selected area and choose Distort from the menu. Go to > View, and check the Snap option. This will help us to snap the handles precisely to another object while dragging. Now drag top left corner of handles to the top left corner of canvas, and the other one to the top left corner of the Vault layer. Then Go to > Image > Adjustment > Levels and set the setting as shown below.
When you are done with one side, create the other one by copy the layer. Simply drag and droping it into the new layer icon of the Layers panel. Then again, press Ctrl+T, right click, and select Flip Horizontally. Repeat the process with the same technique to create the ceiling and the floor.
Now you see, the Vault still does not blend well with the Wall. To fix that, Go to > File > Place and select Metal Texture image. This will automatically import the image as a Smart Object into our canvas. Put the Metal texture layer above the Vault layer. Press Ctrl+T and scale the image to fit the width of the Vault. Hold down the Shift key as you drag to maintain its proportion.
Now set the layer’s Blending Mode to Soft Light. Duplicate the layer by dragging and droping it into the new layer icon of the Layers panel. Press the Ctrl+T again and put the pivot point to the top center of the bounding box. Then right click and choose Flip Vertically from the menu to cover the top area of the Vault.
Let’s turn back on the visibility of Man layer. Click the Add Layer Mask at the bottom of the Layers panel and start painting with soft black brush preset to get rid parts of the body. No need to be precise, as we can fix that up later. The advantage of using the Layer mask is that you can always come back and edit any adjustments you’ve made previously.
Now with the adjustment layers, select Hue/Saturation. Set the Hue to +12, and reduce the Saturation to -70. This will give the Man a lot more blended look with the background. When you have configured the settings, make sure a clipping mask is applied to the layer.
Now let’s focus on shading the backround and add some depth. Load the selection of perspective guide layer by clicking on the layer thumbnail while hold the Ctrl key. Add a new layer above the Vault layer and grab the Gradient Tool (G) on the Tool panel. Press and hold Shift key, then click and drag from the left to right on the left edge side of the Vault. Reduce the Opacity to 39% and set the Blending Mode to Multiply. See the 1st image below.
With the same technique, repeat the process on the right and bottom edge of the Vault. As you can see, the bottom area of the Vault is lighter than the other area, so we need to darken it a bit by increase the Opacity to 60%.
Continue adding shadows, but this time on the Wall. The technique is more or less the same as the previous step. We can also use the Burn Tool (O) to darken some parts of the area. Choose Highlights from the dropdown menu in the Option bar to darken the lightest area, and choose Midtone to darken the middle tones area. Try to use soft-edged brush with low opacity when you paint.
Next, we need to create a shadow of a Man on the Vault. Load the selection of the Man layer (Ctrl+click), then add a layer right below it and fill with solid black. Go to > Edit > Transform > Distort and start pulling two upper corner like the 2nd image below. Now Go to > Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius around 86-92 Pixels, also change the Blending Mode to Multiply.
Now we are going to create hole for the wall, ceiling and the floor. Grab the Elliptical Marquee Tool (M) from Tool panel and draw an ellipse in the wall. Fill the selection with solid black and rename this layer as “Ellipse”. Press the Ctrl+T, right click in selected area and choose Distort from the menu. Then simply drag a corner handle on the bounding box to make a perspective look. You can turn off the Snap option if you find it annoying.
When you are done with it, copy the layer and move it slightly to the left several pixels then scale it down a little bit. You can also use the keyboard arrow to move the object within 10 pixels by hold down Shift as you press the arrow keys. Click on the Ellipse layer and load it as a selection. Now press Shift+Alt from your keyboard and click on the ellipse copy layer on the Layers panel, it will subtract the selection from an existing one. Then create a new layer on top of it and fill with solid white. Rename this layer as “Ellipse shape”.
Now we are going to add a texture to it. Create a new layer again, draw a rectangle with Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) on top of the Ellipse shape and fill it with color. Make sure the size of the rectangle large enough to cover the Ellipse shape.
Go to > Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Set the Amount to 275% or so, the Amount you specify will determine how visible the texture grain will be, and make sure the Monochromatic is checked. Then Go to > Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Set the Angle to 0, and Distance around 36 Pixels. Now press down Ctrl+Alt+G all at the same time. This will create a clipping mask, and our texture should now be clipped to the Ellipse shape below it.
We can use the Brightness/Contrast to darken it a bit, but instead, I copy the part of Metal Texture and create another clipping mask above the Noise layer, then set the Blending Mode to Overlay and Opacity to 49%. See the image shown below. This will help to darken while maintaining the texture consistency.
Next, load the Ellipse layer. Press Shift+Ctrl+N to create a new layer and Go to > Edit > Stroke. Set the Width to 3 px, Color to solid white, and Location to Outside. Now Go to > Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 5.3 Pixels. Reduce the Opacity to 30%. Repeat the steps and do the same process to the right side of the wall, also the ceiling and the floor.
Everything is looking really good so far. Now Go to > File > Place, and select Sci-Fi Prop image to import the image to our canvas as a Smart Object. Make sure the layer is below the Man layer. Scale the image down, rotate, and flip it horizontally. Press down the Alt key and select Level via adjustment layer on the Layers panel. Check the Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask box, and set the settings as indicated in the image below.
Now we need to set its color and tone to match with our scene. Add another adjustment layer. This time choose Hue/Saturation and reduce the Saturation to -51. Also change the tone a bit by adding a Color Overlay via layer style. Set the color to #ffde00, Blend Mode to Color, and Opacity down to 3%.
Duplicate the Sci-Fi Prop layer and the the adjustments by dragging and droping it into the new layer icon of the Layers panel. Press Ctrl+T once again to rotate, flip, and scale the image. We should add some shadows to make it look more realistic. Just duplicate the layer again, change its Blending Mode to Multiply, and lower the Opacity down to 76%.
Add a layer mask and using the black soft brush, start erasing the parts of the shadows we donâ€™t need. As I mentioned before, our light comes from front, this means the front area will receive the most light, and the further the object is from the light, the darker it will be. See the image below. Red arrows indicate where to put a strong shading and green ones – where to put softer shading. Change the brush size or opacity of your brush while you paint.
Tips: Going back and forth to the Brush tools Options bar to change the brush size or opacity of your brush while you paint will waste a lot of time. Here are some tips to minimize that.
Opacity: You can change it in 10 percent increments with a keyboard command. As you paint, press 1 to set the brush to an opacity level of 10%, press 2 to set it at 20%, and so on. If you want a more specific opacity level, press 4 and then press 3 immediately after to achieve 43% opacity.
Brush size: Use the bracket keys to change the diameter of your brush. Press ] to increase the brush size, and press [ to decrease.
Hardness: If you want to change the hardness of a brush, press Shift+[ to increase the hardness and press Shift+] to decrease.
Open the Steam stock image. We are going to use the part of this image to create pipe behind the Man’s shoulder. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to cut out the chimney part, then copy and paste it to our canvas. Rename this layer as “Pipe”. Copy the layer and flip it vertically to extend the pipe.
Use the same technique as the previous step to create depth and shadow to it. First, Go to > Image > Adjustment > Desaturate to eliminate the color. Then press Ctrl+L to call up the Levels window and set the settings as below.
In the Layers panel, right click the Sci-Fi Prop layer and select Copy Layer Style. Then right click the Pipe layer and select Paste Layer Style. This should apply the same Prop’s Color Overlay effect to the Pipe layer. Next, copy the layer and set the Blending Mode to Multiply. Leave the darken area and erase the midtones and highlights.
We are going to add more shadows. Add a new layer behind the Sci-Fi Prop layer. Then, hold the Ctrl key and click on the Sci-Fi Prop layer’s thumbnail to call the selection. While having this selection active, Go to > Edit > Fill and choose Black from the Contents drop down menu, and set the Blending to Multiply.
Select Distort from the Edit > Transform menu and drag the top corner of the handles to skew it a bit. Now Go to > Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius to 36 Pixels. Grab an Eraser Tool (E) and with soft brush preset, remove unwanted parts of the shadow.
Pay attention to the bottom of Prop, which is the closest object to the ground. The object stick to the surface, means they need strong shadow around them. The theory is simple – the closer the object is to the surface, the stronger and the sharper is its shadow. The further the object is, the softer the shadow.
So now, add a new layer behind the Sci-Fi Prop layer and grab a Brush Tool (B). Carefully paint another shadow under the Sci-Fi Prop object with soft brush and reduce the Opacity of the layer to 76%. Do the same process with the other Sci-Fi Prop object. Also add some shadows and fix some parts as shown below.
Let’s move to the other part of this tutorial – Detailing. This time we are going to add some chains to our scene. Open the Chain file, select one of the layers, then drag it to our canvas. In the Layers panel, place the layer below the Man layer, and put the Chain underneath the arm of a Man. You might notice the white halo around the Chain in the darker area. To get rid of that, load the layer as a selection, then Go to > Select > Modify > Contract, and enter the value to 1 pixel. Now Go to > Select > Inverse (Shift+Ctrl+I) to inverse the selection, then press Delete.
Load the selection of the Chain once again. While the selection still active, grab the Gradient Tool (G). In the Option bar, select the Foreground to Transparent from the Gradient picker. Set the Gradient to Linear, and Mode to Multiply. Before we do anything, let’s make sure our Foreground and Background colors are set to their defaults. The default color for the foreground is black, and the background is white. If theyâ€™re set to other colors, click the small icon labeled or simply press the D key to return the colors to the defaults. Now hold down the Shift key, then click and drag vertically from the top of the selection to about 100-120 pixels below.
Again, open the Chain file and drag one of the layers to our canvas. You can use the technique in the previous step to remove the white halo around the object. Now Go to > Edit > Puppet Warp. This is a nice feature that can be very useful to twist and bend an object with ease. Click on the mesh to add pins at the points where we want the element to bend around. In this case, we need to add 5 pins – at the very top, the middle, the very bottom of the Chain, and those in between them. These pins act like joints. Moving one pin moves the pixels around it in relation to the other.
Once all the pins have been placed, grab the middle pin and drag it up. See the image below. Now that you know the technique, try it with the other chains.
Just like the previous step, load the selection of the Chain. With the linear Gradient Tool (G), click and drag on the edge of the Chain to create a shadow. Repeat this step on each chain that overlaps with other objects.
Keep adding more details. Now we’re going to add some wires next to our Props. Open the Wire image. We are going to extract the part of this wires from the image using the Pen tool (P) and start tracing the wire until you get them right.
Now once you are done with it, go to the Paths panel, right click the path we created, and choose Make Selection. Leave the Feather Radius to 0. Copy the selection (Ctrl+C), and Paste (Ctrl+V) it to our canvas. Add a couple of adjustment layers below to fix the tone properly and use the technique in the previous steps to bend the wire and to create shadows.
Let’s now focus on the body. Import the Crack texture into our canvas, and press Shift+Ctrl+] to bring the layer to the very top of the stacking order. Create a new adjustment layer in the Layers panel and select Hue/Saturation. Make sure the clipping mask button is turned on. Then slide the Saturation down to -100 to remove its color, and change the layer Blending Mode to Overlay.
Add a layer mask. With the soft Brush Tool (B) carefully erase the unwanted parts of the crack. Try to preserve as much detail as possible. Adjust your brush size to reach very small areas and use the X key to switch between black and white as you paint. Copy the layer and repeat the process to the other parts of the body.
Next, we are going to add another details to the body. Import the Metal Texture 2 image, and with the Lasso Tool (L) select a portion of the image, then click on the Add layer mask button in the Layers panel. Create a new Hue/Saturation adjusment layer and turn down the Saturation to -100, then Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light and reduce the Opacity to 66%. Copy the layer and place it in some other parts of the body. The Opacity depends on the which part of the body you are going to put the texture. In the darker area, reduce the Opacity to 30% to lessen the effect. Now grab the Brush Tool (B) and with the soft-edged brush, erase the unwanted part of the texture.
Before we finish this piece I thought it would be nice to add one more little detail that would make the piece little bit more interesting. Open the Rivets image, and with Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), select the rivets and drag it to our canvas. Bend it just a little bit with the Puppet Tool to follow a curve of the body. Press Shift+Ctrl+U to desaturate the image and set the layer’s Blending Mode to Overlay. Also, erase the edge of this layer with soft eraser, so only the rivets part of the image remains. We can duplicate the layer to enhance the effect and play with the opacity to get the desired effect.
We have reached the last step of this tutorial. If your result is pretty similar to mine then you are doing great job so far. Let’s add a Barcode image and put the layer beneath the Metal Texture 2 image, then set the Blending Mode to Multiply. With Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), delete the upper part of the Barcode. Lower the Opacity down to 51% and apply the Warp Tool we have learned earlier to follow the contour of the body.
Next, we will add another texture to our scene in order to bind the image together and give a bit more grunge-look to it. Import the Stain Texture image to our canvas (File > Place), then press Shift+Ctrl+] to bring the layer to the very top of all the layers. Set the Blending Mode to Soft Light and lower the Opacity to 66%. Again, copy the layer and place the texture to the bottom part of the scene. Erase the part of it everywhere you don’t like it with the layer mask.
Lastly, Go to > Layer > Flatten Image. For the last adjustment, add Curve from adjustment layers and set the setting as shown below. Then crop the image and sharpen your merged piece using Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. We are done!