Want to elevate your brand with an eye-catching logo animation? From layer separation to keyframe adjustments, learn how to animate a logo in After Effects.
Creators of branded video content and advertising understand the significance of the logo. It’s usually the first or last image in your video and your best chance to grab the viewer’s attention, so it needs to be impressive, eye-catching, and memorable.
Animating a logo is often the most effective way to achieve this, and After Effects is the perfect tool for the job. In this tutorial, we’ll learn how to animate a logo in After Effects. Let’s dive in!
What Is Logo Animation?
Let’s start from the beginning: what is animation? Logo animation involves adding movement and effects to bring a still image to life. A good logo animation can elevate a brand into something iconic and instantly recognizable.
You may have seen a McDonald’s advertisement tracing the golden arches or scrolled past social media videos with Google’s smooth bouncing dots. Streaming fans would be familiar with Netflix’s ‘tudum’ intro, Apple TV+’s elegant opening logo, or Disney+’s shooting star logo, and gamers might recognize the clean and simple Nintendo Switch ‘click.’ The point is that, done well, an animated logo can remain in your memory long after you’ve finished watching.
The Benefits of After Effects for Animation
Creating your logo animation in After Effects is by far the best option. It’s a powerful program with a vast library of features and effects, allowing you to animate with polish and precision. You simply can’t manipulate images and text in the same way with any other program.
And – most importantly – After Effects seamlessly integrates with Adobe Illustrator, so you can import your logo, break it apart into individual layers, and animate each layer individually.
How to Animate a Logo in After Effects
The first step to creating an animated logo in After Effects doesn’t involve After Effects! The process begins in Adobe Illustrator.
Look at the logo and consider all the elements you want to animate individually. Perhaps there’s a piece of text you’d like to animate letter-by-letter, or maybe the logo has a few shapes that could appear individually.
Now let’s break it apart!
1. Open Your Logo Image File
Ask your client to provide their logo as an AI, EPS, or SVG file. Most organizations with professionally designed branding can provide their logo in one of these formats.
Open your AI, EPS, or SVG file in Adobe Illustrator. Ensure the Layers panel is open.
2. Separate Into Layers
In the Layers panel, click on your logo layer, then click the icon with three horizontal lines in the top-right corner of the Layers panel, and select Release To Layers (Sequence). You will see your layer expand, showing multiple separate sub-layers.
Now simply locate a sub-layer you’d like to separate, then click and drag it downwards until it’s outside the main logo layer, then release. It should now be a standalone layer.
Repeat this process for every separated element.
3. Make It Compatible With After Effects
These final steps are vital to ensure your logo imports into After Effects correctly.
Ensure your logo’s colors are set to RGB (for digital assets) and not CMYK (for print assets). Click File > Document Colour Mode > RGB Color. Skipping this step may make your colors look slightly off in your final video.
Click File > Save As and choose the file location. Then go to the Format drop-down box and ensure you’ve selected Adobe Illustrator (ai). Click Save. This will open an Illustrator Options dialog box. Ensure you’ve ticked the box for Create PDF Compatible File, then click OK.
Now you’re ready to learn how to animate in After Effects!
Animating a logo in After Effects
Below you will find step-by-step instructions for how to make a logo animation in Adobe After Effects.
1. Import Your Logo
Open your AfterEffects project, then import your logo. Click File > Import… > File or use the keyboard shortcut: Cmd + I (Mac) or Ctrl + I (PC). Select your saved Illustrator file. Then go to the Import As drop-down, select Composition – Retain Layer Sizes, and tick the box for Create Composition. Then click Open.
You’ll find two new items in your Project panel – a composition containing your logo and a folder containing all the individual layers.
2. Adjust Your Composition
Let’s ensure your new composition matches the specs of your video. In the project panel, right-click the composition and select Composition Settings. Or use the keyboard shortcut: Cmd + K (Mac) or Ctrl + K (PC).
Now change your composition’s Width, Height, and Frame Rate to match your video. And set the Duration you need for your logo animation. Click OK.
3. Resize and Reposition your Logo
Now that your composition is set up correctly, the size or position of the logo needs adjusting. But how do you do that when your logo is in pieces?
That’s where a Null Object comes in handy. A Null Object is an invisible layer that can control other layers.
Go to Layer > New > Null Object or use the keyboard shortcut Cmd + Option + Shift + Y (Mac) or Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Y (PC). A new Null layer will appear in your timeline.
Next, select all the logo layers in your timeline except for the Null Object. Then, find the Parent & Link column in your timeline panel, click the drop-down box for any of your selected layers, and choose the Null Object. All your logo layers will now be parented to the Null.
This means the Null is now a master control for all your logo layers, so you can collectively edit properties like Scale and Position for all layers via the Null layer.
Note: To access the Transform controls for a layer, click the tiny drop-down arrow to the layer’s left, and the Transform tools will appear.
4. Enable Continuously Rasterize
This is a very quick and easy step, but an important one. Continuously Rasterize is a setting that ensures your logo always has clean, crisp lines. So even if you scale it up by 200%, your logo will still look perfect with no pixelation.
To enable Continuously Rasterize on your layer, click on the checkbox in the column under the tiny sun icon. Check this box for all your logo layers.
5. Set Anchor Points
The Anchor Point is the point on any layer from which all movement will hinge.
So if you transform the Scale property of a layer, the layer will grow and shrink from the Anchor Point. If you change the Rotation, the Anchor Point will be the axis point of the rotation.
To set your Anchor Points, press Y on your keyboard to enable the Pan Behind tool.
Now click on a layer in the Composition panel, and look for the tiny crosshairs in the center of that layer. That’s your Anchor Point.
Now simply click and drag your Anchor Point to your desired position.
Press V on your keyboard to exit Pan Behind mode and return to your regular Selection Tool cursor.
6. Play Around With Keyframes
Now that all the technical stuff is out of the way, let’s have some fun experimenting with keyframes!
Open the Transform tools for any of your logo layers.
Move your playhead to the 1-second mark of your timeline. Click on the tiny stopwatch to the left of the Scale property. You’ll notice that this has created a keyframe at the playhead position.
Move your playhead to the start of your timeline. Now change the Scale property to 0.
Now hit the SpaceBar for playback and watch your layer expand!
Try keyframing different properties like Position, Rotation, and Opacity.
It’s all about trial and error. See what looks good and refine your animations from there.
7. Use Easing to Create Smooth Motion
When playing back your animation, you might find that the movement feels a little unnatural. That’s because, currently, everything is moving at a constant speed, which is not how motion works in real life.
Imagine a car driving from A to B. The vehicle starts stationary, gradually accelerating until it reaches maximum speed, then progressively decelerating until it stops.
You can get your animation to behave in a similar way using Easing.
Highlight your keyframes, then right-click and select Keyframe Assistant > Easy Ease. Or use the keyboard shortcut Fn + F9 (Mac) or F9 (PC).
Now play your animation. Notice how the movement is smoother and more natural.
8. Use Motion Blur for Realism
If you’d like your movement to feel even more realistic, Motion Blur is a great feature that makes movement look more natural to the naked eye.
Motion Blur mimics the type of blurring when an object whizzes past the camera at high speed. Rather than seeing clean, crisp lines, you’d get blurred streaks stretching across the screen.
To enable Motion Blur for your composition, click the icon at the top of your timeline panel featuring three overlapping circles.
Next, you’ll need to enable motion blur for each layer. Click the checkbox under the column with the motion blur icon.
Now play your animation and notice the blurred streaking lines on any moving parts.
9. Using Transitions
Now that you’re across the basics, let’s learn how to do animation with slightly more complexity, beginning with Transitions.
Navigate to your Effects and Presets panel and expand the Transition drop-down.
Start with something simple like Linear Wipe. Click and drag this effect onto one of your layers.
Now navigate to the Effect Controls panel.
The main property to alter is Transition Completion. Click on the stopwatch next to this property to create a keyframe. Set the Transition Completion to 100%. Your layer will disappear. Move the playhead about 1 second forward. Then set the transition completion to 0%. Play your animation and watch as the layer cleanly swipes in.
Try altering other properties in the Effect Controls panel, like the Wipe Angle and Feather.
Now test out some other Transitions in the Effects & Presets panel. There are plenty of weird and wonderful animations for you to explore.
10. Experiment with Different Effects
After Effects boasts a truly mind-boggling number of effects. In this tutorial, you’ll only scratch the surface of the limitless potential of this program, but below are a few useful After Effects tips to get you started. Find any effect you need by navigating to the Effects and Presets panel and using the search bar.
Note: These effects can be applied to individual layers, but if you’d like to apply one effect to multiple layers, try using an Adjustment Layer. Right-click any space in your timeline and go to New > Adjustment Layer. Or use the keyboard shortcut Cmd + Option + Y (Mac) or Ctrl + Alt + Y (PC).
Experiment with one of the many blur effects like Gaussian Blur to give the illusion of your layer shifting into focus. Keyframe the Blurriness property to achieve this effect.
CC Light Sweep
Give your logo a glossy finish using this popular effect. Keyframe the Center property to make a ray of light glide across your logo.
Manipulate the colors of your logo layers using this versatile effect. You only need to keyframe one property – Channel Range – then have fun making your layer cycle through different colors. Tweak the Master Saturation to alter the intensity of the colors and change the Master Lightness to brighten or darken the colors.
This classic effect is essential to every designer and animator’s toolkit. Drop in this effect if you need your light-colored logo to stand out against a light background. Increase the Softness property to make the shadow more subtle. It can also give your layer a soft glow – just change the Shadow Colour from black to lighter.
Create an Animated Logo in After Effects Today!
When it comes to creating an After Effects animation, preparation is critical. Following the above After Effects tutorials might seem like a lot of work, but trust us, it’ll be worth it! Keep practicing, tweaking your keyframes, and learning new features, and before you know it, you’ll be creating beautiful animations that will leave a lasting impression on your viewers.