3D Invigorator only really does one trick, but it’s such a useful one, and it does it so well, that it’s silly to see this as a limitation. It is particularly good for producing well-rendered 3D text, particularly if you need some degree of transparency and don’t want to leave the comfortable confines of Photoshop for the privilege.
However, the advantages come at a price. Many fully-featured 3D modellers, such as Ray Dream 3D, are available for less, and just about any 3D modeller will handle transparency, alpha channels and extrusion, and give you dozens of extra creative features into the bargain. What’s more, you won’t be stuck with the tiny workspace afforded by Invigorator’s all-in-one-dialogue-box approach. Nevertheless, if what you need is a quick and effective extruder and you want to keep working entirely in Photoshop, then 3D Invigorator will certainly give you something to smile about.
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One of the simplest processes in any decent 3D-drawing program is to extrude a two-dimensional shape into a third dimension by giving it depth. But even this, which should be a no-brainer, can be hard to achieve in many dedicated 3D tools, because the typical 3D modelling environment is so thoroughly soaked in whizzbang features that novice users are often left floundering. 3D Invigorator bypasses the complexities of a 3D modelling program by building the whole process into a single Photoshop plug-in, so if you’re happy with Photoshop but have neither the time nor inclination to get to grips with a premier-league 3D modeller, then this could be just what you need. The starting point for your model is any Illustrator-format 2D shape, to which you apply depth and surface characteristics including highlight sharpness and brightness, transparency, reflection and colour. You can gather several such objects together before rendering the scene into a Photoshop layer or external file, and move both the camera-view and the relative positions and orientations of each object in either a wireframe or roughly-rendered workspace. Its status as a plug-in means that 3D Invigorator limits its aims: it has no lathing or skinning tools, and no surface textures, and instead just sticks to extrusion as its only 3D trick. But this limitation is made easier to swallow thanks to Invigorator’s thorough treatment of the subject: you can extrude an object using one of 104 bevelled edge-styles, up to six light sources, and with scenes containing any number of objects. You can even specify that a different bevelled edge be used on the interior ‘holes’ and exterior surfaces of an object, and so the problem of ‘plugged’ holes in bevelled 3D text is easily overcome. In fact, compound objects with holes in them are no problem at all for Invigorator, with the program deftly handling the rendering of overlapping objects such as interlocked rings. Although it functions as a plug-in, the rendering engine can be used to produce external files of any size, complete with alpha channels to denote transparency. If you render straight into a Photoshop layer, then the transparency settings within individual objects in your scene are carried through to the Photoshop document, so that you can see underlying layers through the glassy extrusions.