View Full Version : 2D writing effect

05 May 2003, 07:12 PM
hi folks !!!

I'm looking for a way to make a video where text or sketches are drawn...

I had this problem more than one time, but for my new poject its gonna be a real challenge: I have a background (film footage) which transforms to animated 2D lines and I want the lines traced on the screen... i tried lots of techniques, one longer than the other, but if i want to draw all of this, its gonna take years... :p

hope someboby can help, maybe there's a plugin or a technique - with Illustrator I guess and a drawing tab. but I don't know these too well, so if you have ideas.. - I'm going to buy one right away...

out of ideas

05 May 2003, 07:18 PM
You can try using animated masks in After Effects, I've seen this done, but I bet it's a real pain...

05 May 2003, 07:23 PM
Do you mean this type of effect? Click on me, I am some traced over text (

05 May 2003, 07:39 PM
yes but like 5 times faster and 100 x more lines, with coming back on the same line and so on... how did you do this one ? particles follow path ?

05 May 2003, 07:53 PM
There's a few good ways to do this. Two good ones in After Effects, and one good one in Combustion.

I'm going to assume you have a working knowledge of After Effects. Or at least have the drive to figure out how to use to tools I mention. --Because I am on my lunch break, and I am going to be too busy to revisit this thread later...

The first way in After Effects is more flexible, more powerful, but harder. The second way is easier (much) but also much less flexible.

(I really hope this is what you are aksing for as I begin typing this.... Someone will benefit from it, I'm sure.)

Here is an example using these techniques:

Short test. The writing was actually a bitmapped layer from some writing I scanned. I animated the write-on with the method below. (

Method 1: Motion sketch, cut & paste keyframes to brush position of "write-on" effect, reveal layer with write-on
Details: You have your layer you want to "write on". This layer presumeably has its own alpha. Note: If you are trying to write on text in After Effects that was made with the "Basic Text" effect, YOU WILL HAVE TO PRE-COMPOSE THE LAYER, or it will not work. Put your layer to be drawn on in the workspace. Apply the write-on effect (Effect>Stylize>Write-on). Next, go to Window>Motion Sketch.... Uncheck "Show wireframe" and check "Keep background." I find it best to capture at 100% speed, so give yourself plenty of time to capture (lenghten your comp if necessary.) You will adjust the speed of the write-on later, so take your time and be careful. And remember, you must capture the entire trace-on in ONE PASS. So adopt a cursive technique. You may want to practice before you actually capture. Before you capture, take note of the values in the X and Y position fields. You will need them later. When you are ready, click "start capture". It won't actually start until you click in the workspace. Start at the point you want the write-on effect to begin, and trace the entire path you want to reveal. When you are done, you will have a keyframe set for each frame of the position attribute under transform. Click on the word "position" for that layer to select all keyframes. Hit CTRL+C to copy the keyframes. Now, click the word "Brush Position" in the Write-on effect controls, and type CTRL+V to paste the keyframes.
Next, un-click the stopwatch for the Position attribute for hte layer and re-type in your original Position for that layer. Now you have animated the brush stroke for the Write-on brush. As you scrub the timeline, you will see the brush painting small dots along the path you have created. You can now RAM preview and check the speed. Likely, it will be too slow for you. To speed it up, selec the "Brush Size" attribute again to select all keyframes. Move to the last keyframe, and alt-click-drag it toward the first keyframe to "time-scale" (compress in time) the keyframes. When you have your desired speed, you can begin to animate the brush attributes.. Adjust the "Brush Spacing" until you get a good solid line. The larger your brush gets, the wider your spacing can be. The power of this method is that you can animate, after the fact, the brush diameter, to have very finite control over exactly what in your image is being stroked. Select "Size" from the "Brush Time Properties"drop-down. Set a good starting size for your brush size and click the stopwatch icon. When you get to a point where you need the brush to grow/shrink, you can now simply keyframe the brush size. Hopefully, with a little trweaking, you can get an animation where your brush is painting over your layer exactly as you want it to be traced on. When you have reached that point, you simply switch the "Paint Style" to "Reveal Original Image", and VOILA! Your layer draws on!

As I said, that is the more complex, but more powerful solution. The easier, less powerful (but fine in many cases) solution is below....Short test. The writing was actually a bitmapped layer from some writing I scanned. I animated the write-on with the method below. (

05 May 2003, 07:54 PM
It's one of the examples in the particleIllusion gallery. It's a stand alone 2D particle program that's good for this sort of effect.

The Wondertouch Site (

If you create an emitter who's particles have no velocity and a very long life, you can just animate the emitter's position over top of your lines, and it will leave a trail of particles behind it.

05 May 2003, 08:12 PM
OK... This way is much easier. Mcuh quicker. It is less powerful and flexible, however, because of the lack of ability to animate the brush size. Sometimes you really need to be able to do this. Sometimes not. In this case, it sounds like you may NOT need the ability to animate the brush size. So this may be the one for you.

Method 2: Trace layer with vector paint, set playback mode to "Animate Strokes", use resultant animation as matte
DETAILS: Again, start with the layer you want to draw on in the workspace. Apply the "Vector Paint" effect (Effect>Paint>Vector Paint). Set the brush size you want to use for the whole animation. You can change this later on if you need to. Unfortunately, it can not be animated UNLESS you are using a graphics tablet with variable pen pressure. When you are ready, simply trace along the image in the same way you want it to be revealed. As with the first method, you will need to do it all in one stroke. You can use multiple strokes, but they will not animate as you would expect them to. Once you have traced your image as you want it to be revelaed, set the "Playback mode" drop box to "Animate Strokes". You will now see your paint stroke animate on exactly as you drew it. To adjust the speed of the playback, simply adjust the "Playback Speed" setting. This setting can be keyframed if need be. When you are satisfied with your animation, simply set the "Composite Paint" drop box to "As Matte", and it will reveal your layer underneath. If you need to adjust any attribute of the brush, such as size, feather, etc...., simply select the brush stroke in the workspace with the Vector Paint select tool (upper left corner of the workspace window), and adjust the setting.


05 May 2003, 08:16 PM
@ DesignDawg

oh man thx alot ;) .. too bad I'm a combustion user, but I think I get the point ... capture the move and than re-time it... I think its a really powerful technique (nice sample !!!) - I need really LOTS of strokes, some texts, but everything has to pass in 3-4 secs, so I'll try out a simplier way (where's yours ? or didn't I get it ???) - it really doesn't have to be THAT accurate...
I just don't want someone to see I move some masks on a scan in combustions :scream:

:wavey: well thanks anyway, I can understand if you don't want to write any more hehe:surprised

05 May 2003, 08:18 PM
And lastly, if you are using Combustion, I recommend searching on Creative Cow. I think there is a tutorial flosating around on there somewhere. The method in Combustion (2) is a little tickier than the After Effects method, because it deals with particles. (Actually, the exact same particles as the wondertouch software. The Wondertouch particle system is built into Combustion 2).

I will not go into great detail here, as it uses many of the same principles as the other two methods.

In short: Create a particle sprite in the shape you want your brush to be (a white circle with alpha is usually fine.) Import it into a new particle emitter. Create an emitter that simply emits particles in place, leaves them there, and emits several per second. You will then animate this particle emitter to trace over the image you want to reveal. As it is emitting hundres of stationary white particles, it will leave a solid white trail behind it, on top of your image. DO THIS ON A SEPARATE LAYER. When you have animated this emitter to successfully trace over your image, turn off the layer's visibility and use its alpha as the stencil layer for the layer you wish to reveal. In the same way as the last two methods, it will now reveal your image.

Hope that helps someone. I see these questions asked A LOT, and I finally found time to answer.


05 May 2003, 08:24 PM
thanks really ;)

this will take a lifetime. let's get it on !!!


05 May 2003, 09:35 PM
I got Aura DV Paint with lets you record strokes (in different styles) with a tablet. You can time the strokes to keyframes...pretty cool and fast !

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