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How to Stretch and Smear Text

By Nol Honig
After Effects

A traditional animation technique—Stretching and Smearing—has been brought back to life in with this snazzy text animation trend

One of the hottest trends to hit the motion design scene takes inspiration from a classic technique used in cartoons for decades: Stretching and Smearing.
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Stretching and smearing type has become a mega-trend for hip and edgy brands, and boy is it fun to watch. What's really cool is that it's not too hard to learn, and the technique itself is very forgiving.
Nol Honig breaks down how to achieve this very effect using his work from Verizon as an example.
Strap-in, buckle-up, grab-hold, lean back, and any other preparatory metaphors you need; it's time to learn how to stretch and smear typography!
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Stretch and Smear Text

Download the Tutorial Project File

If you want to take a look at the final scene developed in the tutorial, download Nol's project file. There's a lot to glean from looking at easing values in the graph-editor, and taking a scene frame by frame. You never know what will spark your next big idea.

Grab a hold of these project files (which use Helvetica)

Download Now

Limber Typography

Text in After Effects is bound by several parameters that keep it editable, and we'll need to free it up if we'd like to start stretching it out. So, to get started, you'll need to convert the type to a shape.
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The text becomes an editable shape path that can keyframed!

Smears and Match Cuts

Once you're able to bend type shapes to your will, it's all about movement and editing.
Please note, that everything has to morph into one another. Nol uses a very popular technique called the Match Cut in combination with stretching and smear type to transition from one word to another.
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This workflow will take a good bit of finessing to get just right, but soon you'll realize what makes a good smear and muscle memory will take over.
Setting up stretchy text in After Effects-v2.gif

Time to Explode

If you're not familiar with this workflow then you're quickly going to notice the pain of working with type from shape layers. Each letter is tucked away in neat little folders that require a lot of twirling open. Luckily, there is a solution that can really help make your workflow faster. We highly recommend checking out Explode Shape Layers 3 on aescripts + aeplugins.

Get Your After Effects In Shape!

If you think it's impressive to watch Nol do his thing, imagine working with him to improve your skills. That's why we put together After Effects Kickstart, a course designed to get you into the thick of it with real-world projects.
After Effects Kickstart is the ultimate After Effects intro course for motion designers. In this course, you'll learn the most commonly used tools and best practices for using them while mastering the After Effects interface.