Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 153 / JUNE 1993 / PAGE S5

How to create 3D letters. (3D Workshop 2.0 computer graphics software) (Compute's Getting Started with 3D Graphics)
by Steven Anzovin

The TV movie is about to begin, and suddenly you're flying through huge 3D letters made of glass and brass. Or you pick up your company newsletter and see the masthead redone in eye-popping 3D. Three-dimensional text, which dates back at least to King Tut, is the latest design rage.

You can create your own 3D lettering with any program that allows point-by-point editing of objects. This tives you maximum control over your letterforms, but it's labor-intensive.

A much easier way is provided by 3D Workshop 2.0. Instead of making all your own letters, you simply type in a string of letters in an existing outline font. 3D Workshop 2.0 then thickens the text to create sides. The resulting 3D text looks like the magnet letters kids stick to refrigerators. This thickening process, called extrusion, is like squeezing a plastic block through a shaped nozzle. The extrusion technique can be used for all kinds of flat objects, not just letters.

Here's how to create 3D brass letters of your name with 3D Workshop.

1. Delete any object you may be working with. Then in 3D Workshop's Fourview (the main screen), choose Object from the Create menu. Now you're in the Template editor, where the outlines of objects can be edited point by point, extruded, and spun.

2. Choose Text from the Create menu. A dialog box appears, providing various 3D text options and asking you to type in a text string of up to 41 characters. Enter your first name. Also choose a font for the text. 3D Workshop comes with Modern, a basic sans-serif font.

3. You also have the option to group all the letters of your name as one large object, or keep them separate as several objects. Grouping letters makes it easy to move them all at once; keeping them separate means you can easily adjust the spacing between letters (called kerning) to make the word look more attractive. In this case, click on the Each Letter An Object button, so you can adjust them later if you want.

4. Click OK. After extruding the letters, 3D Workshop 2.0 returns to the Fourview. The Wireframe viewing option from the View menu works best for letters.

5. Now you can apply the brass texture. To access 3D Workshop's surface and texture library, choose Surface under the Transform menu, then choose Load in the Object Surfaces dialog box. Choose the Brass surface from the Surface directory. Make sure Brass is the highlighted surface, then click OK.

6. You also want to position some lights for dramatic effect. A good basic lighting scheme is to position one bright light to provide the key illumination and a second, less-powerful light shining at about a 120-degree angle to the first for fill illumination. To create a key light, choose Spot Light in the Create menu. In the dialog box, give it an intensity of 255 and an angle of 30. Then position the crosshairs in each part of the Fourview to locate the light in 3D space. You can do this repeatedly for additional lights.

7. Now you're ready to render. Most programs offer rendering choices grouped together in a comprehensive rendering dialog box. 3D Workshop 2.0's rendering options are available under Configuration in the Render menu. Do a test first. Choose flat shading to reduce the rendering time, then choose Render from the Render menu. If you don't like what you see, go back to the Fourview or Template Editor and make changes. When everything is perfect, choose Phong shading (the most realistic rendering mode offered by 3D Workshop 2.0) and sit back while your name is carved in brass.