Improve Motion Graphics: 5 Actionable Tips in After Effects
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Simplify animation with expressions
  2. How to use the roving keyframes
  3. Create dynamic transitions
  4. Optimize After Effects for performance
  5. Leverage 3D layers for depth

Looking to jazz up your motion graphics? You're in the right place! In today's blog, we'll explore five actionable tips for getting better at motion graphics in After Effects. So, let's get rolling!

Simplify Animation with Expressions

First off, we're going to talk about simplifying your animation with expressions. Expressions in After Effects are like the secret sauce of motion graphics. They can make your work smoother, faster, and give it that professional edge.

What are Expressions?

Expressions are bits of JavaScript code that allow you to automate tedious tasks, create more complex animations, and generally make your life easier. For example, you might use an expression to make a layer rotate automatically, or to make a shape scale up and down over time.

Why Use Expressions?

  • Saves Time: Instead of manually keyframing every single movement, you can use expressions to automate repetitive tasks. This means you can spend more time being creative and less time clicking and dragging.
  • Enhances Creativity: Expressions aren't just for saving time, they can also be used to create effects that would be impossible (or at least very difficult) to achieve manually. This opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities.
  • Improves Consistency: Expressions ensure that certain elements behave consistently across your project. This can be a game-changer when it comes to achieving a professional look and feel.

Getting Started with Expressions

Getting better at motion graphics in After Effects with expressions might seem daunting at first, but don't worry, you don't need to be a coding expert to use them. Start with simple expressions like time, wiggle, or loopOut. These can have a big impact on your animations, and they're not that hard to learn. For example, the wiggle expression can be used to create a random, organic movement, which can give your animations a more natural feel.

Try experimenting with different expressions and see what they can do. Remember, practice makes perfect. So, the more you play around with expressions, the better you'll get at using them to improve your motion graphics in After Effects.

How to Use the Roving Keyframes

Moving onto our next tip for getting better at motion graphics in After Effects: roving keyframes. Roving keyframes are a powerful tool in After Effects that can help you achieve smoother, more natural animations. So, what are they, and how do you use them? Let's dive in.

Understanding Roving Keyframes

Roving keyframes are special types of keyframes in After Effects that adjust their position in time to create a smooth, steady speed between keyframes. This means you won't see any sudden speed changes in your animations, even if the distance between your keyframes varies.

The Power of Roving Keyframes

  • Smoother Animations: Roving keyframes help you create smoother, more natural-looking animations. They're especially useful when you're animating objects moving in a straight line (like a car driving down a road) or when you're working with motion paths.
  • Flexible Timing: With roving keyframes, you don't have to worry about getting the timing perfect right from the start. You can adjust the timing of your animation at any point, and the roving keyframes will automatically adjust to maintain a smooth speed.
  • Easy Adjustments: Need to change the speed of your animation? No problem! Simply move your keyframes closer together or further apart. The roving keyframes will take care of the rest.

How to Use Roving Keyframes

Using roving keyframes is pretty straightforward. First, create a couple of keyframes for your animation. Next, select the keyframes and right-click on one of them. From the context menu, select "Keyframe Interpolation." In the dialog box that appears, set the Temporal Interpolation to "Roving."

The keyframes will now move in time to create a constant speed between them. Give it a try on your next animation project and see the difference it can make in getting better at motion graphics in After Effects.

Create Dynamic Transitions

Now, let's talk about how we can add some pizzazz to your projects by creating dynamic transitions. This is another practical tip to help you in getting better at motion graphics in After Effects. Transitions are a key part of any motion graphics project—they help tie your scenes together and guide your viewers from one point to the next. But who said transitions have to be boring? With After Effects, you can create dynamic, visually captivating transitions that will make your projects stand out.

Why Dynamic Transitions?

Dynamic transitions can add a layer of professional polish to your projects. They make your work more engaging, help to maintain the viewer's attention, and can even be used to emphasize important points or changes in your story.

Types of Dynamic Transitions

There are countless types of dynamic transitions you can create in After Effects. Here are a few examples:

  • Shape Transitions: These involve animated shapes that wipe across the screen to reveal the next scene. They're versatile and work well with a variety of projects.
  • Motion Blur Transitions: These transitions simulate the blur effect you'd see when moving quickly. They're great for action-packed scenes or to convey a sense of speed.
  • 3D Transitions: With 3D transitions, you can create depth and dimension in your projects. They're a bit more complex but can add a wow factor to your work.

Creating Dynamic Transitions in After Effects

Creating dynamic transitions in After Effects is all about experimenting and having fun. Start by selecting the layers you want to transition between, and then explore the different effects and settings available. You can adjust timing, speed, color, and much more—let your creativity take the lead!

Remember, the goal is to guide your viewers smoothly from one scene to the next, while keeping them engaged and interested. So, as you start experimenting with dynamic transitions, always keep your audience in mind. This might take a bit of practice, but it's a surefire way to keep getting better at motion graphics in After Effects.

Optimize After Effects for Performance

Alright, it's time for us to dive into the technical side of things. We've talked about the creative aspects of getting better at motion graphics in After Effects, but what about performance? After all, even the best motion graphics can't shine if your software isn't running smoothly. So, let's take a look at how you can optimize After Effects for better performance.

Why Optimize?

When working with motion graphics, it's not uncommon to run into performance issues. These can slow down your workflow, cause crashes, and generally make your life harder. But don't worry—there are ways to optimize After Effects to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible.

How To Optimize After Effects

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Dedicate More RAM: After Effects loves RAM. The more you can dedicate to it, the better it will run. You can adjust the amount of RAM allocated to After Effects in the Preferences menu.
  2. Close Unused Panels: Every panel you have open uses up computing power. If you're not using a panel, close it to free up resources.
  3. Limit Previews: Previews can take up a lot of computing power, especially for complex projects. You can limit the length of your previews to save on resources.

Stay Updated

Finally, always make sure you have the latest version of After Effects installed. Adobe regularly releases updates that include performance enhancements and bug fixes, which can help your software run smoother.

Remember, a well-optimized After Effects not only improves your workflow but also makes your final output look better. So, if you're serious about getting better at motion graphics in After Effects, don't overlook the importance of optimizing your software for performance.

Leverage 3D Layers for Depth

Alright, we've talked about optimizing After Effects for better performance. Now, let's dive into another key aspect of getting better at motion graphics in After Effects: leveraging 3D layers for depth. This is a powerful tool that, when used correctly, can add a whole new dimension to your animations. So, how can you make the most of it?

What are 3D Layers?

Simply put, 3D layers are layers that exist in three dimensions—not just height and width, but depth as well. When you turn a layer into a 3D layer, you're able to move and rotate it in three-dimensional space. Sounds cool, right?

How to Use 3D Layers

So, how exactly do you leverage 3D layers for depth in your motion graphics? Here are a few tips:

  1. Use the 3D Layer Switch: This is the simplest way to turn a layer into a 3D layer. Just click on the 3D layer switch (it looks like a cube) in the Timeline panel.
  2. Experiment with Position and Rotation: Once a layer is 3D, you can use the Position and Rotation properties to move it in three-dimensional space. Don't be afraid to experiment!
  3. Play with Depth of Field: Depth of field can make your 3D layers feel even more realistic. You can adjust the depth of field in the Camera Settings dialog box.

Why Use 3D Layers?

So why go through all this trouble? Well, using 3D layers can bring a lot of benefits to your motion graphics. They can make your animations more dynamic, more engaging, and more visually appealing. So, if you're serious about getting better at motion graphics in After Effects, don't be afraid to dive into the world of 3D layers!

If you're eager to improve your motion graphics skills in After Effects, don't miss the workshop 'How To Animate A Logo In 2D Using After Effects' by George Dyson. This workshop will teach you some valuable techniques that can be applied to various projects, helping you create stunning motion graphics and animations in no time.