Is there a way to trace objects to get this old fashion 3D effect?

Just like the question says.

Here’s the video. It’s from a recent Progressive commercial.

Is there a way to do this, preferably in Illustrator, without drawing the outline by hand?

Image still for reference.

Answer

Here’s how I’d go about this:

  1. Create a text layer with your text, convert it to outline. Set it at position (0,0) (x: 0px, y: 0px).
  2. Copy-paste the outlined text and set it to position (1,1).
  3. Paste again and set to (2,2)
  4. Select pasted item one and two, copy paste again, set to (3,3).
  5. Select pasted items one through four, copy paste, set to (5,5).
  6. Repeat until you’ve got about 15 copies.
  7. Unite all copies (NOT the original) via Pathfinder. Set the outline to your color, set the fill to blank.
  8. Optional: Delete any inner paths you don’t want.

3D outline in AI

It took me about two minutes to make. You can play around with the position shift if you’re not totally happy with the result (eg shift half a pixel right and a full pixel down). Some fonts are better for this than others.


Disclaimer: As stated in the comments, there are more efficient ways to go about this. This is the most simple way though, so if you’re a beginner, try to understand what is happening in this answer. Then try to understand how Vincent’s, Cai’s and jooja’s answers make it more efficient. If you’re a pro you can skip immediately to using transforms or scripting.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : Eugene Ross , Answer Author : PieBie

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