How We Made Cool 3D Christmas Cards Last Year

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Kirk & Andrea’s 3D Christmas Card

 

A few days ago I showed you how we created pop-up Christmas cards. Andrea and I started this tradition last year by creating 3D (Anaglyph) Christmas cards and mailing them out to our family and friends.

Yep, we mailed out about 50 Christmas cards just like the one you see here. We even included 3D glasses too! Just because I happen to have some 3D glasses hanging around, doesn’t mean all my friends and family do. 🙂

Creating 3D photos is pretty easy. Here’s how I did it.

Taking the Photos

Two PhotosThe first thing is that you’ll have to do is take several pairs of photos. The reason for taking several pairs is that you’re going to mess up. So having several sets to choose from will keep you from having to go out and retake photos again.

For each pair of photos, there will be a “left” photo, and a “right” photo. One will appear to be from the perspective of your left eye, and the other will be from the perspective of your right. This way you’ll have two photos of the exact same subject, but from the perspective of each eye. Both perspectives are needed to create the 3D effect. Look at something a couple feet in front of you right now. Close your right eye. Now switch quickly to your other eye. Notice the slight difference in perspective?

First, take photo #1 (the left shot). Then you’re going to move the camera a few inches to the right to take photo #2 (the right shot). The trick is to take the two shots quickly and keep the camera steady. You don’t want one shot to be tilted to the left, and the other tilted to the right. This will make it hard to line up the photos on the computer.

Here is a trick to get steady shots. Hold the camera up. It’s best to use the viewfinder if your camera has one. If not just hold it up like normal. Brace your elbows down to the sides of your chest to support it. This will help stabilize the camera. Spread your feet apart, shoulder width and shift your weight to your left foot. Take photo #1 (left). Now shift your weight to your right foot. Take photo #2 (right). By shifting your weight from one foot to the other, you’ll automatically move the camera the needed several inches to give you the 3D effect. This simple shift will also reduce unwanted movement while allowing you to take 2 photos quickly. Give it some practice.

A few tips:

  • It’s important that the subjects do not move between the two shots. In our case, the weight of the globe kept moving our arms down and we didn’t know it till we reviewed the photos in the camera. We had to try again with extra concentration on holding the snow globe steady
  • Take photos of something close or semi-close: People and buildings are good. Things far away like landscapes and mountains are bad since they appear flat. That’s why scenic views tend to look like paintings. It’s too far away to notice the 3D.
  • Have a prop! See the snow globe we’re holding? We used that since it’ll emphasize the 3D. It “pops” out of the picture. It was hard keeping our hands from moving between shots in that one, which leads me to the next tip…
  • …Take a dozen sets of photos or more in case of boo-boos.

Making them in 3D

Now that you have your photos, it’s time to get them on the computer. It’ll take some time to go through them to find the right pair. Are all the people smiling? Eyes open? Is the camera straight in both shots? Did anything move from one of the two shots? You’re going to be spending some time flipping between each pair. Once you find a good set, it’s time to get your hands dirty and merge them together in a photo editing program. Here are 3 photo editors depending on your situation.

  • Photoshop: We’ve all heard of it, but it’s expensive so not everyone has access to it. You have to pay a subscription, but don’t worry; you don’t need to buy Photoshop to do this project.
  • Paint.net: This is an easy to use photo editing program that’s only available for Windows systems. It’s not as complex or powerful as Photoshop, but it’s a huge improvement over MS Paint. Best of all it’s FREE. www.getpaint.net is the home page, but due to the tricky advertisements that can get you lost, here is the direct download page.
  • GIMP: This falls in between Paint.net and Photoshop as far as features and complexity. You can get it at gimp.org. The great thing is that not only is it FREE, but it’s also available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Directions can vary depending on your computer and the software you have. Instead walking you through the steps, I’ll link you to some great tutorials I found online, listed in the bullets below. They will walk you through all the steps necessary to end up with your final 3D photo. If you don’t have a pair of red and blue 3D glasses, it’s best to have a set so you can see your results while you’re editing. (I have links to order them further down the page).

In some of the tutorials they use color photos. If your original photos happen to have blue or red in it, it will most likely ruin the 3D effect since you’re using red and blue (cyan) 3D glasses. I recommend that you first convert the photos to grey-scale. That’s what I did as you can see in my photo at the top of the page. Try it both ways and compare the two to see which looks best.

Ordering All the Stuff

  • Prints: Now that you have your final print, take it to your favorite photo place and get 4×6″ prints made on the cheap. You should be able to find a deal for less than 10 cents per print at Wal-mart, Costco, or whatever drug store is in your neighborhood.
  • Double Sided Tape and a Sharpie: Since you’re at the store picking up your prints, get a Sharpie and a roll of double sided tape. Do not use glue or a glue-stick. I made this mistake the first time. It might make your card all wavy and look funny.
  • Cards & Envelopes: Get 5×7″ blank greeting card. This way you’ll have a nice 1/2″ border around your photo. Here is a 50 pack with envelopes from Amazon.com.
  • 3D Glasses: Make sure you get the paper ones like the photo below. Just like the ones from your old comic books. Make sure they are Red and Cyan. You can get a 50 pack of 3D glasses at Amazon.com too. You can also find them in eBay as well.

Finishing Up

The rest is simple.

  • If you have a printer, you have the option of printing your greeting on the inside of all your cards. If not, that’s what the Sharpie is for… start writing and signing away!
  • Us the double-stick tape and put the photos on the front of the card. I put tape near all four edges and a small piece in the center. It was probably overkill, but it worked well.
  • Stuff the envelopes. Don’t forget to pack a pair of 3D glasses along with the cards.

After they are mailed out, just wait. Soon you’ll hear back from all your friends and family and they will be amazed. But be careful, next year you might just have to keep up the high expectations! 🙂

So there you go. That’s how we made our 3D Christmas card for Christmas 2010. Enjoy!

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