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How to Add Lens Flares in After Effects

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to add lens flares in Adobe After Effects using an example animation project. Lens flares are just the right thing when you need to add a little bit of flash and pizzazz to your project.

Our example animation project has an almost retro-futuristic vibe going on, which is perfect for adding lens flares. By adding lens flare effects, we can really make the animation stand out!

example projectexample projectexample project

In this example, we want to add some flares just when the text brightens up (when we animate from just the stroke and the light fill comes in). So let's drop a marker here with the asterix, so we know when to add the lens flares.

drop a markerdrop a markerdrop a marker

I want to have this whole thing light up nice and bright, and adding some lens flares will make the text appear much brighter than it actually is.

How to Add Optical Lens Flares

So to accomplish this, I'm going to use a third-party effect called Optical Flares. This is by Video Copilot, and it's probably one of the best lens flare plugins out there.

optical flares video copilotoptical flares video copilotoptical flares video copilot

So to apply optical flares, I'm going to create a solid by going to Layer > New > Solid. Name this 'OF' for optical flares.

new solidnew solidnew solid

Then go to the Effects & Presets tab, type in "Optical Flares", and then add it to the solid by double-clicking or clicking and dragging the effect to the solid.

optical flaresoptical flaresoptical flares

Set the solid to Screen.

screen modescreen modescreen mode

Then, in the Effect Controls panel, jump into the options by double-clicking the Options button. This will open up a new window where you can customize your flare.

flare optionsflare optionsflare options

Now, the Optical Flares plugin comes with some default flares, and then there are some pro presets that you can choose from. It also comes with a bunch of different preset packages. So choose the one that you like the look of. For this example, I'll choose the preset called Sub Zero from the preset browser.

choose sub zerochoose sub zerochoose sub zero

There are some parts of the lens flare that I would like to remove. Thankfully, I can remove parts of the flare by clicking on the Hide button (located below the preview window). So just find the layer that you want to remove and then hide it.

hide layershide layershide layers

Back in the Effect Controls panel, I'm also going to change the Positioning Mode to 3D, which will help it track a little better with the camera.

3D positioning mode3D positioning mode3D positioning mode

And then I'm going to position it just on the edge of the frame when it reaches the marker that we created on the timeline.

position the flareposition the flareposition the flare

I will also trim up the beginning of the layer with the begin bracket key [ so that the lens flares start right here, and I'm going to animate the position by adding a position keyframe.

trim the layertrim the layertrim the layer

Then I'll move forward in the timeline and adjust the position in the Effect Controls panel so that it moves further down.

move the flaremove the flaremove the flare

Let's go back to the marker and animate the scale and the brightness. You can increase both to your liking.


Move forward in the timeline again, and then reset both the brightness and scale or turn them down to your liking.

turn down brightnessturn down brightnessturn down brightness

Select all the keyframes and ease them.

easy easeeasy easeeasy ease

Go into the Graph Editor and select Speed Graph. Click on the Fit All Graphs to View button. Then give it a curve that looks similar to the one below. This will make the flare look like a flash if the curve is that exponential shape.

speed graphspeed graphspeed graph

The Optical Flares plugin also has a Flicker section where you can further adjust the look of your flare. Change the Type to Sharp. Turn up the speed and amount to your liking.


How to Add RGB Separation

The only thing that I would do in addition to this is give the background a bit of an RGB split.

Select the background layer in the Project panel, right-click on it, and select Replace with Precomp. And that's going to precomp my background layer.

precomp the backgroundprecomp the backgroundprecomp the background

I'm going to double-click and go onto my background layer. And here we will apply another third-party effect. This one is from Red Giant Universe, and it's called RGB Separation.

red giant universered giant universered giant universe

Universe is a collection of all kinds of very useful effects for After Effects and Premiere. And one of them that I'm very fond of is this RGB split. It separates the red, blue, and green channels in space, and it has this really cool-looking effect that I just love.

rgb splitrgb splitrgb split

You can also use the preset browser, where you can choose a bunch of different looks. For this example, we will apply the Subtle Distortion preset.

subtle distortionsubtle distortionsubtle distortion

Finishing Touches

You can also duplicate the Optical Flares layer and use the position XY to move it around the screen to where you want it (you will also need to change the end position keyframe).

duplicate flares layerduplicate flares layerduplicate flares layer

You could also add a Curves effect to the Optical Flares layer to further adjust the look of your animation. 

curves effectcurves effectcurves effect


lens flarelens flarelens flare

Congratulations! And that's how you can add optical lens flares in Adobe After Effects. Now that you've learned the basics, check out some of the other tutorials we have on Adobe After Effects below.

I hope you've found this tutorial useful, and I'll see you next time on Envato Tuts+!

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