Tapered Stroke Preset for After Effects

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Tapered Stroke Preset for After Effects

Do the Impossible with the Tapered Stroke Preset.

If you've ever needed a tapered stroke in After Effects you know that it was impossible without buying a fancy plugin, until now.

Jake Bartlett (School of Motion Contributor and Skillshare Instructor) put together this easy to use preset for After Effects that gives you full control over a tapered stroke with the click of a button, and we're giving it to you for free. Just sign in at the bottom of this page to download the preset and you'll be ready to taper those strokes!

If you're big into expressions you'll definitely want to see how this preset works. Check out how Jake built the tapered stroke rig starting in our two part series.

We want to see what you use the Tapered Stroke preset for. Show off your stuff, post it on Twitter and mention @schoolofmotion so we can check it out!

If you have any questions, click over to the Q&A tab to post them. Other students can answer you, and we'll put our team on the case to try and get you a solution ASAP.

Rock on!

Download Free Preset


    • Hello Sir Where's the download link to this preset? I thought it would be under Resources but it isn't. So how do I download it? Thank you.

    • Oops my bad I didn't scroll through the Overview, sorry :)

      • Hi Sir I have one issue with after effect when im select create shapes from vector layer after effects show me this message---- after effects warning could not create outlines empty or unsupported content--- now how can i do can you please help me

      • I love how you can write on using this preset -- is there an easy way to write off (or, in using the trim paths effects it would be = to animating the 'start' property) ? so that you could write text on + have it write off?

      • Hey Alex, here's an answer from Jake himself: The way it's set up currently, assuming you're using the Trail feature for the write on, no. If you were to go into the expressions for the Start value of the last group inside the tapered stroke layer and disable it, you could then keyframe the start value from 0 to 100 like you would normally.

      00:00:04,048(techno music)
      00:00:11,749- Hey this is Jake Bartlett for School of Motion and
      00:00:13,760today I'm extremely excited to be walking you
      00:00:15,718through the free-to-download Tapered Stroke preset.
      00:00:19,003You might have already seen the two-part lesson that
      00:00:20,511I have on School of Motion where I show you how to
      00:00:22,472code this rig from scratch using expressions,
      00:00:25,213but this preset takes all of the work out of the
      00:00:27,053equation and puts it all into a nice little package with
      00:00:29,741compact controls that's super easy to use.
      00:00:32,701To download the preset, all you have to do is sign up for
      00:00:34,981a free School of Motion student account and
      00:00:37,083that'll give you access to not only this preset,
      00:00:39,421but all the other lessons, project files,
      00:00:41,563plus a whole ton of other great stuff.
      00:00:43,422So make sure you go sign up for that free student account.
      00:00:46,150Once you have the preset, you'll need to install it.
      00:00:48,227I have mine right here on the desktop,
      00:00:49,708so I'm gonna copy it, and the way I like to
      00:00:51,789install presets is just to come into after-effects,
      00:00:54,069open up the animation presets and go to
      00:00:56,079any existing preset, click on it and then go to this
      00:00:59,159menu and come down to reveal and finder.
      00:01:02,189And that'll automatically take you to the presets folder for
      00:01:05,130the version of after-effects that you have open.
      00:01:07,667I'll just go to the root preset folder and paste,
      00:01:10,799then I'll come back to after-effects and go to that
      00:01:12,669same menu and say refresh list.
      00:01:15,326After-effects will refresh, and then inside my
      00:01:17,444animation presets we have the Tapered Stroke.
      00:01:20,366All you have to do to use it is make sure that you
      00:01:22,035don't have any layers selected, and double-click.
      00:01:25,427And just like that we have a single shaped layer,
      00:01:27,625Tapered Stroke with a bunch of really powerful controls.
      00:01:30,577And you'll probably notice right away that one of the
      00:01:31,754improvements of this preset over the expressions rig that
      00:01:34,545I taught, is that all of the controls are contained in a
      00:01:37,435single effect, instead of each one of these
      00:01:39,545controls being its own expression controller.
      00:01:42,024So it's just super neat and tidy.
      00:01:44,035So let me show you what you could do with this preset.
      00:01:46,446I'm gonna break out some texts that I made in illustrator,
      00:01:48,715I'll right click and say create shapes from vector layer.
      00:01:52,936Now, just to be clear, after-effects didn't just
      00:01:54,787automatically trace a font for me, this is lettering that
      00:01:57,646I traced by hand over top of a font in illustrator.
      00:02:01,336So, nothing crazy magical going on there.
      00:02:03,885To get these paths into my Tapered Stroke preset,
      00:02:06,347all I have to do is select all the paths,
      00:02:08,696so I'll switch to the pen tool, click on one path,
      00:02:11,038hold command and draw a box around all of them, then copy.
      00:02:15,067I can turn that layer off.
      00:02:17,027And then I'll open up the contents of my
      00:02:17,860Tapered Stroke layer.
      00:02:19,973Inside the contents we have a master group and
      00:02:21,796the duplicate groups.
      00:02:23,135The master group is where I want to put my paths.
      00:02:25,414Whatever you put in this group is the shape that
      00:02:27,316the tapered line will take on.
      00:02:29,373So I'm actually gonna delete this master path 'cause
      00:02:31,254I don't need that line, and then with the
      00:02:33,054master group selected, I'll paste,
      00:02:34,893and then move these paths up to the top.
      00:02:38,316Then, I just wanna recenter these paths in my comp,
      00:02:43,244and obviously something's not working right.
      00:02:46,054If I close up my master group and open up the
      00:02:47,640duplicate groups, these are the groups that are
      00:02:49,761actually generating the taper.
      00:02:51,482And if I open any one of them, you'll see that
      00:02:53,002there's only one path inside each one of these groups,
      00:02:56,453but my master group has 15.
      00:02:59,080What I need to do is match the duplicate groups paths to
      00:03:01,402my master group, so I'm actually gonna delete all
      00:03:04,053these duplicates except for the first one.
      00:03:07,202Then I'll go into that taper group and duplicate this
      00:03:09,442path until there are 15.
      00:03:11,364(clicking)
      00:03:13,975Alright, now all of my text has the line applied,
      00:03:16,643and I'll make 10 groups again.
      00:03:19,973Then I'm gonna come to my effects controls,
      00:03:21,936and I'll turn the stroke width down so it matches the
      00:03:23,485original lettering a little bit more closely.
      00:03:26,136And now that it's a little smaller, you can see a
      00:03:27,656lot more clearly that this line is actually tapering off.
      00:03:31,176I want to animate this text as if it was writing on.
      00:03:33,965And if you're familiar with using trim paths,
      00:03:35,893this rig is set up exactly the same way.
      00:03:38,157So we have an end control and an off-set control,
      00:03:40,517and I can animate the write on in the exact same way as
      00:03:42,797if it was a regular shaped layer with a single width stroke.
      00:03:45,925The first thing I wanna do is change the length of
      00:03:47,957this taper because right now it's being
      00:03:49,586spread across the entire text.
      00:03:51,654So I'm gonna come to my segment length, which is a
      00:03:53,413percentage of how much of your paths are being stroked.
      00:03:57,306So right now, it's set to 100 percent,
      00:03:59,093so 100 percent of my paths are visible.
      00:04:01,505If I turn this down to 50, only 50 percent are visible.
      00:04:04,765I'm gonna back this all the way down to
      00:04:05,946probably around five percent.
      00:04:08,254Next, I have the end value, which again is driving the
      00:04:10,605trim paths end.
      00:04:12,475So at 100 percent, it's at the front end of my text,
      00:04:15,408so if I were to back this up, it's actually going in
      00:04:18,117the wrong direction.
      00:04:20,237At zero percent, I want it to be at the front end where the
      00:04:22,915"T" is, and right now it's down where the "E" is.
      00:04:26,018To fix that, I need to rearrange the
      00:04:27,666order of my master group.
      00:04:30,098And the trim paths operator is working from top to bottom,
      00:04:33,138so right now the paths are actually in the
      00:04:34,875reverse order they need to be.
      00:04:36,537So I'm just gonna quickly reverse the order of my
      00:04:38,148paths so that it trims in the right order.
      00:04:41,669This is a little bit tedious, so I'm just gonna
      00:04:42,937speed up the video.
      00:04:45,149There we go.
      00:04:46,298Now that it's in the right order, I can set a key frame on
      00:04:48,816the end value at zero percent, go forward a
      00:04:51,240couple seconds and then change that to 100 percent,
      00:04:54,709press "U" to bring up my key frames and
      00:04:56,248easy ease this a little bit, go into the value graph and
      00:04:59,458make the motion just a little bit more dynamic,
      00:05:02,378and then I'll preview.
      00:05:07,389And you can see that tapered line traveling along all
      00:05:09,228of the paths.
      00:05:12,920So far, so good, but that's not actually revealing the
      00:05:15,229text, the line is just traveling along it.
      00:05:17,629Well, all I have to do is come to this trail checkbox,
      00:05:20,738enable that, and it leaves the last segment untrimmed,
      00:05:23,869so whatever the thinnest part of my taper is
      00:05:25,788will be left behind.
      00:05:27,578I'm gonna turn my taper out, down a little bit and this
      00:05:29,533is how you can control how much of a taper you have.
      00:05:32,275If it's set to zero, there's no taper at all,
      00:05:34,224and if you set it to 100 percent, that's the maximum taper.
      00:05:37,205So I want this to be a little bit less dramatic,
      00:05:39,893something like that. And then I'll preview again.
      00:05:44,053And you can see that that trail is now being left behind,
      00:05:46,694so we have a write on.
      00:05:52,373So that's great except that at the very end here,
      00:05:54,755we still have this tapered segment.
      00:05:57,574Fortunately, that's super simple to fix.
      00:05:59,104All you have to do is come to auto-shrink out and
      00:06:01,293click the checkbox, and now that tapered segment has
      00:06:03,955shrunk down to be the same width as the trail,
      00:06:07,174and that's exactly what auto-shrink out does.
      00:06:09,493As the end value approaches 100 percent,
      00:06:11,664the taper shrinks down to be the same size as the
      00:06:14,673trail, so you're left with a single width stroke.
      00:06:17,806And if I back this up to the beginning,
      00:06:19,574you can see that on the first frame, that line just
      00:06:21,905appears out of nowhere and that doesn't look all that great.
      00:06:26,166But, if I turn auto-shrink in on, that line will grow from
      00:06:29,014nothing to its full size by the time the
      00:06:31,406entire taper is visible.
      00:06:33,705So let me preview one more time.
      00:06:36,086And just like that, with two key frames, I'm able to
      00:06:38,065animate an entire write-on with a tapered stroke that
      00:06:40,915automatically scales at the front and tail ends,
      00:06:44,097which is pretty crazy if you think about it.
      00:06:45,846This animation would actually be pretty complex to
      00:06:47,435do without this setup.
      00:06:49,315And I can very easily change the look of this write-on.
      00:06:51,584All of these letters are their own paths,
      00:06:53,617and right now it's setup to stroke sequentially.
      00:06:56,385So the trim paths is behaving as if all of
      00:06:58,353these paths were one single path, but if I click on my
      00:07:01,756layer and I type in "multiple",
      00:07:06,109that will bring up all of the trim and
      00:07:07,687multiple shapes properties for all of the
      00:07:09,596trim paths on that layer.
      00:07:11,869I'll just select all of them and change it from
      00:07:13,418individually to simultaneously.
      00:07:17,807And now those paths are being trimmed individually.
      00:07:20,906So I could bring this key frame back to make it all
      00:07:22,938happen a little bit faster, and then adjust my
      00:07:25,197segment length so that the taper isn't so short,
      00:07:29,378maybe bring it up to 20 percent.
      00:07:31,909And then I'll play that back again.
      00:07:33,263And I have a completely different looking write-on.
      00:07:35,304Again, being driven by just two key frames.
      00:07:38,613Some of the other controls are reverse taper and
      00:07:41,064that will do exactly what you would think.
      00:07:43,302If I enable it, that will just reverse the
      00:07:45,264direction of the taper.
      00:07:46,805So I could turn my stroke width down a little bit and
      00:07:48,925maybe increase my taper out.
      00:07:51,834And now if I preview that, my taper is going in the
      00:07:53,734opposite direction.
      00:07:55,902I also have taper in and out, and I'll zoom in here so
      00:07:58,871you can see nice and clearly.
      00:08:00,671This is actually tapering in both directions and
      00:08:02,782I have two separate controls that allow me to change
      00:08:04,833how much each end of that line is being tapered.
      00:08:07,665So I could turn the stroke width up and really taper each
      00:08:10,654one of these ends, but as I do that, I want to point out
      00:08:12,974these little notches in the edge of the taper.
      00:08:16,163And this is a result of the way that the rig is built.
      00:08:18,494And if you remember, in the contents of this layer,
      00:08:20,145there were the duplicate groups and
      00:08:21,532we have 10 taper groups.
      00:08:23,254You can think of the number of these groups as kind of
      00:08:24,932the resolution of your taper.
      00:08:27,543He more groups you have, the less noticeable these
      00:08:29,933notches will be.
      00:08:31,422As you duplicate more and more groups, this taper is
      00:08:33,605divided up into more and more segments and
      00:08:35,594they're spread out evenly across that taper.
      00:08:37,965And that's what's driving this entire rig.
      00:08:40,093Something to keep in mind is, the more groups you have,
      00:08:42,066the longer it's going to take to render,
      00:08:43,733because there are a whole bunch of expressions
      00:08:45,354that are rendering in the background for
      00:08:46,994every frame and every group.
      00:08:49,162So what I typically like to do is work with around
      00:08:51,13310 groups until I'm ready to render,
      00:08:53,420and then I'll duplicate the number of groups as
      00:08:55,002many times as I need to get that taper to
      00:08:56,861look super clean and then export.
      00:08:59,341So it looks like I could duplicate this group a
      00:09:00,781few more times, something around 25 looks pretty smooth,
      00:09:04,181and then I'll play that back again.
      00:09:06,409And now I have a totally different look.
      00:09:08,249And finally, we have this off-set control,
      00:09:09,659which is driving the off-set of the trim paths.
      00:09:11,832To make this a little bit clearer,
      00:09:13,608I'm gonna just make one more tapered stroke layer
      00:09:15,079really quick and I'm gonna close this path,
      00:09:19,632and turn the segment length way down, maybe turn the
      00:09:22,402stroke width down a little bit.
      00:09:25,690And now I could just animate this off-set property
      00:09:27,598forever and it will continuously loop.
      00:09:31,099One last thing to keep in mind is that if you have
      00:09:32,809both auto-shrink in and auto-shrink out on,
      00:09:36,088your segment length can't be greater than 50 percent.
      00:09:39,078Otherwise, it will only auto-shrink in,
      00:09:41,089so let me back this up to a zero, set a key frame,
      00:09:43,929go forward, change it to 100 percent.
      00:09:48,710I'll turn my segment length down to say, 60 percent.
      00:09:51,528And then if I back up, you'll see that it auto-shrinks in,
      00:09:54,607but then it doesn't auto-shrink out.
      00:09:56,649The reason for this is because the auto-shrink features are
      00:09:59,209based on the segment length.
      00:10:01,329So the auto-shrink in takes 60 percent of that line to
      00:10:04,419finish and by the time it's reached 60 percent,
      00:10:07,070the auto-shrink out will have already wanted to start,
      00:10:09,590so those two values are conflicting.
      00:10:11,518But as soon as I drop this down to 50 percent,
      00:10:13,409there's enough of a line on each end for auto-shrink in
      00:10:16,087and out to work.
      00:10:17,518I can play that back.
      00:10:19,415And now I have a working animation.
      00:10:21,055Again, being controlled by just two key frames.
      00:10:23,838So that is the tapered stroke, and I hope that you get
      00:10:25,747a ton of use out of it.
      00:10:27,510If you do use it, share it on social media and
      00:10:29,606tweet us at School of Motion so that we can see it.
      00:10:32,015And if you like this preset, I would really appreciate it
      00:10:34,416if you shared it on social media.
      00:10:36,387It really helps us get the word out about School of Motion.
      00:10:38,897Thank you again so much for watching this
      00:10:40,697video and happy animating.
      00:10:45,958(techno music)

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