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Formatting characters and the Character panel

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After Effects offers a wide range of creative options for formatting and customizing text. Use the Character panel to format characters. If text is selected, changes you make in the Character panel affect only the selected text. If no text is selected, changes you make in the Character panel affect the selected text layers and the text layer’s selected Source Text keyframes, if any exist. If no text is selected and no text layers are selected, the changes you make in the Character panel become the new defaults for the next text entry.

  • To display the Character panel, choose Window > Character; or, with a type tool selected, click the panel button in the Tools panel.


To open the Character and Paragraph panels automatically when a type tool is active, select Auto-Open Panels in the Tools panel.

  • To reset Character panel values to the default values, choose Reset Character from the Character panel menu.

You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button in the upper-right tab of the panel.


After Effects doesn't provide a character style for underlining text, but you can underline text with a variety of other graphical elements. Possibilities include using a shape layer containing a path with a stroke, applying a stroke to an open mask, using the Write-on Effect, and using an animated series of tightly spaced (kerned) underscore or dash characters. For a discussion of why underlining is considered bad typographic form and how you can create underlines in After Effects, see this post on the Creative COW After Effects forum.


A font is a complete set of characters—letters, numbers, and symbols—that share a common weight, width, and style. In addition to the fonts installed on your system in the standard location for your operating system, After Effects uses font files in this local folder:


Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Fonts

Mac OS

Library/Application Support/Adobe/Fonts

If you install a Type 1, TrueType, OpenType, or CID font into the local Fonts folder, the font appears in Adobe applications only.

If the formatting for a character specifies a font that is unavailable on your computer system, another font will be substituted, and the missing font name will appear in brackets. Font substitution sometimes occurs when you open a project on Mac OS that was created on Windows, because the set of default fonts differs between the two operating systems.

When you select a font, you can select the font family and its font style independently. The font family (or typeface) is a collection of fonts sharing an overall design; for example, Times. A font style is a variant version of an individual font in the font family; for example, regular, bold, or italic. The range of available font styles varies with each font. If a font doesn’t include the style you want, you can apply faux styles—simulated versions of bold, italic, superscript, subscript, all caps, and small caps styles. If more than one copy of a font is installed on your computer, an abbreviation follows the font name: (T1) for Type 1 fonts, (TT) for TrueType fonts, or (OT) for OpenType fonts.

The font size determines how large the type appears in the layer. In After Effects, the unit of measurement for fonts is pixels. When a text layer is at 100% scale value, the pixel values match composition pixels one-to-one. So if you scale the text layer to 200%, the font size appears to double; for example, a font size of 10 pixels in the layer looks like 20 pixels in the composition. Because After Effects continuously rasterizes text, the resolution remains high when you increase the scale values.


When choosing fonts and styles from the menus in the Character panel, press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS) to accept an entry, or press Esc to exit the menu without applying a change.

Use Adobe Font Finder to browse and search for fonts by various characteristics.

Font menu

You can use the Font menu in the Character panel to perform the following tasks:

Choose a font family

  • Click in the Font menu, and begin typing the name. Continue typing until the desired font family name appears.
  • To choose the previous or next font family in the menu, place the pointer over the Font menu and use your mouse scroll wheel; or click in the Font Family menu box, and press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow.
  • Click the arrow to the right of the Font menu, and press the key for the first letter of the font family name. Press the key again to advance through the font families with names that begin with that letter.
  • Set a style for the font family, for example - Regular, Italic, Bold, Light, and Oblique.
Font family in Font menu
Font family in Font menu

Choose a font style

  • Open the Font menu in the Character panel. You can use the font preview displayed next to the font to choose a font style.
  • If the font family you chose does not include a bold or italic style, you can click the Faux Bold button or the Faux Italic button in the Character panel to apply a simulated style.

Choose a font size

Enter or select a new value for Size in the Character panel.

Set fonts as favorites

  • To set a font as your favorite, click the star icon adjacent to the font.
  • To display only favorite fonts, click the star icon on top of the Font menu.
Set fonts as favorites
Set fonts as favorites

Display only fonts downloaded from Adobe Fonts

To display only fonts downloaded from Adobe Font, click the fonts icon at the top of the Font menu.

Modify Font menu

  • To change the size of of font preview, select Edit > Preferences > Type. Change the Preview Size value under Font Menu.
  • To change the number of recent fonts to display at the top of the menu, select Edit > Preferences > Type. Change the Number of Recent Fonts to Display value under Font Menu.

Spacing between characters and lines: non-breaking spaces, kerning, tracking, and leading

Leading is the spacing between lines of text. Kerning is the process of adding or subtracting space between specific letter pairs. Tracking is the process of creating an equal amount of spacing across a range of letters. Positive kerning or tracking values move characters apart (increasing the spacing from the default); negative values move characters closer together (reducing the spacing from the default).

Tracking and manual kerning are cumulative, so you can first adjust individual pairs of letters and then tighten or loosen a block of text without affecting the relative kerning of the letter pairs.


Values for kerning and tracking affect Japanese text, but normally these options are used to adjust the aki (spacing) between Roman characters.

Create a non-breaking space

If a set of characters is set to be non-breaking, the characters animate together as if they were a single word.

  1. Select the characters you want to prevent from breaking.
  2. Choose No Break from the Character panel menu.

    You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button in the upper-right tab of the panel.

Specify leading

  1. In the Character panel, do one of the following:
    • Choose the desired leading from the Leading menu .

    • Select the existing leading value, and enter a new value.

    • Drag the underlined leading value.

Specify kerning

You can automatically kern type using metrics kerning or optical kerning. Metrics kerning uses kern pairs, which are included with most fonts. Kern pairs contain information about the spacing of specific pairs of letters such as LA, To, Tr, Ta, Tu, Te, Ty, Wa, WA, We, Wo, Ya, and Yo. After Effects uses metrics kerning by default so that specific pairs are automatically kerned when you import or type text. Some fonts include robust kern-pair specifications.

For fonts for which metrics kerning provides inadequate results, or for two different typefaces or sizes in a line, you may want to use the optical kerning option. Optical kerning adjusts the spacing between adjacent characters based on their shapes.

You can also use manual kerning to adjust the space between two letters.

Alan Shisko provides an article and video tutorial about kerning on his Motion Graphics 'n Such blog.

  • To use the built-in kerning information for a font, choose Metrics from the Kerning menu in the Character panel.
  • To adjust kerning manually, click between two characters with a type tool, and set a numeric value for Kerning in the Character panel.

If a range of text is selected, you can’t manually kern the characters. Instead, use tracking.

Specify tracking

Tracking set to default value of 0 (left), Tracking set to -50 (center), and Tracking set to 200 (right)
Tracking set to default value of 0 (left), Tracking set to -50 (center), and Tracking set to 200 (right)

  • To specify tracking, set a numeric value for Tracking in the Character panel.

Text fills and strokes

For text, a fill is applied to the area inside the shape of an individual character; a stroke is applied to the outline of the character. After Effects applies a stroke to a character by centering the stroke on the character’s path; half of the stroke appears on one side of the path, and the other half of the stroke appears on the other side of the path.

The Character panel lets you apply both color fill and color stroke to text, control the stroke width, and control the stacking position of the fill and stroke. You can change these properties for individual, selected characters; selected Source Text keyframes; all text in a layer; or all text across multiple selected layers.

You can also control the compositing order of the fill and stroke for a text layer using the All Fills Over All Strokes or All Strokes Over All Fills options, which override the Fill Over Stroke or Stroke Over Fill properties of individual characters.


For text that has per-character 3D properties, you cannot control the order of stroke and fill operations between characters; the Fill & Stroke menu in the More Options property group in the Timeline panel is unavailable, and the All Fills Over All Strokes and All Strokes Over All Fills options in the Character panel do nothing.

Add a stroke (outline) to text

  1. Select the characters to which you want to add a stroke.
  2. Set a stroke size with the Stroke Width property in the Character panel.
  3. Set the stroke color with the Stroke Color control in the Character panel.
  4. Choose one of the following in the Character panel to control the position of the stroke:

    Stroke Over Fill, Fill Over Stroke

    The stroke of only selected text appears over or behind the fill.

    All Strokes Over All Fills, All Fills Over All Strokes

    Strokes appear over or behind fills in the entire text layer.

Change text fill or stroke color

The text you enter gets its color from the Fill Color and Stroke Color controls in the upper-right corner of the Character panel. Select text to change its color after the text has already been entered.

  • To set fill or stroke color using the color picker, click the Fill Color or Stroke Color control. To set fill or stroke color using the eyedropper, click the eyedropper button and then click anywhere on the screen to sample the color.
  • To swap colors for fill and stroke, click the Swap Fill And Stroke button .
  • To remove fill or stroke, click the No Fill Color button or No Stroke Button. Only one of these buttons is available, depending on whether the Fill Color or Stroke Color box is forward.
  • To set the fill or stroke to black or white, click the Set To Black or Set To White button.
  • To bring the Fill Color or Stroke Color box forward, click it.

Change text stroke line join

The line join type for a stroke determines the shape of the stroke when two segments of the stroke intersect. You set the line join type for a text stroke with the Line Join setting in the panel menu of the Character panel, which you open by clicking the panel menu button in the upper-right tab of the Character panel.

Change text stroke line join

  1. Choose Miter, Round, or Bevel from the Line Join menu.

Blend overlapping characters in a text layer

  1. In the Timeline panel, expand the text layer and the More Options group.
  2. Choose a blending mode from the Inter-Character Blending menu.

To blend a text layer with the layers beneath it, specify a blending mode from the Modes column in the Timeline panel.

Inter-character blending is not available for text layers with per-character 3D properties.

Text scale and baseline shift

Horizontal scale and vertical scale specify the proportion between the height and width of the text. Unscaled characters have a value of 100%. You can adjust scale to compress or expand selected characters in both width and height.

Baseline shift controls the distance that text appears from its baseline, either raising or lowering the selected text to create superscripts or subscripts.

  • To adjust scale, enter a new percentage for Horizontal Scale or Vertical Scale in the Character panel, or drag the underlined value.
  • To specify baseline shift, set a value for Baseline Shift in the Character panel. A positive value moves horizontal text above and vertical text to the right of the baseline; a negative value moves text below or to the left of the baseline.

Change the case of text

You can enter or format text as uppercase characters, either all caps or small caps. When you format text as small caps, After Effects uses the small caps designed as part of the font, if they are available. If the font does not include small caps, After Effects generates faux small caps.


Small Caps formatting does not change characters that were originally typed in uppercase.

  • Click the All Caps button or the Small Caps button in the Character panel.
  • Choose All Caps or Small Caps from the Character panel menu.

You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button in the upper-right tab of the panel.

Format text as superscript or subscript

Superscript characters are reduced in size and shifted above the text baseline; subscript characters are reduced in size and shifted below the text baseline. If the font does not include superscript or subscript characters, After Effects generates faux superscript or subscript characters.

  • Click the Superscript button or the Subscript button in the Character panel.
  • Choose Superscript or Subscript from the Character panel menu.

You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button in the upper-right tab of the panel.

Chinese, Japanese, and Korean text

After Effects provides several options for working with Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK) text. Characters in CJK fonts are often referred to as double-byte characters because they require more than one byte of information to express each character.


To display CJK font names in English, choose Show Font Names In English from the Character panel menu. You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button in the upper-right tab of the panel.

Adjust tsume

Tsume reduces the space around a character by a specified percentage value. The character itself is not stretched or squeezed as a result. When tsume is added to a character, spacing around both sides of the character is reduced by an equal percentage.

  1. Select the characters you want to adjust.
  2. In the Character panel, enter or select a percentage for Tsume . The greater the percentage, the tighter the compression between characters. At 100% (the maximum value), no space exists between the character’s bounding box and its em box.

Specify how leading is measured

  1. Select the paragraphs you want to adjust.
  2. Choose Top-To-Top Leading or Bottom-To-Bottom Leading from the Paragraph panel menu. A check mark indicates which option is selected.

    You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button in the upper-right tab of the panel.

Use tate-chuu-yoko

Tate-chuu-yoko (also called kumimoji and renmoji) is a block of horizontal text laid out within a vertical text line.

Original layer (left) and after tate-chuu-yoko is applied (right)

  1. Select the characters that you want to rotate.
  2. Choose Tate-Chuu-Yoko from the Character panel menu. (A check mark indicates that the option is turned on. To turn off the option, choose Tate-Chuu-Yoko again.)

    You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button in the upper-right tab of the panel.

    Using tate-chuu-yoko does not prevent you from editing and formatting text; you can edit and apply formatting options to rotated characters as you do to other characters.

Smart quotes

Smart quotes, or printer’s quotation marks, use a curved left or right quotation mark instead of straight quotation marks.

  1. To use smart quotes, choose Use Smart Quotes from the Character panel menu.

    You open the panel menu by clicking the panel menu button in the upper-right tab of the panel.


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Adobe MAX 2024

Adobe MAX
The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online

Adobe MAX

The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online