Design a Slick 3D Ice Text Effect

Ice Preview


3D text effects are a growing and awesome design trend. They can add angles, lighting and interest that many 2D text effects can’t bring. Here is an awesome Showcase of 3D Typography that was put together a little while back by Angie Bowen. I’ve also been seen and been inspired by tutorials like 3D Text on Fire and this Fresh Text Effect.

After some experimenting with what can be accomplished using Illustrator’s 3D capabilities and Photoshop’s texturing I came up with the design for this tutorial. In the steps that follow you will learn some pretty helpful techniques and tricks all while designing your own slick 3D ice text effect. Let’s get started.

The Preview & PSD

Step 1

Fire up Illustrator and type in your word(s) at the size you are designing for. I used Diavlo bold for my font of choice. Be sure to change the font color to a mid-tone gray. It’s not important to choose a specific color yet, but we do need something that will have a strong enough contrast to stand out when we transform the text into 3D.

Ice Text

Step 2

Now it’s time to utilize Illustrator’s simple, but awesome 3D capabilities. With your text selected choose Effect->3D->Extrude & Bevel. Make sure to tick on the preview option so that you can view your results as you go along (be warned this 3D effect with preview turned on is a huge memory hog — slower computers beware). Then manipulate the text into the angle that you desire. Bear in mind, perspective is the trickiest and most important part of a 3D text effect, so take your time here. The cube in the top left is a great visual tool. Simply click and drag on different parts to manipulate the x, y and z axis. Or if you prefer the cliff notes, just alter the settings to what is referenced below.

3d Settings

Ice 3D

Step 3

Now it’s time to move our project over to Photoshop. Open up a new document in Photoshop, then click back to Illustrator and put the two documents side by side. Grab the move tool in Illustrator and drag the 3D text from Illustrator into the Photoshop document. Then in Photoshop select the background layer and fill it with black.

Illustrator to Photoshop

Black Background

Step 4

Filters offer a huge range of possibilities, but they can lead to some pretty horrific results when they are overdone or used inproperly. In our case, we are going to add a couple of minor tweaks, to start the illusion of highlights and shadows on raised ice.

The Filter Gallery is a very handy interface that you can use to add and combine various filters. To get started click Filter->Filter Gallery. First, add ‘Accented Edges’. Play around with the settings until you have some simple, but not blown out highlights on the edges of your 3D text. Below are the settings that I used. Now, click to add a second filter (using the small ‘Add Filter’ button in the bottom right), choose ‘Plastic Wrap’ and select settings similar to what is referenced below. Then click ok.

Accented Edges

Plastic Wrap


Step 5

Our filters gave us some nice highlights on the edges of the 3D text, but I think we could do a little better yet. Let’s take advantage of some of the things layer styles have to offer. Double click on the 3D text layer to bring up the layer styles box. Add a bevel and emboss, and a drop shadow to our text. The drop shadow will be rather unnoticeable against our black background, but it will look good when we set up the ice background. Use settings that are similar to those shown below.

Ice Text Drop Shadow

Ice Text Bevel Emboss

Ice Text Layer Styles

Step 6

That’s starting to look cool, but we could definitely use some more contrast. To add some, click Image->Adjustments->Shadows/Highlights. There are a ton of sliders to play around with in here, and quite honestly moving them around and experimenting is the best way to learn what they do. It’s also good to note, that since we brought over this text from Illustrator it should be a smart object. Which means that these filters are non-destructive and can be easily tweaked at a later point.

Shadows Highlights

Ice Contrast

Step 7

In this step we are going to start working on the background ice. We need an interesting ice texture with some bright colors (even though we’ll be altering them later). I found this really cool ice texture on Flickr. Download that one or something similar and place it on a layer below the text layer and above the black background. Add a layer mask to your new layer by clicking Layer->Vector Mask->Reveal All. We want to gradually fade our design out to the black background, so add a radial gradient to that layer mask that goes from black on the outside to white on the inside. Touch up some of the mask with a soft brush with low opacity if necessary. Lastly, drop the opacity of this layer to about 90%.

Ice Texture Background

Ice Background Layers

Ice Background Faded

Step 8

The background is starting to look interesting, but the texture could definitely be simplified and smoothed out a bit. I personally like to make those kinds of changes on a smart object so that I can adjust them later if I change my mind. So, right click on the layer and choose ‘Covert to Smart Object’. Then click Filter->Blur->Surface Blur. Use this blur to soften the texture and contrast some. Then add a bit of simple noise back in by clicking Filter->Noise->Add Noise. The settings I used are shown below as a reference.

Background Surface Blur

Background Noise

Background Blurred

Step 9

Let’s add some of this same texture to the text to help with realism and consistency. Duplicate the ice background layer and place it at the top of the layers palette. Add a layer mask to this layer just like you did before. Fill the layer mask with all black. Then select the shape of the ice text by ‘cmd + click’ on the thumbnail in the layers palette as circled below. Fill the shape that you just selected on the layer mask with white. This will reveal the texture only on the ice text. Now, change the layer mode to Overlay and the opacity to about 85%. Lastly, you can unlink the mask and the layer to move the texture independent of the mask. This give you great flexibility to change the texture on the text to something you find visually striking.

cmd + click

Mask Link

Ice Text Textured

Step 10

In the next two steps I want to work on the coloring. Add a new layer to the top of your layers palette. Then grab the gradient tool and make a colorful gradient that begins and ends with the same color and goes to two other colors toward the middle. This gives our illustration a nice smooth base color to work from. Drag out a linear gradient horizontally across your canvas. Change the blend mode for this layer to overlay.


Gradient Overlay

Step 11

Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the layers palette (referenced below). Adjust the sliders until you have a nice cool colored gradient.

Hue Saturation

Hue Saturation Adjustments

Color Adjusted

Step 12

Since our subject is ice and we have some cool lighting effects going on we definitely need to add a nice reflection. This can be a tad tricky with 3D objects, as the extra dimension can play tricks on your eyes. Because the refection on the ice is really only 2D I found the best and simplest way to add that is to create a new flat text layer that mimics the size and perspective of the 3D text. Make a new text layer and retype ‘ice’ or whatever the word you choose to use was in the same font. Then click ‘cmd + t’ to bring up the free transform tool. Click and drag downward from the top middle anchor to reflect the text. Next rotate it by hovering over a corner point to get the rotate cursor. Then adjust the corners while holding down ‘cmd’ to skew the text. Get it to the point that it fits pretty well over the 3D text, like the image below, bear in mind that it doesn’t need to be perfect.

Transform Reflection

Transform Skew

Step 13

Now drag the refection into place and move the reflection layer below the 3D text layer. Change the blend mode to overlay and the opacity to 45%. Rasterize the layer by right clicking and choosing ‘Rasterize Layer. Then click Filter->Blur->Gaussian Blur and blur the shadow a bit. Lastly, add a layer mask and fade it out toward the bottom of the reflection.

Ice Reflection

Step 14

We’re almost done here, but a lot of times it’s the finishing touches that can take a design from good to great. I went on the look out for some cool brushes and found this awesome set. Go ahead and download them or something similar. Add a new layer and use the same masking technique that you used in step 9, so that the brush you use will only show on the 3D text. Then grab a star brush, use white for your color and dab on some interesting texture. Change your blend mode to overlay and drop your opacity to about half.

Brush Selection

Ice Texture Brush

Step 15

Lastly add a couple more layers and utilize a couple of the star brushes to make some sparkle highlights. Be careful not to overdo this step. It’s also a good idea to put each one on a different layer, so that you can experiment with where the sparkle looks best and vary the brightness by lowering the opacity a bit.

Sparkle Brushes

3D Ice Final

Final Thoughts

There are so many creative directions you can take these techniques. The main thing I wanted to get across was the simplicity of 3D text in Illustrator and the power of combining Illustrator and Photoshop.

What do you think of this effect? If you come up with a cool variation, please showcase it at MyInkBlog Flickr group.

About the Author

Andrew is a primary contributer for MyInkBlog. He is a full time web developer for Niagara University. When he's not working there, he's a blogger, twitter'er, wordpress'er, silverstripe advocate, blessed father and husband.

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  • Tim Smith

    Awesome Tutorial! Great job Andrew!

  • Elena

    That looks really cool. You did a beautiful job with the tutorial. I like how you combine Illustrator & Photoshop for the effect.
    .-= Elena´s last blog ..Homemade Dog Treats Part I =-.

  • Roland

    Good technique, but I don’t like the shadow, cause it’s not logical. It would be many times better without it or at least with more real shadow :)
    .-= Roland´s last blog ..Inspirational web-designs from Art. Lebedev Studio =-.

  • xoc

    Nice tutorial!

  • Jasmin Halkic

    Very nice tutorial. Thanks.

  • N-Designs

    great tutorial. thanks.
    .-= N-Designs´s last blog ..Facebook’s @Mentions Feature Is Now Live =-.

  • Trozdol

    Wow nifty! I never really knew a good way to apply a texture to 3D type (In a useful way). Thanks Mr. Andrew dude :)
    .-= Trozdol´s last blog ..Wanna wanna, what? =-.

  • B.SkiLLs

    Very nice 3d tut with PS.

    I’ve done these before but never really thought or considered them actual 3D so.. But anyways nice job and little tut. ;)


    Ill do a linkback for ya for sure. ;)
    .-= B.SkiLLs´s last blog ..Monitor troubleshooting =-.

  • LanvinPierre

    Great TUT.. however why is the shadow like that?

  • ian

    great article…!!
    thanx for your share knowledge….
    .-= ian´s last blog ..15 Origami Icons =-.

  • nidhi

    Very Nice Tutorial…. Will try it in this week and send a link to show it it turned out for me….

  • Andrew Houle

    Thanks for the kind words everyone. About the shadow… I had hoped it was more of a reflection than anything. Given the angles and lighting effects, it’s there to add perspective.

  • Thomson

    Very nice text effect tuts. Rarely I see the 3d effect tuts that often. Thanks for sharing.

  • Matt

    Great stuff Andrew!
    .-= Matt´s last blog ..10 Great & Interesting Band Websites =-.

  • Ce.

    this is a very sick effect, but i’m just not seeing “ice” per say. regardless… the outcome still looks killer. it looks more metallic to me…

  • Giallo

    It doesn’t look like ice but it’s an awesome effect, great image outstanding tutorial.

  • Sneh Roy

    This is a cool tutorial Andrew. Thanks heaps for sharing :)
    .-= Sneh Roy´s last blog ..Free Retro Circle Scribbles Brush Pack For Photoshop =-.

  • Navarro Parker

    Sorry, dude. I’m going to sound like a jerk. This is just my personal opinion, but I think it looks overworked and suffers from plug-in-itis. I only know it’s supposed to be ice because you said it’s supposed to be ice. But does it look remotely like ice? I would never show a client this level of work. It’s just not taking it to the next level artistically or technically.

  • Damian Web

    I agree with the “non-ice” comments, i would have come up with a different name :p but i still really like the effect, I will be using this tutorial to create something similar most certainly so thanks! Maybe not as over worked but something a little less subtle would look really nice on some clients websites.
    .-= Damian Web´s last blog ..Use Titles To Drive Traffic To Your Blog And Increase Your SEO =-.

  • BebopDesigner

    Brilliant tut! Love the outcome. Cheers!

  • Ashley Adams : Postcard Printing

    Your post is looking absolutely stunning!!! Light effects and coloring are very impressive in designing 3D because it brings a modern and stylish effect. But they should be carefully used otherwise it could look messy….Anyway nice post.

  • Zahid

    Many time I tried to apply the same effect but i can’t.
    This time i will take help from your tutorial and will trying to
    do the same job.
    At the end I appreciate your work very much.

  • Deep

    that’s really mind blowing……….

  • Johnson Koh

    Great post Andrew. That is an excellent use of the traditional Plastic Warp filter.

  • Ben

    awesome result – Andy :)

    I like tuts that have a good outcome and techniques
    .-= Ben´s last blog ..15 free high res, marbling textures,for personal and commercial use =-.

  • sujath

    nice tutorial

  • PhilippineOutsourcing

    awesome post.. very well explained! thanks for the post!

  • Greeps
  • mylmo

    i don’t see the ice looking,but it is a good tut and very goodly esplanded

  • Jamie

    Nice tutorial dude.
    Having problems though. Once I have moved the text into photoshop I can’t open the filter gallery as it’s shaded out? It’s probably something simple that im doing wrong, but any help will be apreciated. Im using CS4 by the way

  • Jamie

    Sorry about the previous question. Had photoshop working in CMYK!

  • arnel

    good tutorial looks like 3d but i would have done this in maya then just taken it to photshop

  • Online Photoshop

    That is one freakin awesomoe tutorial. wow

  • Matthew

    Awesome, appreciate it!

  • maumi

    very nice!

  • michal

    Great Stuff, defiantly classiest ice text out there. thanks

  • enemy

    Can somebody help me?
    I can’t find Effect->3D->Extrude & Bevel on my photoshop.

    • Kyle

      It’s in Illustrator, not photoshop.


    That’s really photorealistic!

  • Adam

    Fantastic ice effect, the best i have found by a long way!

  • Ruben

    How about to put a video of you doing this tutorial…
    i’m a little bit lost in the step 7 -.-”

    the video would help people doing it quickly :)

  • FreshBusinessCards

    HI !

    Cool effect I will certainly be useful to my new project.


  • Kyle

    For some reason all the images are broken on this. This is especially problematic when the settings for things like the Extrude filter are in an image rather than typed in the instructions.

    Love the look of it, though. Much better than most I have seen.

  • Builder

    I’ve always wondered how to do such cool 3d effects. This is one of the best tutorials i have seen on this. Thanks.

  • Will

    Excellent walk through thanks.

  • Hillary Debiase

    Glad to find this information. I have been searching in Google for long time.