Online image libraries come and go, and the good ones get swallowed up by Getty. And they mainly offer variations on the same themes of glossy couples, evocative landscapes, and urban grime. The latest offering from Pixelsquid is not only unique in the type and range of imagery it offers; its Photoshop panel is nothing short of revolutionary. Plus, for a limited period, it’s completely free!
Pixelsquid’s library features cutout objects, all of which are high quality photorealistic renders of 3D models. What distinguishes them is the fact that after choosing your object, you can then rotate it to view it from any one of their preset angles. And with 225 available positions for almost every object, you can be reasonably sure of finding exactly the view you want. (The only objects that have fewer views are those you’d never want to see from underneath, such as buildings.)
Once you’ve registered on the site and installed the accompanying Photoshop plug-in, you can select a model through your web browser and, rather than downloading it directly, click Add to Photoshop. The object will then appear in a panel within Photoshop, where clicking on it will add it to the front window.
Here’s the really clever part: the new layer is added to Photoshop as a low resolution Smart Object, which you can then move and scale as you wish. A thumbnail of the object appears in the panel, and you can rotate it to any angle; pause in your rotation for a second, and the object will be replaced by the rotated view directly in your artwork. When you’re happy with the result you can then click the Hi-Res button and in a couple of seconds the object will be replaced with the full, high resolution version and you can continue to rotate its viewpoint as much as you wish.
It’s an ingenious approach, leveraging the power of linked Smart Objects in a way that has never been done before. It means that if you want to place an object directly within an existing scene you can now match the angle of view precisely. It’s the next best thing to having a 3D object in your scene – with the added bonus of not having to wait an hour or more for it to render each time you rotate it.
As well as placing the high resolution version, you can also choose to place a full .psd version of the image. This features a number of extra layers, generated directly from the original model. Most useful is a Select by Part layer, in which each part of the object is rendered in a different flat color – making it simple to use the Magic Wand to select, say, the band of a watch or the screen of a laptop. Then there’s the Select by Material layer, in which all parts of the object made of the same material are colored the same. This would be useful if, for example, you have a model of a car and want to change all the chrome to gold, or change the color of all the paintwork.
The .psd version also places lighting elements such as shine, reflection, and shadows on separate layers, so they can be enhanced or reduced as required. There’s also a Depth Map layer, which uses increasing shades of gray to represent distance from the virtual camera: use this to create realistic depth of field effects with selective blurring.
The Pixelsquid library currently numbers about 3400 individual objects, with about 50 new models being added each day. And when you remember that each object has been rendered from over 200 different positions, that makes for a library of significant size, even in these early days. Models are rendered within a 2048 × 2048 pixel bounding box, which is large enough for most jobs, but this does include space for shadows, and some models are correspondingly much smaller.
Wisely, they’ve decided to concentrate on those 3D models that work well when rendered, resulting in realistic, convincing objects. So you won’t find any animals (except for a few fish and insects) or people (except for obvious toy figures). The models that work best are technology, and the library includes every make of Apple computer, from the earliest days right up to the latest MacBooks, iPhones and iPads and every model of Apple Watch.
See also: Modeling a 3D Bracelet with Photoshop
A search engine quickly finds anything in the library, and the choice of models is both large and eclectic. You’ll find everything from pianos to lightbulbs, from baseball caps to cameras, from musical instruments to bowls of fruit. Transparent objects work especially well, with glass jars you can see through – except for shiny highlights, which are realistically opaque. Particularly impressive is the range of notepads and books, which look truly realistic and which, along with everything else, can be viewed from any angle.
There are many images of money, both in bundles and individually (with and without curls and wrinkles), and in gleaming showers of falling coins. Unusually, many of these are available in currencies other than the ubiquitous US dollar, and it’s good to see euros and British pounds in the mix.
See also: 3D Printing from Photoshop
Pixelsquid launched in March, with selected views available for free but a $10 charge for objects viewable from any angle. With this latest reboot they’ve introduced the revolutionary Photoshop panel, made every single object rotatable, and for a limited time, made the entire library available for free. You can download up to 100 images into your personal library, making them all available instantly through the Photoshop panel.
It’s not clear when this deal will end, and how much each model will eventually sell for. Pixelsquid aren’t saying, as they’re clearly testing the waters. But it seems likely that models will revert to something close to $10 price tag. For that, you’ll get the model and all of its 225 viewpoints, rather than just a single angle. As VP of Creative Matt Hales told us, it’s like buying a prop for a photo shoot: once you’ve bought it, it’s yours and you can capture it from any angle you like.
The Photoshop panel is still in the late beta stage of development. There’s no way to search the library from within the panel (you have to use your browser to do this) and there are occasional errors. But this is a unique and ingenious way of acquiring stock image objects, and you should explore it fully while it’s free.Tags