Mastering 3D Typography: How To Create 3D Fonts, Best Use Cases, Tools, and More

Brian Bojan Dordevic
About The Author

Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

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3D typography is one of the main 2024 font trends. However, creating 3D fonts can be confusing at first.

Not only do you need to understand the best use cases for 3D typography, but you also need to pick the right tools and understand advanced techniques that will make your 3D fonts stand out.

My web design agency in Los Angeles has spent countless hours experimenting, tweaking, and perfecting our approach to 3D typography. Through this journey, we’ve unlocked a process that not only demystifies the creation of 3D text but also illuminates its best use cases in branding and web design.

In this article, I’ll walk you through a comprehensive step-by-step process for creating your first 3D font, including selecting the perfect tools and mastering advanced techniques to ensure your 3D typography not only exists but thrives within your design projects.

You’ll learn how to confidently integrate 3D typography into your work. You’ll be ahead of the trend, offering something fresh and innovative to your clients.

Table of Contents:
3D typography

Understanding 3D Typography – Here’s How It Can Help You Elevate Your Branding

The popularity of 3D graphic design is no mystery. It’s the evolution of digital design meeting the hunger for interactivity and engagement. As modern UI designs become more sophisticated, so do the expectations of viewers.

3D typography transforms simple text into a vivid, tactile experience. This dynamic style gives letters depth, shadow, and perspective, turning words into immersive visual stories. Why is it gaining traction? Because in a world where digital spaces are crowded, 3D typography cuts through the noise, making messages unforgettable.

This makes the importance of typography in web design bigger than ever.

Benefits Of 3D Typography

  • Visibility: In the sea of 2D designs, 3D typography stands out. It grabs the viewer’s eye, ensuring your message isn’t just seen; it’s experienced. Due to their attention-grabbing nature, 3D typefaces can be a great choice for headline design.
  • Emotion and Connection: 3D typography can evoke emotions more powerfully. Its depth and texture engage senses beyond sight, forging a stronger connection with the audience.
  • Memorability: Brands strive to be remembered. 3D typography, with its unique ability to create impact, ensures your brand stays in the minds of your audience long after they’ve seen it.
  • Versatility: Whether it’s a 3D logo, a promotional poster, or a website header, 3D typography adapts, bringing its unique flair to various media. It’s not just about being bold; it’s about adding value and meaning to your brand’s visual identity.
  • Innovation: Using 3D typography signals that a brand is forward-thinking and innovative. It shows you’re not just keeping up with trends; you’re setting them.

In the following sections, I’ll show you which tools you’ll need to create 3D fonts, along with advanced techniques for integrating 3D typography in graphic design.

Best Tools For Creating 3D Typography

Best tools for 3D typography

To create 3D fonts, you must first pick the right tools for the job.  The right software can transform your workflow, turning complex designs into manageable projects. Here are some tools I recommend for your 3D typography design work:

Adobe Illustrator – For creating vector-based 3D text

A cornerstone in graphic design, Adobe Illustrator is indispensable for creating vector-based 3D text. Its blend of simplicity and power makes it ideal for designers looking to add depth and dimension to their typography without diving deep into more complex 3D modeling software.

In this article, I’ll actually show you a step-by-step process for creating 3D fonts in Illustrator.

Adobe Photoshop – For integrating 3D text with images

While it might not be as robust in 3D modeling as dedicated 3D software, its tools are perfect for designers looking to integrate 3D text with images or create textured effects (I’ve covered these techniques in the ‘Advanced tips’ section below).

Substance by Adobe – For experimenting with textures

Substance offers a suite of tools focused on texture creation, which is crucial for adding realism to 3D typography. You can use it to experiment with materials and finishes, giving your 3D text a unique look.

How To Create 3D Typography In 4 Simple Steps

Now, let’s dive into a four-step process for creating 3D typography. To follow these steps, you’ll need to install Adobe Illustrator first.

So, here’s how to create 3D fonts In Illustrator:

Step 1: Add Text And Create an Outline

Start by typing your desired text in Illustrator. Then, to convert your text into a shape that can be manipulated in three dimensions, you’ll need to create an outline.

Select your text and use the shortcut ‘Command + Shift + 0’ (Mac) or ‘Ctrl + Shift + 0’ (Windows). This action converts your text into a vector shape, giving you the freedom to edit it further without losing quality.

Step 2: Choose A Color You Want For Your 3D Text

Before diving into the 3D effect, choose a color for your text. This step is crucial because it helps you visualize the final look as you adjust the 3D settings. Select your outlined text and pick a color from the swatches panel or create a new color.

Remember, the choice of color can significantly affect the appearance of the 3D effect – lighter colors tend to enhance the 3D look against a darker background color. Make sure it also aligns with your branding.

If you’re not sure which color to pick, check out some popular minimalist color palettes to gain inspiration.

Step 3: Use 3D Effect Feature

With your text selected, navigate to ‘Effect > 3D > Extrude & Bevel’.

This opens the 3D options panel, where you can start transforming your flat text into a 3D masterpiece. Illustrator’s 3D tool is user-friendly, offering presets that can be a great starting point for beginners. Choose a preset or start experimenting with the options to see real-time changes in your text.

Step 4: Adjust Settings To Achieve Desired Aesthetics For Your 3D Typography

In the 3D options panel, you’ll find several settings to tweak your text’s appearance.

Adjust the Extrude Depth to control how “deep” your text appears.

Experiment with the Bevel options to add sophistication to the edges of your 3D text.

Then, play with the Rotation settings to find the perfect angle for your design.

Don’t forget to explore the Lighting options to cast shadows and highlights, adding realism to your 3D fonts.

Each adjustment offers a preview so you can see the effects in real-time and refine your design until you achieve the desired effect.

Advanced 3D Typography Tips For Impressing Your Audience

While the foundational skills of 3D typography can significantly elevate your design, mastering advanced techniques opens up a universe of creative possibilities.

In this section, I’ll show you methods you can use to construct deeply immersive experiences that resonate with your audience on a different level.

1. You Can Animate 3D Typography To Create Immersive Experiences

Animating 3D fonts

Animating 3D fonts can elevate your design from static to sensational, offering an interactive and immersive experience that captivates the audience.

Key UI animation principles such as timing, easing, and anticipation are crucial in making your 3D text come alive in a way that feels natural and compelling.

One particularly impactful animation technique involves animating your 3D text along a path. This method can guide the viewer’s eye through your design in a deliberate manner, emphasizing specific messages or creating a narrative flow within your piece.

As for tools you’ll need in order to animate fonts – I usually recommend Adobe After Effects. but make sure to check other motion UI design tools that might suit you better.

2. Pay Attention To Perspective And Environment Lighting When Integrating 3D Typography With Photography

Integrating 3D typography with photography or mixed media is a powerful technique to create visually stunning compositions that blur the lines between reality and imagination.

However, the key to achieving a seamless blend lies in paying attention to perspective and environment lighting. When merging 3D text with photographic backgrounds, you must ensure that the typography adheres to the same vanishing points and perspective lines as the photo.

Lighting plays an equally pivotal role in this integration process. The direction, intensity, and color of light on your 3D typography must mirror those in the photographic background to maintain realism. Pay close attention to the source of light in your photo and adjust the lighting settings of your 3D text accordingly. Experiment with shadows and highlights to match the environment’s mood, enhancing the overall sense of depth and realism in your design.

3. Try Experimenting With Different Shapes And Textures

Experiment with shapes and textures

Diving into the realm of 3D typography offers endless possibilities for creativity, particularly when you start experimenting with unconventional forms and innovative materials.

With experimental typography, you can make each letter a piece of art in its own right.

One method for creating or sourcing unique textures involves exploring the natural world or urban environments for inspiration. High-resolution photographs of surfaces such as rusted metal, peeling paint, or even detailed fabric patterns can be digitally manipulated and applied to your 3D models. Tools like Adobe Photoshop and Substance by Adobe offer powerful features for customizing these textures, ensuring they perfectly fit the contours and curves of your typography.

When applying these textures to your 3D models, it’s crucial to maintain legibility. This can be achieved by balancing the texture’s visual intensity with the form of your letters. For instance, using bolder typefaces can withstand more intricate textures without losing readability. Additionally, consider the lighting and perspective in your composition, as these elements can significantly impact how your textured typography is perceived.

Final Thoughts

Mastering 3D fonts offers more than just the ability to create visually appealing designs. It’s about pushing the boundaries of conventional typography, exploring new dimensions of creativity, and engaging with your audience on a deeper level.

From the initial steps of adding depth and color to your text in Adobe Illustrator, to animating your typography for dynamic presentations, integrating it seamlessly with photography, and experimenting with unconventional shapes and textures, each technique opens up a universe of possibilities.

If you’re looking to elevate your brand or project with the dynamic appeal of 3D typography but need expert guidance to unlock its full potential, Alpha Efficiency might be the right partner for you.

Schedule a call with me, and let’s discuss how we can transform your digital presence into an immersive experience that resonates with your audience and sets your brand apart.

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