3D Text in After Effects looks amazing and really elevates your work, but some artists find it complicated to create.
One easy way to help your After Effects work stand out is to add some flashy 3D text. The challenge comes from unfamiliar 3D renderers, complicated tools, and expensive programs. That's why SOM TA Sara Wade is here to show you a better way.
After Effects is a robust program, capable of more than you're probably aware. That's why we want to show you three easy ways you can create 3D text, without any fancy gadgets or gizmos (okay, one fancy expression). Today we'll cover:
- Stacking 3D Layers in Space
- Using the Built-In Extrude Function
- Building with Cinema 4D Lite
Dive into real-time 3D with our Unreal Engine beginner's course by Jonathan Winbush. Master importing assets, world-building, animation, and cinematic sequences to create stunning 3D renders in no time! Perfect for motion designers ready to level up.Explore this Course ➔
Unlock the secrets of character design in this dynamic course! Explore shape language, anatomy rules, and motifs to craft animation-ready characters. Gain drawing tips, hacks, and Procreate mastery (or any drawing app). Ideal for artists seeking to elevate their craft.Explore this Course ➔
Elevate your freelance motion design career with our guide to client success. Master a repeatable method for finding, contacting, and landing clients. Learn to identify prospects, nurture leads, and develop a thriving freelance philosophy amidst chaos.Explore this Course ➔
Rev up your editing skills with After Effects! Learn to use it for everyday needs and craft dynamic templates (Mogrts) for smarter teamwork. You'll master creating animated graphics, removing unwanted elements, tracking graphics, and making customizable templates.Explore this Course ➔
Stand out with Demo Reel Dash! Learn to spotlight your best work and market your unique brand of magic. By the end, you'll have a brand new demo reel and a custom campaign to showcase yourself to an audience aligned with your career goals.Explore this Course ➔
Illuminate your 3D skills with Lights, Camera, Render! Dive deep into advanced Cinema 4D techniques with David Ariew. Master core cinematography skills, gain valuable assets, and learn tools and best practices to create stunning work that wows clients.Explore this Course ➔
Master After Effects at your own pace with Jake Bartlett's beginner course. Perfect for video editors, you'll learn to create stylish animated graphics, remove unwanted elements, and track graphics into shots. By the end, you'll be equipped for everyday AE needs and more.Explore this Course ➔
Revolutionize your Premiere workflow with customizable AE templates! Master creating dynamic Motion Graphics Templates (Mogrts) in After Effects to speed up your team's work. By the end, you'll craft easily-customizable templates for seamless use in Premiere Pro.Explore this Course ➔
Stacking 3D Layers
The first thing to do is create a simple text layer. I'm writing out 3D.
Select the text layer and set it as 3D by toggling this switch.
It doesn't look like much yet, but if I hit R, it opens up rotations. If I rotate on the Y-axis, you can see it is a 3D layer. Still not much to look at; it's too thin.
By adding in duplicate layers along the Z-axis, we can beef up this text so that it appears 3D. To do this, we're going to use a tiny little expression (don't panic!)
Alt-Click or Command + Left Click the stopwatch to open up the Expressions Menu, then type this command: [value,value,index*10];
The first value refers to the first position (the X-axis), the second is for the Y, the third will index off the Z as many times as I command...in this case, I chose ten. Now, when I duplicate this layer, this same formula will be translated across Z space.
Next, we create a new Null layer and place it at the bottom.
We select all the text layers and pickwhip them to the Null. Now that everything is parented to the Null, we make sure the Null layer is also set as 3D and...
It looks 3D, right? And if we adjust the colors of the lower layers...
If you want a thicker 3D object, all you have to do is add more layers. The downside of this method is that, from the side, you will see the space between each layer and break the illusion.
Using the Extrude Function
The next method is to Extrude the layer. In After Effects, an Extruded object is one that appears to be 3D. Now, there isn't just an option that let's us extrude the layer. So how are we going to do it?
Once we make this layer 3D, you'll see the Renderer button pop up in the top right.
This lets us select between Classic 3D and Cinema 4D. I'm going to select Cinema 4D, as that allows me to extrude. Some options are disabled, such as blending and motion blur.
Now, when I go into the text layer, you can see all these new options since we're in Cinema 4D rendering.
If I add value under Extrude and rotate on the Y-Axis you can see my type is now showing up as a real 3D object.
I can even add Beveling if I want. So you can see just how quickly I was able to make 3D text. I can even play with a variety of materials to find the best look for my text.
You should never be afraid of a little extruding.
With this method, you can also rotate completely and it still looks 3D, unlike our stacked layer option. One drawback is the sides of the text are hard to see. To fix that, simply go to the arrow next to Animate and select Side > Color > Hue. What's great is that all of this is built right in to After Effects.
Building in Cinema 4D Lite
Our final method for creating 3D text is to use Cinema 4D Lite, which is included in After Effects. If you're not familiar with C4D, that's okay. This is quick and easy, and it will expose you the power of that software while staying in your AE comfort zone.
Go to Layer > New > MAXON CINEMA 4D File...
Once you open the new C4D file, it will open an new window for you. Don't worry if this looks a little foreign. I'm here to walk you through.
I'm going to go to the Pen tool and select Text, which will create a 3D text layer for me to use.
Then I can quickly type in the layer to change the text to "3D" (it's been working for us so far, so why break the mold?)
If I click and drag around, I can see that my object exists in 3D space, but it needs a little meat on them bones.
How I do that is by clicking on the extrude icon and add an extrude object, then drag the text object under Extrude. I can also select the text and hold the Alt or Option key as I select extrude. This is how the object should be parented.
Now I can change the extrude offset values in my object tab to make it look how I'd like.
Finally, I'll save my project and head back to After Effects, and my 3D text will be waiting for me!
Those grid lines you see won't be rendered and are just there to help you out. If you want to get rid of them, just go to the Render Setting in the Effects Controls panel and select Current.
Now I want to add color to my object. We go back to Cinema 4D and under the create tab select new default material (CTRL-N).
I'm going to use the same purple-blue that I've been working with all day. You can change the color of a material in the attributes panel.
I just drag it onto the extrude object and...voilà!
And because this is an actual 3D object, the sides are properly shaded. I save my project (the long way, or just CTRL-S) and back in After Effects I'll see my colored text waiting.
Now you can make 3D text in After Effects
See? Not too complicated. After Effects is a robust program, and once you master the basics, the possibilities really open up. Just remember that you can stack layers, extrude using the C4D renderer, and jump right into Cinema 4D Lite, and you'll be cranking out some 3D magic in no time.
If you're looking to step up your AE game, or get a better handle on the foundation, be sure to check out Animation Bootcamp and After Effects Kickstart! We packed each course to the brim with the lessons you need to get to the next level.
Learn the basics of the world's most popular motion design software, and get the skills you need to stand out from the crowd!