Transform photos into 3D animations with PhotoAnim


Converting regular 2D images to 3D can be a very effective way to give them some extra impact, and it’s simpler than you might think.

PhotoAnim is a formerly commercial, now free application which helps you edit, morph, transform and animate 2D objects, then share the results online, in videos and various 3D formats.

The process can be surprisingly simple. After creating a new project, we clicked File > Import to import a PNG graphic of a cartoon fish, Animation > Initialize > 3D from Front Image View, and after a few seconds our object was converted to 3D and displayed in a preview window.

Clicking and dragging on the preview window was enough to spin our fish in 3D space. By default it was "hollow" -- PhotoAnim had "pulled" the shape of the fish outwards, towards the viewer only -- but checking "Symmetry" projected the shape into the screen as well, and our object was complete.

You’re not restricted to working with cartoons or individual objects. It’s also possible to take a photograph and animate that, perhaps panning around in a cityscape to give a sense of depth.

There are powerful and professional tools to morph or warp images, even create skeletal animations on multiple regions within a picture.

You’re also able to customize your work by editing or correcting images, extracting subjects from the background, maybe importing 3D objects in .OBJ or .3DS formats.

When you’re finished, there’s support for sharing your work at, which is also a great place to look for examples of what the program can do.

Making all this happen isn’t necessarily easy. While we were able to convert our 2D fish to 3D in a click or two, the interface doesn’t help you find that option, and it’s the same with many other tasks.

Take the time to read PhotoAnim’s documentation and watch its video tutorials, though, and you’ll soon understand all the core basics. Take a look.

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