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How to Make 3D Text in After Effects


Adobe created After Effects to be able to satisfy almost any post-production motion graphics need in the filmmaking industry. Today I will explain how to make 3D text in After Effects without any help from plugins such as Element 3D from Video Copilot.

Many years back, I heard about a new feature: Cinema 4D render inside AE! This feature replaced the old Ray-traced 3D render. I wasn’t a big fan of Ray-traced 3D — it was rendering way too slow, and that made it unpopular. Cinema 4D came in and sped things up.

Depending on how complex you or your client want the animation to be, there are different ways to approach this topic.

Easy 3D Text in AE with the press of a button

1. Type in your text

It is as simple as it sounds. First, you have to type in your text with the text tool. You can write anything you want, but I will use “3D” for this article.

2. Go to the layer switches and activate the 3D Layer option on your text layer

Second, you have to go to the layer switches of your text layer and activate the 3D Layer option by clicking on the check box situated beneath the small cube. This will allow the layer to be manipulated in 3 dimensions.

make 3D text in After Effects

3. Animate the text using the options available

Now you can animate the text in a 3D manner with the help of the new 3D transform properties that appeared after you checked the 3D layer box.

The downfall of this method is that it feels more like a 2D animation than a 3D animation because the 3D text has no depth. But this method is perfect for simple 3D animations such as this one.

I created this animation by playing with the rotation option for all 3 axes: x,y, and z. If you want to know how to make a basic animation in After Effects or how to add a keyframe in After Effects.

Enable Per-Character 3D

This is more of an option inside the text animate tool than a way to make your text 3D. By activating it, you will be able to individually animate each character of the text in a 3-dimensional manner.

Activate by writing some text and open the properties

To activate it, you have to write some text and then open the text layer properties. Easy to the right, you will see “Animate”, next to it, you will see a dot with a triangle inside, click on it, and select Enable Per-Character 3D.

Enable Per-character 3D

Create Realistic 3D Text in After Effects with Cinema 4D Renderer

This method of creating realistic 3D text in AE is way more complex than the previous one, but with it, you will be able to create more complex 3D text animations. To learn it, follow these simple steps:

Step 1 – Set Cinema 4D Renderer Instead of Classic 3D Inside After Effects

To do so, you have to change the Renderer type inside After Effects.

  1. Go to your composition settings (Control+K on windows or CMD+K on Mac)
  2. Go to 3D Render tab
  3. Go to Renderer
  4. Select Cinema 4d and press “OK
Cinema 4d renderer in After Effets

Now, with the help of some lights, color correction, and a camera, these properties will help us create that realistic feel to our text.

Step 2 – Modify the 3D Text Layer Geometry Properties Inside After Effects

Before anything else, we have to check the 3D layer box for the text layer. If you open the text layer properties, you will notice 2 extra properties called Geometry Options and Material Options.

geometry option for 3d text in AE

Open up the Geometry Options — the most important option is called Extrude Depth. It will give the text the thickness or depth you want in a 3D text. Go ahead and set whatever value you wish, I will set it to 200. You can notice already that it started to look like 3D text, but we have to further fine-tune the properties inside AE to get that realistic look.

I will also change the Bevel Depth and Bevel Style values, but not right now. I recommend doing so after you set up a camera and some lights inside your composition. You will be able to better understand what these properties are doing in this way.

Step 3 – Create Camera and Lights Inside After Effects

To create a camera inside After Effects, right-click anywhere in your timeline (not on layers), go to New and select Camera

This new window will pop-up. I prefer to use a 35 mm preset, but you can use whatever preset you want.

Go ahead and name your camera and press OK. A new layer with your camera will appear inside your timeline. To navigate around with your camera press “C”, this will bring up the Camera Tool.

To use the Camera Tool, click over the text and drag the cursor in any direction you wish, you will notice that the perspective will change. Also, if you press “C” multiple times, the Camera Tool will change and you will be able to navigate in different styles.

Create a new light source

To create a new light inside After Effects, right-click anywhere in your timeline (not on layers), go to New, and select Light.

Light settings in After Effects

This new window will pop up. You can modify things if you want inside the settings. I will use 4 spotlights and 1 ambient light. You have to place the spotlights around the 3D text to better illuminate it and create nice shadows.

Lights placing in

Now we can modify the Bevel Style and Bevel Depth. You can go through the 3 styles of bevel and see exactly how they look, but I will use “Convex” with the Bevel Depth set to 10.

3d text in after effects

Styling and texturing the text

I created this video to show you how to exactly place the lights and how to activate the shadows. Shadows are OFF by default, you have to activate them. I will also show you how to play with the color of the lights to texture your 3D text.

In the end, I will add an Adjustment Layer and apply a color correction plug-in called Curves. This is my favorite color correction plug-in: it’s really simple to use and it works great. Don’t worry it is already installed in After Effects — you don’t have to buy it or install it from third parties.

You’ve mastered it!

Now you know how to make 3D text in After Effects, how to play with the lights and camera to texture the text, and make a basic animation with it. There is much more to talk about the 3D text in AE, but I will let you guys discover more after you master the basics.

Mihai Sessa

Mihai Sessa

After spending 9 years in the post-production studio, Mihai decided to share his insights on video editing and computers.

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