Create personalized greetings with After Effects

Personalized greetings always look attractive. What better way to convey your wishes than an animated smoke text effect video?

In the previous blog- Easy-breezy smoke text effects with After Effects and plug-ins, we created a smoke text effect to unveil text. This used After Effects in-built effects and presets and Video Copilot’s Smoke Elements plug-in. Here is your step-by-step guide for creating the Do-it-Yourself Halloween greeting video.


The basic structure remains the same, all we do is add some effects to the video to personalize it.

For creating the composition:

  1. Create a composition in After Effects. Choose Composition > New Composition or press Ctrl+N (Windows) or Command+N (Mac OS). Adjust the settings. Name it Halloween Comp.
  2. Import the Smoke Pass effect from Video Copilot’s Smoke Elements pack in to the composition. Choose File > Import > File.
  3. Drag it on to the timeline. It will be added as a new layer in the timeline. Give it a logical name, for example Gold Smoke.

Now change the color of the Smoke Pass effect to suit the Halloween effect. Keep the colors in sync with the background.

  1. Select the Gold Smoke layer in the timeline. Choose Effects > Color Correction > Curves. Play around with the different color channels. For this video, give a warm golden look to the smoke trail to suit the Halloween theme.

Position of RGB and alpha curves

In this particular example, we need dense smoke. To achieve the look, duplicate the Gold Smoke layer and place the copy on top of the original smoke trail.

  1. Select the Gold Smoke layer and press Ctrl+D (Windows) and Cmd+D (Mac OS) to duplicate it. Name the duplicate layer Gold Smoke copy.
  2. With the duplicate layer selected in the timeline, place it exactly over the original smoke trail in the Viewer panel. Once you do this precisely, you will have a dense smoke trail.

Single smoke trail


Double smoke trail

Add background image to the composition.

  1. Import the background image into the composition. Choose File > Import > File.
  2. Drag it on to the timeline to create a new layer.

Merging the background with the composition is very important.

  1. To do that, right-click the Gold Smoke layer. Choose Blending Mode > Screen.

Click the composition- Halloween Comp to check result.


Click the Halloween Comp to see results


After merging the background with the composition, change the color of the smoke trail.

Now add text to the composition. Do it exactly the same way as you did in the previous blog.

  1. Select the Horizontal Type tool and place your cursor where you want your text to appear. Start typing. In this case, type Happy Halloween.

After typing the text, change the font and character settings.

  1. Under the Character panel, change the settings.

character-panel text

Character settings for the text

Now, all the basics of this smoke text greeting video are in place. It’s time to add effects to it.

Let’s start with adding a wipe effect to the text.

  1. Select the text layer in the timeline. Then choose Effect > Transition > Linear Wipe.

Click the triangle next to the Linear Wipe effect. You will see different properties under this effect. Start with the Wipe Angle property.

  1. Click its value and change 90.0 degree to -90.0 degree. It will make the text appear from left to right.

Next, move to the Transition Completion property. We will create keyframes for the desired result.

  1. Place the Current Time Indicator at the beginning of the timeline. Then, click the stopwatch next to the Transition Completion property. This will create a keyframe. Change the value of the property to 100%.
  2. Now move the Current Time Indicator to the point where the smoke trail starts to fade out. At this point, change the value of the Transition Completion property from 100% to 0%. A new keyframe will automatically be created.

You need to smoothen out the appearance of text. For doing that

  1. Select the text layer in the timeline and press U on the keyboard to get the Transition Completion property. You will see the keyframes. Select both of them and move them slightly towards the left. The first keyframe should start at -0:00:00:02s.
  2. Experiment with the Feather property. It softens the edges of the letters to give them a smoother appearance.

At this point, the text will appear along with the movement of the smoke.


It’s time to add an adjustment layer to the composition.

  1. Choose Layer > New > Adjustment Layer. Name it Warp. Before adding any effects to it, move the Gold Smoke layer to the top of the layer stack. Changes made to the adjustment layer affect all the layers under it.
  2. Right click the smoke layer and choose Blending Mode > Screen.

Let’s add a mask to it.

  1. Select the Rectangle Tool and create a mask around the first letter of the text.

Mask covering one section of the composition

  1. Select the adjustment layer and press M on the keyboard to bring up the Mask Path property. Make sure that the Current Time Indicator is placed at the beginning of the timeline.
  2. Click the stopwatch next to the Mask Path property to create a keyframe. Drag the Current Time Indicator to the point where the last letter of text appears.
  3. Now, double click the Mask Rectangle Tool and drag it to the same point as the Current Time Indicator. This will create another keyframe.

Add distortion to the composition.

  1. Select Effect > Distort > Turbulent Displace. Under this effect, Alt+click the stopwatch next to Evolution property to enter an expression. In the timeline, type time*200 to make the distortion appear 200 times a second.
  2. Set Antialiasing for Best Quality property to High from the drop-down list.

Adjust all the other settings under this effect as per your requirement.


Settings for Turbulent Displace effect

To make the text effect look smoother, add Directional Blur effect to the adjustment layer.

  1. Select Effect > Blur & Sharpen > Directional Blur. Adjust the properties according to your preference.

Settings for Directional Blur effect

After applying all the effects, it’s also important to have feathered edges of the letters. Achieve this by experimenting with the Mask Feather property under the Mask effect.

  1. Select the adjustment layer and press F on the keyboard. Change the Mask Feather value to 240.0 pixels.
  2. Also, select the text layer and click the Effect Controls panel. Under the Linear Wipe effect, change the Feather property value to 232.0.

That’s it! You can create different personalized greetings to make those special occasions memorable with this simple structure. Just experiment with the different effects and presets in After Effects and try out new ways of using the right tools to create interactive content.

Read about After Effects | Learn how to create and customize masks with After Effects

Try out different effects and presets for animation