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How to Create a 3D Lego Text Effect in Adobe Illustrator

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In the following steps you will learn how to create a set of Lego pieces and how to easily turn them into a nice text effect. For starters you will only need two simple shapes and the 3D Extrude & Bevel effect. Once you organize the starting shapes we'll continue with the highlights. First, for the shadow effect we'll take full advantage of the Appearance panel. Next, we'll use the Pathfinder options along with some basic blending techniques and effects. Finally, for the coloring we'll use a simple blending trick plus a basic masking technique.


Step 1

Hit Command + N to create a new document. Enter 600 in the width box and height boxes 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 your click OK.

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). For this tutorial you'll need a grid every 1px. Simply go to Edit > Preferences > Guides > Grid, enter 1 in the Gridline every box and 1 in the Subdivisions box. 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 > Unit > General. All these options will significantly increase your work speed.


Step 2

Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 70px square and set the fill color at R=128, G=130, B=133.


Step 3

Disable the Grid (View > Hide Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Select the square made in the previous step and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter the properties shown in the following image, make sure that you check the "Draw Hidden Faces" box and then OK.


Step 4

Make sure that your grey square is still selected and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Move to the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and you should find a newly created group. Select it and hit Shift + Control + G twice. In the end you should have six simple shapes. Keep focusing on the Layers panel and simply delete the two, bottom shapes.


Step 5

Focus on the Layers panel, double click on the bottom shape and name it "shadow". Select it and move to the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance). Select the existing fill, make it black and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a 3px Offset, click OK and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 1px radius, click OK and go to Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Enter a 4px radius, click OK and return to the Appearance panel. Make sure that "shadow" is still selected and add a second fill using the Add New Fill button (pointed by the little, blue arrow). Select this new fill, set the color at black, lower its Opacity to 5% and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a 4px Offset, click OK and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 6px radius, click OK and return to the Appearance panel. Add a third fill for this shape, select it, set the color at black, lower its Opacity to 10% and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a 2px Offset, click OK and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 4px radius, click OK and get back to the Appearance panel. Add one final fill for this shape, select it, set the color at black, lower its Opacity to 20% and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a 1px Offset, click OK and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 2.5px radius and click OK. Open the Graphic Styles window (Window > Graphic Styles), make sure that "shadow" is still selected and simply click on the "New Graphic Style" button (pointed by the blue arrow).


Step 6

Focus on the Layers panel, double click on the shape above "shadow" and name it "leftSide". Select it and replace the flat color used for the fill with the linear gradient shown in the following image. The white number from the gradient image stands for Location percentage. Focus on the Gradient panel, click on that square gradient thumbnail and simply drag it inside the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches) to save it. Keep focusing on the Swatches panel, double click on this newly added gradient and name it "Gradient1". Obviously you'll need this gradient again. Saving and naming it will ease your work later. Return to the Layers panel, double click on the shape above "leftSide" and name it "rightSide". Select it and replace the flat color used for the fill with the linear gradient shown in the following image. Save this new gradient and name it "Gradient2". Get back to the Layers panel, double click on the shape above "rightSide" and name it "top". Select it and replace the flat color used for the fill with the linear gradient shown in the following image. Once again, save this new gradient and name it "Gradient3".


Step 7

Go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set at 1px.
Select "leftSide" and "rightSide" and duplicate them (Control + C > Control + F). Select both copies, open the Pathfinder panel (Window > Pathfinder) and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Select the resulting shape and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Select this copy and hit the up arrow from your keyboard to move it 1px up. Reselect both shapes made in this step and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with black, lower its Opacity to 10% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.


Step 8

Select "top" and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px down using the down arrow from your keyboard. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with the linear gradient shown in the following image. The yellow zeros from the gradient image stand for Opacity percentage.


Step 9

Select "top" and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px up using the up arrow from your keyboard. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with the linear gradient shown in the following image.


Step 10

Go to Edit > Preferences > General and set the Keyboard Increment at 0.5px. Select "rightSide" and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 0.5px up and to the right using the arrow keys from your keyboard. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with white. Focus on the bottom side of this white shape, grab the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-) and simply remove the three anchor points highlighted in the third image. In the end your white shape should look like in the fourth image.


Step 11

Select "leftSide" and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 0.5px up and to the left using the arrow keys from your keyboard. Reselect both copies and click o the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with white. Focus on the bottom side of this white shape, grab the Delete Anchor Point Tool (-) and simply remove the three anchor points highlighted in the third image. In the end your white shape should look like in the fourth image.


Step 12

Select the two white shapes made in the last two steps and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with the linear gradient shown in the following image.


Step 13

Select the four shapes made in the last six steps and Group them (Control + G). Move to the Layers panel, double click on this new group and name it "highlights".


Step 14

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 19px circle, fill it with R=147, G=149, B=152 and place it as shown in the following image.


Step 15

Disable the Grid (View > Hide Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Select the circle made in the previous step and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter the properties shown in the following image, make sure that you don't check the "Draw Hidden Faces" box then click OK.


Step 16

Make sure that your circle is still selected and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Move to the Layers panel, select the resulting group and hit Shift + Control + G three times. Move to the Layers panel, select the remaining sub-group and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with the linear gradient shown in the third image. Make sure that this shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill. Select this new fill, change its Blending Mode to Soft Light and drag it in the bottom of the Appearance panel. Replace the existing linear gradient with the one shown in the fourth image then go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.


Step 17

Go to Edit > Preferences > General and set the Keyboard Increment at 1px. Move to the Layers panel and select the other shape made in the previous step. Replace the flat color used for the fill with the linear gradient shown in the first image then make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px up and to the left. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with the linear gradient shown in the third image and change its Blending Mode to Soft Light.


Step 18

Reselect the squeezed circle edited in the previous step and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px down and to the right. Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with R=80, G=80, B=80 and lower its Opacity to 50%.


Step 19

Select all the shapes created in the last three steps and Group them (Control + G). Select this new group and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the left window, click OK and go again to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the right window and click OK. Move to the Layers panel, double click on this new group and name it "notch".


Step 20

Next, you need to add some color to your Lego piece. Select "leftSide", "rightSide" and "top" and duplicate them (Control + C > Control + F). Select these copies, click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel and bring the resulting shape to front (Shift + Control + ] ). Make sure that this new shape stays selected and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the existing fill, set the color at R=0, G=163, B=75 and change its Blending Mode to Color. Add a second fill for this shape, select it, set the color at R=205, G=205, B=205 and change the Blending Mode to Color Burn. Now, simply replace the green fill with a blue one (R=39, G=170, B=225) and your Lego piece will turn blue. Feel free to try another color or a different Blending Mode. Move to the Layers panel, double click on the shape made in this step and name it "color".


Step 21

Move to the Layers panel, select everything created so far, except the "shadow" shape, and Group them (Control + G). Open this group, select "Color" and duplicate it (Control + C > Control + F). Select this copy and drag it outside the group, in the top of the Layers panel. Make sure that this new shape is selected and simply hit the "D" button from your keyboard. This will add the default properties for your shape, which is a white fill and a 1pt, black stroke. Remove the black stroke then select the fill and go to Effect > Stylize > Rounded Corners. Enter a 1px radius, click OK and open the Transparency panel (Window > Transparency). Select this white shape along with the group made in the beginning of the step, open the fly-out menu of the Transparency panel and click on Make Opacity Mask. This will add a discrete roundness to the corners of your ,ego piece. Take a closer look and you'll notice it.


Step 22

Select All the shapes created so far (Control + A) and group them (Control + G). This will be the first Lego piece. Focus on the Layers panel and name it "square".


Step 23

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 140 by 70px shape and set the fill color at R=128, G=130, B=133.


Step 24

Disable the Grid (View > Hide Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Select the rectangle made in the previous step and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter the properties shown in the following image, make sure that you check the "Draw Hidden Faces" box then click OK.


Step 25

Make sure that your grey rectangle is still selected and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Move to the Layers panel, select the newly created group and hit Shift + Control + G twice to Ungroup. Select the bottom, two shapes and simply delete them. Keep focusing on the Layers panel, double click on the bottom shape, name it "shadow" and add the graphic style saved in the fifth step.


Step 26

Continue with the other three shapes made in the previous step. Name them "leftSide", "rightSide" and "top" then used the linear gradient saved in the sixth step.


Step 27

Keep focusing on the shapes edited in the previous step and add the thin highlight shapes just like you did with the square ,ego piece. Basically, you need to repeat the techniques mentioned in steps 7 to 12. You will have to make two small changes when you get to the coloring. Simply, edit the two linear gradients as shown in the following image. Once you're done make sure that you group all these shapes and name the group "highlights".


Step 28

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 19px circle, fill it with R=147, G=149, B=152 and place it as shown in the following image.


Step 29

Disable the Grid (View > Hide Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Select the circle made in the previous step and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter the properties shown in the following image, click OK and go to Object > Expand Appearance.


Step 30

Move to the Layers panel, select the group resulted from the previous step and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with white.


Step 31

Focus on the Layers panel, open the group with the first ,ego piece and duplicate that "notch" group (Control + C > Control + F). Select this group copy, move on the Appearance panel and the remove the existing Transform effects. Keep focusing on this group copy, drag it in the top of the Layers panel and place it roughly as shown in the first image. Grab the Selection Tool (V) and select the group copy along with the white shape made in the previous step. Click on the border of this white shape (it should get emphasized) then simply click on the Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center buttons from the Align panel (Window > Align). In the end your group copy should be placed as shown in the third image. Return to the Layers panel and remove the white shape made in the previous step.


Step 32

Select the "notch" group copy made in the previous step and add the two Transform effects shown in the following image.


Step 33

Next, you need to add the "color" shape. Simply repeat the techniques mentioned in the twentieth step. Make sure that you group this "color" shape along with all the shape that make up this second Lego piece (except the "shadow" shape).


Step 34

Finally add the masking technique mentioned in the twenty-first step. Select all the shapes that make up this second ,ego piece and Group them (Control + G). Name this new group "rectangle1".


Step 35

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a 140 by 70px shape and set the fill color at R=128, G=130, B=133.


Step 36

Disable the Grid (View > Hide Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Select the rectangle made in the previous step and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter the properties shown in the following image, make sure that you check the "Draw Hidden Faces" box then click OK.


Step 37

Make sure that the shape edited in the previous step is still selected and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Move to the Layers panel, select the newly created group and hit Shift + Control + G twice. Select the bottom, two shapes and simply delete them. Keep focusing on the Layers panel, double click on the bottom shape, name it "shadow" and add the graphic style saved in the fifth step.


Step 38

Continue with the other three shapes made in the previous step. Name them "leftSide", "rightSide" and "top" then used the linear gradient saved in the sixth step.


Step 39

Keep focusing on the three shapes edited in the previous step and add the thin highlights as you did with the second ,ego piece. Again, you will have to make two small changes when you get to the coloring part. Simply, edit the two linear gradients as shown in the following image. Once you're done make sure that you group all these shapes and name the group "highlights".


Step 40

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 19px circle, fill it with R=147, G=149, B=152 and place it as shown in the following image.


Step 41

Disable the Grid (View > Hide Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Select the circle made in the previous step and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter the properties shown in the following image, click OK and go to Object > Expand Appearance.


Step 42

Move to the Layers panel, select the group resulted from the previous step and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Fill the resulting shape with white.


Step 43

Focus on the Layers panel and make a new copy of that "notch" group (Control + C > Control + F). Select this group copy, remove the existing Transform effects, then repeat the alignment techniques mentioned in the thirty-first step. Don't forget to remove the white shape in the end.


Step 44

Select the "notch" group copy made in the previous step and add the two Transform effects shown in the following image.


Step 45

Let's continue with the "color" shape. Simply repeat the techniques mentioned in the twentieth step. Make sure that you group this new shape along with all the shape that make up this third Lego piece (except the "shadow" shape).


Step 46

Finally add the discrete rounded corners using the masking technique mentioned in the twenty-first step. Select all the shapes that make up this third ,ego piece and Group them (Control + G). Name this new group "rectangle2".


Step 47

These are your three ,ego pieces. In the end you should have three main groups inside your Layers panel.


Step 48

Enable the Grid (View > Show Grid) and the Snap to Grid (View > Snap to Grid). Finally, multiply the groups created so far and build your ,ego letters. The Snap to Grid will ease your work. There's only one thing that you need to keep in mind. Keep on the visibility of the "shadow" shape for the bottom Lego pieces, but turn it off for the pieces that go above. This shouldn't be very difficult considering that all you have to do is go to the Layers panel and simply click on the little eye icon.


Conclusion

Now your work is done. Here is how it should look.

Check out the second image for a simple guide on how to arrange your Lego pieces in order to build all the letters of the alphabet.

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