Create an Assortment of 3D Text in Adobe Illustrator

Preview

Preview

Step 1: Set Up the Artboard

Create a new document in Illustrator with Size at 500x500pt.

Set Up the Artboard

Step 2: Create the First Letter

Choose a nice, thick font for the letters as this will give us more surface area to play around with. Since we are going to make the letters one at a time, you can choose different fonts for each letter to achieve a vivid and interesting final piece. I’ll start with the Impact typeface, which most of us will have.

Type the first letter of the word you want to create using the Type Tool (T); my first letter will be "D". Afterwards, switch to the Selection Tool (V), select the letter, then go to Type > Create Outlines (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + O or right-click/Control-click on the letter in the artboard and then choose Create Outlines from the menu that appears).

Create the First Letter

Step 3: Render the Letter in 3D

Let’s add a 3D effect to our letter. Select the letter and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel.

Render the Letter in 3D

In the Extrude & Bevel Options window, check the Preview option to be able to see what the letter will look like while we tweak the Extrude & Bevel effect’s options. Adjust the positional angles of the letter, and don’t forget to set a value for the Perspective option.

Render the Letter in 3D

Perspective is a very important part in the creation of any 3D object on a flat plane (e.g. our Illustrator artboard). The two important things about perspective are size and distance. If we increase the distance between us and an object we are observing, we need to decrease the size of that object. That way, we can achieve an accurate depth illusion in our work.

When you are happy with the preview, press OK to apply the settings to your letter.

Step 4: Expand and Combine the Letter’s Components

Expand the letter by choosing Object > Expand Appearance.

Render the Letter in 3D

Next, ungroup the letter in order to have all its parts separated. Ungrouping the letter gives us the ability to apply colors and gradients to each part of the letter separately. You can ungroup the object by going to Object > Ungroup (Shift + Ctrl/Cmd + G). You might have to perform the Ungroup command several times because our letter contains a lot of parts.

If you zoom in a little bit with the Zoom Tool (Z), you can see that some of the parts are broken down further into even smaller pieces. Just select the pieces and combine them as needed by using the Unite button in the Pathfinder Panel (Window > Pathfinder).

Expand and Combine the Letter's Components

Step 5: Apply Gradients

Time to apply color gradients. To start, try to imagine the light’s source: For our piece, let’s make the source of light come from above our letter. Therefore, according to the light source we’ve picked, some parts of the letter need to be darker, and some should be lighter. That way, we will create shades and highlights on the surfaces as accurately as possible. Each time you are applying a gradient fill to an object, think about the angle of the source of light.

First, make sure the Gradient Panel is open (Window > Gradient or press Ctrl/Cmd + F9).

For the front side of the letter, use a radial gradient.

Apply Gradients

On the left side, use a linear gradient. Feel free to play with colors until you achieve your desired look.

Apply Gradients

For the inner part of the letter, also use a linear gradient.

Apply Gradients

Step 6: Creating Highlights

Let’s now add detailing to our letter by giving it some nice, highlighting edges. Select the front side of the letter, copy it (Ctrl/Cmd + C), then paste in front twice (Ctrl/Cmd + F).

Select the topmost copy with the Selection Tool (V) and nudge it 1px downwards and 1px to the right (use your Arrow keys). Keep this nudged copy selected. Now, Hold down Shift and click on the other copy to add it to the selection. In the Pathfinder Panel, hit the Minus Front button. This will leave us with one object that is just the non-overlapping part of both copies.

Creating Highlights

Change the Fill color of the object so that it’s lighter in color than the color gradient of the letter; salmon pink would be my suggestion.

Creating Highlights

Step 7: Creating Another Letter

Now that we have covered the fundamental steps of creating a 3D letter, filling it with color, and giving it highlights, I’ll quickly run you through how to create another letter. Afterwards, I will leave it up to you to create the remaining 3D letters.

The second letter we will make is "e". Find a font you like using the guidelines in Step 2 (it needs to be thick); I am using Cooper Std.

Go through the previous steps again and refer to the images below for filling it in with color gradients.

Creating Another Letter

Creating Another Letter

Creating Another Letter

Creating Another Letter

Creating Another Letter

Once done, position the "e" such that it overlaps with "D" to reinforce our 3D illusion. Later on, we will give our letters shadows.

Creating Another Letter

Step 8: Creating a Flower Pattern

To create variety, we can apply patterns to the front side of the letters instead of color gradients. Let’s create a nice pattern for the third letter ("s").

Choose another thick font for "s" and render it in 3D just like we did for the first two letters ("D" and "e"). Apply a linear gradient on the left side of the letter.

For the front side, we will create a pattern — a simple flower pattern, to be exact. To start creating the flower pattern, use the Ellipse Tool (L) from the Tools Panel to draw a small, pink circle.

With the circle still selected, switch to the Rotation Tool (R) and, holding down Alt/Option, click just below the pink circle. In the Rotate window that appears, set the value for Angle to 60o and then hit the Copy button. This will create a second pink circle.

Creating a Flower Pattern

Repeat the rotation by going Transform > Transform Again (Ctrl/Cmd + D) — this will rotate and copy the circle again so that we now have three circles. Use the Transform Again command 4 more times in order to complete the flower’s petals.

Use the Selection Tool (V) to select all the petals and, in the Pathfinder Panel, hit the Unite button.

Create one more circle at the center of the petals. Set the Fill color of the circle to white. To perfectly center the white circle, select it along with the petals and then, in the Align Panel (Window > Align or Shift + F7), click the Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center buttons.

Creating a Flower Pattern

Make a few copies of the flower and arrange them as shown below. Draw a rectangle around the flowers with the Rectangle Tool (M), then set its Fill color to beige. Afterwards, send the beige rectangle to the back (Transform > Arrange > Send to Back) so that it’s behind the flowers.

Creating a Flower Pattern

Select the flowers and its background (you can group them if you want), then drag and drop them into the Swatches Panel — this will create a swatch that we can then apply just like any other color or pattern that is in our Swatches Panel.

Select the front side of the "s" and click on our flower pattern swatch in the Swatches panel to apply it as a fill.

Then, set the Stroke color to pink and Weight to 1px to stylize the edge of the letter.

Creating a Flower Pattern

Use your imagination and try to make other nice and colorful patterns for your other letters.

We are going to skip the steps for creating other letters because you’re now equipped with the knowledge you need to proceed with the other letters.

Step 9: Creating Shadows Between Letters

If you want to create realistic illustrations, shadows are very important. Even though you have a 3D object with perspective, without shadow, it may still look quite flat. Since letters are pretty close to each other, the light should cast the shadows on their adjacent letters.

Let’s start with "D" and "e". First, we need to make a copy of "D" — just select it, press Ctrl/Cmd + C, and then press Ctrl/Cmd + F to paste in front.

Ungroup the copy (Ctrl/Cmd + G). After ungrouping, all the parts should still all be selected; hit the Unite button in the Pathfinder Panel to combine them into one object.

Creating Shadows Between Letters

Let’s do the same thing with the letter "e" (make a copy, ungroup the copy, unite the ungrouped copy).

Creating Shadows Between Letters

Use your Arrow keys to nudge the copy of the letter "e" 2px to the left. Now click-and-hold on the bottom-right transform control and rotate clockwise.

Creating Shadows Between Letters

Hold down Shift and click on the "D" copy to add it to your selection. With the two objects now selected, press the Intersect button in the Pathfinder Panel.

Creating Shadows Between Letters

Select the new object created, send it backwards (Object > Arrange > Send Backward). Then, change its Fill color to dark red. We choose dark red because it’s darker — but around the same shade — of the orange gradient on which it’s on top of.

Creating Shadows Between Letters

Use the same technique to continue making the shadows for other letters. Just make sure to set the Fill color of the shadow slightly darker than the part of the letter where the shadow is on.

Creating Shadows Between Letters

For shadows on top of surfaces that have multiple colors, ungroup the shadow and apply different shades of colors to each part. Doing it this way makes the shadows appear more nuanced.

Creating Shadows Between Letters

Step 10: Hanging a Letter on a String

To further enhance the diversity of appearance between each letter, one of the possibilities we can do is "hang" one of the letters; you just need a string for that. As you can see in the preview at the begginning of this tutorial, the letter we’ll hang is "g" because it has a perfect shape for this technique, and is positioned in just the right place.

To start, let’s make sure that your letter "g" is on top of other letters (i.e. it is the topmost layer). Grab the Line Segment Tool (/) and hold down Shift to draw a vertical straight line.

Hanging a Letter on a String

Grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw the vector path (shown below) that will eventually become the loop around the letter "g".

Hanging a Letter on a String

Select the vector path and expand it (Object > Expand) so that we can edit it further.

Hanging a Letter on a String

What we want to do now is make sure the ends of the vector path don’t go outside of the letter "g". To do that, first, copy the letter "g" and paste in front. Ungroup the copy. With the ungrouped objects of the letter "g" copy still selected, press the Unite button in the Pathfinder Panel; you’ll end up with one object like the one shown below.

Hanging a Letter on a String

Now select both the letter "g" and the vector path and click on the Intersect button in the Pathfinder Panel. You’ll be left with just the part of the vector path that’s inside of the "g" shape, making it look like the string loops around the letter.

Hanging a Letter on a String

To make it more realistic, let’s add some shadows. Ungroup the letter "g" and select the inner part (shown below).

Hanging a Letter on a String

Copy the selected object and paste in front. Copy the vector path and paste it in front as well. Select both copies and press the Intersect button in the Pathfinder Panel. This will leave us with just part of the looping string that’s inside the "g".

Hanging a Letter on a String

Change the Fill color of the inner string vector path to light gray (a darker shade of white). This makes our lighting as realistic as possible, since the inner part should be less affected by our light source.

Hanging a Letter on a String

Use the same process to create more loops.

Hanging a Letter on a String

Step 11: Create Shadows on the Floor

As the final step, let’s create shadows on the floor made by each letter. We need to do this manually; it’s the best way. For letters with sharp, angular corners, use the Pen Tool (P). For rounded letters, make use of the Ellipse Tool (L). Once done, choose a light gray for their fill colors.

Create Shadows on the Floor

Tutorial Summary

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. The various techniques discussed in the tutorial are pretty simple, but combined together, they can result in elaborate and remarkable artwork. Just keep in mind two important things when working with 3D: perspective and light source.

Try the techniques covered in this tutorial by creating other 3D objects; they don’t have to be letters. I looking forward to seeing your results — post a link in the comments and include it in our Flickr group pool!

Preview

Download Source Files

  • Awesome tut, thanks for that.

  • Great ! I love illustrator.

  • Great ! I love illustrator.

  • pakaworld

    That is really impressive. I am now trying to lean how to us illustrator and so i will try using this tut to lean it. Thanks for tut.

  • Nice tutorial. Thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • samantha soul

    realy good tutorial, looks great =)

  • great tut friends, congrats !! would be great if u add a nice background to make the font stand out even more.

  • lovely – really nice

  • Very nice tutorial – the type looks really good

  • psy

    Svaka cast ____________________________ ๐Ÿ™‚

  • avrya Angara

    no pictures wirking jacob

  • We know. I am trying something over this weekend to see if it resolves this issue for some people.

    It’s been 3 weeks, we know, but trust me, this is priority #1 for us to ensure that our content is being seen by everyone.

  • Lorraine

    Great! Thanks to share your work!
    You have done well!

  • Marko

    Good job! Najbolji smo Stanojevici ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Love creating 3d text in Illustrator. Great tut. Will share.

  • UNP-SnaE

    Awesome work and really helpfull tutorial … Thanx For that mate!Only one notice that crossed my mind!In a more detailed, reallistic note , the flower objects ojn top of “S” , in my opinion , should be smaller on the left side and a bit larger on the right side!Just to give the impression that those are printed on the “S” layer!Ain’t it so!But besides that little detail that tut is awesome!

  • cool, very very awesome and easy ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jasmina

    Hello everyone,

    I’m glad you like this. I think this is very simple technique with great looking results. Looking forward to see some of your artworks.

    @ UNP-SnaE: good point! Perspective is very important with 3D objects!

  • gutted….wanted to learn this technique….:(

    no images ๐Ÿ™ ๐Ÿ™ ๐Ÿ™

  • very good keep it
    and very thanks for guide the design

  • How could i have missed this? im Twitter this right now so more dont get left outr:)

  • Hello Jasmina

    Absolutely loving the simplicity of the final outcome. The effects used are just awesome.

    Thanks for sharing this tutorial with us. Keep up the great work. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • ? ~?)/ I love your design

  • Cheryl A. Stuebinger

    I have this Course Online. I am having trouble remembering how to join paths in Step 4. Is there aa easy to follow video tutorial somewhere online ? TY

  • Jasmina Stanojevic

    Do you think how to unite small parts of the object and creating just one shape?

  • saad gharib

    so nice grate full for all

  • khalid Nobani

    Thanks Jasmina Stanojevic

    Your Tutorial is awesome …

  • praveen

    woooooow amazing !!!

  • Excellent, easy to follow tutorial and great work.

  • Great! Thanks to share your work!
    You have done well!

  • Work in Progress

    Not sure if it’s a CS5 thing…but step 5 won’t let me change the gradient color options. HELP!

  • Hi Work in Progress,

    You can send me an email (which can be found on my portfolio page) with your project file so I can take a look.

  • rohit

    Wow!! Amazing tutorial !! Learnt some very important stuff!! : )
    Thanx a lot! : )

  • Mejiwara

    Great! Thanks for this..
    Ai newbie ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Aaron Paul

    GREAT JOB .! =]].

  • egggowd

    Great! Thanks for this.

  • lee

    Great ! I love illustrator.

  • DIEGO

    GOOD WORK, BUT THE FLOWERS I PREFER GIVE SOME PERSPECTIVE THAN “S”

  • DIEGO

    ANYWAY, MY DETAIL Y SO SMALL BESIDE THE EXCELENT DESING

  • Robert

    Thanks for this wonderful tut. Tuts which hit the gradient bar, or the appearance pallet are my favorite. I’m always interested to see what others do with these.

    One observation though. It’s not a biggie.
    The downloadable source file is not one-on-one with the screenshot of the final result. The bottom part of the shadow which the “I” casts on the “S”, is missing from the downloadable source file. I’m pretty sure that it is not in the file because I selected the “SI” group and the bottom part was just not there. Eyeballs are all on. Also when I hover over the area with the direct selection tool, the top part of the shadow gets selected, but the bottom part doesn’t seem to exist.

    The “E” looks like the Internet Explorer logo without the swoosh, and the “S” reminds me of the fabric of one of the nickers that one of my previous girlies used to wear. Djeez did I hate those. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • MARTINS

    … that was awesomely wonderful… GGGGGGGBBBBBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOZZZZZZZAAAAAAAA

  • elan

    Thanks for the tutorial. Very cool.
    Just a heads up. when I link to your site the site is not usable. I can’t see any of your work, either. It might be a temporary problem, but I thought i’d let you know. Would love to see your work.
    Thanks!

  • Sartsa

    This was propably the best tutorial and detailed explanations I’ve ever encountered in the web. Thank you! Even I as a beginner was able to make awesome things with this!

  • It’s just amazing ! really cool ๐Ÿ™‚

  • mario

    AN APOLOGY question because when I type the letter “a” does not leave me after all the process desagruparla I tried with several sources and I can not

  • CARLOS VILLALBA

    muรญ interesante, a mi me encanta el diseรฑo publicitario y gracias por tu aporte

  • According to Google Translate, Carlos Villalba’s comment is in Spanish and translates to:

    very interesting, I love advertising design and thanks for your input

  • karthik akoju

    Awesome tut, thanks for that.

  • Marberdo

    I tried it but i had only one problem I cannot solve.

    When uniting the side parts of the letter (after applying the 3D effect), using pathfinder > Unite, it joins all the parts in one, but the color dissapears in some of these parts, and it’s impossible to apply a color or a gradient, because it remains invisible. I’ve tried a lot of things, and looked on the internet for this a solution to this problem , but I could’t find anything. I just follow your steps, but it happens with all the letters I tried.

    May it be a AI error or is it something I’m doing wrong?

  • Amy

    I’m using CS4 and I’m having trouble on Step 5. [Editor’s note: Changed “I can” to “I can’t” as per commenter’s self-correction request] I can’t seem to change the appearance when I change the angle number when it’s set on Radial. Why is that? Is it because I’m using an older version?

  • You can experience this issue, typically if you haven’t expanded the appearance of your 3D object. I recreated this issue in CS5. First make sure your 3D object is selected. Then go to Object > Expand Appearance.

    Then, make sure your object is still selected (it will be by default – but just in case you accidentally diselected it, just make sure it’s selected). Go to Object > Ungroup. Do this as many times as needed to release all the groups so you can apply the gradient to each part of the 3D object.

    Then in the Gradient panel, with the part of the 3D object you want to apply the gradient to selected, set up your gradient. Once it’s set up, click somewhere in the Gradient panel (anywhere where there isn’t a button, menu, etc.) to apply the gradient.

    Let me know if this helps. If not, could you post a screenshot of your Illustrator workspace with your 3D object selected?

  • Excellent and creative tutorial, thanks a lot!

  • Excellent and creative tutorial, thanks a lot!

  • F M Mushfiqur Rahman

    This is an awesome tutorial!! But I had some problems doing the shadow thing, I still couldn’t do it!

  • Farid

    niceeeeeeeeee

    this is the best way to make a 3d text

  • J. Scholz

    You probably are’nt ungrouping ur letter. Try to make it several time, as step 4 said.

  • ALABI JACOB

    It was nice. Thanks for sharing

  • Mr.Beast007

    Nice but… no pictures working for me other than that we are good xD

  • kamal sharma

    Excellent, easy to follow tutorial and great work. Wow thats great!!

  • T.Nagaraj

    Great ! I love illustrator
    Thanks