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How to Add Motion Blur Effects to Cartoon Animation Using After Effects

This post is part of a series called Learn Character Animation With Cartoon Animator.
3 Ways to Colour Grade Cartoon Animation Using After Effects
How to Add Soft Lighting to Cartoon Animation in After Effects
Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

Motion blur is essential when creating character motion in animation. Motion needs some degree of blur to make your videos look natural, and this is especially true for rapid movement. In this tutorial, you will learn how to add motion blur to your animation project. We will be using Adobe After Effects.

What You'll Learn in This Tutorial

 After Effects has many different tools to create motion blur effects with your video or animation. In this tutorial we will show you step-by-step how to successfully add motion blur effects to your project. You'll learn:

  • How to create an animated looping background
  • How to add motion blur effects 
  • How to edit graphic templates from Envato Elements using Adobe Illustrator

What You'll Need

To follow along with this tutorial you will need your own versions of Adobe After Effects. 

You will also need a background scene and character animation. We have used the following packs from Envato Elements. Click on the links below to download them:

city parkcity parkcity park

1. Create and Increase the Length of the Background

Step 1

Let's start by opening up the background image, City Park, in your image editor of choice. Here we will be using Adobe Illustrator.

open the background file in Illustratoropen the background file in Illustratoropen the background file in Illustrator

Step 2

Expand the width of the canvas so that it is double it's original size. For this example this will make the image 3840 pixels wide.

expand the width of the artboardexpand the width of the artboardexpand the width of the artboard

Step 3

Duplicate the original image, and move it into the new space.

duplicate the imageduplicate the imageduplicate the image

Step 4

Flip the image Horizontally. and then move the two images together so that they line up. Then make some adjustments to the image so that the middle blends seamlessly where the two connect.

In this example we have added some extra bushes, adjusted the shapes of the trees and removed some background buildings to make it look more interesting.

make alterations and combine imagemake alterations and combine imagemake alterations and combine image

2. Import the Background into After Effects

Step 1

Now that the background image is ready, it's time to import it into Adobe After Effects so that we can animate it.

Open up the video template Delivery - Flat Concepts and then open Scene 4.

open up scene 4open up scene 4open up scene 4

Step 2

Import a new background image into After Effects by clicking and dragging the image into the Project Panel or by going to File > Import > File.

import the background imageimport the background imageimport the background image

Step 3

Add the new background layer by clicking and dragging it into the composition from the Project Panel.

drag the background into the scenedrag the background into the scenedrag the background into the scene

Step 4

Hide the old background by clicking on the Eye Icon next to the background layer (called Background Elements Scene - 04).

hide the previous background areahide the previous background areahide the previous background area

Step 5

Once you have done the above steps, you would have successfully imported your new background whilst replacing the old one.

changing the backgroundchanging the backgroundchanging the background

3. Create a Shadow for the Character

Step 1

To create the shadow for the character we need to open up the character scene (called 'man Scene - 04). Double click on it to open it up.

double click on the character compdouble click on the character compdouble click on the character comp

Step 2

Choose the Ellipse Tool (Q) and then set the color to the following:

  • R: 242
  • G: 180
  • B: 191
select the ellipse toolselect the ellipse toolselect the ellipse tool

Step 3

Now draw a shadow underneath the character and make sure that the layer is placed at the very bottom so that it doesn't overlap the image.

draw a shadow draw a shadow draw a shadow

Step 4

To make sure that the shadow moves along with the animation of the character, we need to set a parent for it to follow. Open the dropdown menu under Parent & Link and then choose Layer 12 Outlines - Group 1.

link the layerslink the layerslink the layers

Step 5

Now if you press Play Preview, the shadow will now animate along with the movement of the character.

moving shadowmoving shadowmoving shadow

4. Create a Moving Looping Background

Step 1

Create a Precomp of the background layer by right-clicking it and selecting Pre-Compose. Make sure to select Move all attributes to new composition.

precompose the background layerprecompose the background layerprecompose the background layer

Step 2

Open up the composition settings for your background and make sure that the dimensions match the size of your background image.

expand the width of backgroundexpand the width of backgroundexpand the width of background

In this case we need to increase the width of the background image so that it is double the size.

background width expandedbackground width expandedbackground width expanded

Step 3

Select the Region of Interest button located between the 'Full' and 'Active Camera' drop down menus at the bottom of the preview panel.

Then select the whole background area by clicking and dragging the with mouse.

select region of interestselect region of interestselect region of interest

Step 5

Now go to Composition > Crop Comp to Region of Interest.

crop region of interestcrop region of interestcrop region of interest

Step 5

Go back to the Scene 4 composition and select the background pre-comp. 

To create a moving background, add an Offset preset to the background pre-comp layer. To do this, simply select the background layer and then go to Effect > Distort > Offset or type in Offset in the Effects and Presets panel as shown below.

select offsetselect offsetselect offset

Step 6

Make sure the timeline is set to the beginning of the animation and create a keyframe for Shift Center To.

shift center to shift center to shift center to

Step 7

Move forward a few frames in the timeline and using the mouse, click and drag the first value to move the background. As you change the value you should see the background moving as well.

click and drag the first valueclick and drag the first valueclick and drag the first value

Step 8

In order to loop the animation without any jumps it is important to input the same width value as the actual background file itself. This can be found using the Project Panel and selecting the background image.

In this case the width of our background is 3840 px, so we should input the same value for our keyframe.

make sure the numbers matchmake sure the numbers matchmake sure the numbers match

Step 9

Now we need to loop this animation. To do this we are going to use a Looping Expression.

Hold the Alt key on the keyboard (Command key on Mac) and left clicking the stop watch icon.Then replace the text with loopOut()to loop the moving background animation you just created.

loop the animationloop the animationloop the animation

5. How to Add Motion Blur to a Moving Object

Step 1

When you want to add Motion Blur to a moving object in your scene you need to enable it by clicking on the Enable Motion Blur button. This is located on the top left of the layer panel.

Once it is enabled, you can switch motion blur on for a particular layer, by clicking on the box underneath the motion blur icon. This is usually located on the right side of the layer.

Note: If you do not see this option you need to click on the Layer Switches Pane button which is located on the bottom left of the layer panel.

enable motion blurenable motion blurenable motion blur

Step 2

In this example you can see that we have enabled motion blur and switched it on for two layers:

  • The character (man Scene - 04)
  • The Background (BG)
enable motion blur for characterenable motion blur for characterenable motion blur for character

6. How to Add Motion Blur to the Background

Step 1

You can also add some directional blur to the background by selecting the background layer and then going to Effect > Blur and Sharpen > Directional Blur. Then set the following:

  • Direction: 90 Degrees
  • Blur Length: 20
motion blur the backgroundmotion blur the backgroundmotion blur the background

Step 2

If you want to really make the animation look super fast, you can even use the Directional Blur effect for the character layer as well.

motion blur the charactermotion blur the charactermotion blur the character

Awesome! You're Finished!

Congratulations! And that's how you can add motion blur effects for your animations using Adobe After Effects!

Now that you are familiar with the techniques, why not experiment with the different scenes in the template or use another background image? In the meantime, I hope you've found this tutorial useful and I'll see you next time, on Envato Tuts+!

final animationfinal animationfinal animation
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