This tutorial was originally published in May 2009 as a Tuts+ Premium tutorial. It is now available free to view. Although this tutorial does not use the latest version of Adobe Photoshop, its techniques and process are still relevant.
I created this image for the poster of this year's End of Year Show at my college, an annual Art & Design showcase event. I am here today to teach you the techniques I used to create this image. It should hopefully be easy to follow for intermediate Photoshop users and C4D beginners, but feel free to ask any questions.
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In this tutorial I will be showing you step-by-step in Photoshop to edit text in order to create a neat, tight typographic image, then exporting vector information from Photoshop into Cinema 4D, where you will learn the basics of creating 3D text, building a stage, creating a studio light setup and finally rendering with Global Illumination using Vray.
I won't teaching basics of the user interface in Cinema 4D, or how to navigate the program. There are plenty free tutorials on the web on the basics of Cinema 4D which I recommend you go through before starting this project.
1. How to Setup the Text
Create a new Photoshop file. It doesn't really matter what size, one of the Web Presets like 800 pixels x 600 pixels will do fine for this purpose. Then, use the Type Tool to create your text.
For this project I used the boldest version of the commercial font Avant Garde, but any other bold solid font will work well for this project such as Arial Black. Size up the text so that it takes up the majority of the screen, so that you can see what you're doing clearly.
We want to have each row of text on separate layers. You can simply do this by selecting the text layer in the Layers palette and pressing Command-J to Duplicate the layer as many times as there are rows, and in my example I did this three times. Then either Delete the extra rows from each layer or simply select all the text and write just that row out again.
Then, move each row down with the Move Tool so that they don't overlap, but don't worry about it being evenly spaced just yet.
Bring up the Grid preferences. In CS3, do this by pressing Command-K, then Command-8, which is also in Edit > Preferences. We want Gridlines created every 5px, with one subdivision only.
Bring up the grid by clicking View > Show > Grid. You can also turn the Grid on and off by pressing Command-Apostrophe key.
Using the Free Transform Tool, which is accessed by pressing Command-T (though always Scale the text proportionally by holding down Shift as you drag the corners), move and resize the rows individually until you think their proportions and balance roughly work well.
You can also roughly Move them to align with the grid, so that the rows are about one square apart, but once again doesn't have to be very exact yet.
Note: I changed the "A" of 'Year' to an alternate character that this font included. The beauty of using commercial fonts is that they usually have alternate characters that can really enhance and individualize your designs.
Now you should start to very neatly tidy up the text. You could always use Kerning when editing the text with the Type Tool to adjust the spacing between the characters how you want them by pressing Alt-Left or Right Arrow keys in between the letters of your text, but by doing this you will never have pixel-precision.
What you'll need to do is break down every row into individual letters, then organize the letters into the Groups for the rows. Once again, Duplicate each row for as many times as there are letters, then simply edit the text so that you get one letter per layer, and then create New Group folders in the Layers palette for each row, and place each letter in its row Group.
By doing this, all of the letters will be overlapping, but for now we just want to tidy up the Layers palette. This sounds a lot more complicated than it really is!
Now you're going to want to start lining things up properly. You can use the Move Tool with the Arrow keys to align every letter left and right to about one square on the grid apart. If you want to move the whole row up and down or even resizing a row again, simply select its Group from the Layers palette, don't move individual letters up and down or the text will start to look messy.
By now, you should have a nicely lined up tight piece of typography, with each letter in its own layer and each layer into a Group of its row.
Now create another Group in the Layers palette and place all the rows' Groups into this new Group and call it "Original text" so that we have a backup of all our work so far. We're now going to make a few adjustments to the typography to make it work nicer as an image, but this can only be done with vector shapes. Right-click on the "Orignal text" group, select Duplicate Group and name it "Vectors". You can then click on the Eye next to the "Original text" group to Hide it.
You will now be generating vector shapes from your text, in order to modify it further and eventually export it into Cinema 4D. Usually, this sort of work is better suited for Illustrator, but I am showing you a way to do it in Photoshop, and while not quite as quickly done it works just as well for this purpose.
You'll be working row by row on this, so open up each row's Group and Command-click on every layer to select multiple layers. Right-click and select Convert to Shape. Repeat this until every layer of every row under the "Vectors" group has been converted to shapes.
2. How to Create the 3D Text
To really finish off the look of this typographic image, we'll modify the shape of the "Y" to fit into the "H" below it. Select the shape of the "Y" in the Layers palette, then press P to bring up the Pen Tool. Hold down Command and drag a rectangle around the bottom points of the letter to select them, then simply use the Down Arrow key to move the points down.
You should now have a very nice typographic vector image! All that's left to do in Photoshop is to Export the vector shapes to be imported in Cinema 4D.
Now is the part where Illustrator could really come in handy... In Photoshop, you can't simply Select All layers with vector shapes, click Export and off they all go. You can only export all the vector information from a single layer. An alternative solution would be to export each individual letter as its own vector file, but that is by no means a neat way of doing things.
Just as before when you had duplicated the "Original text" group to create the "Vectors" group, Duplicate the "Vectors" group and name it "Final path", then Hide the "Vectors" group like you did with the "Original text" group.
What you will be doing is cutting and pasting each vector shape into just one layer. You do this by opening up one of the rows, and for example this could be the "SHOW" row group. Click on the Gray Icon of the vector shape of "W" and press Command-X, then click on the vector shape of the "S" and press Command-V. What you should end up having in the "S" layer's vector shape is the "S" and the "W," and the "W" layer at the bottom should no longer have a vector shape.
Repeat this until every vector shape is in one layer for each row, then Cut and Paste the vector shapes from each row into the vector shape of whichever row you want, creating just one final layer containing all the vector shapes from all rows. In the "Final path" group, Delete all other layers inside whichever group has the last path, and Delete all other row groups which are empty also, so that you are left with just one group with one layer and one vector shape.
Again, this sounds allot more complicated than it really is, you'll just have to try it for yourself to see it's not so bad! Below are progressive screenshots of the Layers palette of what I'm talking about.
That's it! You're just about done with Photoshop. Rename the last vector shape to "text," select that vector shape and click File > Export > Paths to Illustrator. Then simply Save as an AI file to be imported into Cinema 4D.
Open up Cinema 4D. Click on File > Merge, then select the AI file you exported from Photoshop. You should now have the text paths showing up in your viewport.
On the top toolbar, hold your Mouse button down on the NURBS button (looks like a green sphere inside a wireframe box) until more options come up, then select Extrude NURBS.
Don't worry, nothing should have happened yet, you should simply get an Extrude NURBS object in your top-right scene object list.
On that same Object List panel at the top-right of the screen, Expand the text path object by clicking on the '+' Sign. This should show you all the paths for the individual letters. Select all of them by clicking the top one, then Shift-clicking the bottom one, then at the top of that panel go to Object > Connect.
A new path object should show up on that object list, which means you can use the Delete key or the Backspace to Delete the Photoshop one you imported to keep the scene tidy.
Still on that Object List panel, Drag your newly created path object into the Extrude NURBS object. You should now see your paths as 3D text!
Use the following settings in the Attributes panel, which is located under the object list. You can see more than one tab or button at a time (in my case Object and Caps) by Command-clicking on them.
This will give you nice, round edges on the text object. By all means, play around with the settings. I'm simply showing you how I did it in my particular case. The 100m setting above indicates the depth of the text.
Now we'll create the stage. From the top toolbar, just like you did with the Extrude NURBS button, select Bezier from the Splines button options.
Go to a side Viewport. Making sure you are still on the Bezier tool, draw a nice large curve to create the profile of the stage. The Bezier Tool works in a similar way to the Pen Tool in Photoshop.
Odds are you will go wrong and start your curve again a lot until you are happy with it, I know I did. Command-Z to Undo is your friend in Cinema 4D too. Press Enter after you have finished drawing your curve, to finalize your work with the Bezier Tool and create a spline path object.
3. How to Adjust the Perspective
Go back to the Perspective view, select the spline you just created and Command-C, then Command-V to duplicate the spline. Then with the Move Tool, move them both to either side of the text, creating the space of what will be the stage. Go to the NURBS button like we did before with the Extrude NURBS, but this time choose Loft NURBS. Then also like before, in the object list in the right panel, drag both spline paths into the Loft NURBS object.
After dragging the splines into the Loft NURBS object, you should then see this result in your Viewport.
We're now going to start adding lights to our scene. Again using the top toolbar, under the Lights button choose Area Light.
Rotate it and Scale it so that it's pointing down at the text, at approximately 45 Degrees. This doesn't have to be very exact, as lighting changes a lot even with small settings, so from here on the settings I use are only guidelines and should be tweaked and played around with to work for your scene.
Another thing I'd like you to do at this point is change the shading settings of your Viewport. Click on Display > Quick Shading (Lines). This will ensure our viewport's visibility won't be affected by the lights in the scene. Doing so will have no impact on your render, it just allows you to see what you're doing a little better.
Right-click on the light in the object list, then go to VrayBridge Tags > VrayLight. Click on the light in the object list, then in the Attributes panel highlight General and VrayLight, so that you get both these sections open.
Below were my initial settings for the light, you might want to try similar ones to begin with. We want a slightly warm tone to it, so pick a very subtle off-white as the color.
4. How to Setup the Final Render
We will now setup our render settings. At the top, click on Render > Render Settings (or press Command-B), and under Resolution pick the PAL Preset. Under the Effects option on the side bar of the Render Settings, click the Arrow next to Post Effects and click on VrayBridge.
On the VrayBridge settings, click on Global Illumination (GI). From the presets, choose Medium Quality.
We should be ready to render now, lets do a test render. Click Render > Render View from the top, or simply press Shift-R. You should get something like the image below.
If you're pleased with that, let's carry on! I'm happy with the default white material for the text, so now it's time to start the stage material. On the bottom panel you will see this is the Materials panel. In this panel, click File > Vray Material then Double-click the material icon to bring the Material Editor window up.
Click on Material Weight and use similar settings to those shown below.
Tick the Luminosity Layer, click it and use these settings.
Click on Diffuse Layer and use these settings.
Close the window and then drag the material to either the stage object on the Viewport or onto the object list. Again, these settings are just guidelines.
Copy and Paste your Area Light twice, Move and Rotate them so that they are on either side of the text, pointing inwards and downwards. Lower their intensity to about 3-5 under the Vray Light section of their attributes (or whatever works for your scene). Your scene should look something like this:
Render the scene again, and you will most likely get a result similar to the image below. This will obviously vary depending on your settings.
If the image is a little too red for your liking, Move and Rotate the top light so that it faces the text a little more directly, and play around with the intensity and other light settings under Vray Light.
I could give you the exact settings for the lights in my scene, but that would be pointless if you are building your own scene as it will most likely look completely different for your purposes... It really is a matter of tweaking the settings, orientation and sizes of the lights and material settings until you see the result you want for your particular scene.
If you really do like the exact look of my final image, I have included the Cinema 4D scene file with this setup for you to download and play around with.
Once you are happy with your render, Save it as an image file by clicking File > 'Save image as' on the Render Window. I would personally save it as a TARGA file, but this is up to you.
Open up Photoshop and open the image you just saved, then bring up Curves by clicking Image > Adjustments > Curves (or Control-M), then create a subtle 's' shape by clicking and dragging on the line to give the image a nice contrast range. Save your image.
The render I used here was from the Cinema 4D file included in this tutorial as it is.
I hope you enjoyed reading this tutorial and that you have gained skills in both Photoshop and Cinema 4D, and that you find use in my studio scene file by either looking into the settings a little deeper or recycling the scene for your own projects.
I'd love to see what you guys come up with using these techniques!
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