Christopher Vinca is a freelance designer, typographer and photographer. Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, he studied Graphic Design at the Art Center College of Design in LA. 

Currently, there are two main ways to create 3D typographic illustrations with extruded letters, textures and lighting. You can use Photoshop CS6 Extended – or soon, Photoshop CC – to easily create a relatively accurate rendering that’s great if you want a non-photorealistic look for graphics, logos and the like. If, however, you want a realistic render with accurate lighting, it’s time to move over to a 3D suite such as Cinema 4D. This is the easiest to learn and use if you’re used to Adobe’s toolset.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

Here, Hawaiian illustrator Christopher Vinca takes you through two different renderings of the same type, created in Illustrator using Photoshop and Cinema 4D. He details the differences between the processes and the results that can be achieved. 

In the first half of the tutorial, you will use the basic 3D tools in Photoshop Extended to create 3D type. You will then use photographs to texture the surface to add depth and details in a way that’s much faster than applying them to the 3D shapes before rendering. 

In the second part, Christopher will teach you how to get photorealistic renders in Cinema 4D. You’ll learn how to use the free CV-ArtSmart plugin, set up lights and make a studio for your text. You’ll also create materials to make a convincing 3D object.

If you’re new to Cinema 4D but an old hand at Photoshop, this is an excellent first tutorial for the 3D suite, as you’ll be following a process in an application you know well, rather than in the one you want to learn. 

Time to complete 

8 hours


Photoshop CS6 Extended, Cinema 4D R13 (or later)

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