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How to Create Hand Drawn Text in Adobe After Effects

Evan Abrams

In this After Effects video tutorial you’ll learn how to create a stop motion pen animation in After Effects!

Adobe After Effects

Breathe life into your text with a stop motion write-on animation in After Effects. Hand drawn text is fun and playful, making it appropriate for wide variety of subject matter and video projects.

In the following tutorial you’ll discover that it’s quite easy to create an organic hand drawn effect in AE. Using only the tools that are within After Effects (no third party plugins required), you can create the hand drawn effect using simple expressions and the AE pen tool.

Pick up lots of little tricks here to make the hand drawn effect appear more organic. For instance, AE expressions are added to the background paper layer to pull of the stop motion effect.

Check out the full hand drawn text in After Effects tutorial (best viewed full screen) or read the full video transcript below: 

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In this After Effects tutorial we will be faking stop motion animation using a fake ballpoint pen. I’m Evan Abrams from premiumbeat.com. You don’t even need multiple pieces of paper or a real ballpoint pen. So, let’s open up After Effects and start faking stop motion animation. Inside After Effects, the first thing we’re going to do is create a new composition, and we’re going to go with the HDTV 1080 24 frames a second preset, duration 30 seconds. Now, we’ll also need a paper background, so, go ahead and import one of those and we’ll drag that out to be on the composition.

It’s best if you use paper textures that are larger than the frame of the composition. In this case, this one is “3,000 by 4,000,” which goes well beyond the bounds of the frame. And we’re just going to apply a “curves” to it and push the curves up to lighten it and we’ll apply as well a tint because we’re not interested in any of the color information. And, because we’re going to be faking a stop motion type effect, we’re going to change it’s position and rotation to have expressions on them. Those expressions are going to be wiggle and then 10 times a second and, in the case of the position, it’s going to wiggle 8 pixels and, in the case of the rotation, it’s going to wiggle 0.25 degrees.

So, you can see every frame it’s slightly different and you might want to amplify this effect to be more significant if you want it to appear like it’s much more different pieces of paper every time. So, there we go, and that is the paper taken care of, so, lock that layer so we don’t disturb it and now we’re going to create the lines of the ballpoint pen that are drawing onto the paper. So, we do that by creating a text layer and typing out a guide, in this case, simply using the word guide, and then scale it up to be the size you need and use the align panel to align it to where you’d like or position it by hand. Now, if you’d like, you can go layer, create shapes from text and it’ll create outlines around the outside of the shape, but what I’d like to is to use the pen tool to create a more hand-drawn look by just clicking and drawing a path.

So, make sure you have nothing selected, and then just click and draw and it will create a new shape layer for you as you draw. I’m just using the Bebas Neue font as a guide in order to draw down this new shape. So, it’s created a shape layer and it’s put a shape inside it with a path. I’m going to change it’s stroke color to be a white, a pure white, and the stroke size is good at 10. So, keep that layer selected, go back to the pen tool and then draw out the rest of the shapes, keeping in mind that you want to draw them similar to how a hand would draw them with different curves and slight differences in how they start and stop, kind of flowing them into each other, perhaps putting things like little curves in the corners and overlap when they end.

So, now we have our lines and however you’ve generated that shape layer is not necessarily important. You don’t need to look at the guide anymore, so that can go away. And now we will change the stroke to be something we can see on the paper, so a nice, dark color, even pure black will work for this. And what we’re going to do is we are going to animate on this text using the trim paths, so just add trim paths, it’ll add trim paths to each of the shapes, and we’ll change it from simultaneously to individually and set the ends to be 0, put a key frame there, move ahead to approximately 3 seconds, and set a key frame as 100% complete.

So, as you can see, the layers are drawing on and they draw on in the order from top to bottom, so you may have to change the order to make sure that they’re going in the order you expected. And when you watch them play back, everything looks pretty good and normal. Now, styling this is very important. Now, all of the styling comes down to the effects that you applied to it. So, we’re going to use a roughen edges, and a roughen edges, as you can see, is just going to change the consistency of the line, and we’re going to change the scale here down to 20, so it’s a lot rougher. And that roughness is meant to simulate the ink bleeding into the paper.

And then we are also going to be changing it’s evolution here. In the evolutions options, hold down ALT, click on random seed and then type in wiggle 10 comma 8 so that it’s constantly changing on every frame what it looks like. And the next thing to do is to add to it a wiggle paths, again back into the shape stack where you can add things. And the wiggle paths causes the path itself to change, so, not only are we change the thickness to be variable, we’re changing the line itself to be variable. Now, we’re just going to change the size to be down to 2 and the detail is probably good at 8, and instead of corner we would like it to be smooth.

That’s good. Now, we can have it’s wiggles per second go at about 25, or 10, or something very similar to the variation we have elsewhere. So that’s causing variation in the line. Now, we’re also going to add to this a turbulent displace, which causes larger displacements. So we’re going to change its amount to be 1, its size to be 350, and we are going to change its evolution options to, again, change that random seed to be wiggling 10 times a second, 8 units. And you can see that it’s bulging and changing with that addition. Now, the next thing we want to do is change its position and rotation to also have wiggles on them. So, hold down ALT and click on the stopwatch for those and we’re going to set them to wiggle 10
times a second. And, in terms of the position, we’re only going to change that by 2 pixels and we are going to copy and paste that to the rotation and, instead of 2 degrees, it’s going to be 3.25 degrees.

So, it’s moving and changing a little bit on every frame. Now, to make this really look like pen, it has to kind of sink in and blur it more to the paper. So, we’re going to take this shape layer and we’re going to precompose it, you can do that by going layer, selecting pre-compose, or Control Shift C or Command Shift C, and we’re going to name this “pen strokes” and we’re going to duplicate this twice. On the topmost layer we’re going to leave it as-is, but we’re going to layer, layer styles and we’re going to add a bevel and emboss to it. And what this will do is create that shiny, indented look by changing it from up to down, and change it’s size by down to 3. You can see here, at the bottom, it’s getting kind of a glossy indent.

And then to the layer below it we would like to apply fast blur to it, setting its blurriness to something like 5 pixels, and then copy that fast blur and apply it to the pen stroke below it and we’ll set that up to 10. Just zoom in here and have a look at how deep your pen gouge is into the paper and maybe just change it to be not as deep. Maybe 25% deep could be good so it really looks like something as been pressed in there but not somuch that it looks comical. Now, last thing to do is take all of those, change them set to be multiply except for the top layer, which can remain as normal, and we’re going to change their opacities to be down at 60 because it doesn’t need to be totally, fully bright. You might want to go
in and adjust that the alpha of these to be slightly more blob-like. So, you can do that by applying a fast blur, setting the blurriness to 2, and then applying a curves to that layer and affect it’s alpha to be more contrasting. And then, when you go back, you can see it become a little bit more blob-like in how the ink is behaving. So, we you play that back, we have this nice, stop motion movement of everything and it looks plausibly like stop motion pen.

So, the last thing to do is put on a new solid, set it to be black, make it the composition size, and we’ll just apply a vignette using an ellipse path that is set to subtract, then alter it to have a feather of 960 and an expansion of, roughly, 450 and you are all done. This has been Evan Abrams for premiumbeat.com, your source for royalty-free music and sound effects. Stop by the blog to see more tips and tricks in After Effects and other applications and I’ll see you next time for more tutorials. I’m Evan Abrams and thanks for watching.