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Cut It Out! 3D Design Of Negative Space in Photoshop CC

By: Stephen Toback

To follow up on the last story, the TobackTablet Holder v1.0 was an epic fail:


The great success was the ease in which this was sketched out in Photoshop and then printed. Realizing the failure of the design in reality before more expensive prototyping was employed is a signature benefit of this technology.

Before we did v2.0, we wanted to see if we could “cut out” the big “D” Duke logo on the back of the device. This was not only from a design aesthetic, but also to save some materials AND to just see if we can do that in Photoshop.

Well, the answer is yes and no. Photoshop DOES allow you to cut holes in objects using a path created in 2D mode then applying what they call “constraints” to an image. Unfortunately, it seems (at least at this point in our research) that these holes can only be cut from the “top” of the extrusion. Our design is extruded from the side:

Tablet Holder

We wanted the Duke logo to be on the “face” of the unit (the part that the tablet rests against). We’re still researching to see if there’s a way to cut out from another face rather than the “top”.

To test this idea of negative (holes) and positive (emboss) space, we decided our next project would be the “Julian Coin”

Julian Coin Screen Shot

This would allow us to try to “cut out” the Duke logo, and combine Julian’s picture and text, both separately extruded, into one object for printing. This is an important test as we are really looking at Photoshop as a way for those with some 2D image skills to create and edit 3D objects without having to learn complex 3D programs.

We took a normal raster image of Julian, converted it to black and white, took out the background and then using Adobe Illustrator, used the “Image Trace” function to come up with the two level image that we would use to extrude.

Julian Images

We then used standard text for the text on the coin and used the Duke logo to create a selection to “cut the hole” using the constraints.

I will add that it took several attempts to get a successful print. This was no fault of the model or Photoshop. The 3D printing process is still quite finicky and we had various problems getting the model to stick to the platen, then a miss calibrated part hit the model as it was being printed and knocked it off the printer and other random physical errors.

The results are pretty cool. We are still going to test making Julian’s image a separate color (this one was colorized with a Sharpie), but we’ve shown how some simple 2D work (the coin itself was just a circle image) can make something real. The value of course of this money is priceless.

First Print - Julian Coin


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