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I'm new to photo editing, and am trying to create 3D anaglyph images using Paint.NET, since I don't have Photoshop. So far I've figured out how to create a red/cyan image by pasting a red and a cyan hued layer on top of the original image, shifting them slightly and saving it, as in this one I've made..

The image shows up in 3D when I use 3D glasses, however it's like peeking through a window. There is no distinction between the lamp and its background. I've seen images where clearly one can distinguish foreground and background objects. How does one create that? Do I have to shift the red/cyan portions a bit more/less for the foreground object, and how do I do it if so? I understand that mostly everyone uses Photoshop to do this, but I'd appreciate if you describe the tools used and the concept, perhaps there is an equivalent in paint.net as well.

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about photography. – Itai Jan 11 '14 at 19:39
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    @Itai - That was my original thought, but producing anaglyphs from photographs would be just as on topic as producing a print. – John Cavan Jan 11 '14 at 20:13
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    It appears, at a casual glance, that you are only using one image (or, at best, two images taken from the same point of view). If that is the case, then you can't get the parallax that makes 3D images work; you need two images taken from about 60-65mm apart laterally. (More, if you're exaggerating to compensate for telephoto lenses; less for macro work. The effect should be the distance between your pupils, scaled for the size of the image.) – user2719 Jan 11 '14 at 21:06
  • Thanks, so I guess that means I can't use this technique effectively on already existing photos. – Rex Jan 12 '14 at 6:02
  • Um, if any enterprising person is interested in developing my previous comment into a complete and proper answer for "cheap" rep, go for it. If you can include how to create pseudo-3D from a single image by displacing elements (when practical) it won't even be cheap. – user2719 Jan 12 '14 at 9:03
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You're spot-on with the need to shift some parts of the red/cyan layers either more or less in order to achieve the control of the separation that you're after.

One way to do it, if we're assuming that you're starting from a single 2D image, is to isolate different elements of the image onto their own layers, such as the background on one and the lamp on another. This might require some careful selection, and even some "mending" (clone/heal in Photoshop) of the background in the areas which are "behind" the lamp.

Once you have the two parts, do the red/cyan separation as you did before, but separately for each part. Now adjust the background by only a small amount, and the lamp by a larger amount. Or you could leave the background alone and just do the lamp, or even adjust them in opposite directions - some trial and error is necessary here.

You will now have a composite image where the lamp stands out from the background, which is one step forward. However, if you look at the floor under the base of the lamp it is still "flat", i.e. it feel like it's all at the same distance from you. This requires another red/cyan pair with just that part of the image, but this time you'll have to distort the layers rather than simply shift them, such that the part of the floor which is closer to the viewer moves further apart than the part which is at the base. I'm not sure what tools you have in Paint.NET, but in Photoshop I would again use clone/heal to fill in more of the areas of the floor "behind" the lamp's base.

[edit] If you want to get really adventurous, you can use tools such as Liquify to fine-tune the degree of shift between the red and cyan layers; that way, you can adjust more complex elements, such as the round part of the lamp, and bring the front of it closer and the back of it further away. Again, this is most easily achieved with a separate pair of layers for just that area, so you can restore information "behind" it on other layers.

It also helps if you group the pairs of layers so you can turn them on and off easily. That's so you can work just on the element of your image that you're interested in.

  • Thanks for the detailed reply, I'll give this a try. I don't have and am not familiar with Photoshop - is this clone/heal tool a standard tool in image editing? I use Paint.NET. – Rex Apr 8 '14 at 6:29
  • Paint.NET certainly has the Clone Stamp tool which is equivalent to Photoshop's Clone tool, and that should be good enough for this purpose. I don't believe it yet has a Healing tool. – ClickRick Apr 8 '14 at 6:45

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