How to Create a Scribble Effect in After Effects

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July 12, 2017

How to Create a Scribble Effect in After Effects

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In this 3D world of complex visuals and intricate textures, a contradictory trend seems to have made its way to the foreground—and that trend is 2D animation. The simple aesthetic has taken over the world of design and even popular music videos. Take for instance Bruno Mars’s That’s What I Like—it combines 2D lines and animations with some killer dance moves to create something that is both fun and artistic—a fun scribble animation effect in a music video.

Lucky for you, the scribble effect is a very simple animation that can be done right inside After Effects or Premiere Pro. The different softwares will result in a different look and workflow, so check out our Adobe After Effects vs. Premiere Pro Faceoff post to help you decide which one is best for you. The tutorial below will take you step-by-step into the process of creating this effect—specifically in After Effects.

In case you don’t know what a scribble animation effect looks like, you can take a few to jam out to Bruno Mars’s hit single. If you’re new to After Effects, check out our Adobe After Effects tutorials to get started.

 Step #1 Getting Started

First, you need to create a new composition and import your footage. Once your footage is in the comp, double-click the video in the composition to open it in a layer panel. You can only scribble within a layer panel.

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Step #2 Setting Up Your Tools

To create the scribble animation effect, you’re going to need the brush panel and the paint panel. If you can’t find these, you can turn them on in the window tab.

In the paint panel, change the duration to “single frame.” This makes your drawing last for only one frame. It’s sort of like stop-motion, but instead, you’re drawing to create the effect. You’re going to have to go frame-by-frame to animate the scribble—so patience is required. After your paint panel is set up, simply choose a brush size and color and get to scribbling.

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Step #3 Scribbling

Now we’re at the creative part. All you have to do is draw your idea one frame at a time to bring it to life. It may take some time, but it is well worth it in the end.

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If you need some inspiration or general tips to spice up your scribble animation, check out the list below.

  • Break up the lines. Have a smaller line or a dot follow a bigger line.
  • Trace an object.
  • Draw an object that interacts/reacts with your footage.
  • Mix and match brush sizes.
  • Use a Pen Tablet for smoother strokes.

Tutorial for Scribbling in Premiere

If you decided to go the Premiere route, this video tutorial by will walk you through how to create a scribble animation in this program. The overall effect is the same, but the look and how it is achieved slightly varies.

It’s as simple as that! The scribble effect is very easy to animate in both After Effects and Premiere, and the possibilities are endless. The only thing left to do is export your video and share your creation.

If you need some clips to practice your scribble on, check out our library of royalty-free stock footage and draw to your heart’s content.

Discover Royalty-Free Footage

Christopher Petow

Freelance Writer

Chris is a freelance writer and filmmaker from Florida. A student in the University of Florida’s telecom program, he writes about film craft, After Effects hacks, and the best gear for filmmakers in the field.