Create A Dynamic Shattering Text Effect

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When it comes to text effects, the sky is the limit.  You can light it on fire, drench it in water, freeze it, explode it, make it glow with neon colors, or engrave it in beautiful metallic fashion.  Unfortunately, many of the text effect tutorials on the internet yield rather low-quality results.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create a high quality, dynamic shattering effect for text.  You’ll first be guided through the 3D creation of the text, and then the process of shattering it, then you’ll learn how to use the power of Photoshop to create a brilliant and unique result.

As always, questions, comments and suggestions are welcome, just let us know!

Tools Used:

  • 3D Studio max or Cinema 4D
  • Photoshop

Final Image Preview:

Step 1: Type creation and rendering

To start off we can go way over to the right and click the icon that looks like a square, a circle and a triangle all arranged behind one another.  It should be in the middle of the sphere and light icon.  This is the shapes icon. Once that is selected, go ahead and click the text button. With the text button selected, the toolbar on the right should now have new tabs on it, “Rendering”, “Interpolation” and “Parameters”. We will go to the “Parameters” tab to edit our text.

Choose to align to the left and select your font, which can be anything you like, I went with Arial for this scene. Set your size to 100 and put a “2” in the text box. Now, just click on the screen to drop your text.  Since we will be beveling and arranging our text all independently, it’s a good idea to do each number by itself.  This means that we will repeat this process for each number in the word equation independently.

With the “2” selected, choose the arc shaped tab on the right hand side entitled “Modify”. It should be to the right of the arrow button. This will allow us to change the settings for our text. We won’t be changing any settings, but we will add a “Modifier”, so click the drop down menu entitled “Modifiers” and select “Bevel”.

With bevel selected, we can change the parameters of the bevel itself now. Beveling the “2” will create a 3D “2” rather than just a group of splines. So we want to go down to the “Bevel Values” tab and make our adjustments. You want to leave the start outline at 0 and only adjust the “Level 1:” sections, in this section we will increase the height by 6.5.

Your 2 should now look like mine in the below screenshot.

Now just repeat the process for the remaining numbers in the equation. I think it’s a good idea to rotate each letter so it appears as if they are not perfectly aligned but you can do it however you like. Mine came out looking like the below screen shot.

Once you’re satisfied with your equation we will start blowing it apart. To do this we will go back to the far right hand side and select the ‘space warp’ icon, this icon will look like a wave and will be 4 icons over from the sphere.

Once we have clicked the space warp icon we can click the ‘Forces’ toolbar and select ‘Geometric/Deformable’ from the selections. This will bring up all the deformers that 3DS has in its arsenal, for this project we can select the bomb button.

Now we can click on the screen to create our bomb; we will only create a single bomb to start out. However in the end you can have as many as you like.

Now we can go to the “Bind to space warp” icon, this should be up in the top left.  The icon looks like a window, a wave and a red magnet.  Once you have selected this we need to click our bomb and drag it to one or more numbers. When you click and drag it will create a dashed line, make sure you drag until you get it to where it is hitting the number though, if you stop short then later nothing will happen!

Now we need to click our bomb and choose the arc shaped tab on the right hand side entitled “Modify” this will allow us to change the settings for our bomb. Once you have selected this we can see all the parameters for our bomb. Set your parameters the same as mine in the below screenshot, if would like a more thorough explanation of how bombs work and what each parameter does check out my other tutorial on Creative fan: http://design.creativefan.com/create-a-stunning-3d-liquid-explosion-artwork/

Once you have done this repeat this step with the remaining numbers in your equation. I would suggest that when doing that you take a peek at the above link to my other tut and vary your settings by changing;

  1. Falloff
  2. Spin
  3. Chaos
  4. Change the strength, and change it from negative to positive

Once that is done you need to go to the bottom to what I call the “Time stamp”. It will look like a time line; once you find it bump it up to 6 or higher depending on your bombs. I went with 7 because the falloff and strengths were low on my bombs.

My equation looks like the below screen shot now.

Our next step is to apply the material and render. So to open your material editor press ‘M’ on your keyboard; once that opens up set your material up as mine is in the below screenshot.

Now just select all your numbers and click the third icon from the left hand side of your material editor. It should look like a sphere pointing to a square.

Now we are all setup to start the rendering process. To open your render menu press F10 on your screen. Once you have done that a screen will pop up with all kinds of parameters, we will just be adjusting the size. I went with a size of 2000*3000 since that’s the document size I’m going for in the final piece, but you can choose whatever you like.

Now just hit render! Once it’s done rendering go ahead and save it as a .PNG where you can find it later. Next we will be creating a wire frame render. To do this we will press ‘F10’ on the keyboard once again, when the render settings come up we will leave everything the same as before but we will click the ‘Renderer’ toolbar at the top. This will show all of our more advanced render settings, select the checkbox entitled ‘Force wireframe’ and press render. We will then save this render as a png as we did in the previous step.

Finally we will create some bomb bits flying off our text. To do this we need to click the time stamp at the bottom and drag it way over to 56; this should cause a drastic explosion.

Next we can render it a final time, be sure to turn the force wire frame off before you do it though!

Step 2: Star creation/Scene setup

So to start off go ahead and open up Photoshop and set up your document; the size of your document is up to you and what your creating but keep your render size in the back of your mind while doing this! I went with a size of 2000*3000.

Once you have your document open fill it with black and create a new layer. Fill the new layer with black just as we did the first layer.

Next we need to add our noise in. To do this go to “Filter”>”Noise”>”Add Noise” and set yours up as mine is in the below screen shot.

Your star field should look something like the below screenshot now.

Our next step is to edit the levels for our star field. Doing this will get rid of the grey stars and help open up some negative space so they don’t look so clustered and awful. So go ahead and press “CTRL L” on your keyboard to open up your level editor and set yours up as mine is in the below screenshot. The three triangles are in order of right to left, black level, gray level and the white level. I have moved the grey level over closer to the black level. This will result in the grays becoming whiter. The white level was then moved to closer to the grey level which means the white spots have become even whiter.

Your star field should now look something like mine in the below screenshot.

Go ahead and click the layer mask button on your layer tab, it should look like a square with a circle in the middle. Now we can apply another filter, this time one called “Difference clouds”. Basically it will render some cloud like blobs in black and white causing our stars to only be seen where the white clouds are on the layer mask. To apply this filter click “Filter”>”Render”>”Difference clouds”. Your results should look something like the below screenshot, however keep in mind that the difference cloud filter is randomly generated.

Now you can adjust the levels and play with other filters to get something that suits you. I used a small 3px hard brush with white and painted some brighter stars to go with my noise stars. The stars I painted are the same size as my noise stars so it’s just basically putting a random dot on your canvas if you wanted to do this.

Step 3: Render setup

Next we can drop our render and our bits into the document. Once you have positioned them both in you may need to clean up your bits layer if there is too much in it. To do this use a large hard eraser and take your time. You don’t want to wind up with any half erased polygons! After I cleaned my bits render up my image looked like the below screenshot.

Next we can drop in our wireframe render, once it has been dropped in be sure to grey scale it and auto level it! Also be sure to place your wire frame on top of the main render layer and make sure it’s aligned correctly with the main render layer.

Next we can grab our elliptical marquee tool, with the marquee tool enabled set your feather up to about 55px. Now just make a bunch of random selections on your wireframe layer as I have done in the below screenshot.

Once you have your selections go ahead and open your hue and saturation adjuster and set it up as mine is in the below screenshot.

Your wire selections should now be pink! Now just repeat the process of making selections but this time set your hue and saturation adjustment up as the below screen shot.

Now your document should look similar to mine in the below screenshot.

Step 4: Painting/Sketching

Now we move on to the fun stuff! Well not just the fun stuff but the long task of painting atop our renders. So to start off create a new layer atop all of our previous layers and then grab your 3px hard brush.

Now look at the 2 on your render. Really look at it. See those spaces were polygons are literally coming off or separating? This is where we will start. These gaps and divides make for the simplest places to begin our painting and give off a nice effect.

So to start off grab your two colors (pink and blue) and start outlining your polygons shapes and then filling them in with the opposite color. I started off by outlining the bulk of the 2 and then moving in to some of the big polygons. It’s a good idea to try and make your polygons appear 3d if you can, since all you really have to do is draw a few extra lines and fill them in.

Now start filling in and tracing out some of those bits that are flying off your 2. Be sure not to cluster up to much of one color, you don’t want it to look like a sea of blue polygons in the end!

Now you can start filling in larger polygons on your 2. For example I filled a very large polygon with pink in the below screenshot. And I also drew some pink lines around my blue wireframes. Remember variation and randomness is the key here!

Next we can create a new layer under the two and fill it up with a color. I used pink, but if yours has a lot of pink already then you can use blue. The main thing here is to not get out from under your 2 otherwise it will just look bad.

Now our 2 is done!

Our next step is to repeat these above steps on all the remaining layers, however there are a few tips for you to keep in mind:

  1. Vary up your colors! Don’t put to many pinks side by side!
  2. Try and make a lot of your polygons 3d!
  3. Don’t worry about being 100% perfect but take your time! There should be no circle shaped polygons in this piece!
  4. Play with your brush opacity; it can help create some much nicer effects than you might think.
  5. Think about early grade school geometry when drawing over your polygons. Don’t start making up your own shapes!

My finished letters came out looking like the below screenshots.

Step 4.5: Drips.

Drawing drips is something I do on well, all of my pieces. But you don’t have to. However if you want to this is how I would suggest doing it.

Start by drawing a V shape. The top or open part of the V should be where your drip meets the object, whereas the bottom part is where it is dripping.  Take your time with these and go slowly. I know it seems easy enough, but it’s very easy to ruin your drip if you rush.

If you’re having trouble with your drips here are some tips on how to achieve a better looking drip:

  1. Stick to the V method! I know it may seem juvenile but everyone starts somewhere.
  2. Keep the drips the same color as the object its coming from, you don’t want a polygon that’s blue dripping pink do you?
  3. Think about gravity! How would it drip in real life?
  4. If you can, twirl your colors together. For example if you have a pink and blue polygon dripping why not have the drips meet and intertwine?

Below are a few screenshots of my drips.

Step 5: Lines and closing

To finish the piece off we can grab the line tool and just create some lines coming off our object. I chose to make mine feathered by erasing the edges with a soft 300px eraser but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

Now we are done! So merge your layers (size it down if you need to) and apply a sharpen filter and your done!

I hope you enjoyed my tutorial and learned a thing or two; or at least got a cool looking picture in the process. Thanks for reading!

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