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.

3D Card Rotating
3D card in After Effects.

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.

Card Design
Creating the card design using Solid layers and masks.

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.

Creating 3D Layers
Making the card layers 3D and adding text descriptions on the card.

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.

Building the 3D Scene
Building the 3D scene in the Image Window Comp.

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.

Set as Alpha Matte
Add the Image Window Comp below the Image Window Layer. Set it 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.

Collapse Transformations
Turn on Collapse Transformations for the Image Window Comp.

Finally, create a 3D Camera and orbit around your card to see the 3D effect.

3D Camera Orbit
Orbiting around the card with a 3D camera in After Effects.

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.

Adding Glow Effect
Adding the Glow effect to layers on the card.

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.

CC Light Sweep
Keyframing reflections using CC Light Sweep.

Adding an image background to your 3D scene is also a nice touch, which can add more 3D parallax.

3D Card Effect with Image Background
3D card with an image background.

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.

Using Element 3D
3D card using Element 3D.

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:

Discover even more on animating in After Effects:


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