How to Create a Write-On Effect in After Effects

After Effects June 23, 2019 4 min read

Creating animated text using your own handwriting may seem daunting at first, but is actually pretty straightforward to make a write-on effect in After Effects.

Add some personality to the titles in your videos with this stylish, authentic title effect, which can be overlaid on footage to create a beautifully textured result. This tutorial will also kick off with a lesson on speed ramping footage, to add a punch of wow to the effect. Let’s get started! 

How to Make a Write-On Effect

Step 1: Prepare Your Footage

First, let’s take a look at preparing a clip for your text to overlay. This effect works particularly well for travel videos, so try and find a travel clip to use. These first few steps will cover importing footage, color correction, and then speed ramping, so you have a cool video ready for the write-on effect.

  1. Create a New Composition at 1920×1080 29.97, and give it a name like “Write On Effect.” 
  2. Import whatever footage you’d like to overlay the text on. Drag it into your composition. 
  3. Go to Effects > Color Correct > Curves to do some quick color correction. You’ll want the colors to be brighter with more contrast so the footage and text pops. 
  4. Add some contrast by dragging the bottom down a little more and the top up a little more. 
  5. Do the same with Hue/Saturation and Brightness/Contrast to get the results you’re looking for.
  6. Next, create a fluid speed ramp with the Timewarp effect. Go to Effects > Time > Timewarp.
  7. Set the speed to 5000 at frame 0, and set a keyframe. 
  8. At frame 25, change the value to 200 to set another keyframe. 
  9. Hit U on the keyboard to bring up the keyframes.
  10. Highlight the keyframes and right-click, then go to Keyframe Assistant > Easy Ease.
  11. Right-click on the second keyframe, go to Keyframe Velocity and set it to 75%.
  12. Set the first keyframe’s outgoing percentage to 90.
  13. Preview this clip and adjust the influence to your liking, until you have something you’re happy with.
  14. Make sure the Timewarp effect is on top of the color correction in the Effects panel.

Step 2: Create the Write-On Effect

Now you have a cool video, it’s time to overlay some text. The next steps will walk you through how to create a write-on effect with text over the video footage that you have just prepared.

  1. Go to Layer > New > Solid, and check Make Comp Size to match the size of the composition. Name it, “Write On.”
  2. Double-click on the solid to open it in the layer panel. You need to be in the layer panel, rather than the composition panel to make this work.
  3. Move the playhead to 0. 
  4. Select the Brush tool from the tool panel. If you don’t see this, go to Window > Brushes.
  5. In the Brush panel, you can adjust the brush settings to get your desired look. Try making something that isn’t a perfect circle, to vary the style. Leave Angle, Diameter, and Roundness at 45. Make Hardness 100. Decrease Spacing to 15%. Under Brush Dynamics, turn Size from Pen Pressure to Off.
  6. In the Paint panel, you can adjust the color. If you don’t see this, go to Window > Paint.
  7. Leave Opacity and Flow at 100%, Mode on normal, Channel RGBA, and change the Duration to Write On.
  8. After Effects will record brush strokes and keyframe them in real-time based on how you draw them. Pretty neat! 
  9. Now, making sure the playhead is at 0, you can go into the layer panel and brush away. 

Pro Tip Using the Write On Mode

The first thing you’ll notice is as soon as you lift your brush, the stroke disappears. No need to panic, scrub through the timeline, and you’ll see the strokes animating in. Remember, After Effects automatically keyframes in Write-On mode. 

This is great because it saves a step but it can be difficult to write out everything if all the other strokes keep disappearing. The easiest way to work around this is to draw one brush stroke at a time, then move the playhead to where it finishes, and then draw your next stroke. That way you don’t have to draw blindly, and After Effects will record your drawing from that point in the timeline so it goes on sequentially. 

Using these steps, finish drawing out your text. The default speed will be the speed at which you draw the text.

Step 3: Refine the Speed of the Effect

To speed up the write-on effect, you’ll need to adjust the keyframes.

  1. Hitting U on the keyboard will reveal all the keyframes on the selected layer(s). 
  2. Highlight all of the keyframes except for the last brush (amend the line separately, a couple of steps below).
  3. Hold Option or Alt and click and drag the last keyframe in the timeline. This allows you to “scale” the keyframes together so that they can speed up or slow down universally. Scale the keyframes down so that the animation speeds up. 
  4. Drag the handles of each brush stroke (it looks like a miniature layer bar right above the keyframes) so that it matches up with the keyframes’ new position. 
  5. Hit Ctrl + 0 to do a RAM Preview.
  6. You could overlap the keyframes so the animation is more fluid.
  7. Move the line layer to the left to make the underline animation happen sooner.
  8. Move the keyframes closer or further apart to either speed up or slow down the animation.
  9. Right-click and Easy Ease the second keyframe. Set the Keyframe Velocity to 90%.
  10. Use the Selection Tool to drag the image until it’s in the center of the screen, or wherever you’d like to put it.
  11. You may want to change the Blending Mode of the write-on layer to Overlay, so that it has some transparency. It’s up to you.

Step 4: Add Some Texture

The finishing touch of this effect is to add a cool painterly texture to the text so it doesn’t look like a perfect block of color.

  1. Import a textured footage of your choosing and drag it into the composition
  2. Set the Blending Mode to Multiply.
  3. Apply a Levels effect to do some color correction. 
  4. In Levels, you can bring in the whites, blacks, and mids to fine-tune the look of the texture. 

And that’s all there is to it. Creating a write on effect in After Effects CC gives you an awesome text animation to include in your travel blogs or any videos which would benefit from having a bit of personality beyond a regular font. Have fun playing around with colors and textures to get the perfect write on effect for your video!