For Volume 8 of our Songs to Design By mixtape series, the theme was “Life’s a Beach.” In creating the artwork for the mixtape, my inspiration came from those classic “Greetings from…” vacation postcards with the large, 3D type naming off the holiday spot.

For the background image, I used this photo from Thailand by contributor Galyna Andrushko, taken from our “Life’s a Beach” lightbox. After that it was just a matter of creating the text. Here’s how you can create this kind of postcard-perfect type yourself, step by step.

Step 1: Setting Up the Text

Open any size document in Illustrator to establish your text. I started with an 11″ x 8.5″ canvas. Use the Type Tool (T) to add your copy. I wrote out “LIFE’S A BEACH” using the Cubano font.

Step 2: Creating a Bend on the Text

Select your text with the Selection Tool (V), and go to Effect > Warp > Rise. Change the Bend to 12%.

Step 3: Changing the Stroke and Fill

For this piece, I decided to change my stroke color to purple and the fill to white. Whatever stroke color you choose is the same color the 3D effect will become.

Step 4: Making the Text 3D

To make the 3D text, go to Effect > 3D > Extrude > Bevel. I adjusted the Extrude and Bevel options as shown below.

Step 5: Adding a White Stroke Inside

Go to Object > Expand Appearance to convert your 3D text into vector points and lines. With all of the 3D text selected, ungroup it by going to Object > Ungroup, then repeat once more so that you can click on the faces of the letters.

For my desired effect, I wanted to add an extra white outline right underneath the purple outline. You can do this by selecting all of the letter shapes and making the stroke white. However, sometimes the white stroke will fall in front or behind of the purple outline. To correct for this, select the purple outline and right click to bring it in front (or vice versa if you want the white outline in front).

Step 6: Adding a Black Shadow

Since I chose a curvier font, adding a black shadow requires a few more steps. (If you choose a more rigid, angular font, you will most likely just have to click on the flat planes.)

Click on the curved plane of any of the letters. The figures below show the progress on the letter A. Once the curved shape is selected, keep double clicking until you can select each shape separately. The shadow should meet halfway through the curve of the letter.

Step 7: Connecting the Purple Shadows

Make sure the Pathfinder Panel is visible; if it’s not, go to Window > Pathfinder. Use the Selection Tool (V) to select the purple shadows of each letter, and in the Pathfinder Panel, click on the “Add to Shape Area” button.

Change the Fill color to the same purple (or other color) that you’re using. Sometimes, when using the “Add to Shape Area” button, it will bring the purple shapes in front of the letter faces. If this happens, just use the Selection Tool (V) to select the letter faces and Right Click > Arrange > Bring to Front.

Step 8: Taking Text Into Photoshop

Create a new document in Photoshop. Since I was creating an album cover for an online post, I used the dimensions 2.38″ x 2.38″. Copy the text from Illustrator and paste it into the new Photoshop document. Adjust the size of the text to fit the document where you want it. Use the Wand Tool (W) To select a letter face.

Step 9: Inserting Other Images into the Letterforms

Now you can lay a pattern or other images over your letters. Once you have the letter face selected, drag the image you want to add into Photoshop in a separate window, and select the whole thing (Cmd + A).

Copy the image (Cmd + C), go back to the document with your text, and go to Edit > Paste Special > Paste Into. This will fill in your letter face with your image.

Repeat this for all of the other letters, either using the same image or different ones, if you prefer.

And that’s it! Have fun with your 3D type — use it for a postcard, poster, or anything else you like. Here’s the final album art I created using my 3D type. Enjoy, and if you haven’t already heard Songs to Design By, Vol. 8, check it out now!

Like this tutorial? Check out these great Illustrator how-to videos at Skillfeed.