Whether you’re working on a music lyric video, title cards, lower thirds or anything that involves animating text in Adobe After Effects, you’ll want to avoid these 7 common mistakes. Hopefully this tutorial will help you critique and then improve your own text animations.
Depending on what style you’re going for, there are different techniques for animating text. More on different techniques for animating text here. If you want letters to draw in, you’ll likely want to use shape layers. But if you’re not doing that, and instead you’re animating any of the Transform properties, you’ll want to use text animators.
Text Animators refer to After Effects’ built-in system specifically designed to animate text.
Here are a few examples (from my class) of the infinite ways to animate text with text animators:
Say you wanted to animate each letter of a word scaling in and dropping into place, like this:
If you didn’t know about text animators, you’d need to make a new text layer for each letter and keyframe the scale and position properties of each letter. If you wanted to make changes, like change the size of the text, the font, or move everything over, it’s going to be a real pain. And if you need to change what the text says, well, you basically have to start over. But if you use text animators, you can set up the animation, then easily edit what the text says. You can change the font, size, or any styling on the text and the animation will still work.
With text animators you still have access to all the Transform properties so you can move or scale, or adjust or animate any of these properties with out messing up the text animator.
To learn more, check out my class Text Animators: Custom Text Animation in Adobe After Effects. In this class, I show you everything you need to know about how text animators work. Plus, I show you how to create a handful of different examples (that you saw above) that demonstrate a wide range of possibilities. Using what you learn, you’ll be able to create your own unique text animations.
If you go to the Effects & Presets panel, then toggle open Animation Presets, then Text, these are all presets that come with After Effects.
To preview them without having to actually apply them to text, go to the hamburger menu and choose Browse Presets.
This will open up Adobe Bridge and you can navigate to the text presets and click to view them.
Some of the more simple presets, like Typewriter or Fade Up are perfectly fine to use. But others are pretty crazy and look a bit outdated, so it’s best to avoid these if you want to look professional.
Learn how to create your own text animation presets in my class, Text Animators.
One of the reasons some of the default text animator presets aren’t so great, is that they’re too elaborate.
No matter the style of text animation, it’s possible to overdo it. It wouldn't be a good idea to animate too many words in the styles above. It's a mistake to have too much text animated in in too fancy of a way.
Also, it’s best to avoid having a ton of text on screen at any one time.
Anytime you have more than a few words on screen, consider which ones are the most important. Then, animate these words in a more elaborate style while the less important words can have a more subtle animation.
Or, another approach would be to use a simple text animator to animate all the text in, in a way that won’t be too over-the-top or distract from your message.
If your text looks like a CAPTCHA, you’re doing it wrong. Ideally, you want to minimize the amount of time that your text is not legible as it animates in.
Your natural inclination is to read any text that’s put in front of us. But if that text is hard to read, seems too long, or seems not worth your time and energy for any reason, you’re much less likely to read it.
It’s best to avoid text that animates in in a way that it’s hard to read for too long. We’re talking a matter of frames here.
This is probably the most common mistake I see when someone animates text for the first time, and definitely a mistake I’ve made too. Once the viewer understands that there’s going to be text, they’re going to wonder what it says and try to read it. Don’t make your viewer wait for every single letter to painstakingly animate in, one at a time, very slowly. Most people don’t have the patience for that so you can lose a lot of viewers this way.
If you’ve spent a decent amount of time coming up with a cool animation, you might have a tendency to drag the animation out so that viewers can see how cool it is. But actually, it’s more enjoyable to watch when you get the timing right.
If you need to speed up an entire animation, one way you can do this is to select multiple keyframes at once, hold down option (Mac) or alt (PC), and then drag the last keyframe to the left to squish all the keyframes.
Or, you may end up with a slower animation because it’s easier to see what you’re doing when it’s a bit slower.
If need to watch your animation in slow motion, to see what needs to be adjusted, go to the Preview panel. Then, change the frame rate to something less than the frame rate of your composition. Now your animation will play back in slow motion. Just remember to set this back to the frame rate of your comp or auto! Watch this tip here.
To be clear, you want to make the animation of the text appearing quick enough. Once your text is on screen, make sure to give the viewer enough time to read it.
Keep in mind that since you’re already familiar with what your text says, you’ll be faster at reading it than someone who’s just seeing it for the first time.
Another mistake is to make the text come in in a linear and predictable way. Or, to make each letter come in one at a time, waiting for the previous letter to finish before the next letter starts animating in.
These animations are boring and mechanical:
Instead, you want to overlap your letters so the next letter starts animating when the previous letter is almost finished animating in. This will make your animation engaging and lively and it will flow better.
Consider the flow of the animation as a whole too. This is especially important when animating a single word (or two), like for a logo. Another way to talk about flow is ‘easing’. Learn more about easing in my class, Smooth Moves: Better Motion with Animation Curves in the Graph Editor.
Usually, this means starting off a letter or word slow, speeding up in the middle, then finishing slow. Another option is to make the flow of the animation mimic the timing of text written by hand.
Also, when animating text out, you can usually overlap the letters more and/or animate the letters out faster. At this point your viewer has already seen and read you’re text and they’re ready for what’s next. You don’t want to bore them by slowly animating each letter out one at a time.
In the example below, things are happening all over the screen, all at similar times. You don’t know where to look! It’s chaotic! You have to take extra time to try to figure out what order to read the text so that it makes sense.
Now take a look at the same text, but this time, I’ve considered what I want the viewer to look at, and read, and in what order. This time, you know where to look so it feels more comfortable. When you read the text in this order, it makes sense right away. This is much more efficient for the viewer.
It’s generally best practice to animate in text in the same way you read, so left to right in English.
In this example, I used accent lines to direct the viewer’s eye from the right of the screen back to the left, and then the Colorado text starts to animate in from there.
When you take the time to consider the order of elements your view should look at, and plan how you’ll use movement to direct their eye to those places, it creates a better viewing experience and makes you look more professional.
Explore two ways to create custom text animation in Adobe After Effects: text animators and trim paths.Get Started
Purchase any of my text animation classes for lifetime access without subscription fees. Or, watch all of my classes (and 1000’s of other classes) with a Skillshare membership. New members get a free trial with that link.
These 3 classes are beginner-friendly, as long as you know After Effects basics like how to create a composition and set keyframes.
Check out my free orientation video! Get up and running in After Effects in just 20 minutes. Then, you’ll be ready to jump into any of the 3 beginner-friendly text animation classes.Get Started