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After Effects Video Tutorial: Pencil Write-On Animation

Evan Abrams

Create a write-on cursive animation in After Effects – great for explainer videos or title graphics.

Adobe After Effects

In this Premiumbeat exclusive video tutorial you’ll learn how to create an awesome cursive write-on effect using After Effects. The effect doesn’t look very difficult but it does utilize some upper level techniques. This tutorial covers:

  • Toggling the transparency grid
  • Roving keyframes and temporal lock
  • Stylizing graphite streaks

This tutorial is very different from most write-on tutorials in After Effects. Instead of using the built in write-on tool, we’ll use a shape layer mixed with rotational values.

Prefer reading to watching? Check out the After Effects how-to below.
Click images for larger view.

1 Create a new composition and create a new text layer with any words you want. 

2 Make a shape layer over the text layer with a light stroke. Draw over the word in a cursive manner.

3 Make a new null object and name it “follower”. Copy and paste the shape layer’s path into the position of the null object.

4 Add a trim path to the shape layer and set two easy eased keyframes.

5  Make a new white solid and apply a grid effect to simulate paper.

6  Add turbulent noise to simulate paper texture.

7 Precompose the paper layer and add a fast blur.

8 Create a pencil on a single shape layer.

9  Move the anchor point to the tip of the pencil.

10 Pickwhip the position of the pencil to the position of the null object and add “value +” to the beginning of the pencil position expression. Set keyframes to simulate the pencil coming into the scene.

11 Set the rotation of the pencil to match a natural movement. Hold down ALT and click the rotation of the pencil creating an expression, type:

x=2; y=“pick whip to the ‘follower’ position”[0]*.01;wiggle(x,y);

12 Add a turbulent noise, noise HLS, tint, roughen edges, curves, and fast blur to the cursive shape layer. Stylize.

13  Set the text layer to multiply.

If you have any questions regarding this tutorial or if you have any quick tips for using expressions in After Effects please comment below!