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How to Animate Trim Paths in After Effects

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Read Time: 4 min

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 show you how to animate trim paths in After Effects, and for more, you can watch the whole free After Effects course Master Motion Design - Dynamic Character Animation in After Effects.

How to Animate Trim Paths in After Effects

Adobe After Effects Trim Paths: What are They?

Before we start, let's take a quick look at what After Effects trim paths are. In shape layers, or layers that have been converted to a shape (like text or illustrations) you can add trim paths. These will let you define the 'start' and 'end' point for which you can then set animation.

"If the Trim Paths path operation is below multiple paths in a group, then you can choose to have the paths trimmed simultaneously or treated as a compound path and trimmed individually." - Adobe

How to Add a Trim Path in After Effects

add a trim pathadd a trim pathadd a trim path

As mentioned, any Shape layer will have this option, so on the layer, click Add and from the pop out menu, choose Trim Paths

trim pathtrim pathtrim path

The trim path will appear at the bottom of your shape layer stack and so will affect everything that's above it. There are two main properties when it comes to trim paths, the start and the end.

Setting a Keyframe

roll back endroll back endroll back end

If we roll back the end - circled above - you can see how the shape will animate.

start screenstart screenstart screen

The start point of the animation is nothing on screen. We can hit the little stopwatch to set a keyframe at that stage.

A keyframe is the thing that signifies the start and end points for action in animation.

From previous lessons in the course we know that we're hitting our animation movements to the beat of the music, so for this we want about a second and a half, so we can move along the timeline to that point and then go ahead and set a second keyframe for the end point.

end keyframeend keyframeend keyframe

You can see I've then dragged the end point up to 100%.

1.2 Hours

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    Adjusting Timing

    kid popping upkid popping upkid popping up

    Next, we want to have the line speeding in first and then we have a kid who pops up above the line, so we can get him to pop up at half a second and then have him there for another second.

    adding keyframesadding keyframesadding keyframes

    You can see above I've added a keyframe to represent where the kid pops up and what we just mentioned above, and then I've duplicated it so these two keyframes are now exactly the same.

    You can then play it through and see how it works. The way it is here meant there was a bit of a pause or break, so I can just move the second keyframe from the right over a little so that the animation at the end is really quick, maybe two or three frames.

    In the next lesson, we take a look at smoothing out that animation by easing keyframes.

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    More Great After Effects Tutorials and Templates

    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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