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Quick Tip: Create a 3D Retro Text Effect With the Appearance Panel

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Read Time: 3 min
This post is part of a series called Retro Text Effect Tutorials.
How to Create a Quick Vintage Text Effect in Adobe InDesign
How to Create a Realistic Neon Light Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop

In this tutorial I'd like to show you some quick, simple effects you can add to normal text to give it retro feel using just the Appearance panel in Adobe Illustrator. These effects will be completely non-destructive to the text so you can edit it at any time without repercussion.

1. Set Up Your Document

Create a New document in Illustrator. Any size will do just so long as you have enough space for your text.

Fill the background with a nice muted blue/grey and select the Type Tool (T) and type out a word of your choosing using the following settings. We'll be using the font "Myriad Pro" set to Black at a size of 100px with the Tracking set to 100. If you don't have "Myriad Pro" pre-installed on your system, feel free to use another thick bodied font.


2. Apply Text Effects

Step 1

With your text selected visit the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance) and select the Add New Stroke button from the bottom and enter the following settings.


Step 2

In the Appearance panel select the new stroke we just created and click the Add New Effect button (looks like "fx") at the bottom of the panel then choose Distort & Transform > Transform then enter the following settings and OK the changes.


Step 3

Create another Stroke like we did before only with the following settings and make sure it is below our previous stroke in the Appearance panel. We will be stacking a lot of elements like this so be aware of the order of these layers as you create them.


Step 4

Duplicate Item on the Stroke we have just made and arrange it below the previous one. We'll be transforming this one as well and dropping the Opacity to act as a makeshift inner-shadow using the following settings.


Step 5

When we first started manipulating our text the Appearance panel had a pre-made transparent Fill layer that we can adjust now to give us a base to work on. Select that layer now and add a lighter blue color from our first Stroke.


Step 6

Duplicate this Fill layer and instead of a solid color add your favorite geometric pattern. I'm using a nice zig-zag but any will do really, just make sure it is transparent and black. I'll be setting the Blending Mode for this layer to Overlay so the black blends with the color below.


Step 7

With the base created let's continue fleshing out the 3D aspect of our text.

Duplicate our dark stroke from earlier and place it below the Fill layers in the Appearance panel. With this selected click the Add New Effect button and choose Distort & Transform > Transform then enter the following settings. Make sure you enter in 7 Copies in this panel before you OK the changes.


Step 8

Finally let's create a cast shadow. Duplicate the previous Stroke layer and click the Transform link inside the Stroke settings in the Appearance panel to alter that Transform settings and change the amount of Copies to 11 then set the the Blending Mode for this layer to Multiply and drop the Opacity.


That is a Groovy Result!

And with that our text is retro and ready to be saved as a Graphic Style in the Graphic Styles panel, so you can use and reuse it whenever you wish. I hope I was able to show you a few strokes and fills can go a long way to spruce up any boring text. Feel free to experiment and share what you've come up with!

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