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How to Create a Handwriting Effect in Adobe Premiere

Creating Write-on keyframes in Premiere.

Posted in Video Marketing, Video Content, and How To. 6 min read

Animated handwriting or text is a simple, subtle way to inject a bit of flair into your business or personal video projects. While it's possible to create an animated handwriting effect with plugins, downloadable templates or online "whiteboard video" builders, these methods can be either limiting or overly complicated (yeah, I know, both ends of the spectrum) for a simple writing effect.

Example of a video handwriting effect made in Premiere.

Fortunately, it's actually quite easy to create this kind of effect or similar inside of Adobe Premiere without downloading and installing any additional templates. That's a big plus for those familiar with Premiere looking to achieve the effect. In fact, the effect tool used to create simple handwriting animations is literally called "Write-on."

Word of caution: applying this effect to your text won't magically animate the text; there's a bit of legwork (and patience) involved in creating a handwriting animation in both Premiere and After Effects. That said, you'll also have a lot more control over the effect than if you used an online generator or similar option.

If you're versed in After Effects and prefer that software for graphics and animations, then you can more or less take the steps provided in this tutorial and create a comparable effect in that program, as well. However, in this blog, I'll walk through how to create a handwriting effect in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Step 1: Apply Write-on to Your Text Layer and Tweak the Starting Settings

To access the effect, simply open your effects window and/or tab, scroll down Generate > Write-on, and drag-and-drop the effect onto your text layer. Easy as that.

Then, you're going to want to change a few parameters in the effect options before making the magic happen. The ones you need to worry about are:

Write-on effect options in Adobe Premiere.

  • Brush Position: this is the location of your effect on top of your video; so, set the position to your starting point and create a keyframe by clicking the animation button (the clock icon). A diamond will have popped up in the timeline to the right of the effect; this is your first keyframe. In this tutorial, any mention of "keyframe" refers to the Brush Position.
  • Color: the color of the effect's brush, which forms the overlaying path for the effect that you're going to create in this tutorial. Set it to something contrasting from the underlying video so it's easy to follow when creating your path.
  • Brush Size: the size of the brush, which should be set slightly larger than the width of the text you're animating.
  • Brush Hardness: the hardness of the brush edges; leave it at 100% for a solid animation (this example) or lower the hardness a bit to have the letters fade in as they are "written."
  • Brush Opacity: how much of the brush is visible. It can be helpful to set it to 80% or so when creating this effect (and switching to 100% when it's complete), so you can make sure you're following along the text accurately.
  • Stroke Length and Brush Spacing: these options control the effect's animation path between the keyframes that you're going to be making later. Stroke Length is the important one, here, as it affects how the actual strokes between keyframes behave (which you can always tweak after creating your path).
  • Paint Style: "save the best for last." This option affects how the Write-on effect interacts with your text layer or image. Set it to On Original Image for now. Once you've plotted the brush path with your keyframes, you can effectively turn the animation "on" by switching this setting to Reveal Original Image.

Enough chit-chat about setting the stage. Let's get to animating this thing!

Step 2: Create the Animation Path With Keyframes

Excited to get started? Well, this part takes a while.

To start creating your handwriting effect, go to the first keyframe for the effect in your timeline (the one you created in Brush Position). This is your starting frame. Click Write-on (the effect as a whole) or Brush Position to bring up the position controls in your Program window (the one with your composited video screen). Welcome to your new playground.

Creating Write-on keyframes in Premiere.

Use the directional keys on your keyboard to move forward a few frames (or more; it depends on how long you want the effect to last), click inside the Program window and move the Write-on effect along its intended path (which can only be a straight line between each position, with the Stroke Length setting from earlier filling in the gaps and curves as you progress through creating the effect).

Move ahead a few more frames, rinse and repeat.

It can be time-consuming, but at the end of the day, you're going to get the exact effect you need with the added control that Adobe provides.

If you look back over to the Write-on effect's properties, then you'll see that, every time you move ahead on the timeline and drag/draw your path, a new keyframe is created. This is marking the frame and on-screen position of the brush as you go through the motions.

Keyframes auto-populating when editing Brush Position in Premiere's Write-on effect.

Once we've completed the keyframes/animation path, it's time to flip an "on" switch and see how we did.

Step 3: Ta-da!

Head back to the effect options and change the Paint Style to Reveal Original Image. Render the effect or effect area, hit play and be amazed by how gnarly you are for creating a handwriting effect!

The final result of a handwriting text effect created in Premiere.

Think of the effect and brush path as an animated opacity layer, because that's all it really is. This effect is also a neat skill to have that can apply to much more than text, such as image/icon outlines, border frames and more. Whatever layer the effect is applied to, you have the same controls and freedom to explore.

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