Snapchat’s one of the hottest social networks on the web right now, and for good reason. The popular photo sharing service didn’t just try to recreate an experience offered by Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Instead, Snapchat created an entire new form of communication: time-limited photos and videos that automatically delete after being viewed. The idea, naturally, spread like wildfire, with Snapchat (and parent company Snap Inc.) blowing up in popularity, apps like Instagram directly copying the app’s various features, and the company become a fixture in the online ecosystem of social networks and environments.
Also see our article Snapchat—How to Screenshot Without Them Knowing
But Snapchat isn’t a perfect app. For all its brilliance in execution and features, Snapchat has a steeper learning curve than any other social network on the market, even more so than Twitter. Over the past half-decade, the app has become increasingly complex, adding dozens of new abilities while never quite explaining how to use them well to the end user. Snapchat’s poor documentation of how to use the app to its fullest extent is a serious problem when it comes to gather new users that will continue to use the app.
So, let’s fix what Snapchat won’t. One of the most basic aspects to Snapchat’s own app is the ability to add text to a Snap, both within photos and videos. There are a ton of options for adding text inside of Snapchat, including size, color, position, and more—but if you’re new to Snapchat, this might all be a foreign idea to you. We’ll be taking a look at everything text can do inside of Snapchat, so you can make your snaps perfect before sending them to your friends. A picture might be worth 1,000 words, but your snaps can benefit from the extra context words and phrases provide to a photograph. Let’s take a look in this full guide on using text within Snapchat.
Text Size and Position
If we’re going to cover how text works in Snapchat, we need to start with the very basics before moving onto more advanced tactics and designs. For brand-new Snapchat users, even placing text on a Snap might be a bit confusing to start with. For most users, simply known how text size and positioning works will be enough to get their feet wet in the world of Snapchat before moving on to bigger and bolder designs. So, grab your smartphone, open the Snapchat app, and take a photo. From here, it’s easy to add text anywhere on your picture.
When you’ve captured an image, tapping anywhere on the display will open the text box on your display, along with your keyboard. It’s as easy as that—just enter your text as you normally would in a text message, note, email, or anything else on your device. When you’ve completed your message, hit the ‘Done’ icon on your keyboard, typically found in the lower-right hand corner of the display. This will center your small-but-legible text, along with a transparent-black background allowing the white text to be read on any image.
You can move this text up and down easily by placing your finger or thumb on the bar of text and moving your finger up and down the screen. And if you need to edit your message, tap on the text in the center of the bar. This’ll reopen your keyboard and make it possible to edit your message.
Changing Text Size
But this is only scratching the surface of your text—there are two other options for how your captions display. Once you’ve entered your text (with the text editor still open), tap the ‘T’ in the top-right corner of your display. This will change the design of your text from small with a transparent window, to bold, large, and background-less, a massive design change. It will also uncenter your text, making it flush left. In terms of size, it’s similar to increasing your font size on a computer from 12 to 36 or 48—a large increase in both legibility and screen real estate. Oh, and we should mention—if you tap the ‘T’ while you’re not in text-editing mode, it will open the text editor for you. Just tap the ‘T’ again for the large, bold, flush-left text.
Alright, so we have this large font version of our caption. What can we do with it? Unlike the first text we saw above, this text can move all over the display without staying locked to an orientation and position. Grab your caption with one finger and try sliding it all over the display. You’ll notice the text can go anywhere on the screen. Upper-left corner, lower-right corner, in the middle or at the top—it doesn’t matter. No matter where you want your text to go, this most allows you the freedom to move your text there, perfect for positioning your text around the subject of your image.
Of course, this creates a few major problems. First, that bigger, bolder font? You can’t fit nearly as much text into that font version as you’d be able to with the smaller, transparent-backed text we covered earlier, so if your caption is longer than a few words, it seems this is a bit of a complication. Also, since the font is flush-left, it might create problems with specific photos depending on your framing. Even worse, the white text can be difficult to read on several different backgrounds, including gray, white, and brighter photos, and since the captions are so big, they can be a bit difficult to read when each line only contains one or two words.
The good news: Snapchat has a fix for every single one of these problems. Those fixes just aren’t immediately apparent.
Modifying Text Size and Position
Let’s start with the simplest fix: that flush-left text. There actually is one more option for changing your font orientation here, and it’s as simple as tapping on that capital ‘T’ once more. That will load your text from flush-left to centered, while keeping the big, bold text we like for our snaps mentioned above. If you want to return to any of the three settings covered (small with backing, flush-left bold, centered bold), you can cycle through these settings by hitting that ‘T’ icon.
Alright, with our text centered, we can move on to tackling the biggest problem outlined above: text size. While the bold, large font choice can be perfect for two or three word captions, it isn’t ideal for what we want in a longer seven-to-ten word caption. There are a couple different ways to change the font size when in bold format (either in centered or flush-left mode), and they’re both worth memorizing for different sorts of implementation of captions. Here’s both methods:
- The simpler method for modifying your text size in Snapchat is as easy as pinch-to-zoom. Once you’ve finished your caption and placed it in bold format, hit the Done icon on your keyboard and use two fingers to zoom your text in or out as you wish, as if the text was its own image. You can make your text large or small this way, and still move the font around as you see fit. Rotate, size-in, size-out, flip it upside down—anything’s possible here.
- The more complex method for modifying your text size in Snapchat uses a similar pinch-to-zoom method, but allows for more freedom in how your text appears on the image. Enter your caption in the text field and place your text in bold format—centered and flush-left both work for this. If your caption is a bit wordy, but you’d like it to appear bold, you can reformat the size and shape of your caption. With the text editor still open, take two fingers and pinch-to-zoom around your bold text. You’ll see your text shrink and reformat within the text field, as opposed to within the image itself. You can use this function to make your caption far more legible on your image while retaining the bold text we love to see in Snapchat captions.
For the latter method, once you’ve reformatted your text within the editor itself, you can still drag and resize your text as we mentioned in the former method. This can lead to some super-creative ideas and methods for designing your caption around your image. For example, you can place your text in flush-left format, resize your text within the editor so that there’s only one word on each line (i.e., make your font size huge), and then exit the text editor and shrink your text down to a normal size, creating a specific look for your caption that can line up within elements of your own photograph.
It’s all pretty neat once you know how text works inside of Snapchat. You can also add emojis and other special characters to your caption, and they’ll function largely the same as how text captions work.
Text Color Options
Okay, so you’ve mastered the art of resizing and editing your text and font within Snapchat, but we’re still missing the solution to that other problem with bold text: color options. While small white text on a transparent black background might be legible to most users, if you want a larger font size, you’re seemingly stuck with white text, right? Not quite. Older versions of Snapchat had a color picker built into the app, but newer versions of Snapchat have done away with these preset color choices for the added functionality of a color slider. Let’s take a look.
Most users probably already noticed the color slider, but it might not have been it readily apparent to others. When you open Snapchat’s own text tool, you’ll notice that, while you’re editing your text in either bold or default settings, there’s a colorized slider to the right of your display, underneath the ‘T’ that can change the size of your font. Sliding your finger up and down this slider will change the color of your text, with the color being displayed in a large circle off to the left of the slider. When you let go of your finger, your color choice will be applied.
Once you’ve applied your selection, you aren’t out of choices. You can change the color of your font at any time by reopening the text editor and sliding your finger along the color slider. Like when you first selected your color, this will change your color selection in real-time.
Though color options are a bit more limited than the free space you have for expressing yourself within text size, orientation, and boldness, you can do a bit of customization within your text. Because Snapchat’s text tool largely operates just like a text tool within something like a word processor application, you can do per-character coloration within Snapchat to make your caption’s really shine. As we covered above, when you choose a color from the slider, the color choice applies in real-time, thus seemingly making per-character color choices impossible. But with a bit of a workaround, you can make your color choices shine. Here’s how to do it.
Within the text editor, press and hold on your entered text to bring up your operating system’s text selector (we’re using Android, but iOS largely functions the same). Typically, this text selector allows you to cut, copy, and paste your text from one app or field to another, but in this case, it can also highlight your text, just as if we were using a standard desktop word application. Instead of highlighting a whole word though, simply highlight one single letter, and then use your color slider. The color slider will only affect that one letter, and you’ll be able to do this for each key.
Since Snapchat’s dumped their original palette based color-picker, though, it’s a bit more difficult to make sure all of your multi-colored letters feature similar designs, especially, if you’re looking to repeat the same two or three colors over multiple characters, this can be a bit of a challenge since you’re going to be leaving this color selection to, effectively, chance of you landing on identical color shades each time. So a quick tip: if you plan on using a preset pattern of colors for your text, write out the words you’ll use independently of each other, then use cut and paste to match the letters together. For example, if you’re looking to make a post with Spider-Man in the caption, with each letter alternating red and blue colors, write out “SIEMN” “PDRA” independently of each other, color each your preferred shades of red and blue, and then cut and paste the word back together. It’s time consuming, but can be rewarding if you’re looking to make your caption stand out. Alternately, you can always highlight separate parts of each word.
Moving Text on Video
For all of the above, we’ve used images as our examples for how text works in Snapchat, because Snapchat is largely an image-based service. That doesn’t mean that plenty of people don’t use Snapchat to send video snaps, however—quite the contrary. Snapchat supports both photos and videos after all, and while we’re certain more photos than videos are sent, video is an equally-important part of the Snapchat ecosystem. And for the most part, text works identical to how we’ve come to expect text to work on a snap overall. You can use all three versions of text—that is, small, bold flush-left, and bold centered—and alternate through them as needed. You can apply colors to each individual letter or the letters as a whole, whatever you see fit. You can even resize, rotate, and move your text as you see fit around the video. Almost everything here works the same—that said, there’s one, very important addition to text within videos that is worth highlighting, because it can be a bit confusing for new users. Consider this the most difficult text-based lesson within Snapchat—like a final exam.
There’s a good chance you’ve watched enough videos on YouTube to have seen some video editors and creators modify text to appear superimposed into the background of a frame, even when it’s obvious the text was digitally created. As the camera moves, the text stays in size and scale with the background, skewing, growing, and shrinking as needed, as though it’s a real part of the environment. It’s a neat effect, most-often created within Adobe After Effects, a tool that can be difficult to learn and cost hundreds of dollars a year as part of Adobe’s Cloud subscription model.
It might sound crazy, but Snapchat has effectively taken this idea of superimposed text, modified it to function properly using augmented-reality technology, and delivered it to the masses in the shape of Snapchat videos. It’s incredibly ambitious, and while it might not work quite as well as After Effects (with a lack of a timeline and keyframes, it’s unsurprisingly limited on mobile), it’s still really, really cool technology that you can use and master right from your phone.
Start by recording a video within Snapchat, just as you would typically. Try to put some slight movement into your video—a pan up or down, or maybe a zoom in or out of a subject. To get the best result, keep your hands still and your movement and flow solid and steady. Once you’ve recorded your video, Snapchat will begin to playback your preview in a loop. Now, tap the ‘T’ text button, create your caption or phrase, and resize or color it to your hearts content. This next part is a bit difficult to describe, so bear with us.
Move your text over the part of the screen you want it to stay on inside your video. Snapchat calls this “pinning,” because you’re effectively pinning a piece of text or a sticker to a specific part of the screen. It’s a bit more complicated than that, though—Snapchat is going to look at your image for lines or shapes that it can identify as constants, thus linking onto that part of the video image and effectively tracing a path through your video. This is why have a steady, well-lit and well-defined subject in your shot can be so useful. If Snapchat isn’t sure what your video is documenting, it won’t know how to “pin” your text.
So, once you have your text ready to go, at the right size, shape, and color, watch your video playback until you find exactly where and win you want to “pin” the text onto your display. This can take some practice and patience, so take your time and watch the video back a few time to find the best spot for your text to be pinned. Once you find the place, make sure your text is the proper size, drag your caption to the correct placement, and wait for the video to loop to the specific point you want your text pinned. Then, press and hold down on your text exactly where you want it to stick. Snapchat will display a loading sign, and the video will begin to play backwards as the pinned text is mapped and traced throughout your video, just as it would if you were using a powerful tool like After Effects. This effectively creates a series of keyframes for the text to follow as it warps and scales throughout your clips. Once the text has been properly mapped out, you’ll be able to view how your text plays out within the video.
Sometimes, Snapchat totally nails this on the first go, creating an interesting and possibly hilarious reveal of your text as your camera slowly pans or zooms throughout the frame. Other times, Snapchat loses track of what it’s supposed to be following, and you might find your text shrinking, growing, and generally flying all over the image. If Snapchat gets it wrong and you want to try again, tap the ‘T’ icon to reopen the text editor. This will unpin your text from the video, and you can repin the text at any time.
Snapchat’s an incredibly useful tool, but it’s obvious to most users that even something as simple as text-based captions within the app are way more complex than the app may seem to be at first glance. Snapchat’s features are incredibly powerful for a mobile app of this type, and the amount of power behind the service is crazy, but with all of that power comes the steep learning curve we mentioned earlier. Snapchat’s only going to keep adding new features, and it doesn’t always do the best job explaining how these functions work, so keep it locked to TechJunkie for all the updates and how-to Snapchat guides in the future.