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Design and Animate a Character in After Effects (Free Project Files)

Let’s learn how to design and animate a character in After Effects. The character is going to be a cute little bouncy ball with a beard and a hat. You can download the project files by clicking the button above.

1. Design the Character

Designing directly in after effects is a great way to optimize your work. So let’s start with that.

  • Start by drawing a simple circle, make sure it’s at the center – this will be the head of our character. Next, draw two more circles and change the color to white. After that, create smaller circles inside the white ones and fill them in with black – those are the pupils.
  • Create a new layer with a mask for the eye and move it above the pupil. Change the mask mode to Alpha Matte. Do the same thing for the other pupil.
  • Draw another white circle for the beard. Then, we need to create a mask over it to make the shape of the beard look more natural.
  • Create an ellipse for the nose and change the color.
  • Make the eyebrows by drawing simple lines and increasing the stroke weight. Make sure all anchor points are at the center.
  • Convert the beard shape into a path. You can do that by right-clicking on the shape and then Convert to Bezier Path.
  • Create the hat as shown in the video above. Draw the rim of the hat, then a circle. Create a mask so that the circle cuts at the rim.
  • Create the mouth and change the mode to Round cap and Round join. So you can have clean and nice joins.
  • Create the noise effects (check out the video).

That’s it! Now it’s time to animate the character we’ve designed.

2. Animate the Character

  • Parent your relevant layers as shown above and then hide the layers that you won’t need. This way you can have a clean composition.
  • Then create a null object for the face and parent all the face layers to it. Parent the face to the body and the hat to the null object
  • Select the body. Drag the anchor point to the bottom and add keyframes. Then add the middle shots and adjust the keyframes via the graph editor.
  • Now, let’s animate the face – with the null object that we’ve created. Add the third keyframe which is when the monster goes up, so the face needs to go up as well. The next keyframe should be a copy of the second keyframe and the final keyframe should be a copy of the first keyframe. Make adjustments to the graph (as in 1.3).
  • Time to animate the eyebrows. Make sure they don’t move exactly with the face, so the movement can look more natural.
  • Now let’s move forward with the pupils. We are going to add a position right around the fifth frame and we are going to make him look up and down.
  • Let’s also make him blink as this will make the character look more natural. Check out the video to see how to do it.
  • Now, let’s adjust the beard. We want the shape to change as the character looks and goes up. Add keyframes for the beard so you can make sure it fits the face in all positions.
  • It’s time to animate the nose and the hat. For the hat we will be just basically animating the position and the masks, I’m just going to add keyframes for all the masks and all the paths of the elements of the head. Adjust the mask so that it fits the head.
  • Next, adjust the noise so it fits all the respective elements.
  • Make sure all the layers with keyframes have a keyframe at the start and at the end.
  • Finally, duplicate the main character a few times. Add different elements to the different copies. We’re going to be switching the characters at the moment where keyframes are the fastest – when the character goes down.

That’s the whole process – we’ve designed and animated our very own character in After Effects. To see more details, watch the videos in the post. Subscribe to our YouTube channel Kashu Academy for more easy-to-follow and useful animation and design tutorials.

Download our free project files to practice the techniques.

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    Kashu Team
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