Create Playful Scribble Effects (Overlays) in Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro May 19, 2021 5 min read

Creating scribble effects in Final Cut Pro is not as simple as you might think. Out of the box, Final Cut Pro does not include any drawing tools for easily sketching on top of your videos, but don’t let that stop you! Below we’ll cover several ways to create cool, animated squiggles and doodles on top of your videos.

First, we’ll discuss creating scribbles in an outside image editing program like Photoshop. Then, we’ll cover 2 cool Final Cut plugins that include special windows just for drawing.

Part 1: Drawing Scribble Effects in FCPX without Plugins 

If you’d like to sketch your own scribble effects in Final Cut Pro without downloading any plugins, you’ll need to choose a 3rd party image editing program to do your drawing. There are a variety of options. 

1. Photoshop

One popular option is Photoshop, which is included in the Adobe CC suite. Photoshop is a powerful raster editing program. While it has a bit of a learning curve, the software’s capabilities make it a top choice for pro designers and photographers.

2. Lightshot

Another popular option is Lightshot Screenshot, which can be downloaded from the Mac App Store. This software allows you to capture screenshots and sketch them on top of them. Best of all, it’s free!

3. Kleki

Finally, if you don’t want to download any software, a great web-based option is available that you can use from right inside your browser. Kleki is a full-featured image and photo editing software and you can download it easily with the link below.

Step 1: Import your Footage and Choose Your Frames

With this effect we’re going to select several frames in our composition to get scribbled. We’ve selected a piece of stock photos from MotionArray.com, but you can use any footage and draw your own doodles!

  1. If you haven’t already, create your project by selecting File > New > Project on the top menu bar. 
  2. Import your clips by pressing Command + I or pressing the Import button above the browser.
  3. Drag your clip down into the timeline.
  4. Skim along with the footage and select the frames you’d like to add sketch overlays. For each one, press M to lay a marker.

Step 2: Export Your Marked Frames as Images

This is where you’ll convert individual frames from your video clip into png images that you can edit in another piece of software. Before getting started, you might want to create a special folder somewhere on your computer to stay organized.

  1. Move the Playhead to the leftmost marker in your timeline and then select File > Share > Save Current Frame.
  2. Save the frame to a folder where you can find it, and name it image 1.png.
  3. Repeat the above steps for each one of your marked frames, with increasing numbers for the name (ie. image 2.png, image 3.png).

Step 3: Sketch on the Images 

Your image editing software of choice is going to make a difference here. For the tutorial, we’ll be using Photoshop–but you can adapt these steps to any software that can load images and has a paintbrush tool. 

  1. Open the first frame in your image editing software.
  2. Create a new layer and draw your sketch on that.
  3. Disable the image layer (with the video frame) and export the image as a PNG named Sketch 1.
  4. Repeat the above steps for each of your captured frames.

Step 4: Add Scribbles Back to Timeline 

If you stayed organized with your file names, this last step is just a matter of putting everything back together in order. You can also make creative choices, like how long each scribble will remain on screen. 

  1. At the top menu bar, navigate to Final Cut Pro > Preferences > Editing and change the duration to .01 seconds. 
  2. In a Finder window, open up the folder with all of your frames. Drag Sketch 1.png onto your timeline and place it directly above your first marker. 
  3. Repeat the above step for each fame. If you need to make fine adjustments, you can zoom in with the Zoom tool by pressing Z.

Once you’re done, hit play and watch your sketches blink on and off the screen overlaid atop your video. Pretty cool right? This technique is becoming increasingly popular on YouTube, in music videos, and with commercials–because it’s fun!

Part 2: Adding Scribble Effects to FCPX with a Plugin

If you’d rather not use an image editing program outside FCPX, you have another option. Downloadable plugins can give you the drawing functionality to add scribbles from within Final Cut Pro itself. Below, we’ve reviewed available premium options for creating your own sketches in FCPX.

1. Coremelt’s PaintX Plugin

PaintX lets you directly apply brush strokes onto a frame of your video and then have your strokes track along if there is movement in the clip. You can use this to remove parts of a video clip, such as power lines. Or you can add basic effects like drawing makeup on a subject, or even quirky hand-drawn titles like an arrow or handwriting. 

Brushstrokes you add to your composition can be individually tracked in layers so that they are sure to track along with the correct portion of the image. This tool is like adding the features of Photoshop directly into Final Cut Pro. Many of the familiar tools from image editing software are available, like blur brush, paintbrush, airbrush, pen tool, clone brush, and more.

While this is a great, fully functional raster illustration plugin for FCPX, the price point at the time of writing is $99, which definitely places it at the high end of available Final Cut Pro tools. 

Download PaintX Plugin Now

2. Pixel Film FCPX Brush 2.0

Coming in a little cheaper is the FCPX brush by Pixel Film, a vector-based brush tool for Final Cut Pro. This tool is best used for doodle-style animations overlaid on top of your footage. It gives you the perfect interface for creating fun, unique artwork.

Using the FCPX brush is simple, and we’ve prepared a short tutorial for you below to demonstrate creating a sketch with FCPX’s write-on effect. 

  1. Import your footage into the timeline, then drag FCPX Brush above it. 
  2. In the Inspector, click Open Editor, and the FCPX Brush interface will launch in a separate window. 
  3. In the FCPX Brush window, move the playhead to the first frame you’d like to draw on. 
  4. Now draw an outline, right in the preview window.
  5. In the options to the right, increase Frame Duration. You can see your drawing’s frame lengthen in the timeline. 
  6. Now turn on Write On Activate.
  7. And press Export when you’re done to return to Final Cut Pro.

Wow, that was a lot of different options for creating sketch effects in Final Cut Pro! Between plugins, or just drawing them on your own in another program like Photoshop, there are so many ways to get creative with animated doodles. Your viewers are sure to notice the time you put in sketching fun designs on your next video production.

If you liked these tools, there’s actually a lot more to choose from. Check out Motion Array, which has entire sections for Final Cut Pro effects, transitions, titles, generators, stock footage, and more. Good luck with your next project in Final Cut Pro.