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Extruding text and shape layers

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About beveled and extruded text and shape layers

In computer graphics, an extruded object is one that appears to be three-dimensional. This 3D appearance is most apparent when moving the object, or moving a camera around the object. Bevel is the control over the edges for an extruded object.

You can create beveled and extruded text and shape layers by working in a Ray-traced 3D composition. For more information, see The Ray-traced 3D renderer.

In order to work with beveled and extruded text and shape layers, work in a Ray-traced 3D composition. See Creating a Ray-traced 3D composition.

Ray-traced 3D compositions are rendered on either qualified NVIDIA GPUs or all CPU cores installed in your computer. If you do not have a qualified GPU, CPU rendering occurs automatically. GPU rendering is preferable since the performance is much faster. See this page on the Adobe website for a list of GPUs for which the GPU acceleration of the ray-traced 3D renderer is supported.

Depending on your hardware and complexity of your composition, objects within Ray-traced 3D compositions can be difficult to manipulate. If you are having a difficult time manipulating objects in the Ray-traced 3D composition, you can use Fast Previews. Fast Previews mode is ideal to use for roughing in, and experimenting with extruded text and shape layer animations. For details, see Fast Previews.


If your computer supports Ray-traced 3D rendering on the GPU and CPU, you can force rendering to occur on the CPU (for example, if you are using a headless environment.). For more information, see Setting preferences for OpenGL, and the GPU.

Video tutorial: Ray-traced, extruded text and shapes - part 1

Ray-traced, extruded text and shapes - part 1

Brian Maffitt

The Ray-traced 3D renderer

The Ray-traced renderer is also available as a composition renderer. It is separate from the existing Advanced 3D (now called Classic 3D) composition renderer that has been the default renderer in previous versions. The Ray-traced 3D renderer is a radical departure from the existing scanline renderer. It can handle reflections, transparency, index of refraction, environment maps, in addition to the existing material options.

Existing capabilities like soft shadows, motion blur, depth-of-field blur, intra-character shadowing, projection of an image onto a surface with any light type, and intersection of layers are supported. 2D layer backdrops at the bottom of the stacking order are visible, and you can look through translucent objects to see them.

Limitations of the Ray-traced 3D renderer

Ray-traced 3D renderer does not render the following features:

  • Blending modes
  • Track mattes
  • Layer styles
  • Masks and effects on continuously rasterized layers, including text and shape layers
  • Masks and effects on 3D precomposition layers with collapsed transformations
  • Preserve Underlying Transparency

Additional features of a Ray-traced 3D composition

Creating a Ray-traced 3D composition

It is necessary to work in a Ray-traced 3D composition for extruded text and shapes, bendable layers, and associated features. You can create a Ray-traced 3D composition, or turn an existing composition into a Ray-traced 3D composition. To create a Ray-traced 3D composition, do the following:

  1. Create a composition.
  2. Open the Composition Settings dialog box for the composition.
  3. Click the Advanced tab, then set the Rendering Plug-in (now called Renderer) to Ray-traced 3D.

To turn an existing composition into a Ray-traced 3D composition, omit the first step.

Your composition is now a Ray-traced 3D composition that allows for extruded text and shapes.

For more information about the Advanced composition settings, ray-tracing quality, and anti-alias filtering, see Advanced Composition Settings.


In a Ray-traced 3D composition, camera layers no longer have Iris Diffraction Fringe, Highlight Gain, Highlight Threshold, and Highlight Saturation properties.

Previewing Ray-traced 3D compositions

When previewing 3D Ray-traced compositions, you can choose a different Fast Previews mode to achieve a more suitable workflow. See Fast Previews.

Monitoring and changing the composition renderer

To know which composition renderer (Classic 3D or Ray-traced 3D) is currently being used, check the Renderer button on the upper-right corner of the Composition panel.

This button appears only when there are 3D layers, including cameras and lights, in the composition.

To change the composition renderer: Click the button to open the Advanced tab of the Composition Settings dialog box.

To modify the current renderer's options: Ctrl-click (Windows) or Cmd-click (Mac) the button.

Creating beveled and extruded text and shape layers

In the Ray-traced renderer, 3D text and shape layers can have an extrusion or bevel. For a beveled and extruded text or shape layer, do the following:

  1. Create a Ray-traced 3D composition
  2. Create a text or shape layer.
  3. Enable 3D for the layer.

    For more information on enabling 3D for a layer, see Convert 3D layers.

  4. Adjust controls for bevel and extrusion

To control their appearance, use these properties in the layer's Geometry Options section in the Timeline panel:

  • Bevel Style: The form of the bevel. Options are None (default), Angular, Concave, and Convex.
  • Bevel Depth: The size in pixels (horizontally and vertically) of the bevel.
  • Hole Bevel Depth: The size of bevel for inner parts of a text character, such as the hole in an "O". It's expressed as a percentage of the Bevel Depth.
  • Extrusion Depth: The pixel thickness of the extrusion. The side (extruded) surface is perpendicular to the front surface.

These 3D objects are based on the geometry of swept surfaces (where a 2D shape can move along a specified path), which is a departure from the pixel-based text and shapes in the Classic 3D renderer. As such, masking, effects, and track mattes do not make sense when applied to geometry. The geometrical properties of text and shapes are preserved, so character styles like kerning, font size, and subscript are supported.

The following issues are known:

  • Fill or stroke gradients are not supported on 3D shape layers.
  • Even-odd winding in shapes does not currently work properly. You might need to use a Merge Paths operator instead.
  • Shapes with self-intersecting paths might not be filled correctly. Also, objects with compound paths containing multiple nested holes might not render correctly.

Ray-traced 3D, extruded text, and shapes

Learn about ray-traced 3D featured and extruded layers in depth

Brian Maffitt

Beveled and extruded vector artwork

You can create a shape layer from a vector art footage layer, and then modify the shape layer. Once a vector layer has been converted into a shape layer, you can bevel and extrude it.

For more information about creating shape layers from vector artwork, see Vector Art Footage-to-Shape Conversion.

Bending a footage layer

In the Ray-traced renderer, your 3D layer and nested composition layers have the following geometry options for curving them around a vertical axis:

  • Curvature: The amount of bend (as a percentage). It defaults to 0% (no bend), but can go between -100% and 100% to simulate video walls or the flapping of wings.
  • Segments: The smoothness of or number of facets in the bend, with a lower number producing a coarser look with wider facets.

Masks and effects can be applied, but these types of layers cannot be beveled or extruded. Also, masks and effects are ignored on collapsed 3D composition layers.

Material options

Materials are used for the surfaces of 3D objects, and material options are the properties for the surfaces that dictate how the objects interact with light. After Effects has several material options properties, and ways to apply materials to extruded text and shape layers.

The Material Options section for a layer in the Timeline panel contains the following properties:

  • Appears in Reflections: Indicates if the layer appears in other reflective layers' reflections.
    • The On and Off options control if the reflection appears, but the layer itself is visible.
    • The Only option is like the On option that it is reflected but the layer itself is invisible.
  • Reflection Intensity: Controls how much of other reflective 3D objects and the environment map appear on this object.
    • Reflections get slightly brighter and the material becomes more mirror-like based on the viewing angle, based on the Reflection Rolloff property value. Reflections when viewing a surface at a glancing angle are brighter than when viewing directly at the surface. Reflections are also more energy conserving in that diffusion is automatically decreased per pixel as the glancing angle decreases (that is, closer to viewing across the surface than straight on it).
    • In addition, you can control the glossiness of the reflection (from blurry to nearly mirror-like) by adjusting the Specular Shininess property.
  • Reflection Sharpness: Controls the sharpness or blurriness of reflections.
    • Higher values produce sharper reflections whereas lower values make them blurrier.
    • Increase the Ray-tracing Quality to at least 3 if you cannot see the result of this setting.
  • Reflection Rolloff: For a reflective surface, controls the amount of Fresnel effect (that is, the intensity of reflections at glancing angles).
  • Transparency: Controls the material's transparency, and is separate from the layer's Opacity setting (but Opacity does factor into the object's transparency).
    • You can have a fully transparent surface but still get reflections and specular highlights to appear.
    • If the layer opacity is lowered, it would reduce the overall appearance. Also, the layer's alpha is honored, so if alpha is 0 the ray misses it completely.
  • Transparency Rolloff: For a transparent surface, controls the amount of transparency relative to the viewing angle. Transparency is the specified value when viewing directly at a surface and more opaque when viewing at a glancing angle (for example, along the edges of a curved object if looking directly at it).
  • Index of Refraction: Controls how light bends through 3D layers, and hence how objects behind a semitransparent layer appear.
  • These properties are applied to all surfaces of a 3D text or 3D shape layer, but you can override them with text animators or shape operators.

The materials Intensity, and Shininess have been updated, and renamed to be Specular Intensity, and Specular Shininess, respectively. For information about existing material options, see Material Options properties.

Note: the Ray-traced 3D renderer uses an energy-conserving shader that adjusts direct lighting components (diffuse and ambient) and transparency based on reflection intensity and transparency, and specular intensity based on reflection rolloff . Specifically:

  • Reflection Intensity is calculated with rolloff (Reflection Rolloff)
  • Transparency is calculated with rolloff (Transparency Rolloff)
  • Specular Intensity is calculated with rolloff (Reflection Rolloff)
  • Diffuse and Ambient are reduced by (100% - Reflection Intensity) * (100% - Transparency)
  • Transparency is then reduced by (100% - Reflection Intensity)

For example:

  • If Reflection Intensity is 50% and Transparency 100%, Diffuse and Ambient becomes 0% (value% * (100-50)*(100-100)/100). Specular Intensity is reduced by the Reflection Rolloff amount. Transparency drops to 50% (100% * (100-50)/100).
  • If Reflection Intensity is 50% and Transparency 50%, Diffuse and Ambient becomes 25% of their existing values, and Specular Intensity is reduced by the Reflection Rolloff amount. Transparency will drop to 25%.
  • If Reflection Intensity is 100%, Diffuse, Ambient, and Transparency becomes 0%. Specular Intensity is reduced by the Reflection Rolloff amount.

Note: Color is not included in the material definition. A text or shape layer gets its color from the Character panel (for text) or shape operators (for shapes). However, you can override material properties by using the existing text animator and shape operator support. For 3D text layers, the Fill Color, Stroke Color, and Stroke Width options in the Animate pop-up menu get replaced with Front, Back, Bevel, and Side submenus of material options.

For 3D shape layers, the Gradient Fill and Gradient Stroke shape operators get replaced with Front, Back, Bevel, and Side submenus of material options . However, because the fill or stroke defines the geometry for a shape layer, the Fill and Stroke shape operators are still available in case you want to add them.

Note: Fill and stroke gradients for shape layers are ignored at this time.

Environment layer

In the Ray-traced renderer, you can use a 3D footage, or nested composition layer, as a spherically mapped environment around the scene. This environment map layer is seen on reflective objects.

To set a footage or nested composition layer as an environment layer: Choose Layer > Environment Layer. The layer turns into a 3D layer, a small "globe" icon appears next to its name, and the following reduced set of properties (under "Options") appears in the Timeline panel:

  • Orientation and X/Y/Z Rotation: Rotates the backdrop environment and how it appears in reflections, which can be helpful to hide the seam between edges of the layer.
  • Opacity: Controls the opacity of the environment as a backdrop, but not in reflections.
  • Appears in Reflections: Controls how the environment map is used in the scene. You can have the environment appear in reflective objects in addition to seeing it as a backdrop (On), appear only in reflective objects and not as a backdrop (Only), or only as a backdrop and not in reflections (Off).

Although you can set any footage or nested composition layer as an environment layer, like cameras, the topmost visible (non-muted) environment layer at the current time is used. Also, environment layers, being used in reflections, won't appear in Fast Draft mode. Any semi-transparent regions in the environment layer shows the composition's background color in the backdrop, but not in reflections.


Similar to adjustment lights, you can enable the Adjustment Layer switch for an environment layer so it appears only in 3D reflective layers below it in the layer stacking order.


If you parent an environment layer to a layer with negative scale, the orientation is flipped (as expected).


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