Learn how to use Illustrator to create 3D technical-style illustrated lettering for artwork and infographics.


For some reason, many graphic designers shy away from using 3D, perhaps thinking that it is more relevant to architects, animators and product designers.

In fact, Illustrator features some basic 3D effects, which, as Jing Zhang shows in this tutorial, can be combined to create surprisingly detailed, technical-looking images.

The 3D effect is particularly useful when it comes to typography. As Jing Zhang shows, you can play with the basic forms of the letters to produce really creative and intricate typographic solutions.

For this tutorial, you’ll need to work on many layers of the same document, turning layer visibility on and off as each stage demands.


Step 1
Create a new A4 file in Illustrator, in Portrait orientation, and use Arial to type in a capital ‘F’, in black. Create an outline and set the Stroke colour to grey. To prevent the Brush tool from creating odd shapes later, use the Direct Selection tool (A) and Convert Anchor Point tool (Shift + C) from the Pen tool set to adjust the sharp corners into round ones. Delete the line on the left. Set the stroke to 15 pixels.


Step 2
Now you can convert the 2D outline into 3D. Click on the shape and then go to Effect > 3D > Extrude and Bevel Options. Tick the Preview box. Set the Position option to Isometric Left – remember to use the same angle of the position (or relevant) for the whole image.

Set the Extrude Depth to 2pt, but leave the rest at their default settings. You now have the basic shape of the building. Next, double-click on the path – and name it ‘F_outline’.