How to Create 3D Glass Text in After Effects CC

After Effects May 16, 2019 4 min read

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to make text look like a glass 3D in After Effects with the help of the caustics effect. This realistic effect will even take the image or video behind your text and distort it in real-time! So if you’re ready to start creating, open up After Effects, and let’s dive in!

Create a 3D Glass Text Look with the Caustic Effect 

Step 1: Creating a New Composition

The first step is to create a new composition in After Effects. 

  1. Create a New Composition.
  2. Name it something like, “Glass Text.”
  3. Change the settings to HDTV 1080, and use a width of 1920, a height of 1080, and a frame rate of 29.97.
  4. Hit OK.

The party is just getting started!

Step 2: Add Text & Adjust the Settings

Now you’ll create text and change the text settings. 

  1. Use the Text Tool and type in your desired copy.
  2. Twirl open the Text settings. Change it to whatever you need for your project. You can make the text bold, italics, scale it up, and change the position. 
  3. Turn into a 3D Layer by clicking the 3D cube icon on the layer panel.

Go you!

Step 3: Set Up the Background & Reflection Footage

The next step is to add a couple of background images to your project. One of them will become the image that is reflected in the glass. Check out Motion Array’s stock video library, or add in your desired background now. 

  1. Import your image or footage. 
  2. Determine what you want to be your reflection and what you want to be the background. 
  3. You can drag the option you’ll use for the reflection to the bottom. Then, turn visibility off for that layer.
  4. Leave visibility on for your background layer. 

Great! 

Step 4: Add Light to the Text

Now, create a new light layer and position it in your composition.

  1. Select the reflection layer. 
  2. Click on the top bar button Layer > New > Light.
  3. Twirl open the Light settings. Change the Light Type to Point Light, the Color to White, and the Intensity to 75%, then hit OK.
  4. Type P to reveal the Position property. Change the X dimension to 960, and Y to 540.

Let there be light!

Step 5: Add the Caustic Effect

Caustics are typically used to create an underwater lighting effect, but today you’ll use it to make your text look glassy. To do this, you’ll create a new solid layer, then add a caustic simulation to it. 

  1. Click on the top bar button Layer > New > Solid.
  2. Name the solid something like “Caustics.
  3. Click the Make Comp Size button, then hit OK.
  4. Drag the Caustics layer to the top of the layer stack in the Timeline panel.
  5. With the Caustics layer selected, click on the top bar button Effect > Simulation > Caustics.

Is it time for a dip in the pool?

Step 6: Adjust the Caustics Settings

Adjust the caustic settings to make it look like glass. 

  1. Select the Caustics layer, and twirl open the Caustics settings.
  2. Twirl open the Bottom section, which would be typically used for the bottom of a pool. Set the preset to your background footage, and set the Blur to 0.5.
  3. Twirl open the Water section. Set the Water Surface to be your Text Layer
  4. In the Water settings, change the Water Depth to 0.5, and Surface Color to White.
  5. Twirl open the Sky section, change the layer to be your reflection footage. 
  6. Twirl open the Lighting section. Change the Light Type to First Comp Light, which will reference the Point Light.

That’s it for the caustic settings right now, but you’ll return to this shortly. 

Step 7: Apply Extrusion Depth to the Text

In this step, you’ll switch the renderer to Cinema 4D to enable additional features. Keep in mind, that by switching to Cinema 4D, your composition might slow down. If you don’t need any of these features, consider sticking to Classic 3D and skipping this step. 

  1. In the top right corner of the viewer, switch renderer type from Classic 3D to Cinema 4D by clicking on the text, Classic 3D.
  2. Select the Text layer. Twirl open the settings to see additional properties, such as Geometry Options. 
  3. Change the value of the Extrusion Depth to 60. This will give you to the depth you want in your text. It might be a little hard to see at this point, but you’ll be fixing that. 
  4. With your Text layer still selected, click on the top bar button Edit > Copy with Property Links.
  5. Then go to Edit > Paste to create an exact copy of your text that will follow any of the changes that you make on the original one. 
  6. Drag the duplicate, above the Caustics layer in the stack.
  7. Select the Caustics layer, and change the Track Matte to Alpha.

It’s getting glassy in here!

Step 8: Fine-Tune the Glass Look

In this step, you’ll pump up the transparency with the surface opacity and intensity settings, and add a frosted effect to the final look. 

  1. Select the Caustics layer.
  2. Twirl open the settings. Change Water > Surface Opacity to 0.2, Sky > Intensity to 0.2. .
  3. Click on the top bar button Effect > Color Correction > Brightness & Contrast.
  4. Twirl open the Caustics menu. Turn up the Contrast to about 50.
  5. Click on the top bar button Effect > Color Correction > Tint and change to about 15% This will give your text a frosted look.

Now you have glass! Awesome job!


We hope you found this tutorial on how to create 3D glass text in After Effects helpful. One of the best parts about the effect is that the reflections and transparency will change with your background footage. Just like how glass would look in real life! Now that you’ve mastered adding the caustics effect to your text, put your new skills into action!