At the beginning, you will learn how to create a simple cube using the Illustrator 3D effect, and how to rotate it and adjust its position to get a more clever blocks text effect. Next, you will create and save a set of symbols using a suitable building block font that will be mapped on the 3D blocks.
Moving on, we will color each 3D block and the baby block font with cute pastel colors, and we will add shading and highlights to enhance the look of the 3D block letter font.
If you are searching for the perfect block font to use, you will surely find it on Envato Elements, along with a multitude of amazing fonts. This is a great way to give the process your own touch and obtain a different baby blocks text effect.
To complete the tutorial, you will need the following assets:
1. How to Open a New Document
Launch Adobe Illustrator and go to File > New to open a blank document. Type a name for your file, set the dimensions, and then select Pixels as Units and RGB as Color Mode.
Next, go to Edit > Preferences > General and set the Keyboard Increment to 1 px and, while there, go to Units to make sure they are set as in the following image. I usually work with these settings, and they will help you throughout the drawing process.
2. How to Create a Simple 3D Block
Start by grabbing the Rectangle Tool (M). Click on your artboard to open the Rectangle window, and draw a 66 x 66 px square. Color it with gray for the moment.
Now, make copies of this square so you have one for each letter in the baby block font. What we are using is "HOLA BEBE", so we need to have eight squares in total on the artboard.
Focus on the first square and select it. Go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel and first check the Preview option so you can see better the 3D block that you are creating. Under Extrude Depth, choose the same value as the size of the square, which is 66 pt. Under Bevel, choose None, and the Surface is not really important here, so either Plastic Shading or Diffuse Shading will work fine.
Now, start to rotate the cube symbol or manually enter the values for the rotation around the X, Y and Z axis. Once you are happy with the position of the first 3D block, hit OK.
Select the second square on your artboard and go to Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel again. Choose a different position for the block, and keep the rest of the settings the same.
Do the same thing for the third 3D block. Always choose a different position for the block so the final text design is more clever and fun.
Continue with the next block. These are the settings I've used:
At this point, the top row of 3D blocks-which correspond to the letters "H", "O", "L" and "A"- is done, but you can still make adjustments by going back to the Appearance panel and opening the 3D Extrude & Bevel Options window.
In the image below, you can see the settings for the second row of 3D blocks, which correspond to the word "BEBE". Feel free to choose your own settings and put your personal touch into the final design of the block letter font.
Now the blocks are aligned on the artboard, but let's make things more creative, as a building block font should be. Begin to move around each 3D block and find a design that you are happy with.
3. How to Create and Save a Set of Symbols
Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to draw a new square the same size as the square that we have used to make a 3D block, which is 66 x 66 px. Color it with gray for the moment (1).
While the gray square stays selected, go to Object > Path > Offset Path and apply a Radius of -10 px in order to get a smaller square in the center. Color it with cream (2).
Keep the smaller square selected and go to Effect > Stylize > Round Corners. Apply a Radius of 4 px and hit OK (3).
Select the smaller square and then Copy and Paste in Front (Control-F) to make a copy of it. Keep this copy selected and go to Object > Path > Split Into Grid. Apply the settings shown below, hit OK and, as a result, the square will be divided into 14 stripes (1).
Select every second stripe using the Direct Selection Tool (A) and color it with beige. For the rest of them. keep the existing cream fill color (2).
Now, we need to bring back the rounded corners. Select the smaller square with the Rounded Corners effect applied to it, and then Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) to make a copy. Go to Object > Expand Appearance to expand this effect, and then set this copy to stroke-none and fill-none.
Select the cream and beige stripes along with the newly obtained rounded square, and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Control-7). This is how the sides of the baby blocks will look, but we are missing the baby block font. For the moment, Group (Control-G) all the shapes that compose the symbol and name it "block face".
It's time to prepare the block letter font. Grab the Type Tool (T) and write our piece of text "HOLA BEBE" on your artboard. Use the Woodman Font, Heavy, size of 48 pt, which will work perfectly as the block font.
Next, go to Object > Expand followed by Ungroup (Shift-Control-G) to get the individual letters.
Grab the "block face" group and make copies of it so we have six of them in total (1). Now, arrange a letter inside each square. The letters "B" and "E" are repeated, so there is no need to make duplicates (2).
If you take a closer look, you will notice that the letters "H", "O" and "A" are slightly wider than the rest, so let's make a few adjustments.
Select only the letter "H" and take a look at the Transform panel. Replace the existing Width value with 34 px, which is a little smaller. Do the same thing for the letter "O". For the letter "A", type 35 px in the Width field. As a result, these letters will become a little narrower and match the others (3).
Select the first "block face" group along with the letter on top; then press Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center in order to make sure they are perfectly centered.
Repeat the same thing with the other "block face" groups and their corresponding block letter.
We are ready to save the symbols now. Select the first "block face" group along with the letter and drag everything into the Symbols panel. In the Symbols Options window, type "Block Letter H" as the name and hit OK. The first symbol will now be visible in the Symbols panel.
Repeat the same thing and save the "Block Letter O", "Block Letter L", "Block Letter A", "Block Letter B", and "Block Letter E" symbols. At this point, the block font symbols are ready to be used.
4. How to Apply Symbols to the 3D Blocks
Let's go back to the 3D blocks we made earlier and select the first one on your artboard. Go to the Appearance panel, open the 3D Extrude & Bevel window, and press the Map Art button at the bottom.
In the Map Art window that opens, select the "Block Letter H" symbol from the drop-down menu, and it will be applied on Surface 1 of 6, which is the front side of the 3D block. You don't have to make any adjustments. They will fit perfectly because they have the same size (66 x 66 px).
Use the small arrow to navigate to Surface 5 of 6 and apply the same "Block Letter H" symbol to it. Now, the block font will be visible on the left side.
Next is Surface 6 of 6, which is the top of the 3D block. Apply the same symbol, and this time, rotate it as shown in the image below. The other surfaces are not visible, so there is no need to work with them. Hit OK twice when you are happy with the result.
Continue with the second block on your artboard and, once you've opened the Map Art window, apply the "Block Letter O" symbol on Surface 1 of 6, 3 of 6 and 6 of 6, which are visible.
Use the technique explained above and continue to apply the rest of the symbols on the surfaces of the blocks. The look of the 3D block letter font is starting to come together, right?
5. How to Color the 3D Blocks
Focus on the first block, select it and go to Object > Expand Appearance in order to expand the 3D effect. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select only the gray squares along with the baby block font, and change their fill color to purple.
Do the same thing and recolor the rest of the baby blocks using the colors indicated.
6. How to Create Shadows on the Baby Blocks
Select the front side of the purple baby block using the Direct Selection Tool (A), and then Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) to make a copy of it in front of everything (1). Go to Object > Compound Path > Release and keep only the smaller square in the center. Change the fill color to orange so we can see this shape better (2).
Copy and Paste in Front (Control-F) the orange square and change the fill color to green so we can differentiate them. Move the green square 1 px to the left and 1 px upwards by pressing the Left Arrow key and then the Up Arrow key on the keyboard (3). While the two colored squares stay selected, press Minus Front in the Pathfinder panel, and you will obtain a thin edge. Color it with a darker shade of purple (4).
Apply the same technique and create the darker, thin edges on the left side and top side of the 3D baby block (5).
Follow the technique explained in the previous step and create the darker, thin edges on the visible side of all the baby blocks. This will enhance the 3D look of the building blocks.
Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select the three letters; then go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow and apply the settings shown. This will create a small shadow in the bottom right side of the block letter font.
Select the three letters on each baby block and apply the Drop Shadow effect again, using the same settings.
7. How to Create Shading on the Baby Blocks
Focus on the purple baby block and select only the left side using the Direct Selection Tool (A). Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V) to make a copy of it in front of everything (1). Go to Object > Compound Path > Release and keep only the bigger square (2).
Change the fill color of this square to black; then set the Blending Mode to Overlay and reduce the Opacity to 30%. This will create shading on the left side of the baby block (3).
Follow the technique explained above and create shading on one side of each block, depending on its position. Apply the same settings.
8. How to Create Highlights on the Baby Blocks
Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to select only the top shape of the purple baby block, and then Copy and Paste in Place (Shift-Control-V). Go to Object > Compound Path > Release and keep only the bigger square (2). Change its fill color to white; then set the Blending Mode to Overlay and reduce the Opacity to 50% (3).
Create a highlight at the top of the other baby blocks just as you did in the previous step. Apply the same settings, but depending on the color of each block you may need to reduce the Opacity to 40% or 30%.
Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw three straight paths between the corner points of the purple baby block. Give them a 1.5 pt Stroke using pale pink, and select the Width Profile 4 in the Stroke panel. Make sure that the tip of the brush profile is going outwards; otherwise, press the Flip Along option. This will create highlights along the edges of the block.
Do the same thing for the rest of the baby blocks to add more highlights. Apply a 1.5 pt Stroke using Width Profile 4 every time, but adapt the stroke colors to each one of them.
9. How to Create Shadows Under the Letter Blocks
Select the highlight square above the purple baby block and then Copy and Paste in Front (Control-F) (1). Move the resulting copy downwards and align it with the bottom corner points of the block. Send this copy behind everything by going to Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Control-[) (2).
Make sure that the square copy is still selected, and now we are going to apply three stroke attributes to it. First, select a 1 pt black Stroke and then press the Add New Stroke icon at the bottom of the Appearance panel to add a second stroke under the first one. Apply a 2 pt Stroke using black, and reduce the Opacity to 50%, but only for this stroke attribute.
Press the Add New Stroke icon again to add a third stroke under the previous two. Apply a 3 pt Stroke using black, and reduce the Opacity to 20% for this stroke attribute. For all three strokes that we have applied, make sure to select the Round Cap and Round Join options in the Stroke panel.
Finally, reduce the Opacity of the square to 60% or lower, depending on the background color you choose (3).
Apply the technique explained in the previous step and create a shadow under the other baby blocks.
This is how the final baby block letters should look:
Expand Your Fonts Collection
The 3D block letter font plays an important part in the final look of this text effect, so we made a selection of other block fonts that you can successfully use in this design to personalize it.
This is a bold font with rounded corners and chubby looks that will bring fun into your design. Works perfectly for cartoon illustrations, games, text effects, posters, and much more.
Spot is a unique and modern all-caps font, perfect for headlines, big text, logotypes, and display usage, and it's a font that will really grab your viewers' attention.
A playful, all-caps display font that will unleash your inner kid. Use it for a multitude of baby designs, cartoon illustrations, children's books, or a fun logo.
Give your design a bit of a vintage feel with Longway, an all-caps serif font designed for posters, headlines, badges, packages, and so on.
Include this clean and elegant font in your next creative project, like text effects, headlines, books, magazines, branding, and much more. Have fun!
Congratulations! You're Done
The text effect inspired by baby letter blocks is ready. Now you have the knowledge to use the 3D effect in Illustrator and make other creative text effects.
Improve Your Text Effect Designing Skills!
Keep drawing and learning with these recommended tutorials, which will explain plenty of other useful techniques.
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