1. Design & Illustration
  2. Typography

Create "Awesome" 3D Style Lettering in Photoshop


In this tutorial we will explain how to create "awesome" 3D-style typography using illustrative techniques in Photoshop. This tutorial does not utilize any 3D apps or tools and relies heavily on a good sketch, as well as your ability to apply proper light and shadow. Let's get started!

Tutorial Assets

The following assets were used during the production of this tutorial.

Step 1

Before we begin, let’s talk a bit about perspective. Take a look at the image below. As you can see some of the objects are visible, and some are hidden depending on the viewer’s point of view. In the first case (side view) only the parts in red are visible. The same applies to the second case (top the view). In the third case is a mix of first and second case, the farther we are away, the more perspective there is. In this case, the sides are highlighted in blue.

Step 2

Download the original sketch (here) to use as base of this illustration

Step 3

In Photoshop, create a new image with 2500x1050 pixels (RGB, 72 dpi).

Step 4

Import the sketch within this file and create four folders, 1: Background, 2: Shadows, 3: Letters, 4: Shine

Step 5

Using the "pen tool", start to draw the letters (inside the folder "3: letters"), following the same path of the sketch. Use #978958 to fill the letters with this color. Do the same on all letters. Each letter should be on a separate layer inside the folder "3" Letters".

Step 6

After drawing all the letters, it will look like the image below:

Step 7

Now let's make the paths to create depth. Refer to the first step where I explained the differences in perspective. To give a sense of depth, just follow along the paths from the sketch. Many times we can correct the paths of the sketch when we are drawing in Photoshop by making more rounded curves. Use the color #554c2f.

Step 8

Sometimes you'll see that the some parts are overlapping on other parts. See at example below, the letter "A" where the two legs are going over.

Step 9

To make one of the lines pass underneath, we do not need to change the position of the layer, instead we need to make a folder called 'mask' to hide the piece of the line that overlaps the other object. To do this, group both layers of the object that are overlapping the line (crossbar) of the "A" as seen in the image below.

Step 10

Upon completing Step 9 we will now create a layer mask on this folder. Click on the the 'group' layer and then on the bottom panel "layers", now click on the icon that is showed in the step 1 (see below). The result is a white rectangle on the right side of the folder which is called a layer mask (step 2).

Step 11

The next step is to draw an object exactly on the paths of the line on letter "A", as seen in the image below.

Step 12

After that, in the layers panel, click command (mac) or control (pc) to make a selection. Now click on the folder with the layer mask (click exactly on the white rectangle). Keep the foreground color as white #ffffff, and with the layer mask selected, now, press "delete".

Step 13

You will see that one the lines from the cross bar of the "A" now pass above and the other line below. Don't forget to delete the temporary layer that was created to create the mask. Do the same on all letters that are overlapping.

Step 14

After all overlapping paths have been masked, the image should look like this (image below). Take note on the perspective, it is the same principle from the example sketch that I explained in the Step 1.

Step 15

In the next step we will make shadows on the darker parts to create more volume. To do this, click on the path layer holding command (mac) or control (pc) in the grey box on the layer path, as shown in the image below. This will make one selection on the path.

Step 16

While keeping the selection active, create a folder and create a mask using the mask icon at the bottom of the layer panel (figure 1), then create a new layer inside that folder. Set the new layer to multiply (figure 2).

Step 17

Now select the "brush" tool using the settings below with the opacity set to 15%.

Step 18

Now pass the brush slowly over the ends, where light does not reach. These areas are usually below the letters or at the junctions.

Step 19

Now let’s change the background to Black. Create a new layer inside the background layer as shown below. Select Solid Color and choose #000000.

Step 19

Now the letters have more contrast with the background.

Step 20

Repeat the same procedure from steps 15 and 16 on all the dark parts (depth paths). See the red arrows below, each of them show where you must shade. Remember to always create a folder, apply the mask and then create one layer and use it as multiply.

Step 21

After repeating steps 15 and 16 on all the dark paths, the image should be as seen below. See the Red circles.

Step 22

Now we will create a border effect on the letters. Select the "pen tool", holding command (mac) or control (pc), click on the path of the letter "A". Now go to the layer panel and again, holding command (mac) or control (pc) click within the grey part on the layer of the path. You will make a selection on this path, as seen in the image below.

Step 23

After making the selection, on the top menu, go to Select > Modify > Contract.

Step 24

Contract by 3 pixels and click ok.

Step 25

While keeping the selection, go to the bottom panel of the layers, click on the icon (see image below), then select "solid color", use #ccbd88 as your color.

Step 26

After the previous step, double click on the layer to open "blending options". Select "inner shadow" and use 120° for the angle, opacity 30%, distance 5, size 15 and click ok.

Step 27

Now we will create a folder mask to brighten the edges of the letters. With command (mac) or control (pc), click on the lightest part of the letter, then on the layers panel, click on the "folder icon" to create one folder above the layer.

Step 28

With the folder layer previously selected, click on the mask icon on the bottom (see image below) to add one mask to this folder. All objects within this folder will be inside the mask.

Step 29

Create two layers inside this folder. One will be used for brightness, the other for the shadows. You must know that the light usually comes from up to down. Now you know this, select the brush tool and with the white color and 30% opacity, carefully paint the ends, as shown in the image below. The same must be made to shadows on the "shadow layer", but using the #000000 (black), with 30% opacity.

Step 30

You should to do the same procedure to all the ends of all letters. The image should look like:

Step 31

The next step is to separate the letters using the shadow between them. Using the same procedure of Steps '11 and 12'. But instead of deleting, you will create one folder and add one mask using the selection.

Step 32

Now inside this folder with the mask, create one layer as multiply. Using the "brush tool" with the color #000000 (black) and 20% opacity, carefully paint underneath the line (crossbar) of the "A" that is on the first plane.

Step 33

Repeat the same procedure to all letters. See the image below, where you should make the shadows.

Step 34

Change the background color that was #000000 (black) before to #192607.

Step 35

Open Adobe Illustrator and create one image with 2500x1050px. Using the rectangle tool (see image below), make a rectangle with the color #192607.

Step 36

Create a diagonal line (stroke weight=1) with the color #C4B488 and duplicate this line until it covers the entire green rectangle. Next, select all lines and duplicate, then reflect (horizontally). It will look like a grid.

Step 37

Now, create smaller circles on the intersections and bigger circles on the middle of the line's junctions. Use the color #C4B488.

Step 38

Select the grid and the circles and group them without the green rectangle on the background.

Step 39

Copy the vectors from the Illustrator, and paste it in Photoshop inside the folder "1: Background" as showed below.

Step 40

Rename the layer to "Grid", then duplicate it and on the layer below, apply "gaussian blur" using 7, 8 as the radius.

Step 41

Apply a mask on this layer that has the "Gaussian blur", and using "radial gradient", click on the top/center the image and drag to the right corner, as shown in the image below. It is important that the color #000000 (black) is the main color. You will notice that only the sides are now blurred, leaving the center sharper.

Step 42

Create one layer and use it as a multiply layer. With the tool "radial gradient" and (reverse) selected, drag from the center to the right, as shown in the image below. This will hide the blurry part on the center of the image.

Step 43

Using the "ellipse tool" with #ffffff (white), make an ellipse on the top/center of the image. See the position below:

Step 44

Select the ellipse and go to the top menu "Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur", and use 200 on the radius.

Step 45

Use this layer as "overlay"

Step 46

Duplicate the folder "3: Letters".

Step 47

After, flatten the image as shown in the image below:

Step 48

Double click on the layer (which has been flattened) to open "blending options".

Step 49

Select "color overlay" on the left side, and use #000000 (black).

Step 50

Rename it to "shadow1" and drag it to the folder "2: shadows". The layer should be somewhat further down of the text, as shown in the image below:

Step 51

On the layer "shadow1" go to the top menu Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur and use 4.0 as the radius.

Step 52

After that, duplicate this layer.

Step 53

On the layer "shadow2" go to the top menu Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur" and use 40 as the radius.

Step 54

Repeat the same steps 46 and 47, and drag to the folder "4: shine".

Step 55

Create a folder and apply a layer mask. Hide the layer below. Create a layer inside the folder you created.

Step 56

Create a layer inside this folder, and use it as "overlay". Select "brush tool" color #ffffff (white), 15% opacity, and carefully paint the top letters until these letters become clearer.

Final Image

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