When you think of printing, you usually think of producing a flat page of two-dimensional text and images. They may be high-quality, amazing images, but you can’t see them from different angles, and what you hold in your hand remains a piece of paper or other relatively simple media.
3D printers open up a whole new world of printing opportunities. Instead of printing an image of a thing, you can print the thing itself. The possibilities are endless, including medical uses, prototyping, and creative enterprises such as making jewelry and one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
3D printers were once the province of well-funded labs, but have recently become much more accessible. In many cities, you can use one at a “maker” or do-it-yourself (DIY) space, a shared workshop area where, for a fee, you can use many advanced resources. If you don’t have a 3D printer yourself or easy access to one, you can also send your 3D creations to online vendors who will print it using the material you specify and mail it to you.
You can create 3D objects in Photoshop—or import 3D objects that have been created elsewhere—and print them directly from Photoshop.
Specifying 3D print settings
You don’t use the standard Print dialog box to print 3D objects from Photoshop. And before you print, you need to make sure the settings are appropriate.
- Open 15End.psd
- Choose 3D > 3D Print Settings.
- Choose Shapeways from the Print To menu in the Properties panel.
- Choose Plastic Alumide from the Printer menu. Plastic alumide is a plastic that simulates metal.
- Make sure Inches is selected in the Printer Volume menu to specify how printer volume should be measured.
- Choose Medium from the Detail Level menu. This option determines how detailed the preview image is.
The Properties panel displays the 3D print settings, and the image window shows a preview of your 3D object. The preview shows you how it will look when printed, based on the printer you select.
Shapeways is an online vendor that prints 3D objects and mails them to you for a fee. There are other online vendors, but Shapeways is easiest to use because you can choose its printers directly within Photoshop. If you use another vendor, ask them for instructions for printing from Photoshop.
If you own a 3D printer, choose Local from the Print To menu, and then choose your printer from the Printer menu. If your printer isn’t listed in the menu, choose Get Latest Printers from the Print To menu, and then download the profiles for all supported printers.
When you choose Shapeways from the Print To menu, the Printer menu lists dozens of material options. The material you select affects the appearance and cost of the object you print.
The preview of the 3D object changes in the image window to reflect the choices you’ve made. When you choose Plastic Alumide, the preview shows a silver-gray tag with extruded text.
3D printers have different capacities, and it’s important to consider whether your object will fit within the printer’s volume. The Printer Volume values are dimmed, because you can’t change them; they describe the volume for the printer you’ve chosen. The Scene Volume values reflect the size of your 3D scene (in this case, a single object). If Show Printer Volume Overlay is selected, the preview shows a cube outline to represent the printer volume that the scene lies within.
If the scene volume is larger than the printer volume, click Scale To Print Volume in the Properties panel to reduce its size so that your printer can print it. In this case, the scene volume is comfortably smaller than the printer volume.
The Surface Detail options preserve bump maps, other texture, and opacity settings when you print. You can leave those selected, though there are no bump maps or opacity settings in this object.
You’re ready to print.