I'm bit of a newbie in Adobe Illustrator and have been learning the application by trying to follow some tutorials and recreating some cool stuff I come across on the web.

That being said, I'm having trouble replicating the effect found in the following image using the standard 'Extrude & Bevel' options. I've also tried copying + pasting the text in front, back, in place and that came out even more horrendous. 'Extrude & Bevel' gives me a nice approximation but nothing that pops out like in the example.

Any tips on how to fine tune my 'Extrude & Bevel' settings or an entirely different method of achieving a similar effect would be very much appreciated. Thanks for your time and help!

How can I create a 3D effect on my text similar to the one in the following image, using Illustrator's Extrude and Bevel tools?

enter image description here

5 Answers 5


You can't really achieve that appearance in Illustrator using 3D effects. Illustrator's 3D Extrude is pretty rudimentary and will never allow a flat front face with an extrusion. In order for any extrusion to show, using Illustrator's 3D effect, you must rotate the object. That's not what you have in your image.

What you can do to achieve this appearance in Illustrator is to set the front object, then copy it and offset it for the base of the shadow. Then manually add tangent objects to give the appearance of the shadow. In the example below the white S0 is the front object, the black So is the base for the shadow then the red shapes are all manually drawn tangent shapes.

extruded appearance not effect

When the red shapes are filled with black it gives the appearance of a block shadow as in your example.

full block shadow

Trying to do this with the 3D effect will simply be a lesson in frustration.

Another option is to use offset fills and stack them to create the appearance of the block shadow:


You simply add a fill in the appearance panel, then use Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform to move the fill away from the original object.


I've moved the black fill behind the contents of the object in the Appearance Panel. Then used Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform to move the black fill 1pt left and 1pt down. I've then inserted a number of copies. The depth of the block shadow will depend upon the copies. Since each copy is moved 1pt left and down, if you want a 50pt shadow enter 50 copies.

I use the Appearance panel technique most often. However in some cases, it can be much, much, faster and easier to simply draw tangent shapes depending upon the base artwork.


I've created an Adobe® Illustrator® Plug-in called Oblique Projection 'opo' to automate the creation process of Parallel 3D Effect (Extrude Effect). It is quick and gives you full control over the appearance of the extrusion.

Everything is on one layer so you can easily separate it from the rest of the artwork. Plus it is divided into logical parts - this way every letter (or even every part of the letter) can be modified fully independently.

If someone would like to play with it, here it is:
http:// 63mutants.com/subc/products/opo_m01/opo_m01.php [Link is dead]

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • 1
    That link is dead.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 8:44

A similar solution can be arrived at using the 'blend' function, the benefit of this however, is the shadow part is also a vector object that can be changed all you want.

The process for this is simple:

  1. Create the object you wish to add the effect to.
  2. Right click on the object and go to 'transform' - 'move'
  3. Set the position of the shadow (preview is always a good option to select here) and, instead of clicking 'OK', click 'Copy'
  4. Right click on the copied object and send it backward
  5. Go to 'Object' - 'Blend' - 'Blend Options' and here select the type of blend as 'Specified Steps', enter a number in the input field (I usually use the same highest number as I used in the move function in step 3) and the alignment (which might require you to complete the steps and then undo as it is highly dependent on the object you are working with), and click 'Ok'
  6. With both objects still selected, click 'Object' - 'Blend' - 'Make', and you should be presented with your blended object.
  7. With the newly blended object selected, go to 'Object' - 'Blend' - 'Expand' and you should now be able select each of the individual steps specified in step 5.
  8. Create a copy of the top most (your original), select all of the objects from the blend and use the pathfinder tool to unite them into one object. Use the pen tool to neaten up any edges that need it (receding straight lines will take on a stepped appearance), and place the copy of the original back on top to complete it.

And there you have it.


Here's my take using the Bevel and Extrude tool (Effect > 3D > Bevel and Extrude)

Sorry for the French text but everything is in the same place so you should be able to figure it out. The best part to this method is that everything stays editable and there aren't too many extra steps.

  1. You want your letter to still look flat so put all the rotation settings to 0 and only slightly tweak the ones that will determine where the extrusion pops out. So here I added 2 degrees to mimic your example.
  2. You will want to use a lot of depth to your extrusion (the 1500 pt value I have below in the next section.
  3. Click the More options button to open the light options. You can use different shadings but I found this one worked well for a flat look. Use 100% intensity and 0% ambiant light.
  4. Pick a color for your shadow and voilà!

Bevel and Extrude

To add to this answer after the comments below:

To avoid as much distortion as possible, I've found while answering your question that it's possible to enter decimal values in the rotations. Although Illustrator rounds them up, they are still in effect visually. This is portrayed by the example below where my values for rotation are 0,25 / -0,25 / 0 but they all show up as 0.

Example of rounded values and distortion on curved and straight characters

  • This is good. My issue is that a 2° rotation, is still a rotation. While not overly visible on a curved character, 2° of rotation is exceptionally visible on a square character.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 15:24
  • Totally agree that it is a distortion albeit it doesn't show that much even at 2. With the kind of depth that was required comparing to the screenshot, 2 degrees is the least I could enter. An odd behavior that I found while doing this example is that I could enter 0,25 degree and it would round up as 0 degree in the dialog box but it was still using the 0,25. So if you don't want a huge drop shadow like OP was asking you could enter the tiniest fraction possible to avoid as much distortion as possible.
    – curious
    Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 15:49

Another way to easily do this: Copy front object. Place copy where you want the shadow extrusion to stop. Merge front and back objects. Delete tangent points in the corners to finish the extrusion. Clean as required.

  • Please can you add an screenshot to show what you mean?
    – Mensch
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 19:40

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