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Photoshop Tutorial: Creating a VR Illustration

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An artist’s world opens up as soon as they discover creating in virtual reality. The limitations of lack of space (and therefore less freedom to create detail) are no longer a concern when you open up your canvas. With VR, you’re able to add elements of surprise that tell a bigger story, drawing viewers in with aspects that will make them want to spin their screens.

We were inspired by Oscar nominated film Lady Bird, which is about a coming-of-age teenager’s battles with Catholic school, mother-daughter debacles, and big city dreams. We wanted to convey Lady Bird’s complex relationships by telling a story of her evolution throughout the film. To do that, we created an spherical illustration using Photoshop, among a few other easily accessible tools.

Lady Bird

Experience Lady Bird VR by Sonia-Foltarz. Search and discover more lady-bird VR videos on the web or in VR.

In this Photoshop tutorial, we take you through how to create a VR illustration from scratch. Compared to flat images, 360 images don’t just require a heftier time commitment–they’re based on an entirely different foundation. Creating a VR image is like unwrapping a cube; instead of drawing one simple illustration, you’re creating 6 sides of it.

What you’ll need:

    • Photoshop
    • After Effects
    • Adobe Media Encoder
    • Spatial Media Metadata Injector

Photoshop Tutorial: Creating the Base Sketch

  1. First, create a file in Photoshop with a size ratio of 2:1 (we used 4096 x 2048). If you don’t use a ratio of 2:1, the image will look distorted. The larger dimensions you use, the higher quality your illustration will be.
  2. Begin sketching the main interest of the experience in the center of your canvas. The object that you draw in the center of your VR experience is the first one you’ll see in the 360 view, so make sure you brainstorm what you want the focal point to be.

3. Once you sketch a few background objects around your experience, turn your view from 2D to Spherical Panorama. You can do this by going to the toolbar at the top of your screen and selecting 3D -> Spherical Panorama -> New Panorama Layer From Selected Layers

4. By entering spherical view, you’ll expose large blank spaces, which you can take advantage of by adding aspects that contribute to the experience. Typically, the more detailed aspects of the drawing will be placed 180° from each other on the sphere. The space between the two points of detail is what you’re filling in.

5. Next, begin the coloring process in 2D view to fill in basic colors. When you’re ready to add more details like textures or patterns ,  return to 360 view to continue coloring.

  1. Export the 360 panorama by selecting 3D -> Spherical Panorama -> Export Panorama

After Effects Tutorial: Adding Video Effects

  1. After you have your 360 panorama, import it into After Effects and drop it into your composition.

2. Make sure your composition is the same size as your panorama. You can confirm this by going to the toolbar and selecting Composition -> Composition Settings. Set the duration to as long as you want your video to be. We usually choose a length of no more than 15 seconds.

3. Once you check and correct your settings, you can add additional components including audio, text, or images with motion graphics. Shutterstock and PremiumBeat are great resources for discovering royalty-free music to contribute to your piece. Import the file you want to include and drop it into your timeline.

4. Export the video by going to File -> Export –> Add to Adobe Media Encoder. Depending on the version of After Effects you have, you may have to go to Composition -> Add to Adobe Media Encoder. This will automatically open the file.

Media Encoder Tutorial: Adjusting For Screen Sizes

  1. Make sure your project’s codec is H.264, which will preserve the right aspect ratio of spherical panorama for any screen.

2. To export, press the green arrow featured on the upper-right hand on your screen. You’ll notice your file won’t be readable as a 360 until the next step.

Metadata Injector Tutorial: Making it 360

  1. Download the program from Github and open your file.
  2. Then, select the option to Inject metadata, which will allow your image to be read as a 360 file.
  3. Finally, save your VR image to your chosen destination. 

We hope this Photoshop tutorial enables you to create the VR images you’ve been dreaming of. To share your illustrations with the world, submit them to SVRF.