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This article explains the power behind using pre-comps for text in After Effects. You’ll learn what a pre-comp is, how to make a pre-comp with a text layer, how to edit text inside a pre-comp, and how to make variations of a pre-comp.

Text and Pre-Comps in After Effects

Background Info on Pre-Comps

Why would you pre-comp text layers in After Effects? By pre-comping text layers you can then re-use the pre-comp throughout your After Effects projects. Then when you make changes to the text layer inside the pre-comp, it automatically updates throughout the project.

Have a picky client who can’t decide on a font style or color and the title is used throughout your video or animation? If it’s in a pre-comp then you only have to update it once. Otherwise you are stuck updating layer after layer.

If you download an After Effects Template, there’s probably a 99% chance that most text layers will be buried inside pre-comps. Edit the text in this single comp and then it updates throughout the rest of the compositions in the project.

New to After Effects Templates? Check out my article diving into what they are and how to use them.

If you’re unfamiliar with pre-comps, or “Pre-Compositions” if we’re being formal, here’s a 50,000′ overview. They’re essentially Nested Sequences if you’re familiar with those in Premiere Pro. You can plop that Nested Sequence through your PPro project and update it once and it updates throughout your sequence.

Okay, onto how to do this…

Creating and Editing Pre-Comps in After Effects

To make a pre-comp in After Effects, in the Composition Panel select the layer or layers you want in the pre-comp. Then use the keyboard shortcut Command+Shift+C if you’re on a Mac or Control+Shift+C if you’re on Windows. The Pre-compose box pops up. Give your pre-comp a name then click OK.

Pre-comp box in After Effects
Select the layer(s) going into the pre-comp and hit Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+C

Now you have the ability to take that pre-comp and use it throughout your project like you would any other layer. The pre-comp can have effects added to it, it can be scaled, parented, etc. just like any other layer. If or when the time arises that you need to edit the text layer that’s in the pre-comp, jump into the pre-comp and fix it! You can double-click the pre-comp layer to open it up then switch back to your other compositions.

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Pre-comps can be duplicated and when you do this, the text layers branch off into their own pre-comp-y world. Select a pre-comp in the Project Panel and hit Command+D if you’re on a Mac or Control+D if you’re on Windows. That duplicates the pre-comp. Go into the new pre-comp and edit the text or other elements inside the pre-comp. It’s now free to be used wherever you need it to go in your other compositions and it won’t interfere with the text in the original pre-comp.

I sincerely hope that this tutorial helped you. If it did, please consider subscribing to my email newsletter. Do you have thoughts about using a pre-comp for text layers in After Effects? Leave them below in the comments!


– Josh