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Making 3D Anaglyph Images

July 16, 2011

Here’s something different: anaglyphs. 3D images are all the rage these days (again,) what with several Hollywood movies coming out in 3D. Stereo photography goes back to the 19th century, and 3D cameras were made in the early 20th century. 3D comics and special issue magazines were also made and still are today. The main drawback to this effect is you have to have special glasses to see it, even though there are some work-arounds. Below is a panel from the first “Mighty Mouse” comic made in 3D and another from an old “Stunt Girl” issue. Anaglyphs can be applied to anything that is displayed; not just line art, but grayscale or color, even video files can be made in the same manner.

Mighty Mouse 3D comic

Stunt Girl 3D comic


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It’s fairly easy to make your own anaglyph with Photoshop. I converted a recent pencil sketch (see below) and here’s how I made it:
1.> Figure out which areas you want to separate into different spacial planes. In this drawing that’s the far wall, the left wall, James Bond, and the girl all in their own layer.
2.> Load the drawing and paint out everything but that section that you want in the spacial plane, and then save it as a separate temporary file for each section.
3.> Load the background file image (back wall in this drawing) and copy/paste the whole thing as a new layer (Layer 1.) Select the bottom Background layer and change it to cyan by opening the Curves window and changing the Output for the Red channel to zero.
4.> Select Layer 1 and change the Curves window value of the green and blue output to zero to make it red. Now change the display mode of Layer 1 from Normal to Screen.
5.> Move Layer 1 to the left slightly. (Note: this is because the colored glasses have red over the left eye.)
6.> Repeat the process for the other spacial planes and move them to the left at different distances. Change the display mode of each of these top layers to Multiply.

Here’s the funny thing about the way an anaglyph works with colored glasses. The further apart you separate the red from the cyan, the more that plane seems to move when you move your head side to side. All anaglyph images I’ve found and in comics like the ones above have the background set further apart and the foreground sections closer together, making the background move the most. Unfortunately, that’s not how real 3D space works. Look out the side window of a moving car and the things closest to you zip by faster. That’s perspective in action. The reason anaglyphs are made in the opposite manner (paralax) is that the effect is more obvious. I’m showing my James Bond drawing below processed both ways with the image on the right having the background separated further apart. If you have the 3D glasses you can see the difference for yourself. Bear in mind that if the layers are separated too far apart you may start to see a ghosted effect.


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There are several places on the web where you can buy the colored glasses, but it’s possible to make your own by using a computer printer and some clear acetate that you can print the colors on. You could also try and find colored plastic. The true shade of red or blue is not that critical. The ones I have in my 3D comics have a blue instead of cyan and it still works. Even colored markers on acetate might work.

Links for more information and stuff:
http://www.stereoscopy.com/
http://ray3dzone.com/
http://www.3dglassesonline.com/
http://www.berezin.com/3d/viewers1.htm
http://www.fujifilm.com/products/3d/camera/finepix_real3dw3/
http://www.nintendo.com/3ds/built-in-software/

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