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Designing a 3D Software Box

In this tutorial, we are going to create a 3D software box using Photoshop. It’s rather simple but the results can be quite realistic, providing a creative way of going about and creating box designs for your own personal use.

Before starting this tutorial, you’ll need some “Box Art” or Cover art to work with as source materials. If you’d like some similar materials to what we’re going to use, you may want to check out our Abstract Dust and Specks Tutorial.

Step 1

When creating your box art, remember to create all the sides you want to show. The best way is to have a different layer for each side.

Software box art

Step 2

Now we are going to transform the shape of the front side. Select all the layers that are associated with this side, preferably place them all in a group. If there are any text layers you need to rasterize them (Layer > Rasterize > Type)

When you have all the layers selected, use the Move Tool (V) and make sure the “Show Transform Controls” box on the top is checked.
Go to Edit > Transform > Distort to start transforming the image. Grab the upper right corner node and while holding down Shift drag it downwards. Do the same thing with the lower right corner, but drag it upwards. This should result in an image like the one below.

(Tip: If you’d like to adjust the perspective so that the top and bottom right corners both adjust the EXACT same, hold Ctrl + Alt + Shift while dragging the transformation nodes.)

Transforming the corners

The perspective looks a bit off if you compare the front side with the one on the flat image, it looks stretched now. To fix this illusion we need to shorten the front side. Go to Edit > Transform > Scale and use the middle right point to drag the right side to the left until you’re happy with the result. I ended up with something like this:

Shorten the width

Step 3

With the front side complete we move over to the side. Use the same method to change the corners and the width of the side. It can be a bit tricky to get it to look correct — my best advice is too look at a box in real life and how it looks from different angles. This is something that is very important in design overall, you want to compare it to reality, even when you’re doing unrealistic creations.

Basic box finished

Due to the angle I’ve chosen my side looks rather slim. If you want your side wider you need to change the angle of the viewpoint, which will result in different angles for the front side as well.

Now the box is actually complete, the only thing left is just touch-ups.

Step 4

This box needs to be placed in some sort of scene to look better, what I’m going to do is rather simple. Let’s start with the background.

Create a new layer and place it just above the background layer. Select the lower 1/3 of the image using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M). Use the Gradient Tool (G) and select the Radial Gradient on the top bar. Edit the gradient, by clicking on the gradient preview in the upper left, and set the left color to a lighter shade and the right one to be transparent. Drag the gradient tool from the center of the image downwards toward the bottom. Give it a few tries before you’re happy with the result. Mine ended up looking like this:

Background added

Step 5

Adding just a hint of gradient on the side will give it more depth.
Ctrl-click on your side layer to load the selection. Create a new layer and make sure you still have your selection of the side. Use the Gradient Tool and select the Linear Gradient on the top bar. Select a color that is darker then your side, and dragging from outside the side into about mid point to create a soft gradient. This should add some sense of depth to the box.

Adding a gradient to the side

Step 6

In this step we will create a reflection of the box.
Duplicate the layers used in the box. Select all the duplicated layers and go Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical. Move it so that the upper part of the flipped layer is placed at the bottom of the box like this.

Adding a reflection step 1

Now using Transform > Skew (each side of the book separately) drag the corners so that all sides connect. Lower the opacity on both layers to around 50%.

Adding a reflection step 2

The reflection looks good, but it needs to fade off a bit. There are many different ways to do this, using a layer mask is one option. I chose do use Layer Style and applying a Gradient Overlay with the background color as one of the colors in the gradient and the other one set to transparent. Change the Location %–value on the background color until you find a good value. On this image I found it to be around 65%.

Adding a reflection step 3

The box is now complete — try different angles for different effects. Below I’ve used another angle and used a lighter background with darker background gradient just to show how you can mix it up.

An example with another angle

Hitting shelves 2008*!

* Not actually hitting shelves… for the moment.

63 Comments

  1. Add point Subtract point
    Younes Hadry (0 Points) November 11, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Nice one, i’ll pick it

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  2. Add point Subtract point
    Kristoffer Nielsen (1 Point) March 19, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Thank you. i have tried it and the result is good :) Good to learn at little bit 3D.

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  3. Add point Subtract point
    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุด (1 Point) February 1, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    wow thanks so much.153

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  4. Add point Subtract point
    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุดเดือนนี้ (0 Points) February 1, 2010 at 1:59 am

    wow thanks so much.148

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    เพลงสากลใหม่ (1 Point) January 30, 2010 at 10:02 am

    great tutorial . Thanks

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  6. Add point Subtract point
    ru-designer (1 Point) January 20, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Nice tutorial, thank U. It is a pity not in Russian

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  7. Add point Subtract point

    Thank you! The result is awesome.

    I think that for some specific tasks it is good to use additional apps. For example, if you need not simple box, but something more complex, for example DVD box or “Vista” box, or book, it may be time-consuming or difficult to draw this in Photoshop. And special tools such as eCover Suite Elite (a Photoshop addon, http://www.ecoversuiteelite.com/) or IndaSoftware Cover Professional (a standalone app, http://www.indasoftware.com/coverpro/) relieve us in such cases. There you can rotate objects, add/remove reflection with single click, etc.

    Good luck! Thank you for great tutorials.

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  8. Add point Subtract point
    Katrina Noble (1 Point) May 29, 2009 at 1:26 am

    Great. But how do you create the reflection if the box was a can of paint instead? How do you create a curved reflection?

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  9. Add point Subtract point
    huwaw69 (1 Point) May 8, 2009 at 2:44 am

    The 3d effect is really awesome, then add the cool reflection effect! this technique really make a good 3d effect on other arts… thanks man for teaching this

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  10. Add point Subtract point
    Brian (1 Point) May 3, 2009 at 2:58 am

    Great work! I would like a tutorial on making a spiral effect at the side, more like a notebook… I have searched for a tutorial of that kind and have not found any.If you could make one on that it would be greatly appreciated.

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  11. Add point Subtract point
    Steven (1 Point) April 20, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Great cover tutorial – love the 3D feel. Just a little problem on the 3-pt. perspective on your last image. It’s tricky :D

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  12. Add point Subtract point
    Chris Madden (1 Point) April 14, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Very cool. Going to be using this on the box art project I’m working on currently.

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  13. Add point Subtract point

    All your Tutorials are extraordinary.
    Thanks

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  14. Add point Subtract point

    Great tut, love it, wel explaned and looks professional.
    !!!

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  15. Add point Subtract point

    @David -”I think a lot of websites/software companies actually use this technique in place of taking pictures of their actual cover art. It’s would think that it provides a cleaner image.”

    Yeah, I’ve heard that too and it’s almost certain that Adobe use photoshop to create their product shots. They look too clean to be photos (I could be wrong though :) )
    Anyway here’s one tool that I’ve heard is pretty cool for creating digital product shots ‘n things- eCoverSuiteElite | eBook cover software – thought you might want to check it out.

    Cheers for the tutorial.
    - Phil

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    Christine (1 Point) November 17, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Great tutorial! Very useful, thanks

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  17. Add point Subtract point

    I found a free action script that creates some really nice looking software boxes and it only requires that you have Adobe Photoshop installed.
    Check it out here: http://www.absolutecovers.com/blog/2008/10/22/free-software-box-creator

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  18. Add point Subtract point
    Leafnode (1 Point) July 30, 2008 at 6:20 am

    Why the box is leaning forward? Right edge of the box is misleading here – it should be parallel to the left edge.

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  19. Add point Subtract point
    Nathan Mallamace (1 Point) July 22, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks for the great tutorial. One little suggestion for the reason I came to this tutorial:

    Under step 6, you say, “Transform > Skew” – It might be important to say don’t select the corners and/or show an icon representative of the up & down arrows selecting the side.

    I repeatedly selected the handles (or whatever they are called) to skew.

    Thanks again!
    Nathan Mallamace

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  20. Add point Subtract point
    manoj (1 Point) May 30, 2008 at 7:02 am

    it s damn good man keet it up hope for more tut in futures

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  21. Add point Subtract point
    Binesh (1 Point) May 21, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Sorry Fredrik,for missing your name last time.
    But both of you stay together, you people are doing a wonderful job.

    Thanks.

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  22. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks Binesh, but Fredrik actually wrote this tutorial ;) He’s really great at explaining things as well, which is just one of the reasons we love him!

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  23. Add point Subtract point
    Binesh (1 Point) May 18, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    David,

    You are the best when it comes to explaining a tutorial.
    I simply love this site. The best I have seen, because it runs on simplicity.

    Thanks.

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  24. Add point Subtract point
    Viktor (1 Point) May 6, 2008 at 3:49 am

    Hi!
    This tutorial is really great.
    I was just wondering if I could release this tutorial at another site which is a great community. It’s a gaming community though, but there are lots of graphic talents visiting this site every day.
    Send me an e-mail if it’s ok.
    ~ Viktor Rudi

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  25. Add point Subtract point

    I’ve been looking for this type of tutorial for ages. Well written tutorial. Concise and clear. Once again, thanks!!!

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  26. Add point Subtract point
    antonwoods (1 Point) March 26, 2008 at 4:47 am

    very nice :o will be using this technique for a project im working on :) thanks fredrik

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  27. Add point Subtract point
    Jayesh (1 Point) March 14, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    I am seriously glad I found you website! This is really awesome :)

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  28. Add point Subtract point
    Big Bright™ (1 Point) January 31, 2008 at 11:03 am

    This is awesome. I ca’t wait to display this as my project work for the Lecturer. Thanks Fredrik

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  29. Add point Subtract point

    We’ll release a detailed Vanishing Point Tool tutorial sometime soon (hopefully) Peotto. Gotta keep in mind that the VP tool wasn’t made available until later versions of photoshop, so a lot of users can’t even take advantage of it yet.

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  30. Add point Subtract point

    Why not show the method using the Vanishing point feature or whatever it’s called. This was insanely cool though, i didn’t know it could be done so well without the VP tool.

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  31. Add point Subtract point

    It certainly is a nice effect ;)
    I think a lot of websites/software companies actually use this technique in place of taking pictures of their actual cover art. It’s would think that it provides a cleaner image.

    With some work on shading with the dodge and burn tools, I’d imagine that you could even get the lighting to look pretty real.

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  32. Add point Subtract point
    Iceberg (1 Point) January 6, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Awesome tutorial Fredrik I love the final outcome.

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  33. Add point Subtract point
    Steve Mathis (1 Point) January 6, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    I love this effect. It looks realistic and professional.

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  34. Add point Subtract point
    cruddpuppet (1 Point) January 5, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    The results look like it was rendered in some 3d modeling software, although, for the final result, the reflection doesn’t really match the object it’s reflecting. Probably because of its angle.

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  35. Add point Subtract point
    tyler durden (2 Points) January 4, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    wow nice tut im looking forward to the forums opening

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