Learn how to make any inspirational message look more meaningful by turning it into a 3D typography poster. In this Photoshop tutorial, you will how to create striking 3D gold text, add reflections with image-based lighting, create a drywall background from scratch, and position your lights using an easy method that feel like you’re playing a 1st person shooter game. To follow this tutorial, you’ll need Photoshop CS6 Extended.
Preview of Final Results
Start by creating a new 1920×1200 pixels document. Select the Text tool and type in your inspirational text. The font we’re using is Bebas Neue and Pacifico. These fonts are free. Adjust the font size and leading to your likings. Use the Free Transform tool (Ctrl/Cmd+T or Edit > Free Transform) to scale your text then position the text in the middle.
To position your text perfectly in the center, select your text and background layers, switch to the Move tool, then click on the align center buttons in the options bar.
Next we’re going to convert the text to 3D. To do this, right-click on the text layer and choose New 3D extrusion from layer.
Depending on how complicated your text is, Photoshop might give you a message that your text is too complicated for it to process. If this happens, you need to convert it to a path and use Adobe Illustrator to simply the path. To do this, right-click on the text layer and select Convert to Shape. Copy the shape layer to your clipboard then paste it into a new document in Adobe Illustrator. In Illustrator, go to Object > Path > Simplify. Checkmark the preview option then adjust the settings so that you get the least amount of points without distorting the text much. Copy and paste the text back into Photoshop. When you paste, Photoshop will ask how you want to paste your text as. Select Shape Layer then click OK. Delete the other text layer then right-click on the new shape layer and select New 3D Extrusion from selected layer.
Once you convert your text into a 3D extrusion, Photoshop will switch you to the 3D interface. Go back into the Layers panel and select the background layer. We’re going to convert this to a 3D object so that we can use it as a wall for the 3D text. Right-click on the background layer and select Postcard. Switch back to the Layers panel and select the two layers. Merge the layers into a single 3D layer by pressing Ctrl/Cmd+E.
We’re going to start by reducing the thickness of the 3D text. Select the 3D text layer in the 3D panel
In the Properties panel, reduce the Extrusion depth setting. You can get a better preview by going to 3D > Render to do a quick render of the scene. Photoshop will start rendering the picture and when it looks good enough, click anywhere to stop the render. Keep adjusting the setting and rendering until you get the results that you like. For my text, I used an extrusion depth of 100.
Now we’re going to make the 3D text look gold. Select text material layers in the 3D panel. You can select multiple layers by clicking on the top material layer then holding the shift key and pressing on the last materials layer.
Your Properties panel will switch to the Materials settings. Start by setting the Diffuse color to a yellow-orange color. The color I’m using is #FFC000.
We’re going to work on the rest of the materials later when we have everything else set up. For now, we’re going to align text layer with the background layer. Change your camera view to Left by right-clicking on the view box on the bottom-right corner and choosing Left.
Next, select the text and background layer groups. You can select multiple layers by holding the Ctrl or Cmd key. Select the Move tool then click on the align left edges button in the options bar. Now your text is aligned with the background and you can switch your view back to the Default Camera view.
Render your scene by pressing Alt+Shift+Ctrl+R (Option+Shift+Cmd+R on Macs) to get a preview of how your text looks like. Everything looks pretty flat and if you like it this way, you can let Photoshop render the entire scene and save your image. We can do a lot more to make our quote look more dramatic by adding some lights. Lighting is a huge subject and it plays a large part in how your 3D text will look. There are many ways to light your 3D text but we’ll show you an easy one that uses just one light.
To add a light to your scene, click on the New Light button in your 3D panel and choose New Point Light.
We’re going to position this light on the top-right corner of the text and have it cast a shadow diagonally. Moving a light to the perfect spot takes a bit of experience with 3D but there’s an easier way to do this. Select the Move tool and set the 3D mode to Rotate in the options bar.
In the view box located on the bottom left of your screen, drag to reposition your view so that you are looking at your 3D text from the top-right corner. Think of it like playing a first person shooter game – you want to reposition yourself so that you can shine your flashlight from the upper-right side of the text. Once you’re in the right angle, switch your 3D mode to Slide and position yourself so that you’re further away from the 3D text. When you’re in the right position, click on the Move to View button in the Properties panel to move your point light to your current view. To make your shadow more noticeable, increase your intensity. We’ll readjust this setting later. Switch back to the Default Camera view then render the scene to preview your lighting. Play around with the camera view and light intensity to get the results that you like.
We have our shadow but it looks too solid. To improve it, we’re going to make the shadow fade by adjusting the light falloff of your point light. Make sure that you have your Point Light selected then in the Properties panel, enable the Light Falloff option. Zoom out of your document so that you can see the point light then adjust the outer light falloff setting so that the outline reaches the bottom-right of your document. Next, adjust your inner light falloff setting so that the outline reaches the top-right corner of your document. Render the scene to get a preview of the effect.
Here’s the before and after results of the light falloff setting.
Now we’re going to go back to the 3D text, give it a bevel, and adjust the material setting. First, select the 3D text layer. In the Properties panel, click on the Cap settings then set the width to 10%. This will give your text a slight bevel on the edge.
Next, select all of the materials layer for the 3D text then set the shine to 0, reflection to 100%, and roughness to 3%. The roughness setting will give it a very subtle texture so that it is not perfectly smooth.
Select the Front Bevel Material then set the shine to 100% and roughness to 0%. This will make the bevel on your text look more polished and smooth so that it stands out.
To really make the gold text shiny, we need to add some reflection to it. To do this, you need to use Image Based Lighting. Select the Environment 3D layer and enable the IBL setting in the Properties panel. Currently, your 3D text has no reflections because there is nothing in front of it. You can use Image Based Lighting to add a photo or texture so that your 3D text has something to reflect. You can load a photo and use that as the reflection, but we want something cleaner. So to do this, we’re going to create our own reflection. Click on the folder icon and choose New Texture. Photoshop will create a new document for your new texture. Create the new document same width and height as your current document which is 1920 by 1200 pixels.
Click on the folder icon again and click Edit Texture. A new document opened and this is where you will create the reflection. Select the Rectangle tool, set your fill to black and stroke to none, then draw a box covering the bottom half of your document.
This black and white reflection will make the reflection too strong so to tone it down, add a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast). Enable the Use Legacy option then reduce the contrast to –50. Save and close the document.
Your 3D text now has a reflection, but we need to reposition it. With the Move tool selected, switch your 3D mode to drag in the options bar then drag in the sphere on the center of your screen to reposition the reflection so that it is centered with your text.
We’re almost done! The final part we’re going to work on is the background wall and we’re going to give it a wall texture that’s easy to make. To start, select the background layer material in your 3D Panel. Set the diffuse color to white, shine and reflections to 0% and roughness to 100%.
If you look in the diffuse setting, it has a texture that was automatically created in the beginning when we converted the background layer into a 3D object. We don’t need this texture so click on the button and choose Remove Texture.
In the bump settings, click on the folder button and choose New Texture. Set the width to 1920 pixels and height to 1200 pixels.
Click on the button again and choose Edit Texture. Photoshop will open the texture and we’ll be adding a noise pattern to this to give the wall a slight bump texture. Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Leave the default settings then click OK. Press Shift+Ctrl+L (Shift+Cmd+L on Macs) to apply auto levels to your noise. Save and close the document.
Your background now has a bumpy texture but it’s a little too strong. Reduce the bump setting to 5% then render the scene to see how it looks.
We’re done! Feel free to go back into any material or light layers to tune the settings. I went back into the Point Light layer to set the intensity to 100% then into the Environment layer to set the shadow softness to 100%. The shadow softness setting reduces harsh shadows.
One thing about 3D artwork is that the colors can sometimes look too perfect. You can reduce this by adding some a film color effect. My favorite way of doing this is with the Curves tool. Add a new Curves adjustment layer (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves). Switch the channel to blue and drag the points towards the vertical center – this will add some blues to the shadows and gold to the highlights. Switch to the red channel and create a very slight S curve. Switch back to the RGB channel and create an S shape to increase the contrast. You can adjust the opacity of this curves layer to reduce the effect.
Here’s what the image looks like with and without the film effect.
Download the PSD
3D Typography Poster (11.3 MB)