Kill Art Block with 3D Extrusion!

Art: Krishna Sadasivam

This week’s art block killer is integrating 3D techniques into your 2D backgrounds. We’ll focus on Photoshop’s 3D Extrusion tool. Let’s start with creating a shape on an empty layer, as shown below.

A basic shape. The more protrusions and cuts in the shape, the more interesting the result!

Next, go to the 3D menu and choose “New 3D Extrusion from Selected Layer”.

Photoshop CC’s 3D Extrusion tool!

With the 3D extrusion turned on you’ll see your basic shape as a 3D object. You can adjust the object’s thickness, width and height using the X, Y and Z handles that emerge from it.

Shape Extruded. PS’s 3D extrusion tool has rudimentary camera movements (tilt, pan, orbit) so you can position the shape any way you wish.

Once you are satisfied with the size of your object, you can use one of the three cameras on the lower left, underneath your canvas. (Each camera has its own capabilities: Dolly, Track, and Orbit). With your cameras, you can see your object in a bird’s eye view or worm’s eye view, or even at eye level.

After adjusting the virtual camera to get a bird’s eye view.

Once you are satisfied with the structure you have created, and the camera angle – make a new layer in your Layers panel. This will be a 2D layer. With the aid of Photoshop’s selection tools, you can make a 2D copy of the 3D extruded shape. I have used the Polygon Lasso tool to create a selection that matches each face of the object below. Each face of the object is created on its own layer.

On the left is the initial 3D model. On the right is my extraction of the shapes (using PS’s selection tools).

Now the fun begins! Establish a composition and start building! As you work, keep in mind a sense of scale, along with an intended focal point.

Initial process

Here’s what I’ve developed:


The process is quite liberating and makes quick work of creating an interesting background layout. If you are curious about my use of lasso tools, I’ve created a set of 15 tutorials on my portfolio site that may help you. Have fun!