Learn to Create 3D Lettering on ProcreateJul 28, 2022
What’s better than regular lettering? 3D lettering, of course! Like most things, taking lettering to a 3D space is an instant trick to elevating its interest factor. While it might seem intimidating to create, 3D lettering on Procreate is, in fact, quite straightforward if you understand the basic principles. In this tutorial, you’ll learn to create an eye-catching 3D lettering piece from scratch on the drawing app Procreate, right from a rough sketch to a refined 2D version, which we will then convert to 3D and finish off with some shading and embellishment.
I’m Vinitha Mammen from The Pigeon Letters Design Team. I’m a freelance lettering artist and illustrator, and a Skillshare top teacher. I can’t wait to help you break free from the fear of creating 3D lettering through this tutorial!
- Procreate app
- iPad that supports Procreate
- Stylus (eg: Apple pencil)
- Monopigeon Brush and TPL Watercolor Transparent Round Brush from the TPL Procreate Brush Lettering Bundle
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Step 1: Create a New Canvas and Setup Guides
On the procreate app, create a new canvas of your preferred size. I’m using a 10” square canvas.
Setup a 2D grid Drawing Guide on your canvas and adjust the grid size to your liking. Draw additional angled guides (I am using the 6B pencil brush from the Sketching section to do this) for the baseline, x-height and cap-height.
Reduce the opacity of your guide layer to ~50%.
Step 2: Draw a Skeleton Sketch
In a new layer over the guide layer, using the same 6B sketching brush, create a basic skeleton sketch of your word by essentially just writing it in a cursive style. I’ve picked the word ‘Create’ for this tutorial, but you’re welcome to choose any word of your liking.
Be sure to use the lines you set up in Step 1 to guide you as you go. Try and keep the vertical strokes approximately parallel to the vertical lines on your grid. Pay attention to the width of your letters and the spacing between them, and try to keep them consistent throughout the word. Feel free to go over your marks and use the eraser as much as you need to- no judgment at all.
Step 3: Thicken the Downstrokes
I’m using faux calligraphy techniques to flesh out my lettering. Accordingly, identify the downstrokes in your skeleton sketch and thicken them. In the sections where downstrokes meet upstrokes, create smooth curves to merge the thick lines into the thin lines gradually.
Fill in the thickened areas of the lettering so you end up with one solid sketch of your lettering. Check for spacing or width inconsistencies and fix them, if any.
Reduce the opacity of the sketch layer to ~50%.
Need some help with structuring your lettering composition? Grab Pigeon Grids to make your life oh-so-much-easier.
Step 4: Trace Over the Sketch to create 2D Lettering
Open a new layer above the sketch layer. Select the Monopigeon brush from the TPL Procreate brush Lettering Bundle and pick a color that’s different from the one used for sketching.
Adjust the brush size to the thickness you want your upstrokes (thin strokes) to be. With this brush, trace over your sketch.
Feel free to break down your strokes into smaller curves or lines. Create all the outlines first before filling the shapes in and smoothening any small inconsistencies.
This is your 2D lettering, which serves as the front face of the 3D lettering piece you’re about to create.
Step 5: Convert 2D Lettering to 3D
In order to convert your 2D lettering to 3D, we need to first duplicate the front face you created in Step 4. This new copy will now be your back face, so make sure to place it below the front face layer in the Layers panel.
Change the color of the back face to any color that is different from that of the front face. To do this, with the new color picked, turn on Alpha Lock on the back face layer, and tap Fill Layer.
Use the Transformation tool to move the back face to a new position that is offset to the front face. There are no rules as to where the back face should be- so play around with it and decide on a spot that you’re feeling the most.
Once you’ve found a new offset position for the back face, making sure Alpha Lock is turned off on your back face layer, draw straight lines connecting the front face to its corresponding points on the back face. Fill up any spaces formed while making these connections, to form your side faces.
And voila! You’ve created your own 3D lettering piece! Now for some finishing touches.
Step 6: Apply the Final Colors
So far, you’ve just picked random colors as you worked through creating your piece. Now is a good time to think about what colors you want in your final piece. Of course, thanks to how flexible working in layers on Procreate is, you can always come back and change your colors at any point- so no need to feel any pressure at all. Just have fun and let your personality shine through.!
This could totally be your finished piece. But if you want to do some additional steps to make your lettering pop, keep following along with me.
Step 7: Add Shading to Downward-Facing 3D Surfaces
Shading can add even more dimension to your 3D lettering. So, let’s add some simple shading effects to our 3D surfaces.
The TPL Watercolor Transparent Round Brush is perfect to do this shading and for any gradient applications. So, find it in your TPL brush pack and pick it.
Next, decide where you want your imaginary light source to be located. I’m going to assume it’s right at the top of the canvas- so, everything towards the bottom (facing away from the imaginary light source) will be in the shadow area and therefore, darker.
Open a new layer directly above the back face layer and turn on Clipping Mask on this layer. Using a color that’s darker than the back face, paint over all the downward-facing surfaces, starting from the darkest parts and blending into the lightest parts. For more intense shading effects, go over the same area twice.
Step 8: Add Embellishments
As a final step, add fun sparkles, dots or any other embellishing elements you’d like to, in separate layers. You can also use these to fill up any unwanted empty spaces that might be messing with the balance of your lettering piece.
And ta da! Your absolutely stunning 3D lettering piece is done, and how! Now, was that so complicated to create? Piece of cake, I say!
I cannot wait to see what you created as you followed along with me on this tutorial. So please do share your own versions with me. If you post them on social media, definitely tag Peggy @thepigeonletters and me @artthrobbymammen.
If you’re interested in learning more Procreate or lettering tips and techniques from me, be sure to check out my Skillshare classes and follow me on Instagram @artthrobbymammen.
Until next time, Bubye and Happy Creating!
See all of Vinitha’s tutorials here!
Vinitha is a mechanical engineer turned fashion designer who's now a full-time freelance lettering artist, illustrator and Skillshare Top Teacher. She is most passionate about creating work around feminism, women empowerment, body-positivity and self love. She loves playing with bold colors and minimal styles and her best work comes from creating for the sake of creating.