How to Create a Dotted Line in After Effects - 5 EASY Steps

To create a dotted line in After Effects, first convert your mask path to a shape layer path, then add and adjust a stroke to this shape layer. By introducing dashes and using the 'Trim Paths' tool, you can animate the line, giving it dynamic movement and appearance within your composition.

October 29, 2023
How to Create a Dotted Line in After Effects - 5 EASY Steps
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Adobe After Effects Dotted Line Tutorial

If you're trying to make a photo border, cartoon animation, or simply want to add a dynamic element to your video projects, a dotted line can be the perfect solution. Dotted lines, while seemingly simple, can elevate the aesthetics of your project, guiding the viewer's attention or adding a playful touch to animations.

What You'll Learn:

  • Conversion Techniques: Transforming mask paths into shape layer paths for more control.
  • Styling: How to give your line a distinct appearance.
  • Animation: Breathing life into your dotted line, making it move or follow objects.

Converting a Mask Path to a Shape Layer Path

This part is crucial for the entire process. In After Effects, paths can be created in various ways, but for our purpose, we'll be focusing on the mask path. When you draw a path using the Pen tool, it's initially created as a mask. However, to have more control over the appearance and animation of this path, we need to convert it to a shape layer path.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

  1. Drawing the Path: On your composition, select the layer you want to work on. Using the Pen tool, which can be found at the top toolbar, draw the desired path.
  2. Copying the Mask Path: Once drawn, you'll see the mask path in your layer. To copy it, simply click on the mask path to highlight it, then right-click and choose 'Copy'.
  3. Creating a Shape Layer: Go to the bottom of your screen where the timeline is. Right-click in the layers panel, hover over 'New', and then select 'Shape Layer'.
  4. Pasting the Path: With the new shape layer selected, right-click and choose 'Paste'. Your mask path will now be transferred to the shape layer.

Adding a Stroke to the Shape Layer

Now that we have our path in the shape layer, it's time to give it some visual appearance. This is where you'll define the thickness, color, and style of your line.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

  1. Selecting the Shape Layer: Ensure your shape layer is selected in the timeline.
  2. Adding a Stroke: In the timeline, you'll see a small arrow next to the shape layer's name. Click on it to expand its properties. Navigate to 'Add' (a small button that looks like a circle with a plus sign), click on it, and choose 'Stroke'.
  3. Adjusting the Stroke: Once added, you'll see the stroke property below the shape layer. Click on the word 'Stroke' to expand its settings. Here, you can adjust the color by clicking on the color box, and the thickness by adjusting the 'Stroke Width'.

Creating the Dotted Line

The transformation of a solid line to a dotted one is a bit like turning a continuous road into one with intervals. Think of it as creating spaces or gaps in between.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

  1. Accessing Stroke Settings: With the shape layer selected, expand its properties and then the stroke properties as explained in the previous section.
  2. Adding Dashes: In the stroke settings, you'll find an option labeled 'Dashes'. Click on the '+' button next to it. This will introduce gaps in your line, turning it into a dashed or dotted line.

Animating the Dotted Line

Animation breathes life into your designs. It's like setting a toy train in motion along a track. For our dotted line, we want it to appear as if it's moving or following an object.

Step-by-Step Procedure:

  1. Adding Trim Paths: In the shape layer properties, click on the 'Add' button and choose 'Trim Paths'. This tool allows you to define which part of your path is visible.
  2. Animating the Path: Expand the 'Trim Paths' settings. You'll see two main properties: 'Start' and 'End'. By animating these, you can control the visibility of your path. For instance, if you set 'Start' to 0% and 'End' to 50%, only half of your path will be visible. Keyframe these properties to animate the appearance and disappearance of your dotted line over time.