ealistic-looking 3D effects is something that has always eluded those of us who are illiterate in 3D modelling software. Sure, Photoshop comes with 3D editing tools—but if you’re rocking a slow-as-shit iMac like me, you’ll  probably be familiar with the 15 minute wait for each simple action to render.

htc-3d-beforeWhat I’ll be sharing with you today is how I create faux 3D text in Photoshop with just smart objects and layer properties. This effect is fully editable and since it’s made with smart objects, subsequent changes to the text can be easily made just by accessing a single smart object layer. You can reposition it, change the perspective, or even paste logos and shapes into it—whatever is in the smart object will take the form of the 3D effects you have created.

But before I begin, the thumbnail on the left gives a quick look at how I used to create faux 3D text in Photoshop. It’s made with 2 text layers spaced apart, and connected by joining the edges of the 2 layers together with the polygonal lasso tool and filling it with colour. Sure, it’s a quick and easy 10-minute job—but it requires you to rasterise one or both text layers. In other words, it’s a pain in the ass to recreate everything from scratch should you need to change the text later on.

I will be recreating the “MOD SQUAD” 3D text in my featured poster for this tutorial. First, you’ll need to open a new document with an image size of 2000px by 2000px. Then, create a new text layer by clicking “T” on the tool bar and typing the words you need in 3D. A thick blocky typeface works best—I’m using Futura Black in my example.


The background colour doesn’t really matter, but since my example is for white 3D text, a darker background would work best. With the text layer selected, go to “Layers > Smart Object > Create“. You’ll see a small “document” icon appear in the corner of the layer thumbnail—this indicates that the layer is a smart object. To edit a smart object, double-click on the thumbnail and a new window with the object (ending with .psb) will open. Any edits made to the .psb window will be reflected in the main document once you save and close it.



In this new window, you’ll notice that the document size is tightly cropped to the edges of the text layer. Click CMD+Option+C to change the canvas size to 2000px by 2000px. Click CMD+S to save the smart object and close the document (CMD+W).

Once you have the smart layer centred in your document, click CMD+J 14 times to duplicate the smart object. You should have 15 layers in total now. Rename them in descending order from 100%, with a 0.5% reduction for each layer (100%, 99.5%, 99%, 98.5%, etc.). The labelling of layers is not important, but it will help you understand what’s going on in the following steps.


As you have probably guessed by now, the next step is to scale each layer to the corresponding percentage. Click CMD+T to bring up the Transform options and reduce the width and height values by 0.5%. Repeat for all layers below.


Once you’re done with that, pat yourself on the back because the tedious part is over. I know, this looks nothing like the text in the poster—patience, my young padawan.

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Double-click on the “100%” layer to bring up the layer style dialogue box to add an inner shadow and gradient overlay to the top-most layer. You may copy the exact same values above (click for larger image), or slide the toggles around to experiment. The light greys used in the gradient are: #C8C8C8 and #E9E4E6. If you’re fiddling around with your own settings, just remember that inner shadow softens the “light” on the edges while the gradient overlay provides the shading. Any changes made to this layer is the “face” of your 3D text.

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Next, double-click on the “99.5%” layer and add inner shadow, bevel and emboss, and gradient overlay. Once you’re done, right-click and “Copy Layer Style“. Right-click and “Paste Layer Style” to every single smart object layer under this (click+shift to select multiple layers). This adds the shading and 3D edges that create the illusion of depth.

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The beauty of this technique is that you’ll just have to double-click on any one of the smart object layers to make an edit and it will be reflected on all the layers. By repositioning the text within the smart object (examples shown above), you can also create different perspectives.


The final step is to give your 3D text some depth against the background, duplicate the bottom-most smart object layer (93%) and bring up the layer style dialogue box to add a drop shadow (opacity: 50%, angle: 90° distance: 75px, spread: 15%, size: 75px)—or if you’re lazy like me, you can CMD+click the layer thumbnail to get a selection of the text then fill it with the paint bucket tool and apply gaussian blur.

As tedious as it sounds, you’ll only have to create the scaled down smart objects once and then you’ll be able to keep reusing the same file for other projects that require a 3D perspective (or record it as an action so you’ll only have to click a single button to scale all the layers down).

Thanks for reading! If you found this tutorial useful, you can show your appreciation by following me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. That’s where you’ll find my latest Photoshop work that uses the techniques I shared here.

Written by oneksy