Create a 3D Card Effect in After Effects with this FREE Project File
Learn how to create a 3D trading card entirely in After Effects. Tutorial includes a free downloadable project file!
3D virtual cards have exploded in popularity over the past year. Visually, they’re quite intriguing. These cards combine the nature of a flat playing card with images or animations that have depth and parallax. Designer Robbie Tilton creates some impressive 3D card examples.
In this video tutorial, we’re going to learn how to create our own 3D card entirely in After Effects. I recommend downloading the free project file, which includes plenty of assets to help you build your own card as you follow along.
Ready? Let’s get started!
By downloading, you agree not to resell or redistribute these free assets.
The Look of 3D Cards
What makes 3D cards look so unique is that we can see the card is flat, yet the image on the card has depth, far exceeding that of the card.
This is possible through a bit of compositing trickery (track mattes to be specific—more on that later). You can make 3D versions of real cards you scan yourself, or you can create an original one from scratch. The image on the card can be anything you want, from flat layers to pictures or 3D models.
How to Create a 3D Card
First, you’ll need to create your card shape using Solid or Shape layers. You’ll also need to create a layer that’s going to act as your “Image Window” for the 3D portion of your card.
Make sure all of the layers of your card are 3D layers in After Effects. Feel free to add in any custom text or descriptions onto your card, as well.
Then, in another composition, you’ll need to build out your 3D or 2.5D scene. (In the tutorial, I titled my 3D composition Image Window Comp.) You can do this with 3D layers or images, or you can use 3D plugins made for After Effects, such as Element 3D or Stardust.
After you’ve created your 3D scene, add the Image Window Comp below your Image Window layer in the original composition with your 3D card. Set the Track Matte for the Image Window Comp to Alpha Matte.
Next, you’ll need to turn on Collapse Transformations for the Image Window Comp in order for it to appear correctly in the 3D space. The Collapse Transformations icon looks like a small sun when it’s turned on.
Finally, create a 3D Camera and orbit around your card to see the 3D effect.
Tips for Refining the Look
After you’ve created your 3D card, you can polish the look using other effects. I like to add an Adjustment layer above the “hologram areas” of my card and add a Glow effect.
You can also fake some subtle reflections using the CC Light Sweep effect on your Image Window Comp. Just keyframe the animation of the light sweep.
Adding an image background to your 3D scene is also a nice touch, which can add more 3D parallax.
Using 3D Plugins
Finally, if you’re using 3D plugins in your 3D scene, using Collapse Transformations won’t work (so leave it checked off on your Image Window Comp). You’ll actually have to copy and paste the keyframed 3D Camera from your main scene into your 3D scene with your 3D plugin.
Since both 3D cameras have the same movement, this will allow everything to look correct in the main scene with the 3D card.
Interested in the royalty-free tracks we used to make this video? Give them another listen:
- “Influencers” by FASSounds
- “Lo Fi Beach Dawn” by Trending Music
- “Rain Rain Go Away” by Cosmo
- “Lo Fi Waves” by Origami Pigeon
- “Chilling in the West Indies” by Mattijs Muller
- “Fresh Hip Hop” by Trending Music
Discover even more on animating in After Effects: