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3D Text Effect in Illustrator

31st March 2016
Final Image

In the following tutorial you will learn how to create a vibrant, 3D text effect in Adobe Illustrator. For starters you will learn how to setup a simple grid and how to create your own, pixel-perfect letter shapes using basic tools and effects along with the Live Corners feature. Moving on, you will learn how to create the isometric 3D effect and how to add vibrant coloring using several gradients and colors. Finally, you will learn how to add subtle shading using Inner Glow, Drop Shadow and Transform effects along with some blur and blending techniques.

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Illustrator CC
  • Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate
  • Topics Covered: Basic Tools and Effects, 3D and Transform techniques, Appearance panel
  • Estimated Completion Time: 45 minutes

Step 1

Hit Control + N to create a new document. Select Pixels from the Units drop-down menu, enter 600 in the Width box and 500 in the Height box and then click on the Advanced button. Select RGB, Screen (72ppi) and make sure that the Align New Objects to Pixel Grid box is unchecked before you click OK.

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). For starters, you will need a grid every 5 px, so simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides > Grid, enter 5 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. Try not to get discouraged by all that grid, it will ease your work and keep in mind that you can easily enable or disable it using the Control + " keyboard shortcut.

You should also open the Info panel (Window > Info) for a live preview with the size and position of your shapes. Do not forget to set the unit of measurement to pixels from Edit > Preferences > Units > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.

Step 1

Step 2

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and focus on your Toolbar. Remove the color from the stroke and then select the fill and set its color to R=255 G=29 B=37.

Move to your artboard and create a 70 x 90 px rectangle - the grid and the Snap to Grid feature will ease your work. Make sure that your rectangle stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance). Simply click that "Opacity" piece of text to open the Transparency fly-out panel and then lower the Opacity to 30%. We'll use this transparent shape as a rough reference to create the other letter shapes.

Step 2

Step 3

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 20 x 90 px shape, set the fill color to R=198 G=156 B=109 and place it as shown in the following image.

Step 3

Step 4

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 70 x 55 px shape and place it exactly as shown in the first image. Make sure that it stays selected and move to the Appearance panel. First, make sure that there's no color set for the fill and then select the stroke. Set its color to R=198 G=156 B=109 and then click that "Stroke" piece of text to open the Stroke fly-out panel. Increase the Weight to 20 px and check the Align Stroke to Inside button.

Get back to your artboard, focus on the right side of the shape made in this step and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select both anchor points, go to the options bar and simply enter 25 px in that Corners box. In the end your shape should look like in the second image.

The Live Corners feature is only available for CC users. The best solution to replace this effect would be the Round Any Corner script that can found in this article: 20 Free and Useful Adobe Illustrator Scripts. Save it to your hard drive, return to Illustrator and grab the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the same two anchor points and go to File > Scripts > Other Script. Open the Round Any Corner Script, enter a 25 px radius and click OK. This might not be the case, but there could be moments when the end result will look a bit different, so feel free increase/decrease that Radius value whenever it seems necessary.

Step 4

Step 5

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 20 x 90 px shape, set the fill color to R=198 G=156 B=109 and place it as shown in the following image.

Step 5

Step 6

Make a copy of your red rectangle (Control + C > Control + V) and place it as shown in the first image.

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 20 x 90 px shape, set the fill color to R=198 G=156 B=109 and place it as shown in the following image. Focus on the bottom side of this new rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select both anchor points and simply drag them 50 px to the right as shown in the third image. Reselect your entire shape and go to Object > Transform > Reflect. Check the Vertical box and then click the Copy button.

Step 6

Step 7

Make a new copy of your red rectangle (Control + C > Control + V) and place it as shown in the first image.

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 20 x 90 px shape, set the fill color to R=198 G=156 B=109 and place it as shown in the second image. Using the same tool, create a 45 x 20 px shape and two, 70 x 20 px shapes, add that same fill color and then place these new shapes as shown in the third image.

Step 7

Step 8

Make a new copy of your red rectangle (Control + C > Control + V) and place it as shown in the first image.

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 20 x 90 px shape, set the fill color to R=198 G=156 B=109 and place it as shown in the second image. Using the same tool, create a 70 x 20 px shapes, add that same fill color and then place this new shape as shown in the third image.

Step 8

Step 9

Make a new copy of your red rectangle (Control + C > Control + V) and place it as shown in the first image.

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 20 x 90 px shape, set the fill color to R=198 G=156 B=109 and place it as shown in the second image.

Step 9

Step 10

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 70 x 55 px shape and place it exactly as shown in the first image. Make sure that it stays selected and move to the Appearance panel. First, be sure that there's no color set for the fill and then select the stroke. Set its color to R=198 G=156 B=109, increase the Weight to 20 px and don't forget to check the Align Stroke to Inside button.

Get back to your artboard, focus on the right side of the rectangle made in this step and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select both anchor points, go to the options bar and simply enter 25 px in that Corners box. In the end your shape should look like in the second image. Duplicate it (Control + C > Control + V), select the copy and place it as shown in the third image.

Step 10

Step 11

Make a new copy of your red rectangle (Control + C > Control + V) and place it as shown in the first image.

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create two, 20 x 90 px shape, set the fill color to R=198 G=156 B=109 and place them as shown in the second image. Using the same tool, create a 70 x 20 px shapes, add that same fill color and then place this new shape as shown in the third image.

Step 11

Step 12

Make a new copy of your red rectangle (Control + C > Control + V) and place it as shown in the first image.

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 70 x 90 px shape and place it exactly as shown in the second image. Make sure that it stays selected and move to the Appearance panel. First, be sure that there's no color set for the fill and then select the stroke. Set its color to R=198 G=156 B=109, increase the Weight to 20 px and don't forget to check the Align Stroke to Inside button.

Get back to your artboard, focus on the right side of this new rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select both anchor points, go to the options bar and simply enter 30 px in that Corners box. In the end your shape should look like in the third image.

Step 12

Step 13

Duplicate the two shapes made in the previous step (Control + C > Control + V), select the copies and place them as shown in the following image.

Step 13

Step 14

Make a new copy of your red rectangle (Control + C > Control + V) and place it as shown in the first image.

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M), create two, 20 x 90 px shape, set the fill color to R=198 G=156 B=109 and place them as shown in the second image. Using the same tool, create a 70 x 20 px shapes, add that same fill color and then place this new shape as shown in the third image.

Step 14

Step 15

Make a copy of your red rectangle (Control + C > Control + V) and place it as shown in the first image.

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 20 x 90 px shape, set the fill color to R=198 G=156 B=109 and place it as shown in the following image. Focus on the top side of this new rectangle and switch to the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select both anchor points and simply drag them 25 px to the right as shown in the third image.

Step 15

Step 16

Make sure that the brown shape made in the previous step is still selected and go to Object > Transform > Reflect. Check the Vertical box and then click the Copy button. Select the newly made shape, drag it to the right and place it as shown in the third image. Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 40 x 20 px shape, set the fill color to R=198 G=156 B=109 and place its as shown in the fourth image.

Step 16

Step 17

Select one of your transparent, red rectangles, go to Select > Same > Appearance to easily select all the shapes with similar Appearance attributes and then simply get rid of them using the Delete button from your keyboard.

Select the four shapes with strokes and go to Object > Path > Outline Stroke. Now, select all the shapes made so far, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and simply click the Unite button.

Step 17

Step 18

Select the four letter shapes highlighted in the following image and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Click the More Options button, make sure that you enter all the attributes shown in the following image and then click the OK button.

Step 18

Step 19

Select the remaining letter shapes and go again to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Click again that More Options button, make sure that you enter all the attributes shown in the following image and then click the OK button.

Step 19

Step 20

For this step you will need a grid every 1 px, so go to Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid and enter 1 in the Gridline every box. Move your shapes closer to each other roughly as shown in the following image and try to leave about 3 px between the edges of these shapes as shown below. Use the Layers panel (Window > Layers) whenever you need to change the order of these shapes.

Step 20

Step 21

Select your "U" shape, focus on the top side and pick the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the two anchor points highlighted in the first image and simply drag them several pixel down roughly as shown in the second image.

Step 21

Step 22

Select your "H" shape, focus on the top side and pick the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the four anchor points and adjust their position as shown in the second image.

Step 22

Step 23

Make sure that your "H" shape is still selected, focus on the bottom side and pick the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the four anchor points and adjust their position as shown in the second image.

Step 23

Step 24

Select your "E" shape, focus on the bottom side and pick the Direct Selection Tool (A). Select the six anchor points highlighted in the first image and adjust their position roughly as shown in the second image.

Step 24

Step 25

Once you're done editing your letter shapes, things should look roughly as shown in the following image.

Step 25

Step 26

Disable the Grid (Control + ") and the Snap to Grid (Shift + Control + ').

Pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and simply click on your artboard to open the Rectangle window. Set the Width to 20 px and the Height to 201 px and then click the OK button.

Fill this newly made shape with R=198 G=156 B=109, send it to back using the Shift + Control + [ keyboard shortcut and then place it roughly as shown in the first image. Make sure that this rectangle stays selected and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter all the attributes shown in the following image and then click the OK button.

Step 26

Step 27

Make sure that the Rectangle Tool (M) is still active and click again on your artboard to re-open the Rectangle window. This time set the Width and the Height to 20 px and then click the OK button.

Fill the newly made shape with R=198 G=156 B=109 and place it roughly as shown in the first image. Make sure that your square is still selected and simply hit Shift + Control + E to add that same 3D Extrude & Bevel effect applied in the previous step.

Step 27

Step 28

Once again, pick the Rectangle Tool (M) and click on your artboard. This time set the Width to 20 px and the Height to 171 px and then click the OK button.

Fill the newly made shape with R=198 G=156 B=109 and place it roughly as shown in the first image. Make sure that your rectangle is still selected and simply hit Shift + Control + E to add that same 3D Extrude & Bevel effect applied in the previous step.

Step 28

Step 29

Have a closer look at your text and make sure that things are placed about as shown in the following image.

Step 29

Step 30

Focus on the "B" shape and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Make sure that the resulting group of shapes is selected and Ungroup it using the Shift + Control + G keyboard shortcut. You'll have to hit this command three times to get rid of all those groups and subgroups.

Step 30

Step 31

Select the shapes highlighted in the first image and click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and set the fill color to R=117 G=76 B=36.

Select the shapes highlighted in the third image and click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and set the fill color to R=247 G=193 B=0.

Step 31

Step 32

Select the shape highlighted in the first image and simply replace the existing fill color with R=255 G=123 B=172.

Select the shapes highlighted in the second image and click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and set the fill color to R=0 G=113 B=188.

Select the shapes highlighted in the fourth image and click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Make sure that the resulting shape is selected and fill it with the same color.

Once you're done, select all the shapes that make up your "B" letter and Group them using the Control + G keyboard shortcut. Move to the Layers panel (Window > Layers), open the existing layer, simply double click on the group that you made a few moment ago and rename it "B". This will make it easier for you to locate and organize your shapes as you go through the tutorial.

Step 32

Step 33

Move to the other latter shapes and repeat the techniques used for the "B" shape in the last two steps. Use the same fill colors as shown in the following image and don't forget to Group the new shapes and rename those groups accordingly.

Step 33

Step 34

Select one of your yellow shapes and go to Select > Same > Fill Color to quickly select all your yellow shapes. Once you have all these shapes selected, open the Gradient panel (Window > Gradient) and simply click on the gradient thumbnail to add the default black to white linear gradient.

Keep focusing on the Gradient panel, set the Angle to 90 degrees and then move to the gradient sliders. Select the left gradient slider and set the color at R=34 G=61 B=100 and then select the right gradient slider and set the color to R=252 G=238 B=33. Focus on the gradient bar and simply click on it to add a new gradient slider. Make sure that this new slider is selected, set its color to R=64 G=163 B=158, focus on the Location box (from the Gradient panel) and set it to 50%. Keep in mind that the white numbers from the Gradient images stand for Location percentage.

Step 34

Step 35

Select all your pink shapes and replace the existing fill color with the linear gradient shown in the following image.

Step 35

Step 36

Select all your brown shapes and replace the existing fill color with R=252 G=238 B=34.

Step 36

Step 37

Select the two, blue shapes highlighted in the following image and replace the existing fill color with the linear gradient shown in the following image.

Step 37

Step 38

Select the four, blue shapes highlighted in the following image and replace the existing fill color with the linear gradient shown in the following image.

Step 38

Step 39

Now, lets add some subtle shading. Focus on the top, right corner of your "E" group, pick the Pen Tool (P) and draw a simple, black shape roughly as shown in the first image. Select the letter piece that lies below your black shape and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Select this copy along with your black shape and click the Intersect button from the Pathfinder panel.

Step 39

Step 40

Using the techniques mentioned in the previous step add a bunch of new, black shapes roughly as shown in the first image. Select the ones that lie above the shapes that are filled with the blue-green-yellow gradient and lower their Opacity to 30% and then select the remaining black shapes and lower their Opacity to 20%.

Step 40

Step 41

Select your "P" group and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Make sure that this group copy is selected and click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with a random blue and the go to Effect > Stylize > Inner Glow. Enter the attributes shown in the following image and then click the OK button.

Step 41

Step 42

Reselect the blue shape made in the previous step and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Make sure that the resulting group stays selected, locate it inside the Layers panel, Ungroup it (Shift + Control + G) and you will get two new groups. Keep the masked one and get rid the other one. Select your masked group, lower its Opacity to 75% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.

Step 42

Step 43

Select the rest of the groups one by one and repeat the techiques mentioned in the last two steps.

Step 43

Step 44

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a shape the size of your artboard, fill it with R=20 G=41 B=72 and send it to back using that same Shift + Control + [ keyboard shortcut.

Step 44

Step 45

Reselect all the shapes that make up your text and make copies in front (Control + C > Control + F). Make sure that all these copies are selected and click the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting compound path with R=29 G=73 B=135.

Step 45

Step 46

Make sure that your blue compound path is still selected, focus on the Appearance panel, select the existing fill and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the attributes shown in the top, left window (in the following image), click the OK button and then add the other three Drop Shadow effects shown below.

Step 46

Step 47

Move to the Layers panel and drag your blue compound path below all the shapes that make up the text.

Make sure that this shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill using the Add New Fill button. Select this new fill and drag it in the bottom of the panel. Make it black, lower its Opacity to 5%, change the Blending Mode to Soft Light and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown in the following image and then click the OK button.

Step 47

Step 48

Make sure that your blue compound path is still selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a third fill using that same Add New Fill button.

Select this new fill, drag it in the bottom of the panel and make it black. Lower its Opacity to 5%, change the Blending Mode to Soft Light and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown in the following image and then click the OK button.

Step 48

Step 49

Make sure that your blue compound path is still selected, keep focusing on the Appearance panel and add a fourth fill.

Select this new fill, drag it in the bottom of the panel and make it black. Lower its Opacity to 10%, change the Blending Mode to Soft Light and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown in the following image, click the OK button and then go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 10 px Radius and then click that OK button.

Step 49

Step 50

Make sure that your blue compound path is still selected, keep focusing on the Appearance panel and add a fifth fill.

Select this new fill, drag it in the bottom of the panel and make it black. Lower its Opacity to 20%, change the Blending Mode to Soft Light and then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the attributes shown in the following image, click the OK button and then go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 25 px Radius and then click that OK button.

Step 50

And We're Done!

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and can apply these techniques in your future projects. You can download ready-made source file here.

Final Image
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Author: Andrei Marius
Andrei Marius is a self taught vector artist who is trying to make a living doing something that he likes. He spends most of his time working in Adobe Illustrator, trying to avoid the Pen Tool. You can find most of his vector experiments at this little website VforVectors.
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