Running out of ideas of ways in which you can work with typography? Wanting to create a text effect that stands out and catches people’s eyes? Then you’ve come to the right place.
Luckily, creating a three-dimensional text effect couldn’t be easier to do, and produces awesome results. In today’s article, we will discuss two very different techniques to apply a 3D effect to a text.
The first technique shows the old-fashion way to do it by duplicating several times the text layer and playing with perspective to create the 3D effect. The second technique, which gives better results, uses a more powerful tool: the 3D workspace of Photoshop.
The old-fashion way to create a 3D text effect
- Create a new document and set its resolution, dimensions and background color
- Select the Type Tool, choosing a font and color
- Click anywhere within the document and type in your text
- Change the size of the text if necessary
- Convert the text layer to a shape
- Change the perspective of the text
- Create multiple copies of the text layer, with each one moved slightly further to the right
- Move the original text layer to the top of the layer stack in the Layers Window
- Merge all the copies (excluding the original) into one layer
- Duplicate the merged copies layer and play with blending modes
- Final Result
This technique is more elaborate and utilizes the powerful 3D workspace of Photoshop. Here are the steps to follow:
- Create a New Document
- Use the Type Tool to add your text
- Go to 3D > New 3D Extrusion from Selected Layer
- Change the X angle to 90 degrees under the Coordinates tab of the Properties Panel
- Change the camera angle to have a birds-eye-view of the text
- Change the X angle of the current view to 90 Degrees in the Properties Panel
- Go back to the Layers Window and create a rectangle with a colored fill
- Select 3D > New Mesh from Layer > Postcard
- Merge the rectangle and text layers
- Choose a Shape Preset to Act as the Basis of the Shaping in the Properties Panel
- Adjust the shaping in the Cap Tab of the Properties Panel
- Adjust the angle of the infinite light to create shadows from the text
- Increase the softness of the shadow in the Properties Panel
- Add a new infinite light
- Adjust the angle of the second infinite light to add highlights to the text
- Set colors for each of the materials in the Materials Tab
- Render the scene
- Final Result
If you want to jump directly to the video tutorials of each technique, click right here.
1: Go to File > New to Create a New Document Then Set its Resolution, Dimensions and Background Color
With Photoshop open, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a new document. This can be done by heading to File > New, or by hitting Ctrl + N [Win] / Cmd + N [Mac].
You’ll see that after doing this a window will open in which you can set the properties of your new document. Choose the dimensions that suit your needs, pick any background color, and try to use a value of at least 300 pixels per inch (the standard professional quality printing resolution) for the resolution.
Click Create when you’re happy, and you’ll see that your document is opened in Photoshop!
2: Select the Type Tool Then Choose a Font and a Color from the Options Bar Along the Top of the Screen
With your document open, you can go ahead and start adding the text. To do this, we’ll need to use the Type Tool, which can be easily selected from the toolbar down the left of your screen by clicking on the icon displaying the letter T (as shown below).
Upon selecting the tool, if you draw your attention to the top of the screen, you should see a new options bar appear in which you can edit the properties of the text.
Here, set the color to whatever fits your preferences, and choose any font.
Note that this effect seems to yield the best results when used in conjunction with a font that has thick strokes, like Bebas which we used. If you want to download a new font, then there are thousands listed on websites such as Dafont, Urban Fonts, and Font Squirrel.
See our article here for directions on how to download fonts for use in Photoshop.
3: Click Anywhere Within the Document and Start Typing to Add Text with the Type Tool
Now that you’ve sorted out the properties of the text, you’re ready to start typing. With the Type Tool still selected, simply click anywhere within the canvas and type in the text that you want.
Don’t worry about the size at this point, we can change it in the next step if it’s not right.
4: Change the Size of the Text Either by Highlighting it and Changing the Size in the Options Menu or by Using Free Transform
If you want to change the size of your text, there are two ways in which we can do this.
The first is by simply hitting Ctrl + T [Win] / Cmd + T [Mac] on your keyboard to bring up Photoshop’s Free Transform Options. You can click and drag the corners of the box that appears away from or towards the center to increase or decrease the size of the text, respectively, hitting the Enter key on your keyboard when you’re happy.
Although this method is quick, it can reduce the quality of the text. If you want to work in a way that preserves the high quality of the text layer, then instead highlight the text and change the Size of it in the Options Menu at the top of the screen (where we set the color and font previously).
You can highlight the text quickly by double-clicking on the ‘T’ layer icon in the Layers Window, as circled below.
5: Select Type > Convert to Shape to Convert the Text Layer into a Shape Layer
After dealing with the text itself, we should be ready to start applying the effects!
The first thing we’ll do to create the three-dimensional effect is to edit the perspective of the text. However, Photoshop doesn’t allow us to edit the perspective of a text layer- you can see this for yourself by going to Edit > Transform and noticing that the Perspective option is gray, meaning that you can’t select it.
We can, on the other hand, edit the perspective of a shape layer. So, we can convert the text layer into one to give us the editing capabilities we need.
The only downside is that after you’ve converted the layer, you will no longer be able to edit the properties of the text, so make sure you’re fully satisfied with the font and color before converting it.
To convert the text layer into a shape layer, make sure it’s selected in the Layers Window then head along the top of the screen to Type > Convert to Shape. You will now be ready to edit the perspective of the layer.
6: Go to Edit > Transform > Perspective Then Edit the Perspective of the Text / Shape
After converting the text into a shape layer, you’ll have access to more capabilities, allowing you to edit the perspective of the text. So, head to Edit > Transform > Perspective.
After selecting these options, you’ll see a box and handles appear around the text / shape. To change the perspective, click on and hold any of the corners and drag them either directly upwards if it’s a top corner, or directly downwards if it’s a bottom corner.
For instance, we dragged the bottom right corner down. You’ll see that this increases the height of the right side whilst the height of the left side stays the same, giving the illusion of perspective.
Hit the Enter key when you’re happy to apply the effect.
7: Create Multiple Copies of the Shape Layer, Moving Each One Slightly Further in the Direction of the Text’s Tallest Side
We’re now going to focus on adding depth to the text, making the 3D effect more convincing. To do this, we can create lots of copies of the text layer, each moved slightly further to the right or left, depending on the ‘direction’ of your perspective.
In our case, we’ll be moving each copy slightly further to the right, since that’s the side that the text is bigger on. If yours is taller on the left, then you’ll move each copy to the left.
This may sound time consuming at first, but the whole process can be done within seconds using a simple trick!
First, make sure you have the Move Tool (V) selected, since the trick only works with this tool as the active one. It can be selected from the top of the side toolbar.
Then, with the Move Tool active and the text / shape layer selected in the Layers Window, hold down the Alt [Win] / Option [Mac] key whilst pressing either the right arrow key to move each copy slightly to the right or the left arrow key to move each copy slightly to the left.
Each time you press the respective arrow key, a new copy is automatically created and moved a pixel in the direction of the arrow key. Pretty awesome, right?
Keep going until you’re satisfied with the depth of the effect. For us, about 30 copies worked well.
8: Move the Original Text / Shape Layer to the Top of the Layer Stack in the Layers Window
For the next step, we’re going to want to move the original text layer to sit above the copies. At the moment, it should be located near the bottom of the Layers Window, only above the Background Layer. You can scroll down the Layers Stack to find it- it should be pretty easy to find since it’s the only layer without ‘copy’ in its name.
To move it up to the top of the stack efficiently, click on it then press Ctrl + Shift + ] [Win] / Cmd + Shift + ] [Mac] (using the right bracket key). You’ll see that this has instantly moved the active layer to the top of the stack.
9: Merge All the Copies into One Layer and Duplicate the New Merged Layer
Next, we’re going to merge all the copies of the text layer into a single layer (excluding the original). So, let’s go ahead and click on the top copy in the Layers Window, directly below the original text layer.
Then, scroll all the way to the bottom of the layer stack and hold down the Shift key whilst clicking on the bottom copy, directly above the Background Layer. This will select both the top and bottom copies along with the layers between them.
With all the duplicates selected, you can merge them together by selecting Layer > Merge Shapes from along the top of the screen, or by hitting Ctrl + E [Win] / Cmd + E [Mac].
You’ll see that all the copies have now become a single layer! Hit Ctrl + J [Win] / Cmd + J [Mac] to duplicate this new layer, or head to Layer > Duplicate Layer.
Your Layers Window should now look something like the one below.
10: Add a Linear Black-White Gradient to the Top Merged Copies Layer at an Angle of 90 Degrees, and Experiment with Different Blend Modes
Next, we’ll focus on mimicking a simple lighting effect by creating what looks like areas of shadows and highlights. To achieve this, we can use a black-white gradient overlay.
Make the top merged copies layer active by clicking on it in the Layers Window, then click on the Layer Styles icon (fx) at the bottom of the same window.
Doing so will generate a list of options, from which we’re going to want to select Gradient Overlay.
Upon choosing this option, a Layer Styles Dialog Box will open, set to the Gradient Overlay options in the middle column. As you can see, there’s a gradient preview box within the window, as shown below, that displays the colors that are being used for the gradient overlay.
We’ll begin by making sure that this box displays a black to white gradient. If it doesn’t display this by default, then you can change it by clicking on the preview box and choosing the black-white option from the list that appears. Hit OK to apply the change and close the sub-window.
With the regular Layer Styles Window still open, you’ll now want to ensure that the Style is set to Linear and the Angle is set to 90 degrees. If your text is white, set the Blend Mode to Normal. Then click OK to apply the effect.
Your document should now look something like this.
However, if your text is a color other than white then the black-white gradient overlay won’t look convincing since, realistically, shadows and highlights would take on the hue of the color beneath them.
To demonstrate, I’ll change the color of our sample text to blue rather than white. After applying the black-white gradient, you’ll need to play around with the Blend Mode until you achieve an effect that looks like shadows.
In my case, Hard Light seemed to be suitable but Overlay, Multiply, Screen, Soft Light and Luminosity also tend to work well.
1: Go to File > New and Create a New Document
As always, let’s begin by opening Photoshop and heading to File > New.
This will open a window in which you can set the properties of your new document, such as the background color, dimensions, and resolution. Input the settings that suit your needs, then hit Create to open the new document.
2: Select the Type Tool and Use it to Add Your Text
With our new blank document ready to go, we can go ahead and start adding the text! To do this, we’ll need to use the Type Tool, which can be selected by clicking on the icon shown below, located in the toolbar down the left of the screen.
With the tool selected, you can change the font, color and size of your text in the options bar near the top of the screen. We used Signatra- a downloaded font. If you want to download a new font, then there are thousands listed on websites such as Dafont, Urban Fonts, and Font Squirrel.
See our article here for directions on how to download external fonts for use in Photoshop.
And once you’re happy with the properties of your text, you can simply click anywhere within the document to type whatever you want! If you want to change any of the properties after typing the text, such as its color or size, then you can highlight it by double-clicking on the type layer’s icon in the Layers Window, then you can change the settings in the top options menu, just as you did before.
3: Go to 3D > New 3D Extrusion from Selected Layer
Next, we’re going to want to change our text from a flat object into a 3D one. To do this, make sure that the text layer is selected in the Layers Window by clicking on it, then choose 3D > New 3D Extrusion from Selected Layer from the options menu along the top of the screen.
4: Head to the Properties Panel, and Under the Fourth Tab, ‘Coordinates’, Change the X Angle to 90 Degrees
Changing the text into a 3D object should have prompted the 3D Workspace to open. You’ll see that a new window entitled ‘Properties’ has opened up at the top right of the screen.
Within this window, click on the fourth and final icon from the ones at the top of the panel, and change the X Angle to 90 Degrees, as shown below.
5: Use the First of the Five Tools in the Top Bar to Change the Camera Angle Until a Red and Blue Cross Appears
The next thing that you’ll want to do is change the angle of the camera, allowing you to view the text from above rather than from the side, as it is now.
To do this, we’re going to use the first of the five tools (displayed by icons) at the right end of the top bar, as shown below. Click on its icon to select it.
Also, ensure that Current View is selected in the 3D Window by clicking on it.
Then, with the correct tool and element active, click somewhere outside the object (but still within the canvas) and drag your mouse to move the camera and change the angle at which you’re looking at the 3D text.
For this process, we’re going to drag the mouse until we have a perfect birds-eye view of the text- indicated by a red and blue cross where the lines are horizontal and vertical, respectively, like the one shown above. When this cross appears, you can release the mouse and see that the camera angle has been changed.
6: Under ‘Coordinates’ in the Properties Window, Change the Value in the Second Column, Top Row (the X Angle) to 90 Degrees
Heading back to the Properties Window, with the Current View still active, we’re going to change the value for the X Angle, indicated by the value in second column of the top row, to 90 Degrees, as shown below.
7: Open the Layers Window in the Bottom Right Corner and Create a Rectangle Filled with a Background Color
If you look at the bottom right of your screen, you’ll see that the window that is currently open is the 3D Window. But for this next step, we’re going to be working in the Layers Window. Luckily, Photoshop allows us to toggle between these two windows by clicking on the options bar above the 3D Window and selecting Layers.
You should now notice that the Layers Window has been opened in place of the 3D one! Here, we’re going to create a rectangle by using the Shape Tool, which can be selected from the toolbar down the left of the screen. You can then set the fill color from the top options bar. Make sure to include no stroke.
Then simply click anywhere within the document, drag your mouse outwards to create a rectangle, and release it when you’re done.
9: Select Both Layers (by Holding Down Ctrl Whilst Clicking on Them) and Choose 3D > Merge 3D Layers
Next, we’re going to merge both the text layer and the rectangle layer together, by selecting, again from the bar along the top of the screen, 3D > Merge 3D Layers.
Before doing this though, make sure that both the text layer and the rectangle layer are active and highlighted in the Layers Window. To select two layers at once, click on the first one, then hold down the Ctrl [Win] / Cmd [Mac] key on your keyboard whilst clicking on the second one.
Your window should then look like this.
After merging the two 3D layers, move back into the 3D Window.
10: In the First Tab of the Properties Panel, choose a Shape Preset to Act as the Basis of the Effect
Heading back to the Properties Window, choose the first tab from the bar near the top by clicking on the icon shown below. Make sure that you do this with the text layer active.
With this tab now open, you’ll notice a dropdown box in which you can choose a certain shape preset from a list. This will determine the style of the shaping of your text, determining factors such as the amount of bevel.
Pick any of these. It’s probably best to try a few and experiment until you’ve found the one that you’re most satisfied with. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect though, as we’ll refine it and make some adjustments in the next step.
11: Go to the Third Tab (The Cap Tab) in the Properties Panel and Make Adjustments to the Shaping
As mentioned in the previous step, the shape preset that you choose won’t fully be in control of the outcome. You can fine-tune the shaping within the third tab of the Properties Window, which can be selected by clicking on the third icon from the menu near the top of the panel.
Upon clicking this, a tab will open in which we’ll just play around with the settings until we’re satisfied with the shaping!
Here’s what our example looks like at this point. Although it’s dark in general and perhaps hard to see, you can see that there are some highlights that have been added, making it look much better.
12: Select Infinite Light from the List in the 3D Window, and Click and Drag Across the Scene to Create a Shadow Behind the Letters
From the list of elements in the 3D Window (at the bottom right of your screen), select Infinite Light.
A spherical icon should appear in the center of your scene / canvas. Click and drag with your mouse around the scene to change the positioning and distance of the shadow formed by the letters until you’re happy with how it looks.
13: Adjust the Softness of the Shadow in the Properties Panel Using the Slider
When you’re happy with the direction and size of your shadow, divert your attention to the top right of the screen, where the Properties Window is located. Here, change the softness of the shadow using the slider until you’re satisfied with the effect. A softer shadow is usually best.
14: Click the White Light Icon at the Bottom of the 3D Window and Choose New Infinite Light
To take the lighting effects further, we’re going to add another Infinite Light, this time to highlight the contours of the letters. To create a new element when working in the 3D Workspace, click on the white lightbulb icon at the bottom of the 3D Window.
This will prompt a list to come up, from which we’re going to choose New Infinite Light.
15: Temporarily Make the ‘Infinite Light 1’ Layer Invisible and Drag the New Infinite Light Until It Illuminates the Contours of the Letters
Creating a new Infinite Light will automatically generate it as a new element, entitled ‘Infinite Light 2’. To edit the properties of this new light, though, we’ll first make the first one invisible, by clicking on the eye icon next to ‘Infinite Light 1’ in the 3D Window to make it disappear.
Then simply click and drag around the scene, like we did with the previous light, to adjust the lighting until you’re happy.
16: Go to the Materials Tab Within the 3D Window and Add Colors to Each of the Materials
With the lighting sorted out, we can now focus on adding colors to the materials! To view just the materials, select the third icon along from the four at the top of the 3D Window.
Then just go through each material individually and edit the colors of the materials in the Properties Window, experimenting with the settings. It is best if you use different shades of a single color (or very few similar ones) as this will look the most realistic. The Base Color determines the main color of the material.
Whilst setting the colors, feel free to go back and make changes to your lighting. This is what we created before rendering.
17: Render the 3D Scene by Clicking on the Render Icon at the Bottom of the 3D Window
Now, all there is left to do is to render the scene! This can be done by clicking on the render button at the bottom of the 3D Window, represented by the icon shown above.
The process can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, but all you need to do is sit back and watch your piece come to life whilst Photoshop does all the work for you! If, at any point, you want to cancel the render, then just hit the Esc button to stop the process.
Here’s what my piece turned out like after the first rendering. The shadows could have been more prominent, but the highlights looked pretty cool.
However, I decided that I wanted more shadows in there to make the depth of the effect more convincing. So, I went back and decreased the softness of all the shadows cast by the light sources. This was successful in helping the shadows to pop, and this ended up being my outcome.
Want to find out more about how to create 3D text in Photoshop? Check out this video by Ridhwan on how to create a similar effect using the first technique.
And that’s about all there is to it! If you want to step up your game and create the effect using Photoshop’s 3D Workspace, like in the second technique, check out this video by Tutvid that explains the process.