• Price When Reviewed: 135 . 67

  • Pros: Powerful 3D text and vector-extrusion tools that are easy for Photoshop users to learn; great-looking output.

  • Cons: Crashes more than it should; no scroll-wheel support.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10We rate this 9 out of 10 Best Buy We rate this 9 out of 10

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There are many ways to add 3D elements to your digital artwork or illustrations, but none have been completely satisfying for the tasks that most artists want to do – create 3D text and relatively-simple models for compositing in Photoshop.

You can model and render in a full 3D suite, but this is too complex and time-consuming for most. You can create your elements in Illustrator and import them, but again this is fiddly. You can use Photoshop CS4’s own 3D tools, but these don’t have quick tools for turning text and vector shapes into 3D, which is known as extrusion. Finally there’s Xara3D, which many Windows-based illustrators use in lieu of anything better, despite low-quality rendering.

Now there is something much, much better. 3D Invigorator for Photoshop is a version of Zaxwerks’ 3D Invigorator line of plug-ins for After Effects, which is a mainstay tool for motion graphics artists creating animated news and sports graphics. 3D Invigorator for Photoshop enables you to quickly create a mix of 3D text and vector shapes, set-up lighting and apply materials to surfaces – and render with impressive results.

When you first launch 3D Invigorator for Photoshop, a small menu pops up offering you a choice of the plug-ins main three creative tools. You can create text, import an ai or eps vector file, or work with a 3D primitive (basic shapes including spheres, cubes and – of course, the never-used-but-always-included-in-3D-tools rubber ring that is the torus.

Text is created in a separate dialog with standard controls over font, size, spacing and kerning (and it’s proper kerning too, not just full-word tracking). Vector file import is finicky, and you’ll have to resave your files in Illustrator if they’re compressed. The primitive options are useful if you want to include basic shapes, but you can’t modify them beyond scaling. If you want full 3D modelling within Photoshop, look to Strata’s 3Din plug-in.

Once you’ve created your 3D objects, you can scale, rotate and position them in 3D space using a standard set of mouse-drive manipulation tools including tumble, roll, track and dolly, which will be familiar if you’ve used Phtoshop CS3 or CS4’s 3D tools. You can also give text and vector shapes extrusion and bevels to makes them look more solid and realistic.