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How to Create a Semi-Transparent, 3D Text Effect in Adobe Illustrator

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In the following steps you will learn how to create a colorful, semi-transparent, three-dimensional text effect in Adobe Illustrator. We'll start with some basic text and several Compound Paths and a built-in Calligraphic brush. Once we get our starting vector shapes we'll add the three-dimensional look using the Extrude & Bevel effect. We'll use some simple vector shape building techniques and masking tricks along with some basic effects and blending techniques to give our three-dimensional shapes a semi-transparent look.


Step 1

Hit Command + N to create a New document. Enter 770 in the width box and 470 in the 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.


Step 2

Using the Type Tool (T), add the "VECTORTUTS" piece of text, set the color at R=39, G=169, B=223 and use the "Doughnut Monster" font. Set the Size at 60pt and the Tracking at 200 then open the Paragraph panel and click on the "Align Center" button. Keep focusing on this piece of text, select the letters one by one and edit the text size as shown in the second image. In the end things should look like in the second image.


Step 3

Select the text and go to Type > Create Outlines (Shift + Control + O). Move to the Layers panel, select the resulting group and Ungroup it (Shift + Control + G).


Step 4

Select the "V", the "C" and the "O" shapes and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter all the properties shown in the following image (make sure that you check the "Draw Hidden Faces" box from the bottom of the window) and click OK. Select the "E", the "T" (from "VECTOR") and the "R" shapes and go again to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter the same properties shown in the following image, but change the angles used for the rotation as shown below. Move down to the remaining vector shapes, add the same Extrude & Bevel properties and use the rotation angles pointed in the finale of the following image.


Step 5

Pick the Ellipse Tool (L) and single click on your artboard to open the Ellipse window. Enter 30 in the Width and Height boxes then click OK. Fill it with R=39, G=169, B=223, place it as shown in the first image and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image, click OK and go to Object > Expand Appearance panel. Move to the Layers panel, select the resulting group of shapes and turn it into a Compound Path (Object > Compound Path > Make or Control + 8).


Step 6

Select the compound path made in the previous step and make two copies (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Place these copies as shown in the first image. Reselect the compound path made in the previous step and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter the properties shown in the following image (don't forget to check the "Draw Hidden Faces" box) and click OK.


Step 7

Select the left compound path made in the previous step and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK. Select the right compound path made in the previous step and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Enter the same properties shown in the following image, but change the angle used for the rotation as shown below.


Step 8

Focus on the Toolbar and double click on the Paintbrush Tool (B). Set the Fidelity at 4px and the Smoothness at 0% then click OK. Make sure that the Paintbrush Tool (B) stays active and open the Brushes panel. Select the 15pt Round, Calligraphic brush, set the stroke color at R=39, G=169, B=223 and draw some simple paths as shown in the first image. Select all these paths and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Move to the Layers panel, select the resulting groups and Ungroup them (Shift + Control + G).


Step 9

Focus on the shapes made in the previous step and add the Extrude & Bevel effects shown in the following image.


Step 10

Select all the shapes created so far and duplicate them (Control + C > Control + F). Select all these copies and Group them (Control + G). Move to the Layers panel, focus on this new group and make it invisible. You'll need it later.


Step 11

Focus on the "V" shapes. Select it and simply go to Object > Expand Appearance. Move to the Layers panel, select the resulting group and hit Shift + Control + G to get rid of the main group. Now, you will get a bunch of new sub-groups. First, select the one with the top "V" shape and Ungroup it (Shift + Control + G). Double click on this "V" shape and name it "FrontSide". Make sure that the fill color for this shape is set at R=39, G=169, B=223 then make it invisible. We'll get back to this shape a bit later.


Step 12

Let's focus on the subgroups made in the previous step. First, you need to understand which shapes make up the hidden faces and which shapes make up the visible faces. You can easily figure it out by turning on the Opacity of "FrontSide". The group of shapes that can't be visible because of "FrontSide" are the hidden faces while the rest of the shapes are the visible faces.

Next, you need to Unite the group of shapes that make the hidden or the visible face. This will make it easier for your to edit or work with these paths. We'll start with the hidden faces. Grab the Selection Tool (V), select the shapes that make up the left hidden face (highlighted in the first image) and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel.

Move to the Layers panel, double click on the resulting shape, name it "HiddenFace#1" and fill it with R=32, G=137, B=182. Naming these shapes will make it easier for you to find them later. Continue with the Selection Tool (V), select the shapes that make up the other hidden face (highlighted in the second image) and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Move to the Layers panel, double click on the resulting shape, name it "HiddenFace#2" and make sure that the fill color is set at R=32, G=137, B=182. Let's continue with the visible faces. Make sure that the Selection Tool (V) is still active, select the shapes that make up the left visible face (highlighted in the third image) and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel.

Move to the Layers panel, double click on the resulting shape, name it "VisibleFace#1" and fill it with R=32, G=137, B=182. Finally, select the shapes that make up the other visible face (highlighted in the fourth image) and click on the Unite button from the Pathfinder panel. Move to the Layers panel, double click on the resulting shape, name it "VisibleFace#2" and make sure that the fill color is set at R=32, G=137, B=182.


Step 13

Focus on the Layers panel, select the remaining subgroup and Ungroup it (Shift + Control + G). Double click on this new "V" shape, name it "BottomSide" and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the second copy (the top one in the Layers panel) and focus on the Appearance panel. First, select the fill, make sure that the color is set at R=39, G=169, B=223 then lower its Opacity to 70%. Next, add a 3pt stroke and select it. Make it white, lower its Opacity to 15% and Align it to Inside. Add a second stroke for this shape using the Add New Stroke button. Select it, make sure that the color is set at white, make it 1pt wide, lower its Opacity to 20% and Align it to Inside.


Step 14

Select the original "BottomSide" shape, focus on the Appearance panel, make sure that the fill is selected and go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the left window, click OK and go again to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Again, Enter the properties shown in the middle window, click OK and go one more time to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow. Enter the properties shown in the right window and click OK.


Step 15

Open the Transparency panel. Select the first copy of "BottomSide" made in the thirteenth step and fill it with black. Select this black shape along with the original "BottomSide" shape, open the fly-out menu of the Transparency panel and click on Make Opacity Mask. Make sure that this masked shape is still selected and uncheck the Clip box from the Transparency panel. Move to the Layers panel, double click on this masked shape and name it "BottomSideShadows".


Step 16

Go to Edit > Preferences > General and make sure that the Keyboard Increment is set at 1px. Select "HiddenFace#1" and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px up and to the left (the orientation of the 3D effect). Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a compound path (Control + 8) and lower its Opacity to 10%.


Step 17

Select "HiddenFace#1" and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px down and to the right (the orientation of the 3D effect). Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a Compound Path (Control + 8), fill it with white and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.


Step 18

Select "HiddenFace#1" and make two new copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 2px down and to the right (the orientation of the 3D effect). Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a Compound Path (Control + 8), fill it with white and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.


Step 19

Select "HiddenFace#1" and lower its Opacity to 30%.


Step 20

Move to "HiddenFace#2" and repeat the techniques used in the last four steps.


Step 21

Select "VisibleFace#1" and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 1px up and to the left (the orientation of the 3D effect). Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button. Select the resulting shape and lower its Opacity to 30%.


Step 22

Select "VisibleFace#1" 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 (the orientation of the 3D effect). Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button. Fill the resulting shape with white, lower its Opacity to 35% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.


Step 23

Select "VisibleFace#1" and make two copies in front (Control + C > Control + F > Control + F). Select the top copy and move it 2px down and to the right (the orientation of the 3D effect). Reselect both copies and click on the Minus Front button. Fill the resulting shape with white, lower its Opacity to 35% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light. Reselect "VisibleFace#1" and lower its Opacity to 30%.


Step 24

Move to "VisibleFace#2" and repeat the techniques used in the last three steps.


Step 25

Select "HiddenFace#1", "HiddenFace#2", "VisibleFace#1" and "VisibleFace#2" along with all the thin shapes made in the last seven steps and Group them (Control + G). You will deal with a lot of shapes in the following steps and organizing them will ease your work.


Step 26

Focus on the Layers panel, turn on the visibility of "FrontSide", select it and 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. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a Compound Path (Control + 8), fill it with white, lower its Opacity to 60% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.


Step 27

Select "FrontSide" and make two new 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. Turn the resulting group of shapes into a Compound Path (Control + 8), fill it with R=32 G=137 B=182, lower its Opacity to 30% and change the Blending Mode to Color Burn.


Step 28

Select "FrontSide" and focus on the Appearance panel. Select the first fill, lower its Opacity to 50% then add a second fill using the Add New Fill button. Select this new fill, lower its Opacity to 30%, add the linear gradient shown below and go to Effect > Path > Offset Path. Enter a -2px Offset and click OK. The yellow zero from the gradient image stands for Opacity percentage. Now, select all the shapes that make up the "V" and Group them (Control + G). Move to the Layers panel, double click on this new group and simply name it "V".


Step 29

Move to the "C" and "O" shapes and repeat the techniques mentioned in the last eighteen steps. Try to pay extra attention when you get to the figuring out the hidden and visible faces part. Also, make sure that you keep all those shapes organized. In the end you should have the "C" and "O" groups.


Step 30

Let's move to the rest of the shapes. You will use the same coloring, Opacity and blending attributes, but you will have to make some little adjustments in the techniques and effects. Basically, you need to adjust them according to the orientation of the 3D effect. First, you need to adjust the angle of the three Drop Shadow effects used for "BottomSideShadow". Next, when you get to the making of those thin shapes/compound paths you will have to change the moving direction of the copies depending on the orientation of the 3D effect. Finally, when you get to "FrontSide", focus on the Appearance panel and adjust the angle used for that linear gradient according to the orientation of 3D effect.


Step 31

Turn on the visibility for that group made in the tenth step. Select it, bring it to front (Shift + Control + ] ) and change the Blending Mode to Color Burn. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), select each shape one by one and lower its Opacity as shown in the second image. This will add a bit more sharpness to your illustration. Return to the Layers panel and lock this group to make sure that you won't accidentally select/move it.


Step 32

Select all "FrontSide" shapes and duplicate them (Control + C > Control + F). Drag these copies outside their groups and turn them into a Compound Path (Control + 8). Select this new compound path focus on the Appearance panel and make sure that there's no color set for the fill or the stroke. For the moment all you need is the shape, we'll add the color in the following steps. Unlock the group edited in the previous step. Select it along with all groups created so far and Group them (Control + G). Make sure that the Compound Path made in this step remains outside this group.


Step 33

Move to the Layers panel, select the existing layer and click on the Create New Sublayer button. Select the compound path made in the previous step and make a copy in front (Control + C > Control + F). Select this copy, fill it with white and drag it above the sublayer. Select the sublayer along with the white compound path, open the fly-out menu of the Transparency panel and click on Make Opacity Mask. Return to the Layers panel, select this masked sublayer and make two copies.


Step 34

Focus on the Layers panel, select the bottom sublayer made in the previous step and set the stroke color at white. Pick the Paintbrush Tool (B), select the 15pt Round Calligraphic Brush and draw some simple paths as shown in the first image. Thanks to the Opacity mask the portion of the path that doesn't overlap the existing shapes will be invisible. Continue with the Paintbrush Tool (B), set the stroke color at black and add some new paths as shown in the first image. Return to the Layers panel, make sure that this masked sublayer is still selected, lower its Opacity to 5% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.


Step 35

Focus on the Layers panel, select the second sublayer and set the stroke color at white. Pick the Paintbrush Tool (B), make sure that the 15pt Round Calligraphic Brush is still selected and draw some paths as shown in the first image. Set the stroke color at black and add some new paths as shown in the first image. Return to the Layers panel, make sure that the second sublayer is still selected, lower its Opacity to 10% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay.


Step 36

Focus on the Layers panel, select the top sublayer and set the stroke color at white. Pick the Paintbrush Tool (B), make sure that the 15pt Round Calligraphic Brush is still selected and draw some paths as shown in the first image. Set the stroke color at black and add some new paths as shown in the first image. Return to the Layers panel, make sure that this top sublayer is still selected, lower its Opacity to 15% and change the Blending Mode to Overlay. Also, lock these masked sublayers.


Step 37

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 3px circle and fill it with white. Multiply this shape and spread the copies as shown in the first image. Select all these circles and Group them (Control + G). Select this new group, change its Blending Mode to Soft Light then lock it.


Step 38

Using the Ellipse Tool (L), create a 1.5px circle and fill it with white. Multiply this shape and spread the copies around the circles made in the previous step, as shown in the following image. Select all these circle and Group them (Control + G). Select this new group, change its Blending Mode to Soft Light then lock it.


Step 39

Next, you'll learn how to easily recolor the shapes created so far. Now, the one thing that you may have not noticed is that we only used two colors so far. So, select the groups highlighted in the first image, go to Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork and you will get to see the two colors. Replace the dark blue (R=32, G=137, B=182) with a dark orange R=241, G=90, B=41 and the light blue (R=39, G=169, B=223) with a light orange (R=251, G=176, B=62), click OK and you got a completely recolored text.


Step 40

Next, we'll add the background. Using the Rectangle Tool (M), create a shape the size of your artboard, fill it with R=255 G=255 B=250 and send it to back (Shift + Control + [ ). Make sure that this new shape stays selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill using the Add New Fill button. Select this new fill from the Appearance panel and add the radial gradient shown in the following image. Don't forget that the yellow zero from the gradient image stands for Opacity percentage. Keep focusing on this rectangle and add a third fill. Now, you will need a built-in pattern for this new fill. Go to the Swatches panel, open the fly-out menu and go to Open Swatch Library > Patterns > Basic Graphics > Basic Graphics_Textures. A new window with a set of built-in patterns should open. Make sure that the third fill is still selected, add the "USGS 19 Land Inundation" pattern, lower its Opacity to 20% and change the Blending Mode to Multiply.


Step 41

Reselect the compound path made in the thirty second step, fill it with black and bring it to front (Shift + Control + ] ). Focus on the Appearance panel, select the existing fill, lower its Opacity to 10% and change the Blending Mode to Soft Light.


Step 42

Make sure that the compound path edited in the previous step is still selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a second fill. Select it, set the color at black, lower its Opacity to 10%, change the Blending Mode to Overlay and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image and click OK.


Step 43

Again , make sure that the compound path edited in the previous step is still selected, focus on the Appearance panel and add a third fill. Select it, set the color at black, lower its Opacity to 10%, change the Blending Mode to Overlay and go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. Enter the properties shown in the following image, click OK and you're done.


Conclusion

Now your work is done. Here is how it should look. You can always use a different pair of colors for the coloring. Also, feel free to try these techniques using a different font. I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial and can apply these techniques in your future projects.

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