Adobe Illustrator: How To Make 3D letters without using the 3D tool in Adobe Illustrator

This tutorial will show you how to create block 3D letters in Illustrator without using the 3D tool, our trainer could teach you this and a lot more useful things in our Illustrator courses.

Create The Canvas And Text

First thing you will need to do is to open a new document. You can have it any size you like.

Then you will have to do is set your text up. To have it nice and big I put it to 130pt size.

If you don’t know where to find these settings on the right hand side where you have your gradient and pathfinder icons you should see a letter A with al line next to this where you will find those settings.

Image of the character options in Illustrator

Write the word you would like, it would be easier to follow the tutorial if you use the word “Vector” because that’s what we use.

Initial Text

Next you need to add an 8pt stroke to your letter, it does not matter what colour it is as the colours will be changed later on!

Shows the text stroke option

Now you need to expand and ungroup the text. To do this you need to go to “Object”, “Expand” a dialog box will come up just click ok.

Then go back to “Objects” and go to “Ungroup”. Now this will turn the text into individual letters, but to turn the stroke in to a shape you need to repeat this process one more time.

Where to find the Object > Expand OptionWhere to find the Object > Ungroup option

Next select all the letters and go to the “Pathfinder” panel and chose the first tool “Unite” this will join everything together. Now you should copy and paste this over the other one and change the colour so you can easily see the two copies. Now because you used the Unite tool you might need to expand and ungroup them again so you should do this now.

How to Unite the letters together with Pathfinder

You should now have something that looks like the above this!

Shows the two images layed one above the other


Using The Pen Tool To Join Up The Letters

To make the text look 3D you will need to do the following. Use the pen tool and fill in the gaps in-between the two letters.

Let’s start with the letter V, what you need to do is to select the pen tool and join up the edges as shown below. This will give you the edges of your letters.

Shows the image before the pen tool is applied


Shows the image after the pen tool is applied

After all the letters are complete you should have something like this!

Shows the full text all fixed with the pen tool


Adjust The Colours

Now we want to adjust the bottom layers colours, so thats its a dark version of the red. You can do ths either with the pre created colors or the custom CMYK editor! I use the CMYK editor and adjust the darkness manually that way.

Two texts with the back text colored darker

Then you want to go back to the top layer and make that the original brighter red colour. Finally your image is done!

Shows both layers of text with the top made red - final image


For more on Illustrator, read our guide on how to turn a hand drawn image into a vector image!

About Ben Richardson

Ben is a director of Acuity Training which he has been running for over 10 years.

He is a Natural Sciences graduate from the University of Cambridge and a qualified accountant with the ICAEW.

He previously worked as a venture capitalist and banker and so had extensive experience with Excel from building financial models before moving to learn SQL, Microsoft Power BI and other technologies more recently.