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Quick Tip: Keeping Smooth Edges in After Effects

Danny Greer

Here’s a quick tip that will keep your After Effects graphic project looking sharp!  Force After Effects to use whole pixels for smooth interpolation.

Adobe After Effects

If you’ve noticed that your graphics and text aren’t looking super sharp in After Effects, it’s likely they are not be positioned on whole pixels.  AE is set to interpolate elements in your project at a subpixel level.  While this is useful for pinpointing precise location and scale, it can result in soft or distorted edges on graphic elements in your project.  This is especially true when the graphic has keyframed motion.

Graphic artist and programmer Chris Silich describes this:

“When things are tweened, even in the tiny actual size comp, they often moved at sub-pixel speeds…and when that happens, AE anti-aliases the whole thing, giving our cool block pixel art weird soft edges.”

Here’s an example of the type of edge distortion that he’s describing (notice the blurred edges on the top box):

So, how do you get that clean interpolation that we see in the second box? Chris uses an After Effects expression called Math Round, that will force AE to interpolate at whole pixels only.  The code for the Math Round expression is at Chris’ post here.

Further expanding on Chris’ expression, Motionworks.com.au’s John Dickinson has created a simple AE preset of the Math Round expression. Just apply the preset to get smooth edges in After Effects.  Download the preset here.

If you’re racking your brain trying to figure out how to get smooth edges in After Effects this is the trick!