We want to create the word ‘virtual’, so we begin with just sketching out individual letterforms. This can be done traditionally or digitally – whichever you prefer. While sketching, you can start to develop your concept. The idea behind these letters is that they all consist of the same two rectangles that can be skewed to fit the letter form.
Once we have a nice shape for the individual letters, it’s time to structure them so that they look like they belong together. In the example you can see the most important choices we made to structure the letters using Photoshop’s Pen Shape tool. Be sure to use a large canvas for this so you can later rescale your letters as you see fit.
Create a new document with the dimensions 25 x 25cm at 300dpi, and then copy and paste in the individual letter shapes. Once all the letters have been imported, you can start playing around with their positions, trying to create the best possible composition, fitting the space available. Keep typographical rules like kerning etc in mind when doing this.
Merge your letter layers and duplicate this layer. Reselect the original layer beneath and move it right and up as seen in the example. While doing this, you create the back side of the letters, using space on the left as a reference for filling the sides. Do so by creating a new layer, selecting sides with the Polygon Lasso tool, and then filling them with a red colour.
With all sides complete, delete the back side. Now we can start basic shading. Decide on where the light is coming from. In this image it’s the top-left on the front side. Then give every side a shade, starting with the front side to set a middle point. Use Color Overlay and go through all the different layers this way.
We decide that we want to have interlinking blocks connecting the letter shapes, so we repeat the same process in Step 4 and 5 to create these additional blocks. We create them on a new layer on top of the letters – this will come in handy later on in the tutorial.
Here we created a few rectangles on a new background layer so we have a good view of the letterforms and and shadows to maintain a realistic perspective etc. We then create another layer in between the letters and background onto which you can brush the shadows pretty roughly with a standard soft brush.
Lower the opacity of the drop shadow to taste and remove the roughness of the shadow edge with the Eraser tool. Also create a small soft black line below the letters, then lower its opacity. This adds that extra little bit of realism. Also remember that corners are always a little bit darker than the objects themselves because it’s hard for light to reach those places.
To add this extra shading to the corners, select the layers holding Cmd/Ctrl+H and click the layer’s thumbnail in the Layers pallete. Then in a new layer, fill this selection with black and, with the Eraser tool, remove the centre before lowering opacity. We did this for all of the letters’ sides using a new layer whenever necessary.
Until now we have done everything with the lights on. So replace your background with a solid black layer. Make colour changes to the letters with the Color Picker, making them darker tones. To give the letters a little bit more shine, select the front side, create a new layer and apply a 25% Opacity transparent-white to fully-transparent white Radial gradient from the centre of the letterforms out to the edge.