Making Great Isometric Text
You might know I’m a big fan of isometric illustrations, particularly in Affinity Designer. The tools in Affinity for creating isometric designs are far better than anything else I’ve seen in other vector illustration programs. However, creating isometric text in Affinity is a bit trickier than making a simple shape. To make great looking isometric text in Affinity Designer, you simply use the amazing tools provided by Affinity. Here’s how to do that.
Intro to Isometric Text
The easiest way to draw isometric text in Affinity is to use the text tool to write a word, then change the angle of that word so it’s isometric. But things get tricky when you need to draw the other two planes so it looks 3D. For this reason, I like to to draw custom text by hand. I prefer to draw isometric text in a very simple, geometric style that fits nicely within the grid lines. However, some letters are still difficult to draw.
Letters with simple angles without any diagonals are pretty easy to draw. But letters like R, V, or Y are surprisingly difficult. You’ll draw the letters the same way you would do easier letters, like E, I, or L, but something usually looks wrong with the diagonals. It takes a bit of reworking the letters, but eventually you can make some really great looking isometric text in Affinity Designer. This tutorial will show you how to do that.
Step 1: Setting up your Affinity document
I’m going to create a new document with the dimensions 1920 x 1080 pixels. You can do this on the new document screen by clicking the Web tab, then scrolling down to the monitor icon that says FHD 1080p.
Next, inside your new document, open the Isometric panel on the left of your screen. Then click Modify Grid. This will open the settings for creating your isometric grid. At the top, click Show Grid to show your isometric grid lines. Then adjust the grid Spacing below. I’m putting the Spacing at 50px and the Divisions at 2. When that’s done, click Close.
Step 2: Start drawing isometric letters – The letter ‘G’
To draw each letter, we’re going to use basic shapes. Really, it’s just a lot of rectangles. To draw these shapes within the isometric grid, at an isometric angle, click Edit in Plane on the Isometric panel on the left.
We’re going to draw the word GROOVY because it has a few easy letters (G and O) and some trickier ones (R, V, and Y). Depending on the direction you want your letters to face, click either the Front or Side plane in the Isometric panel. I’m going to click Front so the letters will be facing right.
To begin, draw the shapes to make up the letter G. At this point, you can give them any colour you like. I’ll give the shapes a fill colour of black in the Swatches panel, and no stroke.
For the letter G, draw a vertical rectangle as big as you like. I’m making mine 50px by 300px.
Next, draw the top and bottom of the G the same way. You can keep the dimensions the same if you want your letters to be more square shaped and less narrow. I don’t want my letters to be too boxy, so I’m going to make them a bit taller than they are wide. So for the top and bottom squares, I’ll make them 250px by 50px.
Then add in the rest of the G. You can take the vertical rectangle you started with and copy and paste it, then shrink it’s size. Do the same with either of the horizontal shapes. Copy, paste, and shrink them horizontally. Then the G is done! Now we can use all the shapes we made in the G to make the rest of the letters. This makes sure that all the letter dimensions are uniform.
Step 3: Drawing the letter ‘R’
The letter R is tricky because it has a diagonal shape. Doing diagonal shapes in an isometric style is difficult. To begin, use the shapes from the letter G and make the letter P. Once you’ve made a P, we can add the rest to make it an R.
Make a small rectangle for the base of the diagonal shape. I’m going to actually move up the lower horizontal shape on the P so there’s more room for the diagonal part in the R underneath.
For the diagonal shape, I’m going to keep it small, and click on the Top icon on the Isometric panel to draw it. The letter R will still be facing the right way, I just need to draw the diagonal part on the top plane to make it look right. When you’ve done that, your R is done.
Step 4: Drawing the letter ‘O’
The letter O is probably the easiest to do; in this style of isometric text anyway. Our letters here are very geometric and don’t have any curves. This means that drawing the letter O is quite simple. Just take the letter G, copy and paste it next to the R. Remove the small horizontal shape on the G and make the small vertical shape longer, so it extends to the top. Then you have an O. Copy and paste the O to get our second O. Easy.
Step 5: Drawing the letter ‘V’
We’re on the last two letters now, and they’re both difficult. First is the letter V, which is all diagonals. To make it easier, we’re going to only use diagonal shapes for the bottom of the V. The upper part of the V will be straight up and down.
Copy + paste one of the O letters you’ve made so you have a guide for how tall and wide the V should be. Delete the top and bottom shapes in the O and shrink the two side rectangles up. Make them go a bit lower than the bottom part of the counter (the enclosed area) in the letter R. They’ll make the top of your V.
To make the bottom of the V, we first need to find the center point. To do this, you can just copy and paste the bottom of the O. When it’s selected, it will automatically show the center point of that shape. Place it where the bottom of the V will be, and give it a lighter colour since we won’t actually be using this shape for anything. It’s just a guide.
For the bottom of the V we’re going to switch the plane to the Top plane in the Isometric panel. Then we’re going to use the Pen tool to draw the bottom of the V using the Top plane grid as a guide.
Draw from the lower left point of the upper V shape to the center point on the bottom of our blue shape. Then draw up to the bottom right of the other side of the upper V. Then draw to the other corner of that shape. From there, draw to the top center of the blue shape, then draw up to the bottom right of the top left shape. Then just complete the shape. If none of that made sense, the shape I drew is below.
When the shape is complete, you can give it a black fill and delete the blue rectangle we used as a guide. It looks a bit odd right now, but when we add in the Top and Side planes it will look like a proper isometric letter.
Step 6: Drawing the letter ‘Y’
The last letter is a Y. How we go about this will be similar to how we drew the V. Switch back to Front plane in the Isometric panel. First, copy and paste the letter O to use as a guide. Delete the two side shapes of the O. Bring in the two sides of the bottom rectangle so there is just a square. Then pull the shape up so it extends to where the diagonal part of the V started.
For the top of the Y, we’re going to convert the top shape into two squares. Shrink the width until it’s a square, then copy and paste to put it into the other side. Next, extend each of the two squares down a bit, doubling it vertically. Now, all three shapes you have to make the Y should be identical.
Just like we did with the V, connect the three shapes using the Pen tool. Again, it’s going to look a little weird until we add in the shapes on the Side and Top plane. When you’ve drawn the shape, fill it in.
Step 7: Combining all the individual shapes
Now we need to merge all our shapes. Since each letter is made up of a few different shapes, they need to be combined so each letter is one, single shape. This is easy to do. Just select all the shapes in each letter, one at a time. When all the shapes in a single letter are selected, click the Add icon at the top of your screen, or right click > Geometry > Add. Go through the shapes in each letter and do this to each.
Step 8: Adding in the side planes
If you’re following along exactly, you’ve probably noticed the text is larger than the page. This is fine for now. Once the design is all done we can make it smaller. For now, we’ll keep everything the same size because we still need to use the isometric grid. You can move the whole word around if needed, just make sure it still aligns to the grid after it’s moved.
To add in the side plane for each letter, click on Side in the Isometric panel. Then you’re ready to draw. Use a different colour for this than you did for the front plane. Make sure Edit in Plane is still selected. Start drawing the shapes that will face the left side of the screen. You can make them as deep as you like, although I like to keep the depth the same as the front plane.
For some of the side plane shapes, you’ll need to draw the shape and then move it to the back. To do this, right-click on the shape, then go Arrange > Move To Back. Alternatively, you can just manually draw the shape using the Pen tool.
Once you’ve drawn all the Side plane shapes, we can move onto the Top plane shapes.
Step 9: Adding in the top planes
For the top planes, we’re going to pretty much do what we did with the side planes. But this time, click the Top plane icon in the Isometric panel. Make sure Edit In Plane is still selected as well. Choose a new colour, something that works well with your other two colours but adds enough contrast that you can tell the difference between all three planes.
The first few letters should be pretty straightforward, but with the diagonals on V and Y you’ll need to draw in the Top planes manually using the Pen Tool. Fortunately, if you drew them exactly how I did you can use the same shape for both letters.
This is what your finished word should look like.
Step 10: Grouping letters
Now that we have our completed word, we still want to go in and make each letter a group. That way, if we want to move the individual letters around, we can.
Zoom into each letter, select all the shapes in each, and go Layer > Group, or Ctrl+G (Command+G on a mac).
When you’ve done that, you can move the individual letters around as much as you like, stacking them or placing them right next to each other.
If you want to adjust any of the colours you’ve chosen, just ungroup each individual letter with Layer > Ungroup or Ctrl+Shift+G (Command+Shift+G on a mac). Select new colours for wherever you want, but keep colours the same per plane. When you’ve selected your new colours, just go back into each of the shapes and group them again.
We’re all done creating isometric text in Affinity! At this point you can customize your isometric text however you like, add a background colour, etc.
I hope you found this tutorial helpful and not too crazy confusing. I will probably do a video tutorial of this at some point, so let me know if that would be helpful for you. Are there others words or letters you are having difficulty with? Let me know in the comments below 🙂