after effects Tutorial

Animating Gradient Overlay on Text in After Effects

Devin Page
|4 min read
Written by Devin Page


Here's a comprehensive breakdown of the tutorial on animating a gradient overlay on text in After Effects, complete with some added tips for enhancing the effect:

Devin Page here, and today we're diving deep into a captivating gradient animation for your text. By the end of this guide, you'll know how to bring those static gradients to life!

1. Setting Up the Composition:

  • Start Fresh: Begin by creating a new composition. Ensure the time and other settings are accurate for your project.

    Pro Tip: Set a comfortable frame rate to make the animation smoother. 24fps or 30fps works great for most projects.

2. Create a Solid for the Gradient:

  • Solid Creation: Generate a new solid. The color isn’t crucial at this stage as you’ll be adding an effect to it.

  • Applying Fill Effect: Head to the 'effects' panel. If it’s not visible, navigate through 'windows' to locate it. Search and apply the 'fill' effect to your solid.

    Pro Tip: Use contrasting colors for your gradient, as they can enhance the visual appeal.

3. Crafting Your Gradient:

  • Masking: With the 'fill' effect selected, utilize the pen tool to create a desired shape. It auto-masks the region, allowing only that shape to be visible.
  • Softening Edges: Press 'F' to access the 'feather' option. Adjust the value (e.g., 300) to blur the mask's edges, giving a smooth transition.

4. Breathe Life into the Gradient:

  • Turbulent Displace: Search for the turbulent displace effect and apply it. Now, while holding 'alt', click on 'evolution'. A script field appears.

This effect simulates the appearance of turbulence in your footage by displacing the pixels in the image. Essentially, it's manipulating the position of pixels randomly within a defined area, governed by the size and amount of the effect.

  • Amount: Controls the magnitude of the displacement.

  • Size: Dictates how big or small the turbulent 'waves' or 'bubbles' are.

  • Evolution: Adjusts the phase of the turbulence, and animating this value is what causes the appearance of movement.

  • Scripting Movement: In the script area, type "times 400". Adjusting the number changes the animation's speed.

    Pro Tip: Experiment with different values to find an animation speed that complements your project.

    Accessing the Scripting Area:

When you want to apply an expression, or a little piece of code, to a parameter in After Effects, you need to access the scripting area for that parameter. Here's how:

  1. Select the layer you applied the effect to.
  2. In the Effect Controls panel, locate the specific parameter you want to add an expression to (in this tutorial, it's the 'evolution' parameter under Turbulent Displace).
  3. Hold down the 'Alt' key (or 'Option' key on Mac) and click the stopwatch icon next to the parameter. This action opens up the scripting area below it.
  4. Type in your desired expression, in this case, "times 400" which multiplies the current time by 400, making the evolution value change as time progresses.

5. Enhance and Layer:

  • Duplication: To stack gradients, duplicate the gradient layer. Adjust its position and modify the fill color to introduce variation.

  • Layer Colors: Change the colors of your layers in the timeline to distinguish them more easily.

    Pro Tip: Limit color choices to those that blend harmoniously. Too many conflicting hues can create visual chaos.

6. Pre-Composing:

  • Once you’re satisfied, select all gradient layers, right-click, and choose 'pre-compose'. Naming this composition will help with organization.

7. Add Your Text:

  • Input: Add the text you want to overlay the gradient on.
  • Accessing Modes: If you can't view the blending modes and matte options, right-click the top bar of your timeline panel, navigate to 'columns', and select 'modes'.
  • Alpha Matte: In the modes column, for your text layer, choose 'alpha matte' pointing to your gradient composition.

Alpha Matte: Alpha mattes in After Effects allow one layer's visibility to be controlled by another layer. When Layer A (your gradient) is set as an alpha matte for Layer B (your text), the visibility of Layer B will be defined by the alpha (transparency) values of Layer A.

8. Playback:

Once done, render the animation and play it back to admire the animated gradient overlay on your text!

Remember, the key is in the details. Fine-tuning parameters, playing with colors, and adjusting the animation speed can all contribute to that perfect gradient animation. Happy animating!

View the result here:



motion design
after effects

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