Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Digital Audio, Video > Adobe Photoshop

3D Photoshop: Inflating Objects from Photographs

  • Print
  • + Share This
Learn how to model 3D objects directly from photographs, using Photoshop’s inflation tool.
This chapter is from the book

As well as modeling 3D objects from scratch, we can also create them directly from photographs, using Photoshop’s inflation tool. This is the equivalent of pumping an object full of air, and it’s a great way to turn flat artwork into dynamic models.

Not all photographs can be inflated – sometimes the technique just doesn’t work, as we’ll see at the end of the chapter. But when it does work, the results can be spectacular. In this chapter we’ll begin with a simple cutout photograph of a beetle, and show what happens when we inflate it rather than extrude it.

I’ve hidden both the Ground Plane and the Secondary View, as usual, so we can concentrate on the object we’re working on.

circle_1.jpg Here’s our starting object: a top-down view of a beetle. It was photographed on a plain white background, and I’ve already removed that background using the Magic Eraser tool. You can download this beetle from

circle_2.jpg Switch to the 3D workspace, and open the 3D panel. Then do the following:

circle_3.jpg Your beetle will be extruded as normal, and it will look like the image on the right. You can see here how it’s been extruded into the distance.


Click to view larger image


circle_4.jpg When you turn the object around with the Move tool, you can see the result of the inflation procedure: it’s been extended downward, and still has a flat top.

circle_5.jpg Select the object and press v.jpg on your keyboard to access the Head-Up Display in the middle. Drag the Extrusion control until the beetle has no depth.

When you drag the control, it’s easy to set a negative extrusion amount by accident. A surer way of achieving the result is to use the Properties panel to set the extrusion depth to zero, by typing the value into the number field.


circle_6.jpg Press v.jpg once more, and the Head-Up Display will change to show the second set of controls. Begin by dragging the Inflation Angle slider all the way up to the top, so it shows a value of 90°. You won’t see any change in the beetle just yet

circle_7.jpg Now click on the Inflate control, and drag upward until your beetle is inflated as much as you think looks good. You can see that the body, being thicker, inflates much more than those thin legs – and that’s exactly what we want

circle_8.jpg This is the result: a 3D beetle, generated in just a few seconds from that flat photograph, that you can spin around and view from any angle. It’s really incredible that we’re able to create this effect so easily, directly in Photoshop.

Save a preset

Once you’ve created an object you like, you can save all the settings in a preset so you can retrieve them later. Here, we’ll take all the settings for the beetle – zero extrusion, inflation angle set to 90°, and the inflation amount – and add that as a new preset.

Then, on the following page, we’ll see how easy it is to apply the settings to a different object just by clicking on that preset.

circle_1.jpg In the Properties panel, click the leftmost icon. This will show the basic Mesh view

circle_2.jpg Click the Shape Preset thumbnail, and this panel of presets will pop open.

circle_3.jpg Click on the tiny Gear icon in the top-right corner of this presets panel

circle_4.jpg ...then choose New Extrusion Preset from the pop-up menu

circle_5.jpg You’ll now see this dialog asking for a name for the preset. I’ve called it inflate, but of course you can give it any name you like. Then click OK.

circle_6.jpg When you next open the Shape Preset panel, you’ll see the beetle at the bottom of the list. Clicking on it will apply all the effects to any selected artwork.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account