Steve Caplin is a digital artist whose satirical photomontages appear in newspapers and magazines around the world. He lectures widely, both in the UK and in Europe, and writes for a range of technology titles.

Steve is the author of several books on Photoshop, including Art & Design in Photoshop, 100% Photoshop and the best-selling How to Cheat in Photoshop, now in its seventh edition. He’s currently obsessed with his 3D printer.

This tutorial shows you how to create and print a 3D model using Photoshop CS6. If you have Photoshop CC, the process is slightly different (and easier). Read our tutorial on 3D printing from Photoshop CC to learn more.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Suddenly, everything’s going three-dimensional. 3D printers were once the exclusive preserve of high-end print shops, which would charge design agencies a fortune to produce prototypes of upcoming products. But you can now buy a 3D printer from Maplin for £700, which will enable you to print your models in your own studio. 

This lets you see how an object, such as a hip designer toy, will appear before a full run is produced. Or you could produce your own limited runs of a special edition toy, some artfully designed 3D type or whatever your imagination can conceive.

3D printing isn’t always straightforward though, as it takes a while to install, let alone master, the various programs you’ll need. But with some time and effort it can be done. 

Creating your model doesn’t necessarily mean using 3D or CAD software. You can use Photoshop CS6 Extended, plus two free cross-platform tools: 3D printing utility Cura, and model-cleanup and processing tool MeshLab

Photoshop’s 3D modelling options have been vastly improved in CS6, with more intuitive onscreen controls that give even the least techy artist the ability to produce models from flat artwork, photographs, or their imagination. 

Photoshop may be limited as a modelling program, but it’s a lot easier than learning about NURBs and subdivision surfaces. And once you master 3D in Adobe’s tool, it’s a lot easier to move on to higher-end 3D work in tools such as Cinema 4D or Maya. 

Here, we’ll see how a toy designer might use the technology to model a figure in Photoshop, and then print out a physical version of it. You’ll learn the creative and technical process – and some of the restrictions placed on your design by the 3D printing process. Steve has used an Ultimaker 2 3D printer for this tutorial, but the process is much the same on any desktop 3D printer.

He’s also provided the 3D model in the project files for reference. 

Time to complete

2 hours modelling and preparing, up to 4 hours printing


Photoshop CS6 Extended, Cura, MeshLab


Files for this tutorial are downloadable from here

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