Photoshop Tutorial: Stunning 3D effects in 30 minutes

Announcing the first tutorial of a new series!
Together, with a pinch of this and a dash of that, we’ll figure out how to create this cool effect in just 30 minutes.

1 normal, everyday Photoshop
1 set of real 3D text.
1 large black canvas (1600×1200px)

Step 1: First, we’ll need something written in 3D. We have two possible variations:

If you prefer a bit of Mac spice, use the command “Extrude and Bevel” in illustrator. This tutorial from PSDUTS may help you through it.

If you swing more toward a Windows flavor, Xara3D is another. If you don’t have Xara 3D, have no fear. We always come prepared: click on the thumbnail below to download a sample.

Step 2: Place the 3D text and rename it as “3D Text”. Then, with the Magic Wand Tool select the face of the letters and cut that part as you can see from the screnshoots below.

Step 3: With me so far? Now comes the fun part. Make two copies of this layer, one for backup (“3D Text Copy”) and another one (“3D Text Blur”). Set the backup copy aside to cool for a bit (aka, Hide). Leave the other two layers (“3D Text” and “3D Text Blur”) on the fire and easily accessible. Turn down the heat a bit on “3D Text Blur”; let it simmer for a while and come back to it later.

Step 4: Next, create a new layer group, rename it “Effects”, and change the blending option of this group to “Color Dodge”. Now, being careful not to disturb the other layers, reach inside this new layer group and, with a flick of the wrist, create a new layer, applying the filter “Clouds” (Filter -> Render -> Clouds) to give it that nice, puffy consistency that we’ve all come to know and love.

Step 5: Dropping just below that group in your palette, create another group, this one named “Colors”. Remember that little wrist-flick technique from Step 4? Didn’t get it quite to your satisfaction the first time? Well, we’re going to give it a go again. As before, within this new group you’ll need to create a new layer; add a sprinkle of pink, and with the gradient tool (in Radial Mode) draw a soft edge glow. After that, set the layer blending mode to the “Low” mixer setting, or “Soft Light”.

At this point, you might see a strange pink cloud, but don’t worry. All part of the plan.

Step 6: Repeat the previous step with two other bright colors, but placed differently.

Step 7: Now, for the “secret ingredient.”
Do you remember the “3D Text Blur” we set aside way back in Step 3?
Well, it’s been simmering long enough! Select it now and apply a Gaussian Blur of 13 pixel radius (Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur)

Step 8: Now the creative part. Add a new layer in the “Effects” group, immediately above the “Clouds”. Download a cool brush from DeviantArt and use white to trace around the inside face of each the letters.

Step 9: Still with me? We’re almost there! Carefully slide yet another new layer between the two groups (“Effects” and “Clouds”).
Reach for your trusty Gradient Tool (this time in Linear Mode), choose White and, holding down the Shift key, drag the Gradient tool from the outside edges of the canvas to the middle of the image.
Set your blending mode to “Saturation” and see what happens…

Step 10: Ready for another layer? We’ll need a new one in the “Effects” group; name it “Abstract Lights”.

Step 11: Then ctrl-click (command-click for you Mac lovers) the “3D Text” layer icon in the layer’s palette and paint inside the new selection with a custom abstract brush as we did in Step 8 (remember, use WHITE).

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Step 12: You’ve made it. The final step. The icing on all of these layers. Create…one…last…layer above the “White” layer we just did.

Use a nice LARGE custom brush, like this, and draw a single Cloud above the text. Apply a Motion Blur (Filter -> Blur -> Motion Blur) with an Angle of “-11? and a distance of “200? pixels.
Change the Opacity to “30%” and apply a gradient overlay with the following settings:


There you have it. A quick, easy way to spruce up any old 3D text into something to set anyone’s mouth watering. Serve hot or cold to your friends, and watch ‘em drool…


For a bit of a twist—if you’re feeling a bit adventurous–above all the layers, try new custom brushes (like smoke) and repeat the last step to apply cool lights. Experimenting can be fun!

Here’s another example from my portfolio.

Tutorial by Francesco Mugnai.

Text by Francesco Mugnai & Marc Westenburg


    What was the font that you used for the 3D text in Xara3D?

    I can’t seem to find a font that is has strong and wide as the one that you used.

    It does not work for me. When you change the effects folder to ‘colour burn’ the clouds effect even the black background. I have followed your tutorial word by word and this step doesn’t work. It is does not come out like your screenshot

    for some reason when i add the “Colors” in step 6, the more colors i add, it ends up looking white. help?

    Wow! Your tutorial is amazing. I did get a little tripped up over step 5, but I experimented with it and within five minutes I got it! Kudos!

    Im getting really stuck on part 6 to 7,I have the pink cloudy thing over the text,but in the next step it look like its just text? How do I get mine like this?

    this doesn’t work, at step 5 you say to change the blending mode to soft light but in your pic it’s at normal and when it’s to soft light it disappears changing the hue of the letters to pink there’s no cloud, your tut is full of useless fluffy language that doesn’t speak the same language as photoshop, “flick of the wrist” and “sprinkle of pink” keep your diction simple so all can understand and correspond certain words to terms used within photoshop. but please explain why i’m not getting the right result, try your explanation word for word and don’t go outside of those directions and you’ll see it won’t work

    First, thank you for the excellent tutorial. One thing I want to point out to everyone: make sure that your document is in RGB mode rather than CMYK. If it isn’t, the clouds aren’t going to lay over the black background properly and none of this is going to work.

    Is it possible to save the result on a transparent background?! i have a gradient background and would like to use it on there….!

    cheers mate, is that downlod at the bottem the psd file because no matter what i do it doesnt ork on my version of photoshop (7.0) i would just like the psd file used so i can just change my text! is that possible?

    i mean the file of ” cold ice ”

    Didn’t work. have spent over 4 hours trying to see if I missed a step. I have gone over and over and IT DOESN’T WORK.

    You lost me on steps 5 & 6, I dont get the same results. Having them placed only inside the text, I have tried several different approaches and none give me the results you show. Any ideas?

    I’ve seen many tutorials for pretty much the same effect and this one was terribly hard to follow. The whole cooking analogy was cute at the beginning but started to wear and get confusing in the middle, by the end it was downright obnoxious. I guess if you read it very carefully you could get through it, but there are much easier to follow tutorials out there.

    i didnt get this one bit :( cos of all the ‘simmering’ ‘leave to cool down’ ‘sprinkle’ etc. looks good as well, shame, gave up after first render clouds bit :(

    This is incredible confusing. So many steps are missed. Nothing is explained. I have been trying to create this effect for two hours now and I’m still stuck in the first steps because my “cloud” layer is doing NOTHING like what your photo shows.

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