After Effects Tutorial – Creating Mask of your Text using Auto-trace

Working on After Effects Tutorials is something I was planning from a real long time, and today I am managing it. When I first started learning After Effects, Internet was my biggest source of knowledge. I almost learned 80% of the things from other tutorial website’s such as videocopilot.net and lynda.com, rest 20% of the stuff I learned myself, playing and experimenting with the software.

There are great advance After Effects tutorials all over the internet, but no one cared to mention those small yet effective techniques which turned out to be very useful for me.

Since I also work as a freelance graphic designer, recently a client asked me to design a logo for their brand. So, I set about with writing their brand name with a normal text font in After Effects. Well, a simple text written is merely a text not a logo. The logo needs to look impressive since it represents your brand and your business.

I wanted to change the look of that text, so I decided to mask out each and every alphabet and then modify the physical body of the text using the mask vertices. Only it turned out be a very lengthy, time consuming and inaccurate process. My mask was irregular at some placed. After working on the masks for hours, I got nothing.

The answer to this problem came in handy, it is called the Auto-Trace feature which is available in After Effects. What it does, it automatically traces the entire text and automatically generates a mask of that text and that too in just seconds. Isn’t it really, really handy?

I got through so many After Effects tutorials all over the internet and never found such a trick. This is the reason, I am composing this article or so called tutorial, a tip or trick, whatever you name it.

How to Create a Mask of your text using Auto trace


Well, creating a mask out of your text is very simple. you can simply follow the steps below and in seconds, your mask will be ready for further manipulation.

  1. Load up After Effects, then go to Layer > New > Text. This will create a new text layer in your timeline.
  2. Type whatever you want to type.
  3. Now select the text layer whose mask you want to create, go to Layer and at the very bottom of the drop down list, you will find Auto-trace, click on it.
  4. Auto Trace settings window will appear.
    auto trace
  5. Set the Channel to Alpha, click on the small preview button to preview the mask to make sure it is accurate, then click on OK to create the mask.
  6. A new layer will be created in your timeline which consists of the masks you just created. You can now delete the text layer or disable the visibility of that layer using the eye button.
  7. You can also turn off the eye switch for that mask layer, this will remove the white background and create transparency, leaving just the mask borders.
    auto trace2

There are many more tricks you probably did not know about that can help you a lot in saving time and efforts when it comes to accomplish such tasks. Try experimenting with the software, I am sure you will come up with some of your very own tricks and feel free to share with us using the comment form below or email me directly at lessons@editingcorp.com, I will definitely write about your thoughts on my Blog.