Is there a method in After Effects of animating the outlines of text as seen in the example below?



3 Answers 3


Simplest way is to use the Stroke Effect on a solid layer with separate letters as masks.

  • Create a new solid
  • Write your text in Illustrator
  • Convert it to a path
  • Separate all letters with the path finder or ungroup it
  • Setup same document size as in After Effects
  • Import your paths into after effects, pasting should also work with CTRL+V. Requirement is to have all of your paths from Illustrator as separate masks on the solid in After Effects.
  • Note: you can create separate paths from an image of letters within After Effects with the auto trace option (Layer > Auto Trace) - use black and white option and set it to the current frame (Note: Tracing letters isn't really accurate)
  • Apply the stroke effect to the solid layer which should be full of masks now
  • Tick All Masks option to make use of all masks
  • Set the paint style to transparent
  • Go to your first frame and set the End value of the effect to 0%
  • Click the stop watch of it to enable animation
  • Go to your last frame and set the End value to 100%

You can play with the settings of the effect, but in general this should do what you want to achieve.

Note: The order of masks determines the order of the animation. To reverse the effect simply duplicate the first keyframe and move it behind the second one.

  • This answer is brilliant, thanks a lot. I would however like each letter to be independent from another (so I followed the steps separately for each letter's outline). Also, I was hoping for it not to be a linear 0 to 100 stroke being drawn across the letter but instead continuous looping portions of the outline's strokes moving across the letter's outline. If the letter's outline was a train track the strokes would be several trains moving along it, with gaps in between.
    – sstaccato
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 15:14
  • 1
    @sstaccato Nice - to loop it you can write an expression for the end value with something like loop_out("cycle",0) or you can simply loop the composition, but to clarify that would be a new question :)
    – p2or
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 16:59

This process is mostly manual, but it shouldn't take long to accomplish. I'll assume the background of your finished video is going to be a solid color, as it is in your example.

  1. Create your text. Make the "body" of each letter either transparent or matching the background color. Add a stroke (outline) around all the text. (This can be done in Photoshop; I'm not sure about After Effects.)
  2. As a separate file, create a small circle or other shape that matches the background color. (This can be done in Photoshop or even in MS Paint.)
  3. In After Effects or Premiere, place your text. Also place several instances of the small circles/shapes, which should be impossible to see unless they are over a text stroke.
  4. Animate the small circles/shapes so they travel around the text strokes.

In After Effects,

-Create the text.

-Right-click on text > 'Create Shapes from Text'.

-Hide the fills of the shapes, unhide the stroke of the shapes.

-Expand the layer properties. Beside 'Contents, click "Add: ►" > 'Trim Paths'.

-Playing with the 'Start', 'End', and 'Offset' properties.

that's all.

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