Basics in Adobe After Effects: Creating Simple Animations with Trim Paths | Taylor Carroll | Skillshare

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Basics in Adobe After Effects: Creating Simple Animations with Trim Paths

teacher avatar Taylor Carroll, Illustrator & Chief Cat Mom

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Project Description


    • 3.

      Sketching Your Design


    • 4.

      Opening Up Illustrator


    • 5.

      Opening Up After Effects


    • 6.

      Illustrator Work Around


    • 7.

      Animating with Trim Paths


    • 8.

      Final Touches


    • 9.

      Quick Render


    • 10.

      Thanks for Watching


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About This Class

Always wanted to learn how to use Adobe After Effects, but tend to get overwhelmed with all of the tools available? Well then, this class is a great place to start!

I’m Taylor, a freelance motion and graphic designer with 3+ years of experience in animation for small and large businesses. I’m super excited to share my knowledge and get you animating in After Effects in no time!

In this class, we will be creating a simple monoline design and animation using a tool called Trim Paths in Adobe After Effects. Trim Paths is a tool that allows you to make precise adjustments to shape layer paths. I will be walking you through creating a design in Adobe Illustrator, then importing that design in Adobe After Effects to add animations. 

During this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Create a simple monoline design in Adobe Illustrator
  • Import files for animation into Adobe After Effects
  • Use & animate with the Trim Path tool
  • Techniques for creating an effective and stunning animation
  • Render your final product to share with the world

With all of the tools in After Effects, it's easy to get overwhelmed with all of the options. So this is a great class for beginners to get started in After Effects, as well as intermediate users who may have overlooked using trim paths in their animations

I truly believe that setting limitations and focusing on one tool can produce amazing work and give you the confidence you need to explore more!

So let's get started see you in class!

Meet Your Teacher

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Taylor Carroll

Illustrator & Chief Cat Mom

Top Teacher

I'm so glad you're here! In case you don't know me, I'm an artist, teacher, & cat mom based in Virginia.


I've been making art since I was tiny. It makes me happy, so I just decided not to stop! I not only teach to help others explore their creative side, but I also sell products online and work with really cool clients on all kinds of fun art things. I definitely consider myself a generalist in that I enjoy any and all types of art.

I began my creative business in February 2020, perfect timing, right? Since then, I've slowly been creating m... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: If you'd like to get into computer animation but don't know where to start, learning the term "Paths tool" in After Effects is a great way to get your feet wet. I'm Taylor. I'm a freelance illustrator and motion designer, and I've been working in the industry for three years now. I use my art to navigate my day-to-day life, and this bring a little fun into it. The term "Paths tool" is a really simple tool that can be used in a variety of ways and can help you create a stunning animation in no time. With all the tools in After Effects, it can be easy to get overwhelmed with all the options. Setting limitations and focusing on one tool can produce amazing work and really give you the confidence you need to explore more. I've even created a whole narrative animations just using Trim Paths. While I love illustrating and designing, I really just have a special moment when I see what I create come to life, and I'm hoping that you'll have that moment once you've completed this project. In this class, we're going to learn how to create a simple monoline design in Illustrator. Then we're going to bring that into After Effects, animate it using Trim Paths, and then render it out to share. After this project, you'll be ready to start exploring even more tools in After Effects. I'll see you in class. 2. Project Description: For today's projects, we'll be creating an animation of a place you love to go on vacation to. I absolutely love traveling, and I love being able to take a moment or even just the feeling of a place and translating that into my design. You don't have to be literal with this. If your favorite vacation is staying at home with your cat, then do that. If it's Paris, go for that. Do the Eiffel Tower. Maybe it's even a moment you have with your family and you want to capture the feeling that you got while you were at that place with them. Really open for interpretation. We're just going to take the feeling and take it really simple down into a monoline design. I'll be showing you how I go about that process as well. All you'll need for this course is a computer with Adobe After Effects and preferably Adobe Illustrator. If you don't have Illustrator, I'll be showing you a little work around for that. I just prefer to use Illustrator in my own workflow. Before we begin animating, you really need to nail down what your favorite vacation spot is. Like I said, it doesn't have to be or literal place, but if that's easiest for you, definitely go for that. 3. Sketching Your Design: For this lesson, we're going to describe your spot, then we're going to get some references, and then we're going to sketch it out. I'll be sketching digitally and procreate for this lesson, but feel free to use whatever medium you feel most comfortable with. Before we can begin animating, make a list of everything that your favorite vacation spot or time reminds you of. For mine, Las Vegas is kind of all bunch of things. I wrote down all of the things that I remembered about my time at Las Vegas before I looked at reference photos. This is really important because you want to make sure you're writing down what you personally remember about your vacation, not what reference photos makes your mind think you remember. I also sketched out a couple of little ideas before I pulled any reference photos about generally what shapes and things that Las Vegas reminds me of. Then I brought in some reference photos. For this reference photo, it was like a breakthrough moment. I knew that I wanted to show the strip, but I didn't really want to have dashed lines and I don't want to draw a whole car. I was like this is great, I'm going to draw all these lines to show like the lights of the cars coming by. It's really important to keep your lines symbol while you're sketching right now. If you're using a pencil, it might be tempting to shade but make sure that you're trying to keep everything a single-line weight. For this project, as I've mentioned previously, we'll be creating a monoline design. All that means is that all of the lines in the design are a single line [inaudible]. Now this can be thick or thin lines depending on your design, but the general premise is that they're all the same thickness. For my design, I went with a medium line thickness, just because I thought it worked best with the amount of detail I had in my design. While I'm sketching this out, I'm making sure that I'm keeping it lose. I'm using a couple of guiding things on Procreate to help me out, but generally you don't want to go too crazy trying to make it clean. Honestly, my style is more illustrated kids book, kids illustration look, so I kept it super-simple regardless. But if you're super into clean, very crisp, sharp edges, 90 degrees, all that craziness, you can definitely do that in Adobe Illustrator in the next lesson. Check and see which way your design looks best. Just because mine is medium line weight doesn't mean that yours won't look better thick. Or if you have a lot of lines, it might even look better with thinner lines. Just see what works best for your design. Also, just a little tip. If your design happens to have a sign or some sort of text in it like mine, I recommend simplifying it down as much as you can. Just get the general shapes of them. Just because animating texts is a whole another beast, and if you have experience doing it, go ahead and put it in there. But the general principle of this design is how simple can we make everything while it's still representing a place and a feeling that we had in a moment of time. For example, again, what these fountains, the Caesars Palace fountains are actually crazy amounts of circles. But as you can see in my little sketches, I sketched how they look to me, and that was just a little too much, so I simplified them so that way they still look like water and maybe I'll even make them blue to signify water, but I'm not going all crazy doing all these crazy lines or trying to shade because I just want to get the feeling of the place, not so much all of the things that are actually happening in the place. This is the final design I came up with. I'm super excited about it. For mine, since I did it digitally, I just exported it, but if you did it on a piece of paper, you can either photograph it or scan it in. Now that we have an awesome design of our favorite vacation place, we're going to be bringing that into Illustrator so we can turn it into a vector lines that will then be brought in after effects. Let's go ahead and do that now. 4. Opening Up Illustrator: Before we begin, I highly recommend setting up a folder just for this project. Then inside go ahead and categorize all your folders just so you can stay organized. This is what Illustrator should generally look like when you open it up. You're going to click the little "Create New" button and it change your increments to pixels. This is really important because we're working in standard HT. I'm going to be setting the canvas size to 1920 by 1080. This way when we place our design file in to After Effects, it'll already be where we want it to be because we placed it in Illustrator. Everything else is good to go. Make sure you name your file and then hit "Okay". Then we're going to drop in our sketch and we're going to scale it. The little white box you see is going to be the size of our video. I'm going to go ahead and crop my image just because I don't like little overhang but the sketch won't be in the final render. If you don't want to deal with that, you don't have to worry about it. Then I'm going to place my illustration where I generally want it to be once I'm in After Effects. After we have that set up, we're going to go on the right-hand side and there's going to be these little stacked box button and that's your layers panel. I'm going to double-click to rename my layer. All I'm going to do is name that sketch layer. Then I'm going to create a new layer with a little icon that's below it. This is really important if you don't want to be annoyed the whole process is to lock your sketch layer. Then we're going to go over to our toolbar on the left-hand side and click the pencil icon. In case you've ever used the pen tool before, all you have to do is move your cursor where you'd like your line to begin. Click once and then you're going to move your cursor over to where you want your line to end and click again. Before we continue, we're going to change the end joint of our lines. To do this, you just go to the properties panel, then you're going to click stroke and then set all of them to round cap. This will come in super handy when we're animating. All the lines will already be bubbled on the end and it's honestly just way more of a pain in After Effects to set all of these to round joints. I went ahead and changed my stroke color to a bright pink color but you can make it any color you want. We can change this color in After Effects. I just chose a color that I knew would stand out against my sketch. Remember to continue creating a new layer every time you create a new line. That way it'll all be separated out and ready to go once we get to After Effects. Be thinking of how you'd like your design to come to life while you're tracing it. While you're working on your lines, you can use the direct selection tool by pressing "A" to move any of your lines so that they line up nicely and come to a point. You don't want to click them together because it's actually going to join them and they'll be on the same layer but if you get them close and then you can inch them up with the arrow keys. You can set your stroke width to whatever you have decided will look best with your design. I set mine to a size that's pretty similar to what it was in my sketch. Most likely all of your lines are not going to be straight. To get a curve, all you're going to do is drop your pen like you normally would but instead of letting go, you're going to pull so that it creates a curve line. There's multiple different ways to do this. My favorite way is to actually just go ahead and create straight lines. Then we're going to use the curvature tool. What the curvature tool does is exactly what it sounds like. It creates beautiful curves for us. I think it's just a lot easier. Then I go in with the anchor point tool to adjust any extra lines. This is just a little game of seeing how you think it looks best. But the little handles will pop out and you just have to pull them and adjust them to get the shape that you'd like. Make sure to zoom out on your design, every so often just to make sure you're happy with it and it's what you envisioned. Now that we're done with our design, we're going to go in and clean up. We're going go over to eraser tool and click to hold and open the scissors. With the scissors, all you have to do is click on the points of the line that you want to cut. Then you're going to go click V to go back to your selection tool and then delete. Most likely you'll have little overhanging bits. We're going to use the direct selection tool with A again to adjust it wherever we see fit. Before we go in to After Effects, it's really important to go through and click the visibility on all of your layers just to make sure that everything is separated. Then you're just going to press Control or Command S to save the file. This is where our file system comes in handy because we're just going to put it in Illustrator file and boom, we know where it is and now we're going to move on to After Effects. I'll see you in the next lesson. 5. Opening Up After Effects: In this lesson, we're going to set up your composition, bring your design in, and then separate out all the layers. Congratulations. You made it to the After Effects part. I definitely love Illustrator by animating in my one true love, so I'm super excited that we've made it to this step. Before we can begin animating, I have to show you how we're going to bring the Illustrator file into After Effects. This is what After Effects will generally look like when you open it. All you're going to do is select new composition and then rename your composition to match the project you're working on. As I mentioned, we're going to be doing standard HD, which is 1920 by 1080, and that's a 16 by 9 aspect ratio. We're going to keep our frame rate at 29.97. However, we're going to change our animation so that it's only 15 seconds, because we definitely don't need a minute of space on our timeline. I'm going to leave the background colors black and hit OK. Now, my computer Is pretty fast, so I can work at half quality, but I recommend working at quarter quality if you have a little bit of an older of a computer, but just test and see what works best. Where we're working with a simple line illustration, even at quarter quality, your lines will still look good. Then we have to bring in our file and we're just going to go to file, import file. Again, this is where our naming and having our file system comes in handy because we know exactly where Illustrator file is. We're going to click that and we're not going to change anything, we're going to keep it as footage. That might sound counterintuitive, but we're actually going to be bringing in our Illustrator file as merged layers and footage. We're going to hit OK. Once you hit OK, it's going to open our illustration in the project file. If you'll see it has a little Illustrator icon beside it, and all you have to do is drag and drop that in to your sequence. We're going to right-click, go up to create, and then hit Convert to Layered Comp. What this is going to do is it's going to change our file to a pre-comp. A pre-comp is just a group of layers that are all in their own separate composition. When you double-click the pre-comp, it's going to open up all of the layers. These are all the layers we were just working on and they're all separated out and ready to go for us. Then you're going to select all of your layers, right-click again, hit Create, but this time we're going to create shapes from vector layer. You'll see that it created outlines for each of these layers. We actually only need the outlines that After Effects created for us. You can delete all the layers that have the Illustrator icon beside them. Once you've done that, we're going to rename all of our layers. You can name it anything that'll help you identify it, but this is why I wait and I don't do it in Illustrator because I didn't want it to say Tower One Outlines. It's just a lot cleaner to go ahead and have the name exactly what I wanted to be. We're going to select all again, copy, and then we're going to go back to our main composition that we created when we first started and paste it. Then really, that's it. All of these layers are named and their After Effect shapes, and they have our little group in them that has the After Effects path. After you've done these steps, we're ready to save. Hit Command or Control S to bring up the save box, and then we're going to put it in our After Effects folder that we created, and again, making sure that we name it something really clear so we understand what the file is. Just like that, we are ready to start animating. I hope you're as excited as I am. I'll see you in the next lesson where I'll be showing you how to use the trim paths tool to bring this awesome designed to life. 6. Illustrator Work Around: If you don't have Adobe Illustrator, you can easily trace your design in After Effects. It's the same general premise, I'm going to use up into an After Effects. Set it to a contrasting color, make sure the fill is off, and also set the widths to what I would like. Then I'm going to do about the same thing I did in Illustrator and that's just tracing my lines using the pen tool. If you'll notice, it's actually going ahead and making the shape layers for us, so it's skipping a step. However, once it gets to doing some little fine details and cutting things, I just find that Illustrator is a lot more user-friendly and I have way more control. But feel free to use this method if you don't have Adobe Illustrator. 7. Animating with Trim Paths: The trim path's process is pretty simple, but there's a couple little things we have to do to set it up. What we're going to do is we're going to drop down our shape layer that we're currently working on and you'll see that there's a path inside, that's what we'll be animating. Add is where you're going to go to add the trim path. But if you can't see Add, then make sure you hit the little icon in the lower left-hand corner. This will add our layer properties, so you can change all the, Normal, if you want Multiply, and it also opens up Add. If you click "Add," then we're going to go to Trim Paths. Just like that, it will add the trim paths to the layer. We just drop that down. I recommend you scrub the little value just to see where it's starting and ending. You can use start or end. I typically use start; that tends to work for me. I set it to a 100 percent because that means it's all the way gone, then I hit the little stopwatch, and that's going to create a keyframe. Then you're going to drag your little head over to a couple seconds out. From there, you're going to change the value and this is what's going to animate. If I go and drag the little play head back and I hit the space bar, it will play the animation. But that's a little too slow for me, so what I'm going to do, is I'm going to select one keyframe. To do that, you're just going to hit one. If you want to select both, just hit shift, and you can actually move them together. Be careful that you're not selecting both. I've definitely done that before and then been like, where the heck are all my keyframes? You just select one. We're going to bring it in and boom, a lot faster. Now if we want it to be a little smoother, we can select both and hit F9. Now that's a whole another class on the speed graph, but this is just a quick way for us to make it look a lot smoother and cleaner and get a little bit of varying speed in there. In the previous lesson, we cut some of our lines in Illustrator to make it look a certain way. What that does is the shape layers all together, but there's multiple groups with multiple paths. If you don't mind them all animating in at the same time, you can just set a trim path for the whole group. However, if you're a little picky like me, I want the outside line to come in like it looks like a seamless line together. I'm using the same exact process, except this time, I'm opening up a group and then adding trim paths to it. This gives me a little bit more control. I'm still using F9, Easy Ease, same exact process. But once I'm done setting all of the keyframes for the start and ends, I'm going to be dragging them around, so that they can look like they come in seamlessly together. For example, if you want one line to come in slower, so it can meet up with the other one, you separate the keyframes farther. If you want them to come in faster, then you put the keyframes closer together, whatever looks best. You'll see what I mean as I'm working on it right now, just dragging them around, pressing space bar to play, and see which way makes it look like the whole line is coming in seamlessly. Once we're done with all of our keyframes, it should look a little something like this. I set all of the keyframes to the same exact time. They're all going to come in at the same time except for the ones we adjusted like the outside. Now we're going to go in and adjust all the keyframes in the next lesson and add some final touches like background and color. I'll see you really soon. 8. Final Touches: For this lesson, we're going to be adjusting our key frames, changing the colors, and then adding some effects as well as a background. This is what you generally should have. It's going to just have all of your key frames that we already made, but they're all going to be lined up at the same exact end and start point. Now we get to have a little fun and experiment. I can't stress enough how much of an experiment this is. You're literally just going to be pulling around key frames. You can select multiple at a time using shift. You're just having fun at this point. There's no right or wrong way to bring in your lines. Just play around and see what works best. This is what I came up with for my animation. Super happy with it, but it did take a little bit of experimenting to get here. Now we're going to change the color. You're going to go to Effects and Presets and then type in fill. Then all you have to do is drag that over to the layer you want it to be added to. I'm going to click the color button and then change the color. At first I actually set it to this gray tone. I thought I'd try that because as I just mentioned, experimenting is really important. I absolutely hated that. Sounds like, no, I'm going to go with my original plan. I'm going to do this yellow tone. I dragged till I got a yellow that I liked hit "Okay", and boom I love it. Now we're going to just hit Control or Command C and then Control or Command V to paste it on all of our layers that are the Eiffel Tower. It's a lot easier than dragging and dropping on every layer. If you're having a hard time picking colors, I recommend using a color palette generator. I've list the one that I think is the most helpful. These are my final colors and then I'm going to select all and Pre-Comp them altogether. I'm just going to name it Las Vegas and boom, they are altogether. I wanted to add really cool glow because it was giving me neon vibes. But again, experiment. Go and look and see what effects you would like to add. After effects has a bunch of cool effects. Hence, like it's literally in the name after effects. Just play with whatever you'd like. Then I'm going to right click, hit New and solid. This is going to be setting my background color and I actually just like to add a field to it so that way I can see in real-time what the colors looking like. I settled with this darker gray tone because I knew I wanted to add an actual textural element into my design. There's plenty of places you can get royalty-free images, like Unsplash or Pexels. Do whatever you'd like to do to find the best picture. What I did is I just did a wall back ground, changed the little setting to multiply and then drop the opacity. If you'd would like to get extra fancy, you can actually key frame your effect. It's really simple. It's the same exact way that we key framed our trim path. It's really simple to key frame your effects, your just going to click the little Stopwatch Tool and mess around. Do not be afraid to experiment. That is literally what Control and Command Z is for. If you don't like it, you can always go back, just see what you like, see what fabby like you, if you hate it then take it back if you don't want to add anything fine. But at least try to add something. You'll be surprised after effects has a lot of cool effects and presets that can really bring a cool look to your final animation. Now it's time to render our final piece to share and put in the project gallery. I'll see you in the next lesson. 9. Quick Render: Congratulations you did it. You have a beautiful line animation of your favorite vacation spot ready to go. Now we just have to get it out of After Effects. I'm going to be showing you the best practices to do a quick render, so you can share it in the project gallery and then share it with your family and friends and even put it on your portfolio. I'll be showing you how to render an AVI file and an MP4 file. To render an AVI file, you're going to go to File, Export and to Render Queue. This render queue is actually natively an After Effects. We're going to click ''Export to'', to change the location that the render will come out at as our project file. I'm just going to go ahead and create a new folder called render. Then for export settings, I'm just showing you so you know, this is generally what it should look like, this should be the default. I am going to change my time and click ''Custom'' to do that. I'm going to set it to 10 seconds because I didn't use the full 15 seconds. Once I'm done with that, I'll hit ''Okay'', and then if you click ''Output Settings'', again, not changing anything in here, I just wanted to show you After Effects can't render an H.264 file, which is what MP4 is, so we're going to only render AVI and that should do just fine. Then we're going to hit ''Render''. This shouldn't take very long because your video is only 10-15 seconds. If you have an older computer, it will take a little longer and I do want to warn you, After Effects makes this little, [inaudible] as soon as it's done and if you have headphones on with your volume up, it will scare the Jesus out of you, just FYI. If you go to your file, you can go to render and you'll see that it's in there. AVI files are a little bigger, but they're high quality, so they work just great too. To do an MP4, it's the same general process, File, Export, but this time we're going to add to Adobe Media Encoder. Then you're going get this fancy little box pop-up while it uploads the application. Once it opens up, you'll notice that nothing is in there. Don't panic and give it a minute, it takes a little while for it to open up. Then I'm going to hit the H.264 and I'm just showing you all of the settings you can now do in Adobe Media Encoder including GIF, but we're going to be doing H.264, that is an MP4 file. Then instead of choosing custom, I'm just going to drag over the slider until it says 10 seconds and hit ''Okay''. Then we don't have to do anything else, all we have to do is hit ''Play'' and it will render out. Super, super simple, either way is completely fine, whichever way you prefer. The only difference here is once you go into your folder, you'll notice it's not in the render file and you might get scared and think you lost it. Just go to the After Effects folder and it'll actually create another folder for you and it'll say AME, and there's your MP4. So now it's time to share your final render in the project gallery, I absolutely can't wait to see it. 10. Thanks for Watching: You made it. Congratulations on finishing your projects. Now when you have rendered out the video, don't forget to share it in the product gallery so that everyone can see. During this course, you learned how to sketch a monoline design, bring it into Illustrator, get it ready for animation in After Effects, animate it with Trim Paths, and then render it out. Now that you know more about an animation workflow, I hope that you'll be able to confidently explore more tools in After Effects and add little trim paths layer to your future animations. I personally think that they're super underrated, some really excited that I got to share them with you all. If there's one thing that I hope you took away from this course, it's that setting limitations and focusing on one tool can produce amazing work and really give you the confidence you need to explore more. I can't wait to see what you created, so if you posted on Instagram, don't forget to tag me and if you liked this class, be sure to leave a review and follow me for more. I'll see you next time.