Create a Quick and Easy 3D Type Effect

Create a Quick and Easy 3D Type Effect

Clean and modern 3D type is a cool effect, and it’s surprisingly quick and easy to create. With the combination of Photoshop and Illustrator, this effect is can be created in minutes. Let’s take a look at how it’s done.


Here’s a look at what we’ll be creating.

Step 1 – Start in Illustrator

Open up Illustrator, and type a single word. I chose “Style” and 75% black for the color. I’m using a font called Lobster, which you can download here.

Next, let’s convert the text to a single shape. Select the type and click (Type | Create Outlines). Then click the “Unite” shape mode on the Pathfinder panel.

Step 2 – Make it 3D

Now we have one solid shape. Let’s add the 3D portion by clicking (Effect | 3D | Extrude & Bevel). I’ve highlighted the changes to make on the 3D options window.

Now you should have something like this.

In order to move the 3D portion of the type over to Photoshop, we’ll need to convert it to a shape. Click (Object | Expand Appearance). Now with everything still selected click (Object | Ungroup). You may have to ungroup 2 or 3 times to fully release all of the shapes from one another.

Step 3 – Take it to Photoshop

Now that we have our shapes, let’s get them over to Photoshop. First up, select the original type without the 3D portion. Press (Cmd+C) to copy it.

In a new Photoshop document (mine is 558×400) paste the type shape (Cmd+V). When given the option, select to paste as pixels. Note: don’t resize the shape, press enter to paste as is.

Back over to Illustrator select only the 3D portion, and copy and paste it to a layer below the type shape in Photoshop.

Now align the two layers so that they appear as one shape. Same as they were in Illustrator. When done, you should have something like this. Note: I made the type shape a bit darker so you can see that they are aligned.

Step 4 – Finishing up in Photoshop

On the top type shape layer, I applied the following styles.

The colors for the gradient are #878787 to #222525

You should end up with something like this.

Step 5 – Adding Light and Shadows

Let’s add a bit of light to the scene. First we need to add some gray to the background so that our light shows up. Fill the background layer with #838383. You can even add a touch of noise, if you wish, by clicking (Filter | Noise | Add Noise). Use no more than 2-3 for the amount.

Now let’s add an overhead highlight by choosing a large soft white brush and clicking one time in the center of the document on a layer above the background. You’ll need to set this layer’s blend mode to Overlay.

As you can see from the 3D shape the light is coming from the lower left. So our shadows should reflect that. (Cmd+Click) the topmost type shape layer to make a selection. Now create a new layer and position it below the 3D shape layer. Blur it slightly using (Filter | Blur | Gaussian Blur). Set the amount to 2%, then position it 1-2 pixels up and to the right. You should now have a subtle shadow like the one below.

Now duplicate this shadow layer, and blur it further using (Filter | Gaussian Blur) with amount set to 5. Now using (Edit | Transform | Scale) pull the shadow slightly to the right and up.

That does it! A quick and easy 3D effect that you can apply to not just type, but any vector object. Happy designing!

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Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown is a graphic designer who loves working with various media. He combines traditional art styles with a little experimentation and digital flare. Nathan's works have contained everything from ink and paint to leaves and a box of dirt. Everything is fare game when it comes to his approach to art. Nathan lives in Austin, Texas where he has been working as a designer for 10 years. More of his work can be viewed at GraphicMonkee.

82 Comments

(+add yours)
  1. Dave

    Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for the tutorial but I am stuck at step #3… “Back over to Illustrator select only the 3D portion, and copy and paste it to a layer below the type shape in Photoshop.”

    I’m an Illustrator newb and have no idea how to separate the layers as you have prescribed. Can you please expand on that instruction so I can finish the tutorial, or direct me to where I can find that information?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Dave… Once you have completed the step to create the 3D shape, make sure you expand and ungroup the shape. This will separate the original type layer and the 3D shape beneath it. These need to be copied over to Photoshop separately onto their own layers.

  2. chandler

    I was wondering if you could send me the file of this example or make me one saying “CDC Web Design & Dev” I think it would make a great desktop wallpaper. I’m only asking because I don’t have any adobe products yet I’m still saving my money.

  3. Tom

    I wonder why I have pixelate and distorted 3D part when import to Photoshop.:/
    Any idea ?

  4. Evan

    I believe I followed this step for step, but I did not get the same result. My text is pixelated (which may be a function of my text starting of too small?) and although my top layer looks good the 3D portion does not look like yours. I think if i understood what exactly was happening when I am “creating outlines” and “Expand”ing the text in illustrator as well as all the grouping/ungrouping I might be able to figure out where I went wrong. I am a newer user and I still don’t understand what the difference between create outlines and expand text is? They seem to do the same thing. I think this effect is cool and that it would be relatively easy to create, but I have been left a little frustrated. Would love some advice. Thanks

    • Hey guys… On the pixelated text… make sure you are not resizing the shapes once they are brought over to Photoshop, that could cause some pixelation.

      • Simon

        I’ve been trying this tutorial and also getting these lines appearing on the 3D bit as well. It’s as soon as I press Expand Appearance, almost can count the shades of grey as it follows the contour. Click Undo and it’s fine, haven’t resized or anything, just pressed Expand Appearance.

        Tried Googling this and nothing, is it because I’m using CS6 16.0.4 Standard and it doesn’t have the 3D elements?

  5. cool effect! my version looks great :) will have to find a project to use it in soon

  6. Jan Bosman

    You have not responded to contact emails, facebook posts, or tweets, so I’m posting this here. I was double-charged for my subscription and need to be refunded $49 to my PayPal account. Please give me some kind of indication that you’re alive, that you’ve seen this, and that you are a half-decent business with some sense of doing right by your customers.

    • Dianne

      Jan, you can always challenge the extra fee with paypal. It will take weeks to get your money back, but better that than no recourse. I hope the site owner is well – I, too, have been trying to get ahold of him/her, to no avail for about a month.

  7. nico

    im stuck in step 3…its freaking me out that how did he put the automaticgradient to the step 3…its confusing…

  8. Michael Roring - North Sulawesi - Indonesia

    Bravo bro
    Indonesia is “Luar Biasa” bro

  9. Karl Knapp

    I miss your blog entries.

  10. Jing

    Thank you , very useful , thanks for sharing~~~

    • Alexandra

      Where are your wonderful tutorials? Miss them.

      • They’re coming back soon… Stand by :-)

  11. Hi Nathan

    Thanks for your useful tips !!

    I will definitely try this unique 3-D effect in the Photoshop,the next time I am using it.

    Thanks again
    Regards

  12. kaz

    Got as far as step 5 with the overhead highlight, but when it gets to shadows and to add another layer and put it under the 3D layer, blur gaussian etc..it says selected area is empty. What’s going wrong? Am I supposed to have duplicated the top layer or something!? Thanks

    • AC

      I am stuck on this step too! I have followed the whole thing step-by-step very easily but now I’m not sure what is supposed to be on this layer for the shadow!?

    • @kaz & @AC… I think the best way to explain this is that once you make the selection, copy that selection — do not duplicate the layer…then paste onto the new layer..

  13. Very well defined instructions for designing 3D text.
    Toronto Rug Cleaning Company

  14. Indran

    Bro…I really need your help im having problems with step 3.When i Ungroup i get many Objects how do i know which is the real text layer and which i the 3d layer

  15. LM69

    Thanks for the tut, your result looks very nice. I have a couple of problems though. Illustrator seems to break up the gradient into separate shapes and even though I can copy into Photoshop, the result is multiple lines with 0% opacity. So anything placed behind the 3d object can be seen though the lines.
    I’m also unsure of your explanation at step 5. You seemed to suggest adding a Gaussian blur to an empty layer (which won’t work) or duplicating the top layer, moving it to the bottom with a Gaussian blur. Either something is missing from the instruction or I’m just not understanding your explanation.
    Really hope you can help… Thank you again.

  16. thanks for your tutorial, very useful

  17. Darren T

    I have the same issue as “Kaz” when adding the shadows.

    “Could not complete the Gaussian Blur command because the selected area is empty”

    So near the end…………..:(

  18. Creating a 3D type effect is not an easy job but your mentioned ways are made my thinking pretty clear. Very easy and quick ways you lighted here to make great 3D effects. I’m just getting impressed by checking out your every posts. Educative and effective, just keep up allocation…

  19. very easy but effective tutorial.

  20. Conny

    Where´s your blog? Is it dead? That´s extremly pity!

  21. lesniks

    Where´s your blog? Is it dead? That´s extremly pity!

    • Hey Lesniks, it’s not, we have been dealing with a couple of big improvements to the system here at WeGraphics, but we will be back on track very soon with new articles and tutorials.

  22. Really nice tutorial on create a 3D effect quickly. I’ll try this soon.

  23. Hi there,

    I just wanted to point out that in step 4 the options in the stoke should be “inside” not outside. As when you place the background from white to, just say a dark colour, the issues will come up, and this should be the solution to this problem.

    Thanks for the great tuts etc.

  24. Just replying back from the late response. You could use the stoke as “outside”, I just like the inside effect better. Plus the outside effect seems to make the top part of the image protrude just a little bit and looks a bit un-proportional.

    Thanks again.

  25. michael

    In step 5 and when you put the “style” under the 3D in order to blur it and create the shadow, you must remove the effects, stroke, inner shadow and gradient overlay to have the best result. Am I right?

  26. Paul Bonnici

    WoW! I have to say that I am loving WeGraphics. :D Fantastic artwork, excellent tutorials, and great support. More than well worth the annual subscription fee!

    Thanks for this, and all your other work. It’s much appreciated. :D
    Paul.

  27. MADlab

    Good Job!! :D

  28. Thanks for sharing it. Pretty nice and easy trick. Because of the images that are being provided in the blog made it quite easy for me to learn it.

  29. Irene

    OMG! I effin love this! Thank you. It’s so easy yet so beautiful.

  30. Very cute and easy! I would love to make one for myself. Thanks

  31. Well blog posts. Thanks & I will wait for your reply

  32. thanks again for this type work

  33. Thank you very much for sharing this great tutorial here with us.

  34. Hi Nathan,

    Nice tutorial :) It’s good to see 3D being widespread in the design tools like Illustrator. It saves a lot of time (and money) than if you were to do something like this in a 3D modelling package.

  35. Mo

    Hi,

    I can’t browse your website. There is 404 on all the links of the top navbar. I did enroll yesterday. Can you please fix it or refund me?

    Thanks

    Mo

  36. I will be say your instructions is a important of me.

  37. Training was very mental. Thank you.:))
    Why not work properly with the current font to achieve?

  38. Atul

    Good Effect!!
    Thanks

  39. kimi

    Hi
    i m a beginner , learning from many resources including your tutorials
    please tell me the Illustrator and Photoshop version you r using and suggest me also which should i use for fast and easy learning
    Regards
    Kimi

  40. Hi Brown, this is both a cool, simple and straight forward tutorial but the issue with me is that I’ve been finding difficult designing

  41. Great effect and design

  42. It’s being easy to create 3D effects on your fonts in just a minute. Here is the info from where everybody can do it.

  43. Great way to display Style haha liked it so much

  44. wow! nice one!

  45. Thank you very much., You are a good writer.
    In addition to art that will give you good
    I congratulate you

  46. Great easy tutorial to create 3d text, I like it.

  47. Hi Nathan,

    I like doing my own graphics. (currently building a new site). Even when I see the steps involved it still looks very real. Like you could pick it up right out of the page. Unfortunately due to costs I am forced to use Paint.net.

    I look forward to seeing more ideas. I’ll pass this one on.

  48. Ehh I still can’t understand Illustrator, it’s too strange for me

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  65. Kat

    I love this and have now mastered the technique. My question for you is, can this be done completely in AI or converted into a vector somehow once in PS? I’d like to use it for a logo I’m designing.

    Thanks so much for your tutorial! Even two years later… ;)

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