How to creating 360 Virtual Reality (VR) Illustration with Adobe Photoshop CC (2017 & 2018)

As an illustrator makes me wonder, if I could immerse my audience into an imaginary world, with interactive medium.
Well in this tutorial today, we’re going unveil the secrets into creating a 360 virtual illustration.

For Photo CC 2018 And Above

Most of the VR platform out there uses equirectangular map to wrap a spherical VR media. Hence we are showing how to create an equirectangular illustration for the virtual reality to work.
(*tips or notice)

1. Create the right ratio of document

Click file > new. The width and height of the canvas must be on a 2:1

So for starters, 4000 x 2000 px, 300 dpi should be enough for most case.

2. Get yourself a grid

A good grid will helps us visualise the virtual space. Jama’s  equirectangular grid is the best we found so far, drag that grid into photoshop.

3. Making it 360 Virtual Reality (VR)

Selecting your grid layer, on your toolbar 3D > spherical panorama > new panorama layer from selected layer. If you did it correctly, your current layer will turn into Panorama Layer, and able to view them in a SphericalMap viewport.

4. Ready to Draw

A panorama layer is like a smart object but in VR form. You are able to preview your VR illustration on your main document, and edit the spherical texture once double click the SphericalMap under the panorama layer.

There are a few steps in drawing your 360 VR :

Create a layer inside the SphericalMap and hit save.

  • Now head to the main document and start painting! (*If you notice some lag and pixelation, don’t worry, it is due to the viewport preview).
  • As you progress, you might be more comfortable in creating new layers on the main document and paint on the top non-panorama-layer.
  • Hit ctrl+e (cmd+e) to merge the non-panorama-layer down with the panorama layer, your new sketch will now merge within the SphericalMap.
    (*This way, the stroke are more predictable and painting are more responsive. Painting can be review when you double click the spherical map).

5. Export

Now that you’ve completed your artwork, lets go and save it !

Click inside the Spherical Map. Select File > File info, then select template folder > import this XMP Template that we found from Topher Mcculloch’s blog. This will trick facebook to recognise this as 360 VR.

Save your file as an ordinary jpg or png … and you’re DONE.

Upload your image to you prefered VR platform (Facebook / Google VR) and your all set!

Using Photoshop CC 2017 And Below ?

Not having photoshop cc 2018 stopping you ? Not a chance ! Here is a way to create the perspective in other photoshop versions.

1. Creating document & the VR grid

Follow steps 1 and 2 from the segment above.

2. Creating the 3D Spherical Layer

Open your 3D panel, Window > 3D.


Click Mesh From PresetSpherical Panorama > Create.

On your layer panel your  layer is now a 3D layer, and double click the SphericalMap to modify your illustration.

3. Draw

Refer step 4 above!

In the case this (below) just click no, as it doesn’t effect the artwork

Export

Refer step 5 above!

All Done!

VR illustration is one of the our most challenging project, as it is an illustration that has no room for error. Every section of the angle require details and story telling will have to go beyond audience’s point of view to encourage exploration all the angles.

Share us your artwork, we’d love to see what you create.

4 Steps to create a 360 VR illustration / painting in Photoshop (with pictures)

EDIT: This is our outdated method, we wrote a better modern tutorial here: Creating VR Illustration with Photohop CC 17 & 18 See ya on the other side!

EDITED 2019

For months, I’ve been researching a perfect way to create 360 virtual reality illustration, and I realised that there not much of decent tutorial out there.
So I am humbly sharing my approach on attempting the 360 degree art.
This tutorial is meant for Artists and Designers with basic knowledge of illustration, if you are new to digital painting or concept art this demo might not be as helpful.

The 360 Mapping Method

cpucl

One of the most common method to create a 360 degree environment is by using Skymap or Cubemap and map it on a 3D cube. This method was widely used for Game Development in the early days. However, the method I am sharing today is using Equirectangular Image which looks something like this:

Image above from http://photo.stackexchange.com/questions/73481/how-can-i-edit-equirectangular-images

Entering 2016, I realised that Equirectangular Image is now a common format for Youtube or Facebook to recognise as a 360 degree image. There are more platform than ever in displaying 360 art now. Algorithm in these platform process your Equirectangular Image and unwarp it into virtual sphere for 360 degree effect. We are not learning to paint our artwork on a curvature template, instead we are going to convert the curvature image into proper perspective image for easy painting.

Once you master the concept, you can create your very own Virtual Reality concept art!

Preparation:

Painting Software – I will be using Adobe Photoshop CC in this demo, I believe the same idea can apply to any version of Photoshop.
Equirectangular Conversion -The best plugin (that I’ve tried far) for these conversion is Flexify 2. I am using the trial version. This software can do variety of panoramic conversion, but for our case we only need Equirectangular to Horizontal Grid.
360 Preview – As a Motion Graphic designer, I am no stranger to Equirectangular Images. I often used it for my 3D production in Cinema 4D. If you wish to preview your 360 degree artwork during the production, you may try pannellum.org or simply upload your artwork to Facebook .

Step 1: Convert an Equirectangular Image to a Cubemap

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Prepare yourself an Equirectangular Grid like one below and begin converting it into Cubemap.

Image above from http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmswart/26363697850

Begin converting the Equirectangular image using Flexify.

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Unfortunately Flexify 2 is not made for this purpose, upon conversion you will find these empty white spaces on both sides of your image, these white spaces may create a lot of troubles in future steps, so get rid of them by trimming the spaces.

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Step 2: Paint something on the Cubemap

Now you have a proper grid that are painting friendly, you may now begin to work on your magic!

paintit

SOME TIPS: Create a guide at the edge of each cube. Every time you draw something across an individual Cubemap, re-imagine your perpective into a new single point perspective. Always sees every Individual Cubemap as a new single-point-perspective-grid. Here is a simple gif that helps you to understand what I meant:

sample

SOME MORE TIPS: During the sketching stage, I exported the artwork into Equirectangular Image ( which I am sharing how in the next step ) and preview it in 360 VR mode with Cinema 4D by adding the Equirectangular Image as texture to a sky object. I came back and forth between both software countless time to ensure the 360 illusion is perfect.

Take your time to get use to the perspective confusion, once you got a hang of it, everything will progress smoothly like a T-rex running on butter.

Step 3: Convert the Cubemap back to Equirectangular Image

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Begin converting your Cubemap back to Equirectangular Image that are virtual reality 360 friendly.

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Trim the top and bottom white craps to achieve a perfect 2:1 aspect ratio for your Equirectangular Image.

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Step 4: Edit the Metadata

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Now your artwork are fresh from the oven and ready to upload to you preference Virtual Reality platform. In order to trick those platform to recognise your artwork as 360 Equirectangular Image, we will edit the metadata of the image itself.

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Basically, you simply download this XMP Template and edit the metadata under file info in photoshop:

Detailed steps were perfectly described in Topher Mcculloch’s blog

Complete: Your Illustration in 360

That’s it, if you made it this far without confusion, please give yourself a cookie because you are obviously an advance user.
Check out the the completed 360 illustration of this demo here:

Send me me your artwork, I’d love to see how you inspire from this article!

Let’s have some discussion in the comment below if you have better method or ask any questions. Cheers guys, let’s just keep creating awesome work.

Award Winning illustration studio based in Singapore and Malaysia