School of Motion

How to Align Paragraphs in Your After Effects Animation

  • By Ryan Plummer
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Animating Paragraph Alignment with Keyframes in After Effects

Unlike in simple word processing software, with After Effects paragraph alignment of text layers is not simple or directly accessible — but it is possible. We'll show you the workaround, using keyframes.
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Aligning Your Paragraphs

The first step in aligning your paragraphs using keyframes in After Effects is an easy one: opening the Paragraph panel. Here's how:
  1. Select Window in the After Effects menu
  2. Click Paragraph/Use the keyboard shortcut CMD + 7 (CTRL + 7 in Windows)

Aligning Your Paragraphs with Source Text Property

Next, you can use Source Text Property to align your text, setting keyframes for your preferred alignment over time.
To do so, open a text layer, twirl down for the Text options, and click the stopwatch to set a keyframe.
ParagraphAlignment-Opening and Setting.gif
Now, as you move forward in time, simply change the alignment selection in the Paragraph panel to set additional keyframes.
Paragraph Alignment-Playing.gif
Problem solved, right?
Wrong, if there's any chance you may need to edit the text after you've set your keyframes (for example, when working on a project for a client, who may request changes).
Most of the time, you'll want to be able to edit your text, and that's why we're sharing the following workaround...

Using the Paragraph Alignment Workaround

If you don't want to lock yourself in to your keyframes, as above, follow these steps:
  1. Create a second text layer
  2. Set this second layer as the guide layer by right-clicking the layer name and selecting Guide Layer (So After Effects doesn't render out this layer)
  3. On each layer, twirl down the Text options to reveal the Source Text option
  4. On the original text layer (not the guide layer), hit and hold Option on your keyboard and click the stopwatch
  5. Expression pickwhip from the original layer to the new text layer's source text property
ParagraphAlignment-Pickwhip New Text Layer.gif
With this setup, the paragraph alignment is kept, and the text can be updated.
To edit/change the text, simply type in the guide layer!

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