In the following tutorial I will take you through the process of creating a realistic shadow, by taking advantage of the 3D capabilities of Adobe Photoshop. Even though it might sound complicated, the process in practice is really simple, and further more it could be applied to any shape layer. A similar effect could be achieved without utilizing the 3D capabilities of Adobe Photoshop, but this one is less time consuming, and could be further refined according to our needs.


Download Assets

Download and if necessary install the following content before you proceed.

 High Tide Font
 Grid Pattern

1. New Document

Start off by creating a new document, with size 730 pixels by 420 pixels with 72 dpi.

2. Add Pattern

Unlock the background layer, or create a new layer paint it with any color, and through the Blending Options of the layer apply the pattern you downloaded earlier.

3. Add Text

Now with the Type Tool write AC with the font you downloaded earlier (High Tide). The size is not really important since we will modify it latter on, but if you must know I used 275pt here.

4. New Extrusion

Select the text layer, then go to 3d / New Extrusion From Selected Layer.

5. View Menu

As a reference for this step use the image on the right, which represents the View Menu. Right away click on the yellow icon and there you will be represented with the possible views, in our case you will need to select top. In order to change the perspective of our main working are, click on the red icon, that means the top view will become the main view.

3D View

6. Scene Elements

You might noticed, that the layers palette looks a bit different, now instead of layers what we have there is Scene Elements. What we need to do now is rotate the letters for 90 degrees, so they are facing the camera. From the scene elements palette, locate and click on the AC element. Now above the elements palette, we have the properties for the selected element. Locate the coordinates first, then change the angle on the X axis to 90.


7. Extrusion Depth

Now we want to make the font a bit thinner, and we can do that by clicking on the Mash icon, and changing the Extrusion Depth to 20.

Extrusion Depth

8. Element Position

The moment we made changed the depth of our element, its positioning on the 3d plane was changed as well, since the bottom of the element sits much higher from the ground now. Open the coordinates again, and apply the following changes:

Element Coordinates

9. Cap Properties

Finally we will add a bit contour to our element, we will do that by going to the Cap properties and changing the bevel width to 100.

Bevel Width

10. Add Light

From the Scene Elements palette, locate and select the Infinite Light 1 element. In order to position the light to point at the exact direction we want, select the coordinates properties and make the changes, like the image on the right.

Alternatively if you want to play around with the light, the moment you selected the infinite light element, you must have noticed that in our main view a new spherical object appeared. If you want you can click and hold on the smallest sphere, in order to try and position the light by hand.

Light Coordinates

11. Light Intensity & Softness

With our light positioned, what we want to do now is change the intensity and softness of the light, the names of these two properties are rather self explanatory.

Infinite Light

12. Render Scene

All we are left to do now is render our scene and that cant be much easier, just locate the render button right above the scene elements palette and click on it. The rendering process will take some time depending on your machine, if you want to make some last minute changes, just hit the esc button on your keyboard and the rendering will be stopped. Once the rendering is done be careful not to move the 3d element, since if you do you will need to render it again.

Render Button

13. Add Color

Now we will need the layers palette again. In order to do that, just below the render button, click on the Layers tab. Now create a new layer just above the background layer but below our 3d Element, and paint the following colors #f5c801, #01cfc5, and #f3c600 like in our final image.

Final Product


What you learned in this tutorials are the very basics in terms of lightning, now its up to you to experiment further until you are comfortable with the infinite light. If you want to add certain filters or blending options on the element, once rendered you will first need to convert it in to a smart object, as you can see I have also added a light noise on the element (0.6), and a subtle gradient over the background.

Also when the light element is selected, on the properties panel where you were changing the intensity and softness, play around with the presets. For example for the feature image I used dawn with multiple light sources. Have fun, and feel free to post your results in the comments section.

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