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How to Add Wiggle Expressions in After Effects

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Join motion designer Tim Lucke as he walks through his character animation process in Adobe After Effects. He’ll use expression controls, track mattes, and character rigging to bring an animated intro to life!

In this lesson Tim will go through expression controls to show you how to add wiggle expressions in After Effects for a cute, simple animation. To learn more, you can watch the whole free After Effects course Master Motion Design - Dynamic Character Animation in After Effects.

How to Add Wiggle Expressions in After Effects


I'm going to show you how to add an Expression in After Effects - a wiggle. I want the bubbles in the beaker to jiggle around, like a sort of chemical compound.

Position Properties

position propertiesposition propertiesposition properties

You can see above that the layer Bubbles 1 relates to the bubble with the square around it in the flask. We're going to add some position properties, and we're not going separate the dimensions in this case.

bubble position propertiesbubble position propertiesbubble position properties

If you hit Option / Alt on the keyboard and then Position, you'll see that the expression editor will appear to the right of the layer. All you have to do now is type wiggle, and that needs two properties:

  • Frequency: How often
  • Amplitude: How much

What the values should be might require a little trial and error. I started at 10 and 10 but that was quite erratic so I settled on 2 and 10 after playing it back.

Wiggle expressions are a really easy way of adding a little bit of randomness to the animation, and all I had to do was write one line of code.

Copying an Expression

Now we've got one bubble and the expression, all we need to do is grab the expression and apply it to the other bubbles. 

copy expressioncopy expressioncopy expression

You can right-click on the bubble layer and choose Copy Expression Only

paste expressionspaste expressionspaste expressions

Then you can select your other two bubble layers and paste that expression, and then by pressing E,E you'll see those expressions now associated with the other layers.

What's also great is that these other two wiggle expressions are actually completely independent and will generate its own random numbers, so relative to each other there's going to be random movement, which is what we wanted. 

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    Another Wiggle Example


    In this example we're going to look at adding Wiggle with rotation. 

    wiggle rotationwiggle rotationwiggle rotation

    Hit the stopwatch icon - circled above - and then add 'Wiggle' again, but this time the frequency is going to be 4 times per second. As this is rotation remember that we're thinking in degrees, so 360 degrees is a full circle and we just want this to rotate a little bit so it needs to be subtle, so I've chosen 4 degrees for amplitude.

    I also want this to be a little bit chunky, so I'm going to introduce you to another expression which is called Posterize Time.

    Posterize Time

    posterize timeposterize timeposterize time

    Posterize Time should always go on the top, think of it like an adjustment layer. This is in frames per second and I only want this to move a very small amount, so I've gone for 4 frames per second which gives it a bit of a kiddy vibe. 

    Copy Expression

    copy expression againcopy expression againcopy expression again

    As you did before, you can then right-click to copy the expression and then paste that to all the other letters in the word, and they'll all rotate slightly differently. Now we want them to pop out a little.

    Parent to Null Layer

    parent to null layerparent to null layerparent to null layer

    Go to Layer > New > Null Object in and then pop that in the middle of the word. Next, you need to parent the other letter layers, and give that null layer a name of anything you like. 

    lock the scalelock the scalelock the scale

    Make sure you lock the scale so that everything moves in unison and you're not making changes to only one letter. You could, in theory, have brought all the letters in as one piece but you can do so much more if you treat each layer independently than you could all together. We just saw that by adding the wiggle expression in After Effects to each one, but you can apply that to scale, and other movements too.


    We hope you've learned some new things about After Effects expressions, and in particular about the After Effects wiggle expression. It's a really quick tool to use to help you add animation easily to your video projects. Remember, once you've created your expressions in After Effects, you can copy and paste them to other layers to get the same movements, but independently, so they won't look too uniform. 

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    About This Page

    This page was written by Marie Gardiner from the transcript of a course by Tim Lucke. Marie is a writer, author, and photographer. It was edited by Gonzalo Angulo. Gonzalo is an editor, writer and illustrator.

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