In this help article I’ll be showing you a quick and easy beginner-friendly method for creating awesome 3D text using GIMP.

GIMP is a free photo editing and graphic design program most similar to Photoshop.

Let’s get into it!

Table of Contents

Video: Insanely Simple 3D Text with a Highlight in GIMP

Step 1: Set Up a New Document

Create a new document in GIMP by going to File>New

For starters, I’ll create a new composition by going to File>New (red arrow in the image above) or using the ctrl+n shortcut key (cmd+n on a MAC).

Open the GIMP Palettes dialogue by going to Windows>Palettes

Next, I’ll open the Palettes tab by going to Windows>Dockable Dialogues>Palettes (red arrow in the image above). Here in the Palettes tab (outlined in green in the image above), I can choose from several built-in color schemes to create my composition.

I liked the “Grayblue” color palette (blue arrow in the image above), so I’ll double-click on the palette name to open up the “Palette Editor” tab.

Double-click on a palette to enter the GIMP Palette Editor tab

This Palette Editor tab (outlined in green in the image above) will give me easy access to all the colors I’ll be using throughout the tutorial.

Next, I’ll click and drag a dark color from the Palette Editor onto my background (follow the red arrow in the image above). This will change the color of my background.

Step 2: Add Text

Grab the text tool from the GIMP toolbox and use the Tool Options to adjust text settings

With my composition now set up, I’ll click on the Text tool in the toolbox (green arrow in the image above). I can adjust my settings in the Tool Options – with my font in this case set to “Barlow Condensed Heavy Italic Condensed” and the font size set to “750 px.” I changed the color of the font by clicking and dragging one of my palette colors to the “Color” box.

Type your text on your composition to create a text layer

When I’m ready, I’ll click on the composition with the text tool and type “GIMP” in all caps (red arrow in the image above). This will automatically create a text layer in the Layers panel (blue arrow), and our text will now display on the composition.

Step 3: Align Your Text

Grab the alignment tool, align relative to image, and click horizontal and center align icons

Next, I’ll click on the Alignment tool in my toolbox (in the first tool group – click and hold the tool group to reveal the alignment tool, which is below the Move tool by default – red arrow in the above image).

I’ll then click on the text I just created with the alignment tool. In the Tool Options for my Alignment tool, I’ll make sure “Relative to” is set to “Image” from the dropdown (blue arrow), and will click the “Align Center of Target” and “Align Middle of Target” icons (outlined in yellow in the above image). This will horizontally and vertically align my text to the center of my image.

Step 4: Duplicate Your Text

Click the duplicate icon at the bottom of the GIMP layers panel to duplicate your text layer

I’ll then make sure I am clicked on the “GIMP” text layer in the Layers panel (blue arrow in the image above) and click the duplicate icon to duplicate this layer (red arrow). I’ll click the icon once more to duplicate it again. You should now have 3 GIMP text layers (outlined in yellow).

Reposition text layers in the layer stacking order via the GIMP layers panel

To keep things looking nice and tidy, I’ll reposition the duplicate layers below the original layer in the layer stacking order by clicking and dragging each of them with my mouse (red arrow).

Step 5: Add a Long Shadow to Your Text

Add a long shadow effect by going to Filters>Light and Shadow>Long Shadow

It’s time to start adding the 3D effects to our text! To start, I’ll make sure the bottommost GIMP text layer is selected (red arrow). Then, I’ll go to Filters>Light and Shadow>Long Shadow (yellow arrow).

Adjust the Long Shadow Filter settings inside the Long Shadow dialogue in GIMP

The effect on this layer will form the shadow effect for my 3D text. So, I want the color here to be a little darker. To achieve this, I’ll click and drag a slightly darker blue from my Palette tab to the box labeled “Color” (red arrows in the image above). The color inside the box should now update to your new color.

I’ll leave all the other settings at their default values and click “OK.” (Note that if you adjust the angle or length, you’ll want to remember these values as you’ll need them for the next step.) You should now have a darkish blue long shadow on your bottom text layer.

Add an additional Long Shadow filter to your GIMP text layer

Next, I’ll click on the “GIMP #1” text layer (red arrow) and once again apply the Long Shadow filter. I can do this using the shortcut key “ctrl+shift+f” or simply go to Filters>Light and Shadow>Long Shadow (yellow arrow).

Tip: ctrl+shift+f is the shortcut key to ‘”Reshow’ Last Filter” in GIMP. In other words, it brings up the dialogue for whatever the last filter was that you used without applying the actual settings to the active layer.

Add shading via the long shadow filter by selecting the "Fading (fixed length)" option

For this long shadow, I’ll change the “Style” to “Fading: Fixed Length” from the dropdown (yellow arrow).

I’ll then change the color of the long shadow to a lighter blue by dragging this color from the Palette Editor tab (red arrows in the above image). I’ll click OK to apply the settings to my layer.

Step 6: Add a Highlight to the 3D Text

You should now have some nice looking 3D text. However, I’m going to add just one last effect to this to really help it stand out: a highlight.

Duplicate your long shadow effect by clicking the duplicate icon in the layers panel

To add a highlight, duplicate your top text layer twice by click the “Duplicate” icon at the bottom of the Layers panel (red arrow). You’ll now see two additional text layers in your Layers panel labeled “GIMP #4” and “GIMP #3” (outlined in yellow).

Go to Layer>Discard Text Information to convert text layer to standard layer in GIMP

Click on the “GIMP #3” text layer (red arrow) and go to Layer>Discard Text Information (yellow arrow). This will make it easier for us to recolor the text layer.

Lock a layer's alpha channel and drag and drop a color to change the pixel colors of that layer

Lock the alpha channel for the GIMP #3 layer by clicking the small icon at the top of the Layers panel (red arrow). Then, drag and drop your highlight color onto the canvas (in my case I went with white for this color, which I dragged from the background swatch under my Toolbox – blue arrows in the above image).

Use the move tool to offset a layer below another layer and create a highlight effect

Now, with the move tool selected (m key on your keyboard), move the top GIMP #4 text layer slightly to the right and down by clicking directly on the pixels for this layer and dragging your mouse (red arrow). Release your mouse. The sliver of white peaking out from behind this layer will be the highlight.

Create a selection from a layer's pixels by going to Layer>Transparency>Alpha to Selection

Next, alt+click on the GIMP #4 layer (yellow arrow) to create a selection around this text. You can also go to Layer>Transparency>Alpha to Selection (red arrow) if alt+clicking doesn’t work for you.

Click the Layer Mask icon, choose "Selection," and check Invert Mask for an inverted layer mask from selection

Click on the “GIMP #3” layer to make it active (red arrow), then click the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a layer mask to the layer (green arrow).

Under “Initialize Layer Mask to:” choose “Selection” (blue arrow in the image above), and make sure the “Invert” box is checked (yellow arrow). Click Add to add the layer mask. The GIMP #3 text layer should now have a Layer Mask assigned to it in the shape of the text.

Select a layer and click the delete icon in the bottom corner of the layers panel to delete the layer

Hit ctrl+shift+a to deselect the text. Then, click on the GIMP #4 text layer (red arrow) and click the “Delete this layer” icon at the bottom of the Layers panel (green arrow) to delete it.

Adjust a layer's opacity by clicking on the layer and adjusting the opacity slider at the top of the layers panel

You can adjust the opacity of the Highlight layer (GIMP #3) using the Opacity slider at the top of the Layers panel (green arrow). Make sure you are clicked on the actual layer (red arrow) and not the layer mask when adjusting this slider. Simply decrease the value to below 100 for a more subtle highlight.

Step 7: Center Your Final Design

Go to Layer>New from Visible to put all visible pixels on a single layer in GIMP

To center up the final design, start by hiding the background layer by clicking the “Show/Hide” icon in the Layers panel (red arrow). Next, go to Layer>New from Visible (green arrow).

Crop a layer to its pixel content by going to Layer>Crop to Content

Unhide the background layer (red arrow). Next, click on the “Visible” layer that you created (green arrow) and go to Layer>Crop to Content (yellow arrow). This will crop out all the excess transparent pixels surrounding your design, thus shrinking the layer size down to the size of your design.

Use the alignment tool in the GIMP toolbox to align your 3D text composition in GIMP

Finally, grab the Alignment tool from your toolbox (Q shortcut key on your keyboard – red arrow in the image above) and click on your visible layer (blue arrow). With the tool set to align “Relative to: Image,” click “align middle or target” and “align center of target” (outlined in yellow) to center align the design. Hide all the layers between the Visible and Background layers (click the show/hide icon next to each one – outlined in green).

Finished 3D text composition with a highlight created in GIMP

That’s it – you now have some amazing looking 3D text! That’s it for this GIMP tutorial. If you liked it, don’t forget to check out my other GIMP help articles or GIMP video tutorials!