How To Create A Retro 3D Movie Effect In Photoshop
Learn how to add a retro red and blue 3D effect to any image, just like those classic 3D movies from the 1950's! Once you've learned the steps, this 3D effect can be created from start to finish in under 30 seconds.
Long before James Cameron's Avatar transported us to the breathtaking and beautiful world of Pandora with its state of the art 3D, movie audiences in the 1950's were wearing cheap cardboard glasses and screaming in horror as monsters and aliens leaped out at them from the screen in terrifying red and blue. Photoshop may not be able to replace today's modern 3D technology, but as we'll see in this tutorial, we can easily recreate a retro-style red and blue 3D movie effect!
Of course, since the images we work with in Photoshop are flat and two dimensional, we're a bit limited in what we can do with them. Be we can still pull off something that at least looks like it was taken straight out of a old 3D movie. And in fact, you'll be amazed at just how easy this effect really is. If you can duplicate a layer, click a couple of checkboxes and nudge an image to the left, you have all the skills you need!
Here's what the final effect will look like when we're done:
Let's get started!
How To Create A Retro 3D Movie Effect
For this tutorial, I'm using Photoshop CC but every step is compatible with Photoshop CS6 and earlier.
Step 1: Open Your Image
Step 2: Duplicate The Background Layer
The first thing we need to do is make a copy of our Background layer. To do that, click on the Background layer and drag it down onto the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. But don't release your mouse button just yet:
With your mouse button still held down, press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard. Then, release your mouse button. The Alt / Option key tells Photoshop to pop open the Duplicate Layer dialog box where we can name the new layer before it's added. Name the layer "3D", and then click OK:
Photoshop adds a copy of the image on a new layer named "3D" above the original:
Step 3: Open The Layer Style Dialog Box
Click on the Layer Styles icon at the bottom of the Layers panel:
Then choose Blending Options from the top of the list:
Step 4: Turn Off The Green And Blue Channels
This opens Photoshop's Layer Style dialog box with the blending options in the middle column. In the Advanced Blending section, look for the Channels option, with checkboxes for R, G and B:
The "R", "G" and "B" stand for Red, Green and Blue, which are the three primary colors that mix together to make up every other color we see in the image. Photoshop mixes these primary colors using channels. There's a channel for red, a channel for green, and a channel for blue. To create our retro 3D effect, we need to turn off the green and blue channels on our "3D" layer. To do that, uncheck the G and B boxes, leaving only the red channel selected. Then, click OK to close the Layer Style dialog box:
To see what's happened, hide the Background layer for a moment by clicking its visibility icon in the Layers panel:
With the Background layer hidden and only our "3D" layer visible, we see that with the green and blue channels turned off, the image on the layer appears only in red:
Click the same visibility icon again to turn the Background layer back on:
And now we're back to seeing the full color image:
Step 5: Select The Move Tool
At this point, to create our retro 3D effect, all we need to do is offset the image on the "3D" layer so that it's out of alignment with the image below it. To do that, select the Move Tool from the Toolbar:
Step 6: Nudge The Image To The Left
Then, with the "3D" layer selected in the Layers panel, use the left arrow key on your keyboard to nudge the image on the layer towards the left. As you do, you'll see a red outline appearing along one side of each object in the image. And because cyan, the other color used in those retro 3D glasses (even though everyone calls it blue) is the opposite of red, a cyan outline appears along the other side, creating our 3D effect! The further you move the image, the thicker the red and cyan outlines will appear, so adjust the effect until you're happy with the result:
And there we have it! That's how to quickly add a fun retro 3D movie effect to an image with Photoshop! Visit our Photo Effects section for more Photoshop effects tutorials!