GIMP Tutorial: 3D Text Effect

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Unlike Photoshop, GIMP does not have a built-in 3D tool… booo! No worries. In this GIMP text effect tutorial, I’ll show you how to create 3D text and shade it.

You’ll learn how to create 3D text with GIMPs Long Shadow tool, how to dodge & burn for highlights + shadows, how to use the Path tool to precisely control your edits, and more.

If you’re ready to master this text effect… let’s do it!

Table of Contents

Note: the video tutorial was created with beginners in mind. 

The following step-by-step instructions are for more experienced users.

Step 1: Create a New Document

new document

Start off by creating a new document (File > New) with the following dimensions; 1920 for the width and 1080 for the height and #333333 for the foreground color.

Also, this is key, set the resolution to 300 ppi (in the Advanced section). Otherwise, your text will look pixelated. Check out the pro tip for more info.

Pro Tip:

Regardless if I’m working on a design project for online use or for print, I’ll always set the resolution to 300ppi. Why?

GIMP, unlike Photoshop, is 100% pixel-based. In Photoshop, the text is vector based and is not prone to pixelization.

Since we don’t have that luxury in GIMP, you can get around this by setting the resolution higher to minimize pixelization (softness).

When the project is done, I’ll then export an updated canvas with a resolution of 72ppi for online use.

Step 2: Add Text and Align

add your text

This is the easy part! Grab your Text tool (T) and type out in all caps; PIXELS. Or anything you want.

I’m using a free font called Aero for the font type, the font size is 400, and for the color, I’m using #f7e098. Next, let’s align the text to the middle of the canvas.

Grab your alignment tool (Q) and click on the inside of the layer boundary (yellow dashed outline). It’s not enough to have the text layer selected. We need to activate the layer with the Align tool, so GIMP knows which layer to align.

You’ll know the layer is activated when you see 4 light-colored squares (one in each corner of the boundary). Next, locate and click the following two icons labeled…

Step 3: Create a 3D Shadow

create a long shadow

I have a secret to reveal. GIMP has a 3D-like tool! It’s used mostly for creating long shadows, and it’s known as, well, Long Shadow! Let’s access it to make your 3D text effect.

First, let’s duplicate our text layer so we can work non-destructively. Rename the layer by double-clicking on the layer name and name it; 3D Shadow. Also, for this effect to work, you’ll need to increase the layer boundary size. Otherwise, the shadow will be confined to it.

Layer > Layer to Image Size

To add the 3D effect…

Filters > Light and Shadow > Long Shadow

What color would you like for your long shadow? I’m using the following hexadecimal number, representing my chosen color if you’d like to use the same one; #e9be43.

Next, decide on the angle and length for the shadow. I’ve set mine to 149.61, and the length is 45. Now, move the 3D layer below the original text layer.

Step 4: Add a Gradient To Your Shadow

create a gradient for shading

To assist with the shading, we’re going to add a gradient to the 3D shadow. Grab your Gradient tool (Shift + B), set the foreground color to; #e9be43, and the background color to; #d2911e.

Then, in the Gradient panel (Windows > Dockables > Gradient), choose the FG to BG (HSV clockwise hue) option. Within the Tool Options, make sure you have the “Shape” set to “Linear.”

Next, select each letter of your text. This way, the Gradient is applied only to the letters and not the entire canvas. Right-click on the 3D Shadow layer and select “Alpha to Selection.” Once selected, apply your gradient and deselect.

Step 5: Shading Highlights + Shadows

make parts of the letters darker

Although the gradient has provided some highlights and shadows, it’s not perfect. For example, in my design, the top of the letters is brighter vs. the bottom.

Therefore, our minds assume the light is coming from above. That being said, the letters’ base should be even darker since their further from the light.

To fix this, I’ll use my Dodge & Burn tool to darken my text’s specific areas. When “Dodging,” you create a lighter edit, and “Burning” makes it darker. Applying either option is done with a brush.

The only problem is the bottom of the letters has a hard (straight) edge. To control where your edit is applied, you can make a selection, and the edit will be used within it.

For example, the bottom of the letter “P” is a rectangle shape. You can use your Path tool to select this and then apply the Burn tool within.

It’s so much easier to show you vs. writing it out. Check out this part of the video to see how I’ve done the shading.

Action Is Power

Now it’s your turn to complete this project, and I want to see your final design too…

Head on over to our community and post your “3D text effect design.” I’ll answer any of your questions. Also, if you want feedback, add #CC.

Looking for more text effect tutorials for GIMP? Check out my text effects playlist with over 20 more tutorials.

Oh, and here are more free GIMP articles.

Would you like to see how to process this design in Photoshop? If so, check out the Photoshop tutorial and article.

Like this article? If so, please share!

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