Life & Style tutorial: Animated type effects

Learn how to master smooth text appearances and animation using Offset and Ramp Up settings in After Effects.

This article will explore the amazingly versatile Type Tool in Adobe After Effects. The Type Tool has a lot of features that are commonly overlooked by many After Effects users. This masterclass explores the controls that allow the type to be animated in a variety of ways – and you can generate lots of results with a few changes of your own.

These transitional animation examples will provide many options with this versatile tool. We’ve included the AE project file, plus FFX variations on the CD, for you to try out – and you can download the typeface used for free from

01. Using the Horizontal Type Tool, create some type that you would like to animate. I am starting out with one of the presets as discussed my previous article on type effects (Digital Arts September 07).

02. Twirl open the type layer to reveal the layer properties. The pop-up menu labelled Animate reveals the properties that can be animated (such as position, scale, opacity, and blur). From this menu, select Opacity. As soon as the opacity property is selected, several things will change: two brackets will appear at the beginning and end of the type. You’ll also see appear Animator 1, Range Selector 1, and Opacity.

03. Twirl open Animator 1, and set the opacity of Animator 1 to 0%. The type should no longer be visible. The type is no longer visible because the brackets surrounding the type define a range where this 0% opacity begins and ends. Twirl open Range Selector 1 to reveal the Start, End, and Offset properties.

Start and End define the area that is affected by the animation property, in this case it is opacity that is set to 0. Therefore, all of the type within the range (between the start and end) has a 0% opacity. This can easily be keyframed to animate the type.

04. At 0.0 seconds, set a keyframe for Start with a value of 0%. Move to a time of 2.0 seconds and change the Start value to 100%. If you play this, you’ll see that the type is fading letter by letter because the range is changing and letters are now falling outside of this range.

This is a great alternative to dissolving your type, as it’s quick-&-easy. Now that you understand Start and End, I am going to suggest getting in the habit of using the Offset property instead of Start. The reason for this will be clearer when the Advanced settings are covered. The function of Offset is to simultaneously move Start and End, while keeping their relative separation the same.

05. Reset the Start property to 0 and remove the keyframes. Create a keyframe for the Offset property at 0.0 seconds. At 2.0 seconds, change the value of Offset to 100. Changing the offset will move Start and End together, creating an animation that looks the same as before.

06. Click the Add button next to the opacity, and select Property. This reveals properties that can be added to Animator 1 that will be affected by Range Selector 1. Select Blur and this blur property will get added below opacity.

Change the Blur value to 10. If you play the animation, you’ll see that each character is now fading and blurring on. Notice that the blur and opacity only change on one character at a time. It’s as if the range is shaped like a vertical line passing through the letters.

07. Twirl open the Advanced section to reveal even more properties. Locate the Shape property. Currently, it is set to Square, which yields a one-character-at-a- time look. Set the Shape to Ramp Up.

This will radically change the shape of the range, so adjust the starting Offset value to -100%, to accommodate how wide the range is (this is why Offset is used instead of Start). Notice how smooth the type transition is with this setting.

08. My example has a space in the type. As this transition happens, After Effects is currently treating these characters as a part of the transition. To eliminate this, locate the Based On property, and select Characters Excluding Spaces. Set the Ease Low property to 100, so the type ‘eases in’ as it animates. This will be useful when animating position as a property. That covers the basics. To explore just a few of the possibilities, a few variations on this type animation are presented below. The presets and compositions are included with this lesson.

Variation 1

Add Position as a property to Animator 1. Set the X Position to -500. The letters will all start -500 offset in X and gradually move back into position.

Variation 2

Set the Y Position to 300 and turn Randomize Order On. This is located just below Ease Low.

Variation 3

Add Scale to Animator 1 and set the scale value to 250%.

As you can see, the variations are limitless. Ten FFX presets and AE compositions for you to use on your projects to get your ideas flowing are included on the cover CD.


When working with more than a few layers it can become difficult to select a specific layer in the Composition panel, particularly if you use adjustment layers. A quick solution is in the Composition panel, move your cursor over the layer you want to select, right mouse button click (Opt+Shift on the Mac), then from the bottom of the context menu choose Select, then the name of the layer you want. This is the same as right clicking in Photoshop with the Move tool selected and is handy when you have a lot of 3D layers.

Who Harry J Frank stumbled into motion graphics as a starving musician. He lives in Detroit south of 8 Mile, earning a living as a designer, teacher and rock star.
Software Adobe After Effects
Time to complete One hour
On the CD or download: All files for this tutorial can be found on the cover CD or can be downloaded here

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