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Animate Facial Expressions in After Effects withour Plugins

Being able to animate facial expressions on your characters is very important as it makes them memorable, engaging, and realistic. Being able to create great facial expressions will elevate your character animation game and add a whole new layer of context to your work.

In this tutorial, we’ll learn how you can animate facial expressions only using the tools in your After Effects – no other plugins are necessary. We will animate a character’s face that goes from happy to sad. Here are the steps.

Step 1: Organization

Create shape from vector layers and parent your layers.

Precompose the mouth.

Group the pupils and the eyes and precompose them.

Step 2: Head

We animate the head by adding keyframes for the position. Then with the help of the graph editor, we smoothen the keyframe movement.

Step 3: Face

Put the keyframes of the face elements (nose, mouth, eyes, and eyebrows) so that they are in sync with the head.

Open the mouth composition and split the mouth into layers (base, tongue, teeth). See the rest of the steps in the video.

Step 4: Hair

Start by animating the ponytails – the movement of the hair in the back needs to be in the opposite direction of the head movement so that you can create a parallax effect. Then animate the position keyframes of the bangs.

Step 5: Eyes

Start by creating masks for the eyelids (see the guide on how to it). Then animate the position and path option for the eyebrows.

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    Author avatar
    Kashu Team
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