Make your text or logo reflect a shining light source in Adobe After Effects.

A woman’s hand points at a digital dashboard screen starting up, which displays a shiny metallic logo: the word ‘PARAGON’


This sample file is an Adobe Stock asset you can use to practice what you learn in this tutorial. If you want to use the sample file beyond this tutorial, you can purchase a license on Adobe Stock. Check out the ReadMe file in the folder for the terms that apply to your use of this sample file. Any reference to “Paragon” is for demonstration purposes only and is not intended to refer to any actual organization, products, services, or creative work.

Start with a composition (any background color) containing the text or logo design you want to make reflective. For text, add a Text layer (Layer > New > Text) and choose a neutral gray text color (hex 808080). Wide or fat (“slab”) fonts work best for this effect because each letter has a large surface area.

Adobe After Effects shows a text layer in a composition with the word PARAGON in a neutral gray slab font

Create another composition to contain the final design. Drag a light-source, spotlight image into it, such as a 3D map rendering of light panels. Apply the Motion Tile effect to the layer and keyframe the Tile Center (X value) across the duration of the comp. Play the composition; the graphic will move steadily across the screen. For best effect, make it move slowly. This is the light source that glints off your letters or logo design.

After Effects shows a 3D light-source rendering graphic on its own layer, with the Motion Tile effect applied, in a composition

Select the light-source layer and precompose it (Layer > Pre-compose), moving its attributes into the new composition. Drag the text comp you previously made into this composition, below the precomp layer, and hide it (toggle the eye icon off). Apply the Set Matte effect to the precomp. In the Effect Controls panel, set Take Matte so it’s from the text layer. You’ll immediately see the light source appear through the lettering. Finally, apply the Displacement Map effect to the precomp and drag the Set Matte effect to the bottom of the Effect Controls panel.

Light-source layer is precomposed, and Displacement Map and Set Matte effects are applied to it per the Effect Controls panel

Open your starter text composition, select the text layer, and choose Layer > Layer Styles > Bevel and Emboss. Expand the Bevel and Emboss settings in the Timeline panel. Depending on the look you want, increase Bevel Size and Soften, and pick a different Angle. What’s important is setting Highlight Mode and Shadow Mode to Screen, and increasing Highlight Opacity and Shadow Opacity to 100%. Finally, make the Highlight Color bright red (FF0000) and change the Shadow Color to bright green (00FF00). The Displacement Map will rely on these bright colors to render the highlights and shadows later.

Text layer has the Bevel and Emboss layer style applied to it via the displayed menu selection

Go back to the main design composition and select the light-source precomp. In the Effect Controls panel, set the Displacement Map effect to target the text layer. Increase the maximum horizontal and vertical displacement settings to your liking. The important thing is to change both Horizontal and Vertical Displacement so they target Red. Duplicate the effect (Command/Control+D). In the copy, decrease the displacement settings to your liking, and change both Horizontal and Vertical Displacement so they target Green.

In the Effect Controls panel, the Displacement Map effect targets Red and its duplicate targets Green

Play the composition and watch your light source move slowly across the lettering, suggesting a chrome finish. Play around by opening the light-source precomp and modifying the image layer — perhaps changing its speed, scale, or rotation. Soften the glow by adding a Gaussian Blur effect, or change the color by applying the Lumetri Color effect.

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