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Tutorial: After Effects Shape Array

Danny Greer

Create a manual array of shapes or icons that behaves like particles, but with finer control. In this After Effects tutorial we’ll show you how.

Adobe After Effects

You can use particles in After Effects to create the random movement of shapes, lights or any design element. But what if you want more precise control of the “random” particle movement? That’s where the After Effects array technique in the following video tutorial comes in.

We’ll create each element in the particle cloud (or array) individually. By using After Effects expressions we can give the elements in the array random movement, but still have the ability to keyframe and tweak the size and position of each.  Here’s the basic steps covered in this After Effects video tutorial:

  • Create shape layers and enable 3D on each layer (instead of shape layers you could use image files, like icons).
  • Create a null object and parent the shape layers to it.
  • Write a wiggle expression to give the shape layer movement, then apply expression to all shape layers.
  • Use an expression to scale the layers dynamically.
  • Add a 3D camera and orient shape layers to it.
  • Apply keyframes to shapes to take control of position/scale.

This technique can be applied to wide variety of After Effects projects and designs. How will YOU use it? Share in the comments below!