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Growing Arrow Tail

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Nick GoodGrowing Arrow Tail
by on Jun 26, 2014 at 6:27:24 pm

I am having trouble creating an arrow that grows as it moves along a path. Before I get in depth, I have read all the tutorials and previous posts and they did not help.

What I am trying to make is an arrow that grows in size as it moves along a curved path. The issue I am having trouble with is I'd like the part of the tail at the end to stay the same size while the part of the tail next to the arrowhead grows along with arrowhead. I realize this might not make sense so here's a basic image of what I'd like to do.

So far I have just created a curved line as a shape layer and a triangle for an arrowhead. I have the arrowhead scaled and adjusted so it moves and grows along the curved path. I also added a trim paths to the shape so it actually looks like its coming from the arrowhead. I am using AE CC v (the latest release before the version CC 2014) on a MacPro. I do not have any plugins and am unavailable to purchase any.

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Matthew WoodsRe: Growing Arrow Tail
by on Jun 26, 2014 at 7:28:07 pm

Do you have, or can you get access to Trapcode 3d stroke?
It can do a very nice tapered stroke for your arrow tail.

My favorite method of doing arrows is to use a text layer with some sort of > character as the arrowhead. You have zillions of fonts to choose from.

I then attach the text to a path, adjust the baseline of my > so it is in the middle of the path, then stroke the path either with the built in stroke effect, or Trapcode 3d stroke as the arrow tail.

You can then animate the margin on the arrowhead to have it follow the path, and animate the start and end values of your stroke effect to have the tail follow the path.


Need a quick break from motion graphics?
Try my game Constellation at:

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Kevin CampRe: Growing Arrow Tail
by on Jun 26, 2014 at 7:47:10 pm

i think the most straight forward, without any extra effects, is to simply create the tail the way you need it, animate the arrow head so it looks like it follows the tail, then parent another solid to the arrow head. position that solid so that it follows just inside the back edge of the arrow and then use that solid as a track matte to reveal the tail layer.

Kevin Camp
Art Director

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Nick GoodRe: Growing Arrow Tail
by on Jun 26, 2014 at 9:07:41 pm

Thank you Kevin. I used a slightly modified version of your approach. I ended up making the trail using the pen tool with a fill instead of a stroke. I then created a square that I used as a track matte on the arrow trail. I animated the positions so it follows the arrow head.

The curves of the arrow trail aren't quite perfect, but for a local commercial that won't air for more than a few months, it should work.

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions!

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Nick GoodRe: Growing Arrow Tail
by on Jun 26, 2014 at 8:06:05 pm


Unfortunately I do not have any access to any of the Trapcode products.

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Dave LaRondeRe: Growing Arrow Tail
by on Jun 26, 2014 at 8:03:38 pm

...and here's another way to skin this cat: CC Cylinder.

Make an arrow on a big, wide cylinder. Position the cylinder where necessary. Rotate the cylinder.

Dave LaRonde
Promotion Producer
KGAN (CBS) & KFXA (Fox) Cedar Rapids, IA

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Stephen SmithRe: Growing Arrow Tail
by on Jun 26, 2014 at 8:30:26 pm

I would go with Kevin's suggestion. If you need a more complicated animating arrow take a look at this tutorial:

Stephen Smith

Utah Video Productions

Check out my Vimeo page

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