Shop Talk

How to Make a 3D Pixel Type in Illustrator

It’s time to get in touch with your 8-bit self.

There are endless uses for having your own pixel type: you can stick a fun phrase on a tee, make some retro stickers, create an image to introduce yourself on your RB profile, or more.  The beauty of this simple tutorial is the ability to fully customize it. Once you have the principles down, you can slap on your own background on it, or experiment further to really make a unique and quirky design. The only thing you need to get going is a copy of Illustrator, this font installed in your Font Book, and true appreciation of all things pixelated.

1. Download your free font from dafont

Go here and download a free pixel font for your Font Book called “04b03, it’s super easy to grab and install. Once you’ve got your font installed, open up a new document in Illustrator and use the Text Tool to type out your text. Try and keep it to one word, or a short phrase. Once you’ve typed out your word(s) make sure you outline the text before moving on. To do this, go Type>Create Outlines or Shift+Command+O.

If you need help check out the Mac instructions to install fonts.

2. Choose a fill color for the text

This is an easy step, simply choose a fill color for the text and click on the “Fill” color square and then again on your outlined letters. You can completely change the color later, so choose any bright color for now. We’re going to use the Extrude and Bevel tool later, so a nice bright color will help you see shifts in light and dark and shading in your colors.

3. Extrude and Bevel

Select the outline of your letters again, then go Filter>Effect>3D>Extrude and Bevel to open up a strange looking box which is the Extrude and Bevel dialog box.

Once in the dialog box, there are heaps of options to choose between. The only thing we’re going to change is the Extrude Depth which should be changed to “40 pt”. Boom! Depth!

4. Use the Magic Wand

Select your Magic Wand  tool and choose the lightest color on your newly beveled lettering. This will be a “front” piece of the lettering. You’ll notice with the Magic Wand tool selected that you’ll choose every identical lightest color. Once you’ve selected all the front pieces of your lettering, click the Gradient menu and make a linear Gradient across your lettering. Click on either end of the white to black gradient slider to bring up the color selection palette. Try and choose complimentary colors, or stick with one color and play with the gradient white-to-black slider for a uniform look.


If you find that your Magic Wand tool is picking up the lightest color, as well as the color on the top of your letters, you can adjust it by double clicking the Magic Wand tool and turn the “Tolerance” slider that appears in the Magic Wand menu down to 10 (or even 5). This makes the Magic Wand more sensitive to color shading changes and will pick up on slight differences in colors.

5. Adjust your Gradient angle to 90 degrees

Make your gradient look more consistent and polished by adjusting the gradient angle to 90 degrees. This will make the gradient look like there is a consistent light source coming from the right hand side of your artwork, and will tie in nicely with the background that we’ll create to go with the type.

Repeat this process so you’ve applied a Gradient Fill to the front, top, and sides of your pixel type.

6. Make a new rectangle

With the Rectangle tool, drag open a rectangle and send it to the back of your artwork. Add a Gradient Fill with a complimentary or juxtaposing color, similarly to the way you colored your lettering.

7. Create a radial starburst

Make an ellipse with the Ellipse Tool that is a perfect circle (you can see the sizes as you drag it open) with no fill, and a white stroke, and centre the ellipse behind your pixel type. Send the ellipse behind the pixel type.

Go Appearances>Stroke and minimize the Stroke point down to a size you prefer (anywhere from 200 to 50 is a good chunky size range). In the Stroke Panel, click on the Dashed Line check box and locate the Dash box and enter “50” to give you a strong circular radial burst.

With your ellipse selected, click on the Transparency menu and drop the transparency down to 20% or lower.

8. Apply finishing touches

You can export the image to Photoshop and add finishing touches, bump your contrast or add a slight edge blue to melt in the radial burst. How did you go making your own type? Add your username in giant pixel type to your RB profile, or make a poster or card with an important chunky message. We’d love to see your results or other pixel artwork in the comments below.