How I Created a Retro-inspired Neon Typography with After Effects

Start with your design, this one was provided to me by my coworker, Chris. 

 The original file had this text, set in  Prism by Sascha Timplan

The original file had this text, set in Prism by Sascha Timplan

Start creating the elements of the neon. For each of the individual lights to come on, they need to be separate elements. I used the type as a guide to create new forms.

Optimize your file for animation. I split up all the objects into its own layer in Illustrator. This gives me the option to control the timing of each object when I bring this into After Effects. You're able to leave the items that won't change on a shared layer. 

Since there are a lot of layers in this file, I would name each layer to make things easier to find. I named all the strokes in the 5 and 4, and I gave each letter in studio a name with the same root, "studio-s" was my s layer.

Screenshot via jfam.la 2017-11-03 at 2.56.17 PM.png
 I started with four colors for my giant numbers, and to create more colors, I used the Blend tool to build out more of my palette.

I started with four colors for my giant numbers, and to create more colors, I used the Blend tool to build out more of my palette.

Import your AI file into After Effects as a Composition. I've chosen to create a composition of each element so I can see the timing easier.  For the number 5, I wanted to animate it in, and do some cool strobing a few times.

 Animation of the 5, animate in, strobe once and strobe twice.

Animation of the 5, animate in, strobe once and strobe twice.

 Keyframes of the Composition for 5. These are all on the opacity attribute, and I added a 0% opacity keyframe, and then a 100% opacity keyframe for each line based on its proximity.  I then did a series of 100 0 0 100% opacity keyframes for each, based on their color. and repeated. 

Keyframes of the Composition for 5. These are all on the opacity attribute, and I added a 0% opacity keyframe, and then a 100% opacity keyframe for each line based on its proximity.  I then did a series of 100 0 0 100% opacity keyframes for each, based on their color. and repeated. 

For the 4, Chris wanted it to flicker in, and then out.

4.gif
 There were more objects here, so I created really quick sequences of all the elements opacity going from 0-100, and then turning off (100-0) based on color.

There were more objects here, so I created really quick sequences of all the elements opacity going from 0-100, and then turning off (100-0) based on color.

Create a similar process with each letter in STUDIO. Details can also be added like gaussian blur, flickering lights, and an inactive state enhances this retro-inspired sign.