Break away from 2D with these 9 ways to create 3D text in After Effects.

Every motion designer needs to have at least a basic understanding of how to create 3D text and objects. That being said, After Effects is not a great program to create 3D text. However, using a combination of built-in and third party tools, users can create decent 3D without needing to master complex programs like Maya or Cinema 4D.

There are many ways to create 3D text in After Effects, some good… some, well, not so good. In the following post, we’ll dissect 9 distinctly different ways to simulate 3D text in After Effects. If you can think of any other viable ways, please share in the comments below.

1. Ray Traced 3D

Create 3D Text in After Effects: Ray Traced 3D

Price: Free

As a feature built directly into After Effects, Ray Traced 3D is a great option for those who have an approved NIVIDA card. However, this technique can take quite the toll on  your computer, making it impractical for most 3D situations. Ray Traced 3D can be found in After Effects CS6 and above.

Pros

  • It’s included in After Effects
  • If you have an approved video card, it can work fairly quickly
  • Adjustable Bevel Styles

Cons

  • It can be incredibly slow if you don’t have an approved video card
  • Customization is very limited

This quick tutorial by Pixovert shows how to create Ray Traced 3D in After Effects.

2. Element 3D

Create 3D Text in After Effects: Element 3D

Price: $199

Element 3D is by far the best native 3D option in After Effects, with highly customizable options and a ton of great presets with which you can quickly create amazing titles with little effort. The plugin works surprisingly fast, in light of it’s functionality.

Pros

  • The best looking 3D Text in After Effects outside of rendering in a separate 3D program
  • Fantastic texturing options
  • Great Features: Reflections, texture maps, bump maps, ambient occlusion, etc.
  • Runs very fast considering its functionality

Cons

  • Price

This awesome tutorial by Film Riot shows how to use Element 3D to create awesome text.

3. Cinema 4D Lite/Cineware Integration

Create 3D Text in After Effects: Cineware

Price: Free

Users of After Effects can also integrate their Cinema 4D models into After Effects via Cineware. Cineware gives users the ability to render 3D objects in After Effects. Plus, 3D models brought into After Effects using Cineware have 3D properties, so lights and cameras will still affect them.

Pros

  • Many high-end customization options
  • It’s included in the Creative Cloud

Cons

  • You have to open a separate program
  • Cinema 4D functionality is limited

This tutorial by VinhSon of the Creative Dojo shows us how to use and composite the Cineware plugin.

4. Zaxwerks

Create 3D Text in After Effects: Zaxwerks

Price: $449

Similar to Element 3D, Zaxwerks gives users basic 3D text creation tools inside After Effects. While you can create amazing 3D text using this plugin, it’s hard to see why you would want this plugin above Element 3D.

Pros

  • Creates 3D Text directly in After Effects
  • Easily create 3D text
  • Create more than just text

Cons

  • Price
  • Not as intuitive as Element 3D

5. Boris Continuum 3D Objects

Create 3D Text in After Effects: Boris 3D

Price: $299

Boris is an amazing company that creates hundreds of tools that video editors will find helpful, but you may be surprised to hear that they have a 3D object creator that can help you create 3D text directly into After Effects. One of the highlights of using this plugin is its ability to work with vector EPS files.

Pros

  • Uses After Effects lights
  • Create type on Text
  • Works with EPS files

Cons

  • Price
  • Not as intuitive as Element 3D

6. Shapeshifter AE

Create 3D Text in After Effects: Mettle

Price: $249

Shapeshifter is a fantastic plugin that gives users the ability to create and edit 3D text directly in After Effects. This tool is not only easy to use, but it also features some other high-end features like depth maps.

Pros

  • Create 3D Objects without a popup box
  • Many customization options
  • Displacement maps
  • Depth map render functionality
  • Free demo

Cons

  • Price

7. Shatter Effect

Create 3D Text in After Effects: Shatter Effect

Price: Free

One way to get 3D in After Effects is to use the Shatter Effect and freeze the first frame. While this isn’t a great option, it can help if you are in need of a quick fix.

Pros

  • Included in all versions of After Effects

Cons

  • Very limited functionality
  • More like a hack than a feature
  • No customization outside of color

In this quick tutorial Mikey Borup shows us how to use both the Shatter Effect and ray traced 3D.

8. Titler Pro 3

Create 3D Text in After Effects: Titler Pro 3

Price: $299

Similar to Element 3D, users who use Titler Pro 3 can easily create 3D titles, and there are different versions of the program that can work in Premiere, After Effects, FCPX, and Media Composer. While functionality is somewhat limited, it’s a great option if you want to add 3D titles in a normal NLE, including After Effects.

Pros

  • Create 3D text in After Effects
  • Great quick edit features
  • 30+ built-in presets
  • Available for most major NLE’s

Cons

  • Price
  • Limited Functionality

9. Stacking Layers in 3D Space

Create 3D Text in After Effects: Rocketstock Text

Price: Free

One way to give the appearance of 3D is to simply stack layers in After Effects. By stacking layers back to back in 3D space, you can give the illusion of 3D depth as long as the camera stays near the front. There are also a few really great scripts that can create this 3D effect including the Dojo Text Extruder offered by the Creative Dojo.

Pros

  • Fast Render Times
  • Can be quickly created
  • Free scripts to help create this effect fast

Cons

  • Limited functionality
  • More layers = slower render times
  • Not 3D when viewed from the side

Want to learn more about creating 3D in After Effects? Check out a few of the following resources:

  1. How to insert 3D objects in After Effects – Adobe
  2. Extruding Shapes in After Effects – Adobe
  3. Working in 3D in After Effects – Creative Cow

Know of any other ways to create 3D text in After Effects? Share in the comments below.