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After Effects tips… Creating a hand drawn signature

Have you have ever wanted to create type that looks like it’s being hand-drawn in front of you? Something like this…

After Effects intro

Here’s a simple After Effects tutorial explaining how to create handwritten type like this.

What you will need

  • Lettering saved on a transparent .png file, or an Adobe Illustrator (.ai) file. Click here to download a suitable .ai file.
  • Adobe After Effects

This animation will use Trim Paths to animate the Stroked paths.

The process

  1. Create a new Composition by pressing Ctrl+N (Windows) or Cmd+N (Mac), using the HDTV 1080 25 preset and making it seven seconds long.
  2. Create a background by choosing Layer > New > .. (pale grey in this example).
  3. Choose File > Import > File to import the transparent background .png Choose File > Import > File As: Footage for an .ai file. Choose Merge Layers.
  4. Rename Comp 1 “Signature” by selecting Comp 1, then pressing the Enter or Return
  5. Drag the .png or .ai file into the Layers
  6. Drag this image layer to the top of the
  7. Lock the .png/.ai and Solid
  8. Deselect any selected Layers
  9. Select the Pen tool, then draw the first part of the lettering (the S in this case).
  10. Use a Fill of None for this
  11. Name the Shape Layer; this generates “Signature Paths”:
  12. Rename Shape 1 as “S”.
  13. Make the Stroke settings appropriate to your image:
    Colour: Blue
    Stroke: 38px
    Line Cap: Round Cap
    Line Join: Round Join
  14. Draw subsequent paths in order that they will appear for the rest of the lettering (Paths may have their direction reversed if the path animates in the opposite direction).
    Note: Always have the Signature Paths Shape Layer selected so all paths are in this layer!
  15. Name each of the Paths according to the handwriting sections they represent.
  16. Use the Add menu within the Signature Paths Layer panel to add Trim Paths to each of the handwriting.
  17. Open the Trim Paths for the S Position the cti (playback head) at 05f Add a Keyframe for the Trim Path End as 0%.
  18. Position the cti at 20f and add a Keyframe for the Trim Path End as 100%.
    This animates the blue stroke along the letter S:
  19. Repeat this procedure for each lettering shape, but adjust the Trim Paths start and finish to reveal the lettering over time:
  20. Play the animation to see the results so far. Looking good I hope!
  21. Unlock the locked layers.
  22. Get the animated handwriting inside the image of the text by making sure that you can see the TrkMat (Track Matte) column, using Toggle Switches / Modes at the bottom left of the window if required.
  23. With the Signature Paths layer above the .png layer, select the .png layer.
  24. Choose Alpha Matte Signature Paths in the Track Matte. Adobe After Effects will use the .png as a mask (Alpha Matte) and automatically hide the Signature Paths layer:
  25. Rewind and play the animation.

And that’s how you can make handwritten text look animated in Adobe After Effects! I hope you can make use of this in your projects.


Armada offers After Effects training to users at all levels. See Introduction to After Effects and Advanced After Effects.

About the author

Phil Talbot is an Adobe Design Specialist and Adobe Certified Instructor (ACI).He has expert knowledge of Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Creative Cloud Express and Acrobat, and he has used all of these applications extensively for over 25 years in his professional work.Phil’s professional qualifications and extensive experience provide an ideal base to train delegates using blended learning techniques to improve the individuals’ and organisations’ capabilities. He has worked with and trained many blue-chip organisations, including FTSE 100 companies.

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