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How to Create a 3D Botanical Letter Effect in Adobe InDesign

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Read Time: 11 min
This post is part of a series called Text Effects in Adobe InDesign.
How to Create an Ice-Cream Script Poster in Adobe InDesign
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What You'll Be Creating

Often seen across advertising and poster artwork, this eye-catching effect gives an immersive, natural look to any letter. This is a quick tutorial to learn how to make a 3D letter in InDesign.

If you're on the hunt for more great fonts to use in your text effects, head on over to Envato Elements to browse a huge range of display typefaces.

Fake Empire FontFake Empire FontFake Empire Font
The energetic premium Fake Empire Font is available on Envato Elements!

Ready to get started? Awesome, let’s go!

What You’ll Need to Create Your Text Effect in InDesign

For this 3D InDesign tutorial, you’ll need access to both Adobe InDesign and Adobe Photoshop. You’ll also need to download the following images and font files:

1. How to Map Out Your Text Effect in InDesign

Step 1

Open up Adobe InDesign and go to File > New > Document. You can set up your page to any size, but here I’ve set it up as Portrait A3. When you’re ready, click Create

Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click on Layer 1 to rename it as Background.

Create four new layers above this, in this order: Type, Leaves Inside, Shadow, and finally Elements in Front at the top. 

Then lock all layers except Background.

background layerbackground layerbackground layer

Step 2

Use the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) to create an image frame across the whole page. 

File > Place, navigate to the pink paper background image, and click Open, allowing it to fill the frame completely (without the gift box in the corner visible).

paper backgroundpaper backgroundpaper background

Step 3

Lock the Background layer and unlock the layer above, Type.

Create a large text frame on the page using the Type Tool (T), and type in a single letter*. From the Controls panel at the top of the workspace, set the Font to Frank, and make the Font Size nice and generous.

* Note that this effect works much better with completely angular letters, like ‘F’, ‘L’, and ‘T’, but is much trickier to achieve with letters with rounded elements like ‘O’ or ‘P’.

type tooltype tooltype tool

2. How to Edit and Add Leaves to Your 3D Letter in InDesign

Step 1

Minimize the InDesign window briefly and open up the green leaves image in Photoshop.

Duplicate the Background layer to preserve a copy of the original image, and switch off the visibility of the original layer. 

background copybackground copybackground copy

Go to Select > Color Range and click anywhere on the white background of the image. In the Color Range window that opens, increase the Fuzziness slider until most of the white is selected. Then click OK.

color rangecolor rangecolor range

Click on the Refine Edge button on the top Controls panel, and check Smart Radius. Increase the Radius and Shift Edge sliders until you’re happy with the accuracy of the selection. 

refine edgerefine edgerefine edge

Then click OK and hit Delete on your keyboard to delete the white area.

delete areadelete areadelete area

Step 2

Use the Lasso Tool (L) to isolate one of the leaves on the image, and then Edit > Copy the selection.

lasso toollasso toollasso tool

Create a new Photoshop document, and Edit > Paste the leaf onto this new canvas. 

Switch off the visibility of the Background layer and then File > Save As the document as a Photoshop (PSD) file. Name it ‘Leaf1.psd’.

isolated leafisolated leafisolated leaf

Repeat the process for each leaf, looping it off, copying and pasting it onto a new document, switching off the Background layer, and saving it as an individual Photoshop file. Name each leaf image in a sequence, e.g. ‘Leaf2.psd’, ‘Leaf3.psd’, etc.

looped off leaflooped off leaflooped off leaf
isolated leafisolated leafisolated leaf

Step 3

When you’ve saved all the leaves as Photoshop files, head back over to your InDesign document. 

Lock the Type layer and unlock the Leaves Inside layer above.

Use the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) to create a small frame somewhere over the top of your letter. Go to File > Place, choose one of your leaf images, and Open.

leaf psd imageleaf psd imageleaf psd image

With the image frame selected, go to Object > Effects > Drop Shadow. Switch the Effect Color to a pink swatch (here, I’ve added a new CMYK swatch from the Swatches panel, C=13 M=60 Y=48 K=2, beforehand, to make a good match to the pink paper background), and adjust the options in the Effects window until you have created a subtle shadow for the leaf. 

effect coloreffect coloreffect color

Step 4

Select the leaf’s image frame and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste, moving it over to cover another section of the letter. 

place imageplace imageplace image

With the copy selected, go to File > Place and choose a different leaf PSD image.

placed leaf imageplaced leaf imageplaced leaf image

By adding the leaves this way, you can preserve the drop shadow settings for the image frame.

drop shadow leafdrop shadow leafdrop shadow leaf

Continue to Paste new image frames onto the page, and File > Place to replace each frame with a different leaf image. Build the leaves up across the stem and arms of the letter.

leaves insideleaves insideleaves inside

Step 5

Once you’ve built up a dense range of leaves across the letter, unlock the top Elements in Front layer.

Then expand the Leaves Inside layer to view all the leaf PSD images sitting on that layer. Highlight the top four or five leaves.

leaves moved in layerleaves moved in layerleaves moved in layer

Then drag these up, dropping them onto the Elements in Front layer. 

expanded layerexpanded layerexpanded layer

Step 6

Lock the Leaves Inside layer, and switch off its visibility. Keep the Elements in Front layer unlocked and active. 

elements in frontelements in frontelements in front

Now we want to create blocks of pink texture on this top layer, to overlap some of the edges of the leaves and create the desired peekaboo effect. 

Use the Pen Tool (P) to mark off a section of the background, running the edges along the letter’s edge. Here, I want to disguise the top edge of the leaf pictured here, so that’s my focus for this block.

pen toolpen toolpen tool

Then unlock the Background layer and double-click inside the large image frame sitting on this layer, to directly select the pink paper image. Then Edit > Copy the image. 

copy imagecopy imagecopy image

Lock the Background layer and go back to the shape you created on the Elements in Front layer. From the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches), make sure the Fill and Stroke Color of the shape is set to [None]. 

Then select the shape and Right-Click > Paste Into, dropping the pink paper image into the shape at the same scale as the background image.

paste intopaste intopaste into
pasted paperpasted paperpasted paper

Step 7

Repeat the process for another section of background. 

Use the Pen Tool (P) to loop off another area on the Elements in Front layer, before Right-Clicking > Paste Into the paper texture image into the shape, and then setting the Fill and Stroke of the shape to [None].

elements in frontelements in frontelements in front
paste intopaste intopaste into

Keep building up shapes around the perimeter of the letter, and pasting in copies of the paper image. Do each bit in small sections, until the whole page is covered around the edge of the letter. 

elements in frontelements in frontelements in front

Step 8

Now you can start to experiment with moving some paper-filled shapes in front of or behind the leaf shapes sitting on this layer. 

Expand the Elements in Front layer and try setting the group of leaves in the middle of two sections of paper shapes, allowing some of the tips of the leaves to poke out. 

layer expandedlayer expandedlayer expanded

This will take a bit of experimenting, so keep checking the result as you work. 

Eventually, you’ll end up with a 3D effect like this:

effect so fareffect so fareffect so far

3. How to Add Depth to Your InDesign Text Effect

Step 1

Lock the Elements in Front layer and unlock the Shadow layer. 

Use the Rectangle Tool (M) to create a rectangle shape over one edge of the letter, setting the Fill Color to [Black].

shadow layershadow layershadow layer

Step 2

With the black rectangle selected, go to Object > Effects > Transparency. Set the Mode to Multiply and bring the Opacity down to 75%.


Click on Gradient Feather at the bottom of the window’s left-hand menu. Keep the settings as they are, only reversing the gradient if needed, to allow the shadow to move from more opaque closer to the edge of the letter and more transparent towards the center of the letter.

gradient feathergradient feathergradient feather

Step 3

Select the rectangle shape and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste it. You might need to Right-Click > Rotate it and resize it to position it along another edge of the letter.

transform rotatetransform rotatetransform rotate
rotate shadowrotate shadowrotate shadow

Continue to paste more rectangles along the edges of your letter, rotating and resizing each to fit. 

shadow rotatedshadow rotatedshadow rotated

Eventually, you’ll have a shadow running along each edge of the letter, adding depth and drama to the whole effect.

shadow shapeshadow shapeshadow shape

Your Finished 3D InDesign Text Effect

And your 3D InDesign text effect is finished! Awesome job! You now know how to make a 3D letter in InDesign. As you can see, this was a simple process that you can easily replicate to create other 3D InDesign text effects.

You can now incorporate your text effect into other InDesign work, or go to File > Export to create a JPG, PNG, or PDF version of your effect. 

Finished InDesign text effectFinished InDesign text effectFinished InDesign text effect

5 Incredible Premium Fonts From Envato Elements

On the lookout for more great fonts to use in your text effects in InDesign or other projects? Head on over to Envato Elements to browse a huge range of awesome premium display typefaces. Here's just a taste of the premium selection you could get for a low monthly payment.

Fonseca Rounded (OTF, TTF)

Fonseca RoundedFonseca RoundedFonseca Rounded

Let's start with a classic rounded font with a vintage feel. The Fonseca premium font can easily fit your headers, logos, packaging, and other creative project designs. This could be a great option to create a 3D letter in InDesign.

Haext Regular (OTF)

Haext RegularHaext RegularHaext Regular

Give your text a mysterious and edgy spin with the Haext Regular premium font from Envato Elements. It borrows the rune aesthetic and the neo-Gothic style. It will give your brand the personality you want.

Mr Blue Sky Font (OTF, TTF)

Mr Blue Sky Font Mr Blue Sky Font Mr Blue Sky Font

For a quirkier take on premium fonts, look no further than the Mr Blue Sky Font! It comes with 337 glyphs: uppercase, lowercase, numbers, punctuation, symbols, and more. You could probably create other interesting InDesign text effects with this one.

Mermaid Typeface (OTF, WOFF)

Mermaid TypefaceMermaid TypefaceMermaid Typeface

Do you feel like going for a vintage, ornate, Victorian-inspired premium font? Download this excellent example from Envato Elements. The Mermaid Typeface allows you to express yourself and share what you're about with others.

Dreamscape (TTF)


Is this the future? The last premium font from Envato Elements we'll discuss here is Dreamscape. If you need to portray the future, sci-fi, and technology, you can't go wrong with this top choice.

Explore More Cool InDesign and Text Effect Resources

Looking for more quick InDesign text effects? Make sure to check these out:

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