Gone are the days when editors just edited videos. Due to high demands in the industry, the editor has evolved from simple storyteller to a one-person team of motion designer, audio mixer, and video editor. As an editor, you now need to use Adobe After Effects in your projects to give you an edge, or else risk being left behind by your competition, and one of the most common uses for AE is text animation.
Text animations, even simple ones, can give your videos that needed boost to make them more dynamic. In After Effects, text layers can be animated using animation presets, text animators, transform properties, and expressions. In this tutorial, we’ll go through creating text layers, animating text using the transform properties, applying text animation presets, and using text animators to animate text.
Click inside the Composition panel and type any word of your choice. When you’re done, make sure to press Enter on the numeric keypad to exit text-editing mode. If you press Enter or Return on the regular keyboard, this will begin a new line or paragraph. If you don’t have a numeric keypad, you can also select the layer name to finish typing and exit text-editing mode.
Open the Character panel and the Paragraph panel. Using these panels is very easy — especially if you’re familiar with Photoshop or Illustrator, because they are very similar. Select your text and choose a font that you like, as well as the size of your text. You can also change the alignment of your text from the Paragraph panel. For my settings, I chose the Century Gothic font. I changed the font size to 210 and my paragraph alignment to Center aligned.
Applying a Text Animation Preset
After Effects comes with a plethora of presets. You can access them through the Effects & Presets panel. Open the folders to see all the text-animation presets.
But the best way to see the animation presets is through Adobe Bridge. To do this, make sure that you have Bridge installed, then inside AE, go to Animation > Browse Presets. This will automatically open Adobe Bridge and show what each of the animations looks like.
Open the Text folder inside Bridge and you’ll see several different styles of animation presets. Browse the presets and choose the one that you like. I chose the 2D Flutter in Random Order inside the 2D Text folder.
Once you’ve made your choice, you can go back to After Effects, then go to the Effects & Presets panel again to open the same folder and drag the preset onto your text — or simply select your text and double click to apply it.
Ideally, you can just select the preset in Adobe Bridge while your text is selected inside AE. When you double click the preset, it will automatically apply the animation to your text. But as of this writing, there’s a script error that appears every time you do this. Just note that, despite the error, the animation still works. So it’s up to you to decide whether to apply the preset through Adobe Bridge and ignore that or just do it within After Effects.
Press “0” in the numeric keypad in order to create a RAM preview and watch your work. You can expand the keyframes if you find the animation to fast or too slow.
Select your text layer and then press “U.” Doing this will quickly show the keyframes of a particular layer. Make sure that you are using the selection tool. Select the last keyframe and drag it left to increase the speed of the animation and drag it to the right to slow it down.
I changed the duration of my animation to three seconds. Now all that is left is to render this out or import it into Premiere Pro.
Animating with Text Animators
Even though After Effects has a lot of really nice animation presets, there are times that you won’t find the animation you need. That’s why it’s important to learn how to animate text manually using text animators.
To do this, create a new text layer and place it under your first word. In my case, I created “Licious” using the Bodoni 72 font, with font size 100 and tracking 972. While the layer is selected, position the Current Time Indicator to the two-second mark and press “[” — this will trim your text layer and start it at two seconds.
Expand your text layer. On the right, you’ll see the Animate menu. Click on the pop-up triangle. This will show you the list of properties you can animate. Choose Tracking.
We want to start the letters of the text expanded and bring them closer together, so we’ll animate their Tracking properties. Input “40” as the Tracking amount. Expand Range Selector 1, make sure that your Current Time Indicator is still at the two-second mark, and press the stopwatch on the Start property to create a keyframe.
Move your Current Time Indicator to around the five-second mark, then change the value of Start to 100. Expand the “Advanced” property and change “Based On” from Characters to Words.
Changing this determines how the text will be animated. Do you want it animated per letter? Per word? Try animating text with at least two words per sentence to see how each animation looks.
Close down Animator 1 and rename this to “Tracking.” To do this, select the words “Animator 1,” then press Enter and type your new name. Renaming your Animators will help organize your project and make it easier for you to identify each animator.
Select the text again and make sure that no property is selected, then add a Blur Animator. Rename this to “Blur,” with 20 as the value of the Blur. Again, make sure you’re at the two-second mark, then add a keyframe at the Start property. Move the Current Time Indicator to the four-second mark, then change it to 100. Change “Based On” from Characters to Words, as well.
Now we need to add a fade-in so that the text doesn’t just pop in. This time, we’ll animate one of the Layer Transform properties.
Move to the beginning of your layer, then close the Text properties and expand the Transform properties. Change the Opacity to zero to add a keyframe. Move to the four-second mark and change the opacity to 100.
Select your text layer once again and press “U” to show all your keyframes, then press F9. This will change all your keyframe types to Easy Ease. What this does is start the animation slowly and end it slowly, so that it doesn’t look linear or mechanical.
For our last step, turn on Motion Blur on the timeline and on the text layer itself. This will make your animation look more natural, because moving things have a natural motion blur.
Once you’re done, do a RAM preview and watch your work. This is our end product:
Remember that there are tons of ways to animate text within After Effects. The key is to practice the techniques and play with the software. Experiment a lot, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to create complex animation in After Effects.
And for more inspiration, explore thousands of text-based After Effects Templates in the Pond5 collection and see what you can create!