Today we are going to use the extrude and bevel options under the 3D menu in effects. You can use a simple default setting, or we will show you how to play with the settings to get a unique and more dimensional look that might fit your application better.
Start by creating a new document of any size in Illustrator. I chose web and 1024 x 768. Select your type tool and choose your word or phrase, making the color a mid-tone gray. I tend to use gray, because it is easier to use a color overlay when sending it to Photoshop for more effects. I do this by default for my particular workflow, but you can do what works for you.
With your text selected, go to Effects> 3D> Extrude and Bevel, and the menu options will come up. I always click preview, so that I can preview the results. With the default results, you get a very boring, 3/4 turn perspective, that probably wouldn’t fit your purposes. One key element that we are going to use is the perspective setting. This really adds an interesting angle to your text. With the perspective set to 130°, we get very different options than simply using the plain default settings. Play with these settings to get different results. Depending on the position of your object (The top 2 settings), your object will look very different. To get to the other settings, click more options in the top right corner.
Next we will change the type of bevel and the lighting settings. For my purposes, I am using rounded. The different bevels will give you different looks, but I just wanted a smooth rounded edge. I chose rounded and set the height to around 4 or 4. The higher the setting, the more of the edge that is cut into, or beveled. I also chose bevel extent out.
For the lighting, you will have to do this to taste. The spherical object shows you where the light will be coming from, and you can click and drag the dot to different angles depending what lighting angle you need. You can also create a new lighting point as well, which you can edit the lighting settings separately for each lighting source. The first option will even shine light from behind your selected object. For the settings, I always tend to turn up the blend steps to around 50, so that you won’t get as much banding, or visible transitions between colors. For shading, you can get some great color effects by choosing your own custom shading color, or you can leave it to black if you are going to export it to Photoshop anyway.
Another setting that will give you an interesting result is the drop down menu for plastic shading. If you choose wireframe, you get something that looks like a blueprint, or CAD drawing.
After exporting to photoshop, you can apply vibrant color overlays and effects to your 3D text. All you have to do is select your 3D text, hit command and the letter C, and switch to Photoshop, where you can paste as a smart objects. From there, double click the layer to bring up the blending options, select color overlay, choose your color and set the blend mode to overlay.