An update to Adobe's Photoshop CC will allow creatives to send designs straight to 3D printers with the same workflow used for other Photoshop tasks.
As with all updates to the Creative Cloud (CC) software suite, additional 3D printing features will be available as an instant download to all users with a CC subscription, starting from 16 January. Printing options will be added to the existing 3D menu, allowing users to import models created from different sources and apply finishing touches in Photoshop.
Adobe currently sees a significant gap between existing 3D modelling tools and what 3D printers need in order to successfully print designs. For example, if 3D meshes contain flaws, such as holes in the mesh or a structure not being watertight, the printer will reject it. Photoshop aims to be the intermediary that helps iron out those kinks.
"Overcoming these flaws is a huge burden, particularly to creatives who do not understand the complexities of these printers," said Photoshop product manager Andy Lauta.
When a 3D object is imported into Photoshop, users will be able to manipulate it in the 3D viewing mode as well as apply colour, texture and overlays onto the model, using the same controls as when working on a regular Photoshop object. A typical workflow would involve importing objects from other sources and making adjustments as necessary, however, Adobe did emphasise that it would also be possible to build 3D models from scratch.
When a user sends the model to the printer, Photoshop prepares the mesh by checking for appropriate wall thickness and support structures to ensure that the object can be printed without falling over on the print bed. After the object goes through this fixing process, users are presented with the final render in a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface. Press print, and your model is sent to either a local printer or to another 3D printing service.
Adobe has partnered with Makerbot for a tight integration with its home-based 3D printers, with native support available in Photoshop. There will also be in-software support for Shapeways, including a selection of materials and the ability to export directly to the service. Some particular use cases that Adobe sees for Photoshop's 3D printing capabilities include product prototypes, jewellery design and objects for animated films.
At the moment, Photoshop CC will be able to read five popular 3D formats: OBJ, STL, 3DS, Collada and KMZ. Adobe also showed off another potential application for photographers wanting to experiment with 3D printing: Simply open up an image, create a lithophane, and a 3D render of the image will be used to create a depth map, which in turn creates a 3D object that can be printed.
Makerbot and Cube are currently the only home 3D printers supported natively in-software, but more options will appear in subsequent releases. Users will also be able to build their own custom printer profiles.
Other new features rolled out in the latest Photoshop CC update include perspective warp and linked smart objects.