How to create 3D abstract circles in Photoshop CS4

This is the first of a new series of tutorials about Photoshop CS4 and its new features.
We will create abstract circles in real 3D. To complete this tutorial you need Photoshop CS4 (…), a good graphic card and 5 minutes.
The effect i want to recreate is the typical style of James White but in “3D mode” and in a quickest way.

The ball created in that tutorial is amazing but has two disadvantages:

1) You have to complete 15 steps to obtain a good result and you have to change a lot of blending modes.
2) The final image is flat. A normal 2D layer.

With my tutorial you’ll be able to achieve the same effect but in 5 steps, without playing with the blending options and the result will be a REAL 3D layer.

So…we can start.


Create a new document and set the color mode to RGB 16 bit



Fill the first layer with the black and then create a new empty layer (rename it “Circle”).
Now, inside “circle”, with the elliptical marquee tool create a circular shape ad fill the selection with the white.



Reduce the opacity of the new layer to 20%.
Make five copies (ctrl+j or cmd+j for mac users) and move them around the “circle” as shown in the next screenshot (the positions are random so feel free to move the layers where you want).
Leave the same opacity (20%) for all the copies.



Now, let the magic begin.
Group all the circles together (select the four layers holding down shift and press ctrl+g or cmd+g for mac users).

Go in the menù bar, under “3D” and choose “Sphere”.


After 1 minute of rendering the result will be something like this:


A real 3D object that you can rotate and scale.


Now simply add some finishing as James did for his tutorial.
Fill a new layer with a gradient e change its blending mode to “overlay”


After that add a levels layer and change the settings to add more brightness.


and this is the final result…



To improve the quality and remove some imperfections you can check the box “remove backfaces” under “3D” -> “Render Settings”



And then, if you want, you can group the “gradient” and “circle” layers and then you can copy the entire group.
In the new one you could change the color of the gradient and rotate a little bit the ball.
This is my final object with a yellow-orange gradient and a “cloud” filter in top.


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    It looks cool, but no offense, it doesn’t look anything like you say it should. I see a bunch of circle- like shapes, colors and two highlight spots.

    @Nick: Ciao Nick
    yes, at first sight, i can agree with you.
    But it was just an example of what you can obtain with 4 “flat” layers.
    You can rotate them in 3D to create a more realistic effect, you can play with the opacity or with some filters.
    That’s the basic result you can achieve in 5 minutes (really, 4-5 minutes).
    Then, as i said before, you have to spend much more time and experimenting to have a realistic ball…

    I think that we can’t ask more from an automatic tool in Photoshop ;)

    hey nice tutorial….i’m done till step 3, in step 4 i’ve grouped my layers but when i click on menu bar on 3D, the tools aren’t active…can u give me sum suggestions wat i can do to active my 3d tools..

    i did as u said n rendered it to a sphere but it isnt like urs its just a grey sphere with a hint of another shade of grey in it :(

    merhaba çal??malar?n?z? çok beyendim elerinize sa??l?k bizimle payla?t?n?z için t?k ederiz inglizce bilmed?im için çal??am?yorum bu dersleri bana yard?mc? olursan?z çok sevinrim sayg?lar?mla

    Hi I really liked your work with us, Thank you for sharing with us. I don’t know english so can not work these lessons, I’ll be glad to help me

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