Sure, there are many ways to create 3D text, but building the characters by hand is one of the coolest. Not that it’s simple: for this technique, you’ll need some rendering skills, a fair amount of patience, and Cinema 4D software. But trust us, the results will be worth it.
This tutorial by designer Omar Aqil will take you through all the steps of creating 3D rendered type, building a “Planet Earth” that looks as if it was indeed sculpted from the Earth itself. Follow along, and be sure to save your results. You’ll be needing them for Omar’s next tutorial too.
Open a new document in Cinema 4D. We’ll start by creating the letter “P” first.
Make a cube (Objects > Primitives > Cube) and stretch it vertically, increasing the value of Y (Attributes > Coordinates> Y: 3).
Add segments (Attributes > Object > Segments) and values such as X: 4, Y: 12, and Z: 4. Select the cube in the Objects Panel and hit C (convert into polygon object). Select the polygon object (cube), hold down the Alt key, and click on “HyperNURBS.”
Select the polygon object again, and select the polygons tool from the left side of the tool bar. Choose the Live Selection tool, then check “Only Select Visible Elements” from the “Attributes” menu.
From the live selection tool, you can select the sub-polygons; select 12 sub-polygons from the upper right. Right-click on selected polygons, then hit “Extrude.”
Extrude three times, then rotate downward, then extrude and rotate again to achieve the shape of the “P.” Select random sub-Polygons and scale them up and down in order to create a rock-like texture on the letter.
Repeat the process to create the letter “L.” Extrude four times to achieve the shape of the letter.
After scaling random polygons up and down to achieve the rocky texture, select the sub-polygons from the bottom of the “P” and the top of the “L” and scale them up.
Make another cube for the “A.” This time, stretch it horizontally, increasing the value of X (Attributes > Coordinates> X: 1.8).
Add segments with the values X: 10, Y: 2, and Z: 3.
Convert the cube into a polygon object, select it, and click on “HyperNURBS” while holding down the Alt key.
Select the polygon object again, choose the polygon tool from left side of the tool bar, then click the Live Selection tool and check “only select visible elements” under “Attributes.”
Select the sub-polygons from the bottom right and rotate them toward the outer side. Repeat for the left side.
Select the sub-polygons from the bottoms of both the left and right sides, right-click on the selected polygons, and hit “Extrude.”
Extrude four times to achieve the shape of the “A” legs. Select three sub-polygons from the middle of the right leg, right-click on the selected polygons, and Extrude with the help of rotation to attain the actual shape of the letter. Repeat the earlier process to create the rock-like texture.
Repeat Steps 1 and 2 (up to “Extrude”) to start creating the “N.”
Once you click “Extrude,” rotate the selected sub-polygons 45 degrees downward, then extrude five more times.
Now two legs of the “N” are complete; make another cube and stretch it vertically to make the third one. Add segments with the value X: 4, Y: 12, and Z: 3.
Convert the new cube into a polygon object, press Alt, and click on “HyperNURBS.” Create the rock texture, then select both HyperNURBS sections and scale them up a little bit.
Fore the “E,” use the values X: 4, Y: 13, and Z: 4.
When selecting sub-polygons, select 12 from the bottom right, 12 from the middle, and 12 from the top. Right-click on selected polygons and hit “Extrude.”
Extrude the polygons of the upper and lower legs four times, and extrude the middle leg three times to achieve the exact shape of the letter. Add the rock texture as in previous steps.
Repeat step 1 for the “T.”
When selecting sub-polygons to extrude, choose 12 from the upper right and 12 from the upper left. Extrude 3 times to achieve the shape of the “T.”
Now the word “PLANET” has been completed! The Next step is to make the other word, “EARTH.” For this exercise, we’ll want the second word to be bigger than the first.
We already have the letters “E” and “A,” so you can copy and paste those two. Simply select the layer (HyperNURBS) of each letter from the Object Panel and Copy and Paste it.
Move the copied letters down and increase their scale compared to the letters in “PLANET.”
To create the “R,” copy the “P,” then extrude the polygons from the bottom edge to add the extra leg. The “T” can also be copied from “PLANET.”
Select random sub-polygons to scale up and down and match the rock texture from the previous word.
To make the “H,” copy the steps from creating the “E” (Step 7).
When selecting sub-polygons, choose 12 from the middle right. Extrude three times, then select 12 more from the upper and lower areas, extruding them until the proper shape is achieved.
Add the rock texture to complete the final letter.
Select the layers of all the completed letters from the Object Panel, then copy and paste. Move this new set of letters behind the original set, so that the words become thick.
To add the base, make a new cube, stretched vertically and squeezed horizontally. Add segments with the values X: 12, Y: 3, and Z: 8.
Repeat the first part of Step 2, selecting random sub-polygons and moving them up and down to achieve the rocky curves of rock. Then select five rows of sub-polygons from the top of the shape, right-click on them, and Extrude just a bit.
Add some additional letters behind the “Planet Earth” text to cover any hollow areas.
To add some stylized form, make another cube, stretched vertically and squeezed horizontally.
Rotate the shape and add segments with values X: 6, Y: 2, and Z: 3.
Repeat the steps above to get to the Live Selection tool. Select your sub-polygons from the right side, rotate them, and move them as in the image above.
When you’ve finished the flow of the shape, you can select more random polygons, right-click on them, and Extrude a bit.
With the shape achieved, Copy and Paste the current layer. Rotate the new layer 180 degrees and move it to the left, behind the “E.”
For a more realistic look, we’ll convert everything to “stone.”
Make a cube, stretched horizontally. Convert it to a polygon object, select it, and click “HyperNURBS” while holding the Alt key.
Select the polygon object again, then select the Edges tool from the left side of the tool bar.
select the polygon from the right side, right-click and hit “Knife.” Cut from the front, so you can achieve the shape of stone. Copy and Paste the “stone” layer, placing the new layers as in the image above.
Now we’ll add some light. Choose Add Camera (Objects > Scene > Camera) and set by clicking.
Add a background as well (Objects > Scene > Background).
For the Light here, I’m using Greyscalegorilla‘s Linear Daylight, but you can use the C4D default lights from Objects > Scene > Light. Set the values according to the image above.
Finally, we’ll add our materials. For the white rock, I used Greyscalegorilla’s “Rocky” material, but you can choose what you like. Go to Attributes, make Material Projection “Frontal,” add material to the “Planet Earth” Group and Render.
The second material I used is sandstone. Just go to Content Browser > Presets > Visualize > Stone > Stone-sandstone to find it. Add this material to the “Planet Earth” Group and Render again.
And there you have it: your 3d-rendered text is done! But wait, there’s more: Stay tuned for another tutorial soon, where we’ll be using Photoshop to integrate this living text into a full 3D reimagining of the entire globe. (You didn’t think we just chose “Planet Earth” at random, did you?)
Omar Aqil has been working as a freelance graphic designer, typographer, calligrapher, and illustrator since earning his Master’s degree in Communication Design from PUCAD (Punjab University College of Art & design) in Lahore, Pakistan in 2008. Typography is his favorite medium to play with, and drawing has been a major part of his daily routine for many years, but he has never bound himself to a particular medium or technique. View his portfolio online at www.behance.net/omaraqil.