Create Anaglyph Images with Photoshop

If you’ve ever watched a 3D movie and wondered ‘how does all this 3d stuff work’ or ‘I wish I could make something 3d’, then this article is for you! This is a quick and easy method for creating your own anaglyphic 3D images with only one camera.

These are some of the 3D anaglyphic photos I’ve cooked up with this technique, using nothing more than a Nikon D90, a couple of lenses, and Photoshop. No fancy rigs, no tripod, just an easy technique that I’ve found works very well.

Sample Anaglyph Image

Sample Anaglyph Image

Anaglyph Sample

Sample Anaglyph Image

The Concept

The basic idea of any 3d photography method is to take two pictures of the same subject from slightly different angles. These two angles are usually photographed so that they mimic what you’d see with each eye. In anaglyph (also called anachrome) phogography, these two images are merged, and color filtered so that the finished 3d image can be viewed with a pair of color tinted glasses, usually red (left eye) and cyan (right eye).

Taking the Pictures

A nice sample scene with good depth.

Find a good composition with good foreground, middle-ground and background, as this will provide some good depth to the photo and enhance the 3D effect. While looking through your camera, once you’ve found the composition you want, notice what’s directly under the center focus point of your camera. You’ll use this as a center point to help you ensure the camera is aimed at the same place in both shots.

Lower your camera, look directly at the center point of your composition, and square your body with it all the way from your feet to your head. Without moving your head, bring your camera to your left eye, line up the center of the frame with the center point of your composition and snap a picture. Trying not to move your head, move your camera to your right eye and do the same thing – aim at your center point, and take the other picture.

Image: taking picures for an anaglyphic image

Photoshop

In photoshop, put the right channel in a new layer on top of the left, and turn it’s opacity to 50% to help you align and straighten the images. Aligning your images is probably the most important step, and will determine if the finished anaglyph image is easy to view or not. Since both images are taken from slightly different angles, they won’t align perfectly. Align the images so that the center point you used when taking the pictures is perfectly lined up. After you’ve aligned the images, be sure to use the rotate tool (if necessary) to make sure the rotation of the two images is in synch.

Align and rotate the two images to match, using your center point as a reference.

Once you’ve done that, crop the image so that both left and right channels give you coverage all the way to the edges, then turn the right channel’s opacity back up to 100%. In the layers panel, double click on the right channel, and find the Advanced Blending options.

Right click the top layer, and uncheck the red channel

Simply uncheck the Red channel, and that’s it! You should be able to see your 3D image with red/cyan glasses now.

The finished anaglyphic image. You need some red/cyan glasses to see the 3D effect.

Other Notes

Equipment: I like this method because you don’t need any kind of special camera or equipment, so so it’s something you can use without adding another piece of equipment to your camera bag. All you need is a way to merge the images like Photoshop, GIMP or another image editor. I’ve found that it’s possible to create successful images using anything from a D90 to an iPhone camera, so the camera doesn’t really matter, although it will be easier to line up the two shots if you have a DSLR with a viewfinder to look through.

The spacing between these two angles when using this method will be roughly 65mm which is the separation between the average person’s eyes. Because of this, this technique tends to work best with scenes where the subject is around 6 to 30ft away. For landscapes, you may have to experiment with larger distances between the angles, and for closeup scenes you will probably want less distance.

There’s much much more to 3d photography than is covered here, and lots of science behind the concept as well. This article is intended to provide an easy way to experiment on your own without any kind of equipment investment, or complicated software to learn. Once you’ve learned the basic principles, it’s so much fun to experiment with, and try different things. From here, you could build a simple rig, and get two cameras to start making your own 3d movies. Or you could try experimenting with using 3d glasses with color combinations other than red/cyan. Try a macro shot of a flower, or a landscape of the grand canyon. I’ve found landscapes to be particularly interesting, because it gives so much more dimension to foliage and trees, and really pulls the viewer into the photograph.

Hope you enjoyed this article, and happy anaglyphing!