Incase you picked up the latest issue of Advanced Photoshop Magazine (#106) covering the use of photoshop and 3D images, and wondered what the heck diddly happened, some mistakes snuck into the text upon printing, To properly clarify i’ll break down the above images you can also find in the magazine.
Using a Zdepth pass to create a lens blur;
Most 3d software will have the ability to output a Zdepth image. This is basicly a black & white image that represents the depth of your 3d scene.
(White pixels will be nearer then black pixels)
Take that image and copy it to your “normal” 3d render alpha channel, then select filters > blur > lens blur, a new window will pop up, in the top right under “Depth Map” you can select a source, select your newly added alpha image, most likely tagged “alpha 1”.
By playing with the blur focal distance slider and the radius slider you can pull focus to create depth.
This works for all images as long a you have some kind of information in the alpha channel, you can even create a quick gradient and apply it to a photo to create a tiltshift type of effect.
Adding a smoke element to the final image:
Some things can be quite hard to create in 3d, for example whispy smoke, Rather then going crazy with a particle system just add it in photoshop by creating a new layer, painting some simple strokes, then using the smudge tool to create the desired softness.
Blend the smoke layer by using either additive or screen blending and playing with the opacity of the layer till you’re happy.
Using an Ambient occlusion pass for additional shading:
Ambient occlusion is a shading/lighting technique that gives a closer approximation to how real light bounces around and creates soft shading. The main benefit is that it’s usually a faster approach then going with full global illumination solutions, and it’s a wonderfull way to bring out smaller details in your model.
Once you render out the pass (this can be a render option or a shader option depending on the software used) bring it back into photoshop and either use Multiply to blend it, or incase you’re blending it on skin try Overlay or Softlight blending modes for a more interesting result. In the case of hugo i used both multiply on the suit, and softlight on the fleshy bits.
Lastly, but not leastly, big props to Shane Hillman for letting me use his design of Hugo in the first place, check out his amazing pieces at