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How to Animate Individual Letters in Adobe After Effects

Jason Boone

After Effects has a number of typography tools, the most powerful being the text animator. Let’s see how to animate letters with this tool.

Text animators are essentially groups of selectors and properties that reside within a text element. Use the selectors to isolate a specific area of text, then add properties to animate. You can animate those properties via any of the parameters within the animator. These allow you to create some pretty complex movements, including adjusting individual letters, words, and lines of a text layer.

To figure out how they work, let’s take a step-by-step look at how to recreate this simple quote animation.


Add Text Selectors

For the first step, I’ll break my text into the specific parts that I want to animate. This includes the quotation marks, the word water, the quote, and the name. I’ll also create a group called Animate IN. Again, the beauty of this method is that I can do all of my animations within one single text layer.

I’ll use range selectors to isolate each element, which I’ll add via Animate > Add Text Selector > Range. This will automatically create a Range Selector inside of a new Text Animator group.

After Effects: Add Selectors

Isolate each element with range selectors.

Range selectors consist of three main parameters: Start, End, and Offset. Use the Advanced drop-down menu to specify if you want to target characters, words, or lines of text. The range can also be modified manually in the comp panel by clicking and dragging the relative Start and End bars. To keep things organized, I’ll rename each animator according to the selection.

After Effects: Add Selectors

Stay organized by renaming each animator.


Specify the Properties

Now that I’ve got all of my assets selected in their own text animator groups, I’m ready to add some properties to animate. To add a property to an animator, I’ll click on the Add button just to the right of the animator, and navigate to the Property submenu.

After Effects: Add Properties

Add properties to animate.

For the Water animator, I’ll add Fill Color > RGB and switch the color to blue. I’ll add Position to the rest of the groups. I’ll add Opacity to the Quotation Marks, and Skew to the Name. Last, but not least, I’ll add Opacity and Position to my Animate IN group. Now, I’m ready to animate!


Animate the Elements

Many AE users find text animators to be complex and confusing. This is most likely due to the number of keyframable parameters available. Most of the text animators of my animation, however, are quite simple.

For the Water group, I’ll navigate to the Advanced section of the Range Selector and keyframe the Amount from 0% to 100%. Both the Quote and Name groups require simple Position property keyframes. While the Quotation Marks group requires two range selectors — it’s a simple Position and Opacity animation to bring both of those selections to life.

After Effects: Animate Properties

You’ll find that the text animators are quite simple to implement.


Position Animation

To get a smooth position transition, I’ll need to keyframe the Offset of the Range Selector, specify a Shape, then tweak the Ease High and Ease Low properties.

After Effects: Animate the Properties

You may need to experiment with different parameters to get used to them.

The Shape property specifies how the Range Selector deals with transitions between each character, word, or line. The default Square will give a choppy, blocky look. I’ll switch to Ramp Up, and then set both the Ease High and Ease Low to roughly 50%. The Shape and Ease High/Low parameters tend to cause most of the confusion when it comes to text animators, so play around with these parameters to get comfortable using them.

Once all of my properties are animated, it’s a matter of timing the keyframes to get the specific look that I want.

After Effects: Quote Animation


Advanced Techniques

This example is only the tip of the text-animator iceberg. You can get much more in-depth with your animations. As you saw, you can add multiple selectors and properties to each animator, and then multiple animators to each text layer. Each Range Selector also has its own blend mode, which can give you some pretty interesting results when working with multiple selectors.

As always, practice makes perfect. If you’re looking for another fun project, take a look at this tutorial where I demonstrate how to use text animators to create karaoke graphics.


Cover image via rangizzz.