Tutorial: Creating 3D typography with Adobe Dimension
By Jon Vio Published May 12, 2020
You may have been browsing some of your favorite designers or artists on Instagram or Twitter, or perhaps you jumped online to find some inspiration and noticed a new trend in the design world: 3D text.
It seems that 3D design is taking the design world by storm. Designers are wishing to use the power of 3D design to complement their traditional design work, and 3D typefaces are a fun place to start.
I've seen these kinds of 3D text effects most often in the portfolios of some talented designers I admire, in most cases purely for play and experimentation.
Work from left to right: Stefan Hürlemann, Bryan Bernard, Martin Naumann, Sergio Abstracts, BestServedBold
Until recently, such effects have been limited to costly and difficult-to-use 3D programs, or the occasional Photoshop tutorial. For the average designer, including myself, this style seemed to be reserved for "the experts," those who specialized in 3D.
Not so anymore. If you weren't already aware, Dimension is Adobe's 3D design tool. We've written previous Dimension tutorials for creating 3D visuals, and today we'll be bringing you a new use of Dimension: creating 3D text.
What you need
Everything we're doing today, you can do with Adobe tools:
The latest version of Adobe Dimension (free with your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, depending on your plan). This latest version will now include a variety of new features, Text Extrusion.
Adobe Illustrator, or your preferred 2d design tool
What we'll be doing
In this tutorial, we will be using Dimension to create a poster with 3D typography. Using the new text extrusion feature in Dimension, you'll be able to create your own 3D text and customize it with bevel effects, materials and most importantly: lighting.
For our final effect, we'll be rendering 3D text to create typographic posters like the ones below:
3D typographic posters, created using Adobe Dimension's text extrusion feature
3D text extrusion, rendered with Dimension and animated in Photoshop.
We will then use Dimension to render out layered PSD files of our 3D text that we can then effortlessly apply to our design concepts. Let's do it!
Step 1: Design your layout in 2D
I recommend designing in 2D first, so you can cement your idea and have a reference when you're designing the 3D text in Dimension. I've first created my design as a 2D typographic poster in Adobe Illustrator.
Step 3: Create your scene in Dimension
With the latest version of Dimension installed, go ahead and create a new scene. In the project settings, input your document dimensions. I've opted to set mine at 3000 x 2250px to get a nice, high-res image.
With your scene created, select Environment from the scene area in the top right corner and set a black background color (or whatever your artwork background color is).
In the same environment area, uncheck "Ground Plane" so we don't get any unwanted reflections or shadows from the simulated ground floor.
Step 4: Extruding the text
Now that our scene is set, we are ready to begin creating our 3D text extrusion. From the objects tab, drag a new Text Extrusion object onto your scene. You can now see with the default settings that our text object already has 3D dimensionality to it.
We can now select our Text object and adjust the default settings. You'll see options to input your own text, change the font, adjust the extrusion depth, set font sizings and kerning, as well as a bevel effect for added realism. In my example, I'm using a wider sans-serif typeface (Dimension's 3D Text feature will work with any font installed on your systems operating system). I've set the depth value to 2cm.
Now that we have our basic properties, we can start experimenting with the bevel options to achieve a realistic result. There are several options for the shape of your bevel. For our purposes, I will use the Round option.
Now let's adjust the bevel width and angle. You can have fun and experiment with this part more on your own later, after we've adjusted our camera and lighting.
Step 5: Adjusting the camera
Now that we've got a nice 3D text effect (see how easy that was?), let's adjust the camera and place it in a way that will give us the front-facing angle we need for our poster. Of course, you don't have to create this flat effect, but it will work well with the poster we're designing today.
Next, let's set the camera field of view to 1. This will give us a very flat, isometric feel to the text. Now rotate the camera so that your text is completely front-facing with the camera. You can use Dimension's grid lines to ensure alignment.
Now that we've got the camera setup, let's go to the bookmark tab to bookmark our camera position. This will allow us to adjust and rotate our camera, but come back to our front-facing view at any time later.
Step 6: Adding materials
Now we can apply real-world, photorealistic materials to our 3D text. In the example below, I've added a Clean Gold material to the text object.
You can of course apply different materials for different effects – play around with this to see what you personally prefer. Adobe includes a variety of options here and you can download additional materials from Adobe Stock, if needed.
Left: metal material. Right: brass material.
For our poster, I will use Silver Gold from the Substance Materials list for a nice chrome-like effect. Since this is also a Substance Material, we have additional options to adjust the reflection amount or increase scratches for added realism.
Now, in the material options, you can tweak your material's appearance. For my example, I've set my Silver Gold material settings to the following:
The roughness value determines how reflective your material will be, with a lower value resulting in a more reflective object. The rest of the material settings I've left at the default.
Step 7: Adjusting the lighting
Now that we have our camera adjusted, we can now work with the lighting in Dimension.
Lighting is one of the most nuanced and important aspects of believable and realistic results in 3D design. Thankfully, Dimension takes the headache out of this and includes several lighting presets we can use.
For our purposes, I will use image-based environment lighting. Environment lighting generates real-world lighting systems based on the light and dark values in an image. It's an incredibly easy way to achieve photorealistic results, since you are using a real photo to generate light and reflections. Adobe includes several environment lighting presets with Dimension, as well as additional ones for download from Adobe Stock.
In addition to the presets that come with Dimension, you can also use an image file of your own to generate light for your 3D scene. For this tutorial, I'm using an HDRI image from the Neon Dreams HDRI pack from TFM.
I first downloaded the image into the Environment Light option in Dimension. I can now adjust things such as lighting intensity or rotational values. Rotational values will change the position of the lights in accordance with our scene, and is crucial in some cases to achieving realistic lighting.
Sometimes it's a matter of adjusting and playing with different rotational values to get the desired result.
Now is a good time to go back to your 3D text options and experiment further. You may want to adjust the bevel amount or bevel settings to get it just how you like it. Have fun with it!
Step 8: Rendering our image
In 3D, rendering your image means taking your 3D design information and turning it into an image.
PROTIP: You can preview your final render result in the Dimension viewport with the Render Preview option:
With our camera set and our lighting adjusted perfectly, we can hit the render tab to bring our 3D artwork to life and into layer-separated PSD files. In the render options, choose Medium for your render preset ("Low" present means it is quicker but lower quality; "High" means higher quality but the rendering will take longer.) You then have the option to set the final result as a PSD file or png. I've set mine to PSD.
Then, all you have to do is hit the render button. Your 3D render may take a while depending on your machine's particular setup, but for a simple composition like this, it should be relatively quick.
Keep in mind, if you have a slower machine this will use a lot of system resources and you may experience a significant slowdown until the render is finished. If you'd rather work on other projects while your render is being processed, you can use the Cloud Rendering (Beta) option to have Adobe render the images for you.
The final result
With our render complete, here is the final result:
Final result, front-facing
You can now open up this render in Photoshop for any post-processing work you'd like to do, and your 3D text will already be on a transparent background. Dimension includes 3D information as hidden layers when you render, and you can make post-processing adjustments as needed after your render has completed.
Mockups created with Adobe Dimension.
Now you've seen how simple it is to create 3D text effects that you've always wanted. Now you can go wild with it using the exact same process.
Have fun and play around with different fonts, materials, camera angles or lighting effects to create a variety of results. Here are some different designs and experiments I've made using the same process:
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! If you do create something with Dimension, be sure to share your designs to Behance, selecting Adobe Dimension under “Tools Used” in the Basic Info tab. On Instagram, tag #AdobeDimension and #CreatewithDimension. This allows the Dimension team to find and promote your work.
Jon is a freelance designer, illustrator and Arnold Schwarzenegger fanboy based in Nashville. He also makes a mean hot sauce.