How to Make 3D Lettering With Blend Effects in Adobe Illustrator




Updated 4/26/2024

This tutorial outlines creating a 3D lettering effect using various Blend tools in Adobe Illustrator.

yo 3D lettering blend effect


This tutorial shows how to make a 3D gradient effect with paths and blending tools in Adobe Illustrator. It can be used for lettering and many other creative uses.


Follow these steps to create the effect. To prepare, open Illustrator and create a new file.

1. Prep The Pencil Tool

Select the Pencil Tool (N).

Pencil Tool

Double-click the tool to open the Pencil Tool Options window.

Pencil Tool Options

Set the Fidelity slider as fully Smooth.

Smooth Fidelity

Click OK to proceed.

2. Draw a Path

Draw a single path using the Pencil tool. This can be a word, letter, or whatever you choose. Ensure you have no Fill or Stroke colors set yet.

Yo path for effect

3. Create a Circle

Select the Ellipse Tool by typing L or click-holding the Rectangle Tool, then selecting it from the Tools menu.

Ellipse Tool

Next, click and drag your mouse while holding Shift to draw a circle.

Click the Gradient icon (>) below the colors in the Tools panel.

Choose a gradient with a visible color shift, something eye-catching. Do this by clicking on the colors below the slider.

gradient red to orange

The circle should be filled with the gradient and have no outline.

4. Duplicate The Circle

Select the circle using the Selection Tool (V), then hold down Option while dragging to create a duplicate to the right.

5. Blend the Circles

Double-click the Blend Tool (W) in the left pane.

Blend Tool

It should open a Blend Options window:

Blend Options

Click the Spacing dropdown and choose Specified Steps.

Set the number to 200 to ensure a smooth blend and click OK.

With the Blend Tool selected, click the first circle, then the second.

circles blended

Illustrator should create a pill-shaped effect with the circles.

6. Replace Spine

Select the blend and path you drew with the Selection tool.

blend and path

Choose Object > Blend > Replace Spine.

Replace Spine

It should apply the effect to your path, combining the two elements.

After Replace Spine

This completes the process!


Illustrator should have created a funky pattern across your path.

Common Issue

If your design doesn’t look right, you might need to adjust the size of the gradient blend object, as that has a large effect on the final result.

For example, if your object is large compared to the final path, it will look quite different.

When the object is large, it will create a puffy effect:

This can be great for some uses, but not in this case.

Further Resources

This tutorial is inspired by an old video tutorial Adobe published a few years ago. Check it out for further help and visuals.

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