See How to Set Up Stylish Ink Scroll VFX in Unreal Engine

Aiden Farmer showed us the work behind the black ink scroll effect inspired by Justice Online and explained how he made the phrase appear using Unreal Engine 5's Niagara.


Greetings, everyone! I'm Aiden, a passionate VFX artist hailing from Down Under! My journey into VFX commenced during my enrollment in a 3D Art and Animation course at a Sydney-based college. During my initial project's culmination in my first year, we faced the necessity for VFX and technical art (such as shaders) for our project. I took on the task and instantly fell in love with VFX. Since there wasn't a VFX teacher at my school, I dedicated numerous hours every day after class to self-study, eventually leading to my employment at an indie studio. While I can't delve into specifics due to NDAs, I've had the privilege of working with studios like TheBadNomads, Iridium Studios, Heromation, and most recently, Free Range Games, involved in the release of LOTR: Return To Moria.

Unreal Engine 5

I started my VFX journey using Unity, but due to its prevalence in our university course, I gravitated toward Unreal Engine 5, specifically diving into Niagara. In my opinion, Niagara provides a smoother and more enjoyable experience than Unity's Shuriken and VFX Graph. While both engines have their own strengths, I find Niagara's user interface and functionality better suited to my workflow. Unlike Unity, where I often needed scripts or code for specific requirements, Niagara already had those elements integrated, streamlining the process

The Black Ink Scroll Effect

The inspiration for my recent ink-themed visual effects stemmed from playing a Chinese game called Justice Online (逆水寒), which incorporated a similar effect in one of its cut-scenes, alongside black-ink scroll work. Additionally, this style is prevalent in HoYoverse games like Honkai Impact 3, showcasing captivating ink/painted aesthetics. I went through several iterations attempting various methods to enhance the effect. I experimented with the character absorbing particles from the text and explored a cinematic camera approach, yet neither of these concepts seemed to be visually appealing. The advantage lies in the captivating and artistic nature of this style; witnessing traditional art forms such as ink, pastels, or watercolors in real-time creates a visually appealing experience. For instance, though I'm not an avid Valorant player, I was struck by Raze's abilities, which embraced a spray paint-like theme. 

Initiating a VFX setup in Unreal Engine 5 involves first gathering references, whether from games or real-world scenarios, using tools like PureRef to organize and dissect the chosen references. Following this, creating a blockout in Niagara for the primary elements provides a foundational framework. Through multiple iterations and trials, I experimented with various elements to refine the effect. Challenges predominantly involve extensive trial and error, demanding patience during the refinement phase, as tweaking parameters for extended periods is a vital aspect of the polish stage.

As an Easter egg, I incorporated the Chinese phrase "视觉效果 (Shìjué xiàoguǒ)," meaning "visual effects." The Chinese text's reveal was achieved using a common masking technique utilizing a SmoothStep node and a dynamic parameter inside Niagara. Apart from the Unreal Shader Graph and Niagara, no other tools were used for this specific aspect of the effect.


My fellow aspiring VFX artists! My primary advice is to avoid being disheartened by comparing your work to others'. Starting out, my effects looked vastly different from those in AAA titles, but progress takes time. Learning resources on YouTube, for example, channels like VFX Apprentice, 1MAFX, CGHOW, and Rinban (Korean), are immensely helpful. Focus on a particular style that resonates with you and aligns with the games you adore. Specializing in a single style will better prepare your portfolio for job applications, as different art styles involve distinct workflows. For instance, games like League of Legends favor a hand-painted 2D style, whereas Lost Ark features a more procedurally generated texture style with a chaotic, noisy aesthetic.

Aiden Farmer, Senior VFX Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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