Create an Amazing 3D Retro Text Effect in Photoshop CC

Learn about the real power of Smart Objects, how to use layer styles to create custom 3D extrusions, clipping masks to mesh textures into place, and much more! In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a custom 3D text effect in Photoshop and have nearly 100 layers linked to a Smart Object so when you want to tweak the text you simply update one layer and the entire document will update and rebuild itself to match the new type.

Create the Background

01-3d-retro-text To create the background over which we’ll be working I created a Solid Color Fill Layer and filled it with #2f3644 and then added a new layer above it and filled that layer with 50% gray (Edit>Fill>50% gray from drop down menu) and then set my foreground and background colors to default (D) and went Filters>Noise>Add Noise and added about 35% monochromatic noise and then set that layer to Overlay and reduced the Opacity to about 30% or so. I also created another new layer and filled it with white and made sure my foreground/background color were the still default black and white and went Filter>Filter Gallery and found the Halftone Pattern filter and chose “Lines” from the drop-down menu and set the size of the lines to 4 or larger and pumped the contrast up. Set that layer to the blend mode Multiply and Opacity to 10%.

Placing the Text (and Finding the Right Font)

02-3d-retro-text I choose the fonts Bukhari and League Spartan and added words to my PSD. The word “Swingin’” is the Bukhari font and I set it to the size of 300pt and the word “FIFTIES” I made all caps and set to the font League Spartan and the size of 400pt. Use the Move tool (V) and drag your text around to perfectly position it as needed. You can download Bukhari here and download League Spartan here.

The Essential Smart Object

03-3d-retro-text Once you have two Text layers, select them both by holding down Shift and clicking both layers. Right-click on them and choose “Convert to Smart Object” to bundle them both together into one Smart Object. NOTE: This step is super important if you want to be able to edit the text you create or change words later on! Name this Smart Object layer “original-text” and duplicate the layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + J. We’ll use this duplicated layer to start building the 3D effect.

Bevel & Emboss + Duplicating to Get the Extrusion

04-3d-retro-text Hide the “original-text” layer and select the duplicated layer and go Layer>Layer Style>Bevel and Emboss and set it to the technique: Smooth, a depth of 115%, size of 6px, soften of 0px, angle should be 90 degrees, altitude 30 degrees, highlight should be Normal, #ffffff, 100% opacity, shadow should be Normal, #907268, 100% opacity. Also, add a Color Overlay set to Normal, #ffddd2,100% opacity. We then duplicate this layer 25-30x and each time we duplicate the layer, shift it down one pixel and to the right one pixel. If you want to see exactly how I do this, make sure you check out the video at the top of this tutorial article!

Changing the Text (When the Effect is Finished)

05-3d-retro-text Of course, you’ll want to watch the full video above to make sure you get acquainted with all the details and techniques that I’m using and see how I built the shadow and the indented 3D effect for the face of the text. For we need to change the text at this point, all we need to do is change the text in any one of the Smart Objects by double clicking the layer thumbnail and changing the text to whatever you want. Save that Smart Object and the entire PSD will automatically update and you will have perfect 3D text in a snap.