From this tutorial, you’ll learn some new techniques and tricks. We’ll be using the Isometric Map Mockup productas an example and seeing in detail how it was created. At the end, you’ll have a fully workable action and confidence in building“transformation actions”.
How to Create an Isometric Map Mockup Action in Adobe Photoshop
1.How to Prepare Your Workspace
Open up thetest.psdfile attached to this tutorial. I’ve created it for your convenience so that you don’t have to follow any long-winded steps about document creation.
Make sure you have set up your workspace properly. For this tutorial, we need some panels to be visible: theActions,Layers, andStylespanels. If you don’t have these panels visible, then go toWindowand enable the panels one by one by their names.
Then you need to make sure the Ruler Measuresare pixels. If you don’t see the rulers, pressCommand-Rto activate them, and then right click on the ruler itself and selectPixels.
2. How to Get Ready for the Recording
For now, since we’ve set up our work space as needed, we can start recording our action.
Go to the Actions panel and create a newAction Set.You can call it whatever you like.
Inside theAction Set, create aNew Action.Give it any name—for example, “Isometric Map Action”.
After that, press theStop Recording button. That’s because, by default, after creating an action it automatically starts recording. We don’t want that to happen just yet.
Select the”main” layer, because we don’t want this step to be recorded. For us, it will be the step performed by a user. The user decides which layer to select.
Now it’s time to click the Record buttonon our Actions panel. From this moment on, almost everything we’ll be doing within Photoshop will be recorded. After we are finished recording our action, we can run this action once again, to apply exactly the same working process on other images.
3.How to Prepare for the Transforms
Here we have a task. We need to slice the”main”layer into three parts vertically, and also we need to record these steps.
Create aSmart Objectfrom the”main” layer. To do this,right clickon it, and chooseConvert to Smart Object. We are doing this because we need a brand new space for our further steps.
After that,double-clickon theSmart Objectlayer toEditthe content. You’ll be switched to a new document. Here is the place where we’ll be working with our image.
Now we want to make more free space around our image by increasing the canvas size. Go to Image > Canvas Size, and in the dialog window, instead of”Pixels”, choose “Percent”and input200%for both sides.It will increase the canvas size proportionally.
Here we’ll quickly go over and create an alignment template. This layer will help us later to align some of our map parts to the center of the canvas.
Create a new layer. To do this, click on the little”sheet of paper”icon at the very bottom of the Layers panel. After creating it, the layer will stick up above the”main”layer.
HoldCommand-[to move our newly created layer under the”main”layer. Rename the layer”template”.
Fill this layer with any color you want by pressingCommand-Backspace. For us, the color really doesn’t matter because the”template” layer is a temporary layer, and it will be deleted later.
Finally, we need to switch to the”main”layer, so that it will be selected. Press Option-]to switch to the”main”layer. When making actions, we need to make everything flexible, so that we can apply the process again in the future.
4.How to Slice and Transform the Map Parts
To cut the”main”layer into three equal parts, we actually need to make two cuts. We’ll be splitting the”main”layer using theSelection Tool. Make a selection around our layer by holdingCommandand clicking on the layer’s thumbnail. Then go toSelect > Transform Selection.
Now for a little bit of math. If we take100%of our actual image size and divide it by3, we get approximately33.34%. So this is exactly the value we want to see in theWidthinput field. Put in the value you see in the picture below. It’s important not to forget about theReference point location. This is asnap pointfor the transforms. Choose the center-leftsnap point.
After you have input everything correctly, press theEnter key.
We are almost finished with this. Now we need to expand the current selection to the left a little bit, so that we’ll be 100% sure that we won’t cut any unexpected pixels around the cutting area. We do this because lurking pixels can cause problems in the future while transforming, and it is hard to identify them.
Go toSelect > Transform Selection.The reference point must becenter-right, and then enter these dimensions in the fields:W:110%; H:110%;
Before moving on, we need to do a little trick that I call”Clear Cut”. The whole idea of this trick is to cut the layer without transparent pixels on the edge of the cut. How do we do this? Go toSelection >Select and Mask. Then navigate to the right menu and enter the following values:
- Radius: 0 px
- Feather:0.0 px
- Shift Edge: 0%
- Output To:Selection
Right-click on the selection and from the drop-down menu chooseLayer Via Cut.
Rename our newly cut layer and give it the name”1″. PressOption-[to select the backward layer. Now the”main”layer is selected.
Here we have two separate layers.Basically, in this step, we’ll be doing all the same things as we did previously. The only difference is that we’ll be shrinking down the selection by half.
Make sure the”main”layer is selected. Once again, make a selection around the current layer by holdingCommandand clicking on the layer’s thumbnail. Alright, now we’ve got the selection around the layer.
Next, go toSelect > Transform Selection. Let’s shrink down the selection by half. Type in the value of50%intheWidthinput field. Don’t forget about theReference point location, which must becenter-left.
As I promised, the steps are pretty similar. And for this instance, we also need to expand a selection around the left side. Take a look at how we did it previously.
Go and grabSelect > Transform Selection(theReference pointmust becenter-right), and then enter these values in the fields: W:110% H:110%.
For this part, also repeat the“Clear Cut”method as we did inStep 3 of the current section.
Right click on the selection and from the drop-down menu, chooseLayer Via Cut. Rename our newly cut layer and give it the name”2″. PressOption-[to switch to the layer below. Rename it”3″.
We’ve now got three equal cut parts. Now, we are ready to transform two of them, namely“1”and“2”. What to do with the third one, you will know later. For now, let’s get into transforming.
Select layer“1”. Go toEdit > Transformand selectScale.Enter the following values:
- H: 0.00°;
- V: 45.5°;
TheReference pointisbottom-right. PressEnter.
Select layer“2”. Go toEdit > Transformand selectScale.Enter the following values:
5.How to Use the Align Tool
As you might have noticed, now we have a problem. We can see the gap between the third untransformed layer and the rest of the layers. If we now transform the third layer, it won’t work for us.
In an ordinary situation, we would have transformed the third layer and then moved it to the left. But since we are recording the action, this method doesn’t work for us. So we need to make something more universal. This is to make sure that it will work for all kinds of image sizes.
Okay, now we need to make a multi-select. We are standing on layer“2”. We want to select both layers: layer”2″and layer”1″. Hold down theCommandkey and click on layer“1”to add it to the selection. Now you should see both layers selected.
Then we need to convert the selected layers into aSmart Object.Right-clickon one of two layers—it really doesn’t matter on which one—and from the drop-down menu selectConvert to Smart Object.
We can’t align objects easily one after another when recording an action. Maybe you’ll say that it’s simple, considering the current example, but it’s not exactly. You can succeed in aligning for the current image, but it won’t work for another. Hence, we need a very flexible method that would work for all kinds of images.
Here’s a little trick. We need to align our smart object layer to the bottom left corner.
As we are continuing, we have our smart object layer already selected, and we need to add the“template”layer to this selection. Hold theCommandkey and click on the”template” layer.
Go and grab theMove Tool. Aligning in Photoshop goes about a layer that is bigger. ChooseAlign left edges—it will stick the Smart Object to the left side.
Next, clickAlign bottom edges.We placed it at the bottom of the canvas.
It’s time to align the third part of our map.
Select the layer”3″. Then select theMarquee Selection Tool. Hold down theCommandkey and click on theSmart Objectthumbnail to make the selection.
Select theMove Tool.Align layer”3″to thebottom side. Thenalign the layer to theleftside. Lastly, align the layer to theright.
PressCommand-Dto deselect the current selection.
Go toEdit > Transformand chooseScale.Set theReference pointto Right. Then Go toEdit > Transformand chooseFlip Horizontalor in theWidthinput field enter the value of-100%.
The last step will be mirroring the layer back. Go toEdit > Transformand chooseFlip Horizontal.
Select layer“3”.Go toEdit > Transformand selectScale.Enter the following values:
- H: 74.1%
- H: 0.00°
Set the Reference point tobottom-left. PressEnter.
For now, we have our map in a weird position. We need to rotate it to the position we actually need.
Select layer“1”. Hold down theCommandkey and click on layer“2”so that both layers will be selected. Go toEdit > Transformand selectRotate.
Enter the following values:
- H: 0.00°
- V: 0.00°
6.How to Release Parts Out of the Smart Object
Now we need to free up parts out of the smart object. We perform this step because we want to apply some shading styles to the middle part layer. So we want our parts to be separated.
Select layer“1”.Right-click on the layer and from the drop-down menu, selectNew Smart Object via Copy.
Double click on the newly created layer toEditthe content
In the opened document, select layer“2”.
PressDelete (Backspace)to delete the layer“2”.
Close the current document and, while closing it, click theSavebutton.
Next, rasterize the current layer we have just closed.Right-clickon the layer and chooseRasterize layer. Rename it“1”. PressOption-[to switch to the layer below.
For anotherSmart Object, the steps are pretty the same. Double-click on the current layer toEditthe contents.
In a newly opened document, select layer“1”.PressBackspaceto delete layer“1”.Close the document and, while closing, clickSave.
Rasterize the layer. Right-click on the layer and chooseRasterize layer. Rename it“2”.
7.Final Steps on the Map Surface
In this short section, we are applying styles to the middle part of layer“2”. We want our map to look more realistic. So, we’ll add some shading to it.
Select layer“2”. Double click on it to call up theLayer Styleswindow. Select theColor Overlaysection. In this section, bring down theOpacityto35%. Choose the color
It’s time to center the map parts in the middle of our canvas.
Select layer“1”.Add to the selection layers“2”and”3″. Do thisby holding theCommandkey and clicking on layer“2” andthen on layer”3″. We need all three layers to be selected.
PressCommand-Gto put all the selected layers into a group. Rename the group. Give it the name“All Parts”.
Notice that expanding groups is not a recordable feature in Photoshop.
Expand the group by clicking on thelittle triangleon the left side of the group. After that, select layer“1”.
This trick is particularly relevant in the automated mode because once we’ve done the group, we won’t be able to see layers anymore. But we still want to be able to pick up layers and to continue recording the action. So, when we click on layer “1”, we expand the group automatically, and Photoshop can see the layers again.
Select the”All Parts”group. By holding theCommandkey, add to the layer selection the”template” layer.
Select theMove Tool.
In the menu, chooseAlign Vertical centersand then chooseAlign Horizontal Centers. Pay no attention if the”template”layer moves a little bit.
Select the”template”layer and delete it by pressing theBackspacekeyon your keyboard.
Go toImage > Trim. In the dialog, chooseBased On > Transparent pixels, and in theTrim Awayoptions, go with all directions:Top, Right, Left, Bottom.
Expand the canvas a little bit. Go toImage > Canvas Size.In the dialog window, instead of pixels, choose percentages and input200%for both sides. It will increase the canvas size proportionally.
We’ve got rid of the”template”layer. Now we need to create the background instead. Select layer“3”.Create a new layer. Click on thenew layericon at the very bottom of the Layers panel. Rename the layer“Background”.
Move the layer backward by pressingCommand-[. Set the foreground color togray
#444444.Use the keyboard shortcutOption-Delete (Backspace)to fill in the layer with the gray color.
8.How to Create a 3D Volume for the Map Surface
This will be a starting point for creating the volume for the map.
Hold theCommandkey and select multiple layers:”1″,”2″, and”3″. PressCommand-Eto merge the selected layers.
Now we need to copy the merged layer twice. To do this, pressCommand-Jtwice. You should now see three copies.
In these steps, we’ll be creating a 3D surface for our map.
Switch to the layer below by pressingOption-[. The layer below will be selected. Group the current layer (Command-G). Rename the group“Volume”.Switch to the layer below (Option-[).
Now we need to add the 3D volume effect. Select theMove toolfirst. Hold down theOption-Commandkeys and at the same time press the UpArrowkeysix times.
Then click and select the group“Volume”,and merge it (Command-E).
SetLayer stylesfor this layer. Select theColor Overlaysection. Next, bring down theOpacityto35%. Choose the color
We need to move the face layer a little bit. Switch to the layer above:Option-]. Select theMove Tooland press the UpArrowkeyseven times.
Rename the layer and call it”Face”.
The last step will be creating the”Shadow”layer for our map. Select the”background”layer. PressOption-]to move it to the layer above.
Apply styles to it. SelectColor Overlay. SetOpacityto100%. Choose the color
Rasterize this layer.
Take theMove Tooland, using your mouse, move the current shadow layer down a bit.
Go to the filterBlur > Gaussian Blur.Set theRadiusto35.0 Pixels.
Congratulations! We are finished! Now we can click theStop Recording button.
Awesome Work, You’re Done!
This was a demonstration of the workflow on how to work with transformation actions. It isn’t one of the hardest things to do, but it’s not easy either. If you did everything correctly, now you have a fully working action, and you can apply it to any other images.
The action buildingarea is not as limited as you might think, so it’s definitely worth learning about if you have already started learning Photoshop. If you learn it, you’ll see how it will help you to save time in performing everyday tasks.
Feel free to ask me any questions down in the comments below.I wish you good luck with your experiments!