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By Colleen Wheeler | Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Deke's Techniques: Creating 3D punched letters in Illustrator

In this week’s Deke’s Techniques, Deke McClelland shows you how to transform plain text into punched-out 3D letters in Adobe Illustrator.

Graphic with the word

In order to keep the original type intact, Deke begins by making a copy of the type layer to work on. After converting that copy to outlines, he also makes a copy of the outlines layer to work on. This way, the original type isn’t destroyed in the design process. Safety observed, Deke then removes the black fill and adds a 4-point white stroke, setting the stroke to align to the outside of the letters.

The plain text with white fill in Adobe Illustrator

After converting the stroke to outlined fills, the type is ready for 3D extrusion. From the Effects menu, choose 3D>Extrude & Bevel, and set the  Z value to 0 degrees, and the X and Y values to 4 degrees.

The Adobe Illustrator 3D Extrude and Bevel Options panel

The next step involves some careful expansion, selection, grouping, and the creation of a compound path to prepare the edges of the letters for a white fill and the extruded edges for a red fill. And by careful, I mean follow Deke’s instructions carefully here and you won’t go wrong. Cavalierly ignore certain aspects of the instruction in this section, as I may have done, and you may go astray—as I may have done.

The layers panel in Adobe Illustrator

After some housekeeping in the Layers panel (using the Reverse Order command to put the letters g-o-o-d in the right order), it’s time to do a little straightening of the letters themselves. The application of the 3D effect tends to misalign the letters and their edges a bit, so switching to the Outline mode (Command/Ctrl+Y) allows you to drag the paths back into alignment.

The outline mode in Adobe Illustrator

The next step is to take a hypotrochoid pattern and duplicate it over each letter. (Check out this episode of Deke’s Techniques for more on how to create the hypotrochoid pattern.)

The 3D text effect with a spirograph pattern

After pasting the pattern in back of the letters, Deke creates a clipping mask for each letter/pattern combination, eventually filling the inside of each letter with the pattern.

A clipping mask applied to a text effect in Adobe Illustrator

After refilling the letters with red and adding a narrow stroke, it’s time for another round of alignment, which again is best done in Outline mode.

Aligning the letters in the Adobe Illustrator Outline Mode

Lastly, a drop shadow, another stroke around the letter edges, and the application of the Multiply blend mode provide the final touches to this sculptural letter effect:

The final 3D punched-out letter text effect

Of course, this rich graphical 3D effect would not be the same without its fancy intertwined border, so next week, Deke will show you how to create that design using a pattern brush in Illustrator.

Interested in more?• The entire Deke’s Techniques weekly series on lynda.com • All Illustrator courses on lynda.com • All courses by Deke McClelland on lynda.com

Suggested courses to watch next:• Illustrator CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals• Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals• Illustrator Insider Training: Drawing without the Pen Tool

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