1. 3D & Motion Graphics
  2. Motion Graphics

Writing with Colored Sand

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This post is part of a series called Logo Reveals.
Writing With The Clouds
Create a Paper Tearing Logo Reveal

We are going to make this writing with sand sort of effect. The story behind this tutorial is; One day my manager asked me for spray or sand kind of effect. First I googled on the internet but I never found any kind of tutorial, After one hour of RnD, I came up with this effect which I felt was looking great, so I figured I would share it with you guys.

Republished Tutorial

Every few weeks, we revisit some of our reader's favorite posts from throughout the history of the site. This tutorial was first published in October of 2009.


Step 1

Create a new composition, go to Composition > New Composition rename it “Write with Sand” and

and make setting as shown below.


Step 2

Now go to Layer > New > Solid and rename it “Particle_Layer” and set up the size, color and

duration as shown in illustration below.


Step 3

Particle_Layer selected go to Effect > Trapcode > Particular. Now we need a wall on which particles

will collide and stick to it. So, we’ll make another solid, Layer > New > Solid. Rename it “Wall_Layer”

and make sure the setting is matching to Solid setting dialogue as shown, and click OK.


Step 4

Fine, now for our convenience put (drag) the “Wall_Layer” below the “Particle_Layer” and hide its

visibility and turn it into 3D layer.


Step 5

Select “Particle_Layer” and go to ‘Effect Control’ panel ‘Physics’ tab First change the Physics model

Air to Bounce. Collapse the bounce section within the Physics tab and change the Wall layer none to

Wall_Layer and ‘Collision Event to Stick’. Keep rest of setting as it is.


Step 6

Create Layer > New > Light name it “Emitter” and keep the setting as shown in illustration down. OK,

now and select the Particle_Layer and change the emitter type to ‘Light’. Now instead animating light

position manually, we’ll use a mask path.


Step 7

To create a mask path I am using AE TUTS+ logo. (For reference I downloaded the logo from site)

Import logo inside the After Effects using File > Import > File and create a new composition

Composition > New composition and rename it “Logo_Mask” and make setting as shown below.


Step 8

Drag the logo image inside the Logo_Mask composition and select logo layer inside composition

timeline, select Pen tool (shortcut G) and start drawing the logo. We’ll start drawing the way how

we usually write on paper. After one letter finishes, start next letter without changing mask even

when there is no connectivity between the letters. Keep drawing until the logo gets finish. Here is

what we’ll end up with.


Step 9

OK, now our mask is ready to use. Go to ‘Write with Sand’ composition and create a null object

Layer > New > Null Object. Turn it in to 3D layer and make sure that the null object is having the

same position as Emitter layer, if not select both the layer in timeline window and hit P on

keyboard to reveal position properties and change the position values of emitter layer as exactly null layer.


Step 10

Instead of animating our light layer we’ll link our Light to Null object. To do this drag the pick whip

of Emitter layer to Null object. Now Emitter layer is connected to Null object that means if we animate

null object the Emitter layer will follow exactly.


Step 11

To animate null object using mask path, go to Logo_Mask composition, Reveal the mask properties of

layer by pressing M key twice, Click on the ‘Mask path’ and Edit > Copy. Now again go to Write with

Sand composition, Select Null object and reveal its position property (by pressing P key on keyboard)

and use Edit > Paste.


Step 12

Before moving further first we’ll tweak some Particular setting. Select Particle_Layer and change the

attributes as illustrated below.


Step 13

Now our efforts getting shape slowly! But not that strong; we need lots of particles! Instead increasing

particles count we’ll increase the Physics time factor up to 10. Cool! Now it’s strong enough to see but

particles are dieing before completing the logo. To fix that go to Particle section and increase the value

of Life [sec] to around 100. Yes! Now we are able to see complete logo. Not smooth enough but OK.

We’ll fix that weirdness in next step.


Step 14

By pasting mask-path to null-object-position we got the keys. The total duration of keys is around 50

frames. We want it around 225 frames, to extend that, Select Null 1 layer, hit P on keybord to reveal

its position properties, select all keys; now hold down Alt key and drag the last key of animation till

225th frame. WOW! Very smooth!


Step 15

Hit 0 key for RAM preview to see what you got. We are almost there! Fine, Now we need to cut the

extra strokes than the letters and make our logo clean. Move your timeline indicator exactly when the

A letter gets drawing over (In my case around on 26th frame) Select Particle_Layer and go to Emitter

panel within Particular Effect and click on stopwatch to animate the Particles/sec, to reveal animated

property of Particle_Layer hit U on keyboard. Hit Page Down key on keyboard to go to next frame,

(frame 27th). And change the value of Particles/sec to ‘0’. Basically what we are doing is, we’re emitting

particles when only the logo letters are appear and when extra strokes are drawn we’re making the

emission ‘0’.
Again go to the timeline when letter E is about to start (in my case frame 30th) and add a

keyframe at current time with 0 value. Press PageDown key on keyboard to go to next frame (frame 31st)

and again increase the Particles/sec value to 300. Again go to timeline where E letter gets end and set

the Particles/sec value to 300. Keep doing the same thing until end. And here is final result.


Step 16

Good! Logo-animation done but still some of particles needs to be fall and thickness of letters should

be even more. To do that, increase the value of Gravity to 2. And what?! all particles are falling down

dramatically again. Don’t worry Go to Emitter panel and change values of Velocity = 30, Velocity

Random = 95 and Velocity from motion = 1.


Step 17

Still result not that good enough. Particles are flying in space dramatically. To fix that select ‘Emitter’

layer in composition timeline, hit P on keyboard to reveal the position property and adjust the Z

position to something around -23. Awesome! Exactly, what we’re looking for. Try RAM preview.


Step 18

Hey! Time to colorize, there are two ways to change the colors of particles. One is to change the

‘Set Color’ property of Particular to ‘Over Life’ from Particle section. And second way is ‘Random

from Gradient’ from same drop down menu. But in both the case we won’t get the color per

character as well as we can’t animate the colors in particular while using light emitter.(But before

moving ahead reset the ‘Set Color’ property to ‘At Birth’ if changed)


Step 19

Don’t worry! Here is the solution. Animate the light color! So go ahead and reveal the ‘Emitter’

(light layer) properties by clicking on small triangle and again by clicking small triangle of ‘Light

option’ you’ll get ‘color’ property.


Step 20

Yes you’re right! We are going to animate the color of light according to start and end of character

letters (as we animated Particles/sec value). To animate color, move your timeline indicator till ‘A’

letter gets appeared completely and click on stopwatch of ‘color’ property and change the color to

Red. Press PageDown key and change the color of light to Green. Drag the timeline indicator till letter

E will get start and add a keyframe with same green color. Press PageDown key and change the color

of light to Blue. Keep doing same thing till the end and choose the colors which you like and there we are!


Step 21

To match look and feel with the final video preview, use the following tricks. Double click on ‘Emitter’

(light) layer and change its intensity 100 to 250. This is good trick to increase no. of particles. Select

Paticle_Layer and make following changes, Sphere feather = 100, Opacity Random = 100 and Color

Random = 20.


After completion of tutorial keep tweaking attributes and let me see if you found something intresting.

Comments and suggestions are welcome. Keep visiting AE Tuts

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