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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. 3D

How to Create a Retro Metal 3D Design


I originally developed this Vertigo logo and rendered a 3D version of it using Cinema 4D. However, for this tutorial I really wanted to find a way to get hot 3D text without using a 3D dedicated program.

The new version is reasonably convincing and is surprisingly easy to reproduce. I was able to recreated the 3D logo using only four layers and layer styles applied to each layer. Here are some of the things I will cover in this tutorial:

  1. 3D Extrusion Tool in Illustrator
  2. Layer Styles in Photoshop
  3. Layer Modes in Photoshop
  4. The Blend Tool in Illustrator
  5. Texturing to give a retro-grit to your final image

Part I - Prepare the Logo to Be Recreated in 3D for Photoshop

Step 1

First, I added a stroke to the logo so that the extra outline will serve as a bevel to my 3D text once I've kicked into the project.

Step 2

I changed the logo fill and stroke to white. I've found that when I apply Extrude and Bevel, white is the best choice to get crisp whites and blacks in the 3D text.

Step 3

I adjusted the settings for the Extrude and Bevel. I clicked on options to get more settings and adjust the Light Intensity and Ambient Light to get my bright whites and dark blacks. The position of the light on your text is the key to removing the gray areas.

Step 4

The results of the 3D extrusion in Illustrator are now copied and pasted onto a pink background in Photoshop. I ran into a glitch area in the 3D extrusion that caused me to have to fill in the area on the V.

Part II - Adding Reflections and Depth Using Layer Modes

Step 5

I choose Select/Color Range to choose just my white areas.

Step 6

I copied that layer and selected the inverse. I deleted the inverse so that only my white areas are on a layer by themselves. I still have a copy of the logo on it's original pasted layer, as I'll need that later in the tut.

Step 7

I copied the layer that has my white logo on it and made a selection of everything on the layer. Then, I contracted the selection by 10 pixels or so and deleted the inverse.

Step 8

I chose Edit/Fill and filled my layer with a 50% gray so that I can see the difference between my two layers.

Step 9

The outside white that is on it's own layer will serve as the outer bevel. The gray area that is on a layer above will be the face of my 3D text that will contain the majority of my reflections.

Step 10

I added a Gradient Overlay by clicking the FX button at the bottom of my layers panel.

Step 11

I chose these colors for the moment. I'm sure I will tweak them later. That's part of the beauty of the layer styles, it will be very easy to update at any moment.

Step 12

I added a Satin layer style to my logo and set it to Color Burn.

Step 13

I added an Inner Shadow and set it to Overlay.

Step 14

I copied the layer that I just applied the layer styles to and deleted the top half of the logo.

Step 15

I chose an eraser brush with a hard edge and large enough so that when I erased it would give me a nice arch the width of my text.

Step 16

The results of my erasing created a nice arch cut out that will serve as my reflection's horizon.

Step 17

Next, I went back in and adjusted the Gradient Overlay colors for that layer. I faded from a dark brown, into a yellow, and then white. The contrast is key because that is what helps your image to really POP!

Step 18

Next I went back into the main face of the logo and readjusted that Gradient Overlay to feel more like a skyline.

Step 19

I right-clicked on my Layer Styles and Copied them.

Step 20

I pasted the Layer Styles from the main logo face onto my outer white layer that is to serve as the bevel on the 3D text.

Step 21

I adjusted the colors of the Gradient Overlay I just pasted. By adding a bright white to it. I now have a shiny bevel that really POPS!

Step 22

Then I went back to my original and pasted the layer from Illustrator that contains both the black and white areas, and then pasted the layer styles I copied previously.

Step 23

I adjusted the Gradient Overlay colors to be very dark in the middle so that I'd loose some detail back there.

Step 24

For some added detail, I made a selection near some key corners and will airbrush some darks to create the edges of my text.

Step 25

The image below shows the results of darkening some of those edges.

Step 26

Below is the full shot of my 3D logo having used only four layers with layer styles and one layer of airbrushed edges for detail.

Step 27

I chose a feathered airbrush and added some white light over spill from the bright white areas of the reflections.

Part III - Creating Silhouetted Planets Using Layer styles

Step 28

I filled a black circle on it's own layer and added an FX Layer Mode of Outer Glow set to purple.

Step 29

I chose a very large feather brush and added some blue in the center of my black circle. This added depth as well as some color interest happening behind the Vertigo logo.

Step 30

I wanted to experiment with the Outer Glow on it's own layer so I right-clicked the layer style and choose "Create Layer."

Step 31

I made a feathered selection of random areas and adjusted the Hue & Saturation (Image > Adjust > Hue & Saturation).

Step 32

I created a new layer with a black circle and applied an inner glow. I duplicated that layer and placed it symmetrically on the other side of my logo.

Step 33

The results so far!

Part IV - Adding More Vector Elements to the Composition and Some Lighting Effects Using Layer Modes

Step 34

In Illustrator I drew two lines and made a Blend between them.

Step 35

I specified the number of steps by double clicking the Blend tool in my tool bar.

Step 36

I made another blend of lines using the same steps and created a grid.

Step 37

I applied a 3D rotation to my grid but no extrusion.

Step 38

I copied and pasted my grid into Photoshop and will scale it a bit more to fit my composition better.

Step 39

The result of my scaled grid.

Step 40

I applied a layer style of Gradient Overlay to my grid using purple and black.

Step 41

I created a new layer above all my layers and filled it with black. Then I went to Filter > Render > Lens Flare to create a new lens flare on my black layer.

Step 42

I set the layer mode to Add and positioned the lens flare as a light source peaking from behind my larger planet and logo.

Step 43

Next I copied my layer that contains the lens flare and applied a gaussian blur to soften it. This allowed my layer mode of Add to create some cool lighting effects. Last I adjusted the Hue & Saturation of the blurred lens flare.

Step 44

Back in Illustrator, I created two circles and applied a Blend to them the same way I did for the lines that made up my grid earlier.

Step 45

I drew a circle and deleted three quarters of the circle leaving a partial arc. Then I replaced the spline of my blend with the arc.

Step 46

The blend now looks like this after replacing the spline.

Step 47

I copied and pasted the blend of circles into Photoshop and erased parts of them to fade out in my composition.

Step 48

I applied a layer style of Gradient Overlay to my circle blended layer.

Step 49

I copied and pasted my lighting layers and circle blended layer and flipped horizontally to get a symmetrical composition. I suppose you could stop at this point and have a slick looking image as is, but I wanted to experiment with some textures to really give it a retro-grit feel.

Part V - Adding a Retro-Grit to Your Image

These next steps are not for the faint at heart. They require the bravery to try something a bit different with your artwork that is arguably finished and looks great. Some will love this effect and others will choose to be done. I like to refer to it as adding a retro-grit effect to your artwork.

Step 50

I created a layer of solid 50% gray and set it to soft light. You will not see any results until you try the next step.

Step 51

I added colored noise to this layer.

Step 52

Because I have already set my layer to soft light, I can watch the results of my noise as I try to decide how much to add.

Step 53

I used a texture of marble. You can choose different textures for this effect: concrete or old paper are great to try as well. Set it to multiply.

Step 54

I copied my layer of textured marble. Inverted the colors (Command + I). Then set this layer to Screen or Lighten. I adjusted the levels. This has given me some worn out lighter areas across my artwork. Mixed with my other layer of multiplied textured. I've added a nice worn out retro feel to my artwork. You may need to add a layer of tan and set to multiply if your texture is not already a shade of tan the way my marble texture was.


I hope you are stoked about your Retro Metal 3D text you've created using only a little bit of help from Illustrator (I covered the powerful Blend Tool and 3D Extrusion Tool) and the rest pure Photoshop magic! Layer styles truly are amazing. I used them for pretty much every step of this piece!
Don't forget as well, these are all fundamental features of the Adobe suite that will open up your design options to a whole new dimension. Thanks to the Editor and Staff of PSDTUTS for giving me the opportunity to present this tutorial.

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