How To Use Simple Shapes and Masks to Make an Entire Animation

June 16, 2009

In one of my most asked for tutorials for After Effects, I go though the process of making my personal project from 2005, “Conform Non Conform” I go though the process of using masks to animate simple shapes. Then, using precomping and simple plugins, we warp and distort the simple shapes into our final animation. I purposely kept this tutorial loose and unfinished so that you could use the techniques involved to make your own short project. Post yours in the comments! I would love to see examples on what you would make with simple shapes and pre-comping. We have all seen exact copies of tutorials… try to make it your own so you can put it in your reel will ya?

Based On This Animation I Made in 2005

Also, what do you think about this type of tutorial? Again, I purposely made it as “in the moment” as I could. I just went through the process of how I would make something. Nothing was pre-made or scripted. I make mistakes and try different ways of doing things. I want to know what you think about it. Is it annoying or is it insightful to see me problem solve on the fly? Leave your feedback in the comments please. Enjoy!

Tutorial Focus:  ,

  • How do we get permission to view the video?

    • Love your tutorials. Especially that they are unscripted. I think we learn more useful stuff that way. Also appreciate the on screen keystrokes as opposed to explaining it all.

      Keep the tutorials coming!

    • I love everything about the way you do your tutorials, from the pacing, to the on the fly trying things and making mistakes and tweaking them. It makes it feel less clinically tutorial like and more like a one on one training session.

      Thank you for all your insightful information as well as the presentation of the information. I went to film school studied editing and theory, and after being out for a few years I wish I spent more time learning Mo. graphics and design. It’s almost like being in school all over again without spending the additional 80k.

      Again thank you for the tuts i look forward to your blog each week.

    • Dude your tutorials are awesome! I was looking for great Cinema 4d stuff (That looks cool) and your stuff rocks! Keep them coming.

  • Video is private, can’t view?

  • Hmm its private in my browser too.

  • set to private and cannot view… sorry!

  • Yes! I’ve been waiting to see this! He’s probably waiting til later to unveil it, or accidentally checked the private button.

  • Sorry about that everybody. I forget to make it public. Should be all set now. Enjoy.

  • Too bad… it’s look like interesting… Please nick, unlock it πŸ™‚

  • yeah… great! thanks

  • You’re human… ! I’m not alone… I feel no one when I lose 2 hours on a mask’s technique, whereas there’s one to make it in 20 min :).
    The actions are clear and the voice is happy so it’s a pleasure to watch your tutorials…
    And this technique is very useful.

    Thanks nick

  • seriously, awesome.
    i love watching the basic/simplistic form more “complicated” cool shit.
    thanks for the great tut.
    and the Bob Ross-style (fuckitIsaidit) approach with all the “mistakes” is very helpful. it’s far more helpful to see how to work out of a box, rather than just build one.

    three words: bezier bezier bezier

    thanks again, Nick!!

  • That was awesome! You’ve inspired me Nick. Watching the mistakes somehow allows the problem-solving-juices to start flowing. I ended up understanding the concept from more angles than just one.

  • Cheers for the tutorial Nick

    This is a very handy technique that i can use! I find that sometimes watching tutorials you do end up with something that looks cool but a few days later you forget exactly what was learnt, this is a technique that has a thousand uses. I’m all for learning techniques you use in your day to day work.

    Keep em comin

  • Awesome tutorial, I learnt alot about masks thanks Nick

  • I like the realness of this. Watching the solution is better than always being told. This was way cool and I enjoyed all 45 minutes.

    Thanks again Nick

  • awesome. Thanks. Real world tutes are the most helpful imho. Keep em comin.

  • This tutorial was great, the Bezier Warp tool is something I had never used, and I will many times now.

    I very much enjoy the live, non-scripted-ness of it all. Those same mistakes are things myself and countless others would make, and are good to see how to solve them effectively.

  • No issues at all seeing the ‘loose’ process. Both approaches (scripted vs. unscripted) have their merits – and it is great to see and learn from different styles.

    Seeing the ‘mistakes’ also helps see how you go about solving things once you’re stuck – which is also very helpful.

    Maybe it’ll be worthwhile on certain tutorials to have it unscripted and loose then re-visit it a week later with some tips on polishing up the project.

    But it is your time, energy and effort that goes into each tutorial – so whatever works best for you!

    It is all very much appreciated!


  • Enjoyed this much much more than sitting in a classroom watching a teacher struggle to teach essentially the same thing.

  • great tutorial. always wondered how this type of stuff was done in AE. I also like the “loose tutorial” format – feel like you actually learn subtle workflow tricks that way without having to spend too much time explaining things.

  • Andy Baumgartner June 16, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Cool tut! What apps did you use for the sound design?

  • I like the non-scriptedness here, too, since the gears get going on how to solve something the solution and it sticks in memory more. Plus it’s a little more fun and pseudo-interactive, as I sighed “bezzzzzzzzz-eee-air, dude” I also forgot about clock wipe.
    Keep em rolling! Good Shtuff.

  • Derr, forgive my terrible grammar.
    ..since the gears get going on how to solve a problem, the solution sticks more in memory.

  • just showing the process is much better than a full completed thing. you have no idea how much i hate seeing people straight up copy video copilot tutorials and show them off like its some original work when its really just them following someone’s instructions. your way makes people more inclined to apply the principles to their own work.

  • sorry, don’t feel bad but I had a great laugh seeing you try to spell bezier. πŸ™‚

    when you were trying to make the circular mask, I was like use the radial wipe, radial wipe!!!

    we all have our bad days, you pulled it off in the end, clap clap.

    Nice one.

  • Jessica Robbins June 16, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Brilliant. cheers.

  • Thanks again Nick for the awesome tutorial, it’s really helpful to see the break down of your work. I also curious about how you did the painter effects on the end of the lines. thanks πŸ™‚

  • This is the best tutorial I have ever watch.. Bezier part was so funny that I felt like I’m not alone.. Keep em coming Nick!.. Thanks..

  • great tutorial. to answer your question whether or not showing the mistakes during the tutorial is annoying, no. i didn’t even think of that until u mentioned it at the end. and even then i couldn’t remember any of them.

    i think if u have a cool tutorial with useful tips/ techs, that’s what people care about. if anything, it’s good to see mistakes and how u adapt them if u catch a better angle etc…

    that’s my take, good stuff

  • This one was great, Nick! Keep up with this awesome job, we’re learning a lot with you.

  • I like the β€œin the moment” style. Very interesting tutorial and keep that style πŸ™‚

  • At 12:42 in the tutorial I noticed something odd.
    You have 887 emails in your inbox.

    How do you find time to do all the things that you do, plus a full time job … and answer 887 emails?

    Can I be your assistant?


    • Great tutorial.
      I think that that fact that the tutorial is live and the problem solving isn’t cut out. Makes the tutorial way better, because there nothing more annoying in a tutorial than when people say do that and then do that, and then when you try to make yourself it doesn’t do the same thing, and you have no clue how to do it right!
      In conclusion: Live tutorials are way better than scripted.

  • This was one of your best tutorials yet, I think. Catching a glimpse of your inner dialogue while you problem solve helps me think differently, and it inspires all sorts of new ideas!

    Cheers Nick, and thanks for everything you do.

  • Great tutorial. Love the style you chose and the way you explain things. Always awesome to see how someone thinks about the work they are creating and their problem solving techniques. Thanks for posting!

  • Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing.. I was screaming for the radial wipe!! I’m glad you got it.. The bezier part was good too.. I enjoyed it..

  • I dug the tut… the errors and all. It shows the true process and makes it more authentic. Keep up the good work.

  • hey nick i’ve been watching ur tuts fr quite sum times now and it sure helps me a lot. especially coz im a design student getting ready fr the real world. just wondering why guys are better in doing Afx then girls! gotta prove that wrong. luv ur method of doing tutorial btw. keep em coming!

  • Yo Nick, Thanks for the lesson. I love the “we’re all in this together” approach to your tutorials. Very effective. Anyway, I know many, many designers are looking to better integrate 3D elements into their afterEffects projects. Maybe walk us through some work flow/pipeline stuff on making some cool 3D shit and mixing it with our AE shit. So we can all make even cooler shit. Anyone else agree?

  • Great vid, gorilla! Love the process, love the looseness, love the laughs. Keep ’em loose like this and thanks for the inspiration!

  • I love this tutorial. I personally prefer the “loose” style tutorial you put out over other tutorial sites. I’d also love to see more tutorials based on past projects you’ve done.

    Just my 2 cents. πŸ™‚

  • This is a fantastic tutorial. This will help me very much in the future. I always see these things on TV and other places and now you’ve made it so simple. Thank you!

  • Thanks, Nick. Keep it loose, it’s interesting to see you apply concepts rather than read from a script. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one trying to remember how the hell I did something and thus feeling like a poser.

    Great Inspiration.


  • French word can be tricky for the english speaking folks!!!

    BΓ©zier sounds straightforward to me (although it could be written with an ‘s’ instead of a ‘z’) but that was funny to see you struggling with that.

    More information about Pierre BΓ©zier, the guy who invented the BΓ©zier curves while he was an engineer at Renault:

    That guy really did change our lives with this simple yet brilliant concept. One of the (almost) unsung heroes of computer graphics.

  • Did you get a new MBP? πŸ™‚

  • Simple and great!
    Just a tip…probably you know.
    Try parenting the camera to a 3d Null and use the null to position and rotate the camera.

  • ..Dear Mr. Gorilla,

    Thank you so much for all this tutorials, iΒ΄ve learned so mucho watching your “show”..

    Please, keep going!!


    It would be great if you can talk about the Concept boards process (tecniques, how to show it to the client, etc)..again thank you so much!!

    Greetings from Colombia!

    Alejandro Ortiz

  • I had the same masking issue a few months ago and it took me at least 10 minutes to figure out the radial wipe…haha….great video!

    I decided to take a few minutes and play around with the style, nothing special but fun to play with and the possibility to create some cool stuff for sure!!

  • Hello nick, i think you should continue with the non scripted tutorials, all humans make mistakes and its great to see them in my opinion.
    I think this behind the scenes are much more usefull then the ” button whore ” tutorials. button whores dont think. I would like to see some brainstorm type of tutorials i think the creative process is 50% of the work done and doing a good storyboard of what you want in the end. the software is just a way to get there in digital format but if you dont have the creative process you will be doing stuff that someone have created and you will just copy it.
    so resuming

    More stuff like this with mistakes and creative process stuff and brainstorm sessions. something like the 5 sec project but with persons telling what was the creative process to do what they have done.

    cya later

  • Nice, but I still want to know how to create the paint texture thing! Was it created in AE, Photoshop or used a real one?

    Liked to see you figuring things out, but maybe you can edit a a little, like render previews or repeated steps. So we have more short and objective tutorials!


  • Great Job!!!

    you mentioned the stupid AUTO-ORIENTATION
    and I have some question about it.

    01.What’s the “Exact” difference between you shut it off and on?
    02.What’s the difference between you set keyframe on Cam Orientation and Cam Point of Interest?

    Forgive me bad English and Basic knowledge,
    I know Tomorrow is your Q&A day!
    Hope you can answer that if you could.

  • That was a great one. I luuuv it.

    I find it useful to create markers inside nested compositions because they are visible in the main comp and it’s easier to align starts and ends. The only problem is that if you change the marker position they are not automatically updated in the main comp and you have to alt+drag them from the project window so that they are up to date.

  • Fabian Wijnekus June 17, 2009 at 3:11 am

    Hello Nick…

    Awesome tutorial! I learned a lot watching you stumble along and trying to fix it on the spot. It was nice to watch that, because I spent most of my time, trying to find out the best way to get somewhere and not be able to find the best or fastest way! Like the clock wipe?! Thanks a lot for showing me it exists… saves me a ton of time.

    Keep up the good work

  • awesome tutorial, i think you should continue with these un scripted tutorials, its something different and enjoyable watching how someone else solves problems they come across

  • Now THIS is how all tutorials should be! Grrrreeat! Really appreciate it.

  • You actually have 888 unread emails?!??!

  • Rickard Bengtsson June 17, 2009 at 9:21 am

    For the circles, you could have just used your original comp with the three lines animating. THen added a polar cordinates to that comp.
    Set it to 100% and have it set to “rect to polar”.

    No need do over the animation or even add the transition since they start off screen.

    And I agree with the others, keep doing tutorials or rather breakdowns like this.

  • I really enjoyed this – I liked the “off-the-cuff” style, and as others said, it’s good to see the mistakes and problem-solving that goes on. Cheers!

  • Hey Nick great tut!!
    Advanced result through simplicity, welldone!!!
    I agree with Adam Richardson “re-visit it a week later with some tips” but only if there is a great suggestion like Rickard Bengtsson’s that cut’s in half the time and effort!!!
    Yeah a loose tut is great and if you are about to keep up with that tight schedule you anounced well… I ‘m with you all the way!
    And I have to admit you inspire me with your passion and I allways enjoy your tut’s, after all man… you are the gorilla!!!

  • Thanks Nick! The thinking on your feet, is the most important thing for me to see. I for one, look at tuts as seeds & tools, not “copy”. So sharing the process is awesome!

    I would love to see ya start totally blank, and just make something with no pre-concept. On another note if you have any friends in LA area, they might enjoy seeing my dad’s exhibit “Bob Peak, father vo the modern movie poster”

    rock on!

  • Wow! Nice tut!

    Love the easy going style. I learned a ton more seeing the mistakes than if you’d edited it out…definitely leave this stuff in!

    Had that weird previewing thing happen to me where it renders the 1st comp instead of the one you’re working on…never did figure it out.

    I really must go figure out something for the five second project…been meaning to do the last few….just too busy.

    Keep on rockin’ buddy!

  • Watching this video reminds me how great After Effects is. I haven’t used it since high school. Might have to get back into it now.

    I so wanted to help you spell bezier. I knew the answer lol. But you got it. Google saves a lot of people’s lives.

  • This tutorial made my day – I love the AH HA! moment of using radial wipe. This definitely taught me some things and reinforced others.

    I’d love to see some of your process integrating 3d into something like this. Maybe even a part 2?

  • I loved it! Best tutorial and funniest I’ve ever watched.

  • Thanks Nick, your tutorials really make us want to learn and do more. This mistakes on the tutorial are inspiring, hahahhaha, And they make the video more interesting and funny.

    Thanks a lot.

  • Hi Nick.

    Great tutorial.
    I think its possibly a better way of doing a tutorial because people are probably less likely to just copy something, subtly modify it and stick it in their showreel and more likely to adapt some of the techniques and processes and use it in their own projects.
    Great work!


  • Charles Giltner June 18, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Great tut Nick, love the style. I am amazed at your mental speed and agility. You clearly know the software and that MAC is speedy. I haven’t used a computer that nimble ever! Even with the Bezier issue, wow, pop, pop po..problem solved! Awesome!
    Keep them coming, BTW, how long ago was that CNC ani produced and where were you on your learning curve at that time?
    Even with editing out the “mistakes” and false starts and bezier google thing I bet you couldn’t have got the tut down to 38 minutes. For an on the fly tutorial w/o script says alot for your capabilities, clarity and creativity. Inspiring to say the least. KUDOs

  • Love this tutorial style. Although the running time is a bit long, and I’d suggest speeding up through the repetitive sections where you just do comp copypasta, it was great watching your problem-solving process when searching for a way to mask out a circle. Those EUREKA! moments always give me a great feeling of accomplishment when I’m working. It’s interesting too to see how you tried out solutions that *sort of* worked, but ultimately found a much better solution. It gives insight into the tools we have available to tackle problems. There’s more than one way to skin a cat in motion graphics.

    Please, continue to post tutorials in this style–they’re fantastic. Just cut them a little shorter, if possible! πŸ˜‰

  • Great Tut. Though I found myself wondering why you didn’t just use radial wipes to reveal the circles

  • Thanks Nick, really awesome tutorial! It’s really great that you have a more problem solving style of tutorials. I learned so much from this tutorial alone, than you would with the “how to” styles.

  • you can also use the circle effect in after effects to create the rings….then you shouldn’t have to worry about the size being different when you scale them up!

  • hey nick, great tutorial. love how you take something simple and make it seem elegantly complex.

    giving you feedback… yes i totally agree. i hate tutorials that just say “click this switch, then this, then input this number and VOILA, awesomeness!” it was great to see you in the process and figure things out (in my mind i was shouting RADIAL WIPE!! πŸ™‚

    something that would be cool to do though in the future is maybe do a tutorial about the polishing end. you know what they say, it’s easy to get to 80% but it takes way more work to get to 90%.

    thanks for everything, you’re awesome.
    and i think you got me off auto-orient forever.


  • Great tutorial!…as you said, I was SHOUTING bezier…but you couldn’t hear me. haha I liked how laid back it was, but at the same time, I had the time for it. I think for some people who just want the effect and thats it, this probably wouldn’t be the tutorial for them. I on the other hand…LOVED IT!!! nice work.

  • I love the live style of your tutorials. It’s refreshing and it’s good to see that we all go through similar experiences. I totally agree with your point about scripted tutorials.

    But I have to admit.. I was shouting “B-E-Z.. Z!!!!” when you were stuck looking for bezier warp πŸ˜‰

  • another option for the circular wipe:

    try a circular mask with a super wide stroke set to reveal layer and animate start/finish?

    I think that works…
    this tut is definitely a great representation of how most people work in AE – idea –> D’OH! –> fixed!!

    good stuff.

  • For irregular shaped lines “write-on” is a really good option for mask reveals.

  • Just recently stumbled upon this site and I can’t wait to get into these videos. Unfortunately, vimeo videos don’t play well on my machine at all, are these tutorials/videos in any other format?


  • I loved this tut, and I completely agree that it’s useful to witness the whole process, warts and all. Like you said, just doing step-by-step tuts doesn’t really help you understand the process, you have to get inside the mechanics of it, and your technique feels very collaborative with the viewer. And you’ve got a great personality, so that helps.
    Looking forward to many more, thanks!

  • Very nice tutorial. My only criticism is that there’s a little too much lip smacking going on (especially after the water break).

    Other than that it’s great and I think it’s cool that you setup a schedule for your blog…although it’s gonna be challenging to stick to it.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  • Muy buen tutorial. Gracias por compartirlo Nick.

  • thx for a great tutorial! love your personal touch, keeps it unique!

  • HI Nick

    There are many reasons I really liked this tutorial
    1. usefulness and simplicity applicable to everyday life
    2. problem solving oriented
    3. not entirely finished and leaves room to experiment
    4. inspiring
    5. you should keep up with the supa pumped flow
    6. thanks for sharing

    best regards

  • I appreciated seeing your process to get to a final result. My biggest thing right now is trying to learn what gives certain content that “finished, professional look”. The stuff that sets apart the amateurs and the professionals. I learned from this tut that lighting is one of those things.

  • I started to think how I would approach this project now…
    I know you did this in 2005 so now there are some better tools for this I think.
    Short answer for the circle section:
    use a shape layer (vectors infinitely scale)
    add ellipse path
    add stroke
    add trim paths (to animate the circle on)

    Then place all these inside a group in the shape layer. Duplicate the group 2 times. For each subsequent group – change the ellipse size, stroke color and offset the trim path start angle.

    It’s all in one layer and no need to precomp!

    Now this is the great part! Open the shape layer, select the “contents” and save it as an animation preset. Now anytime you’re working on another project – bam! Animated stripes.

    Don’t forget to make the layer 3d.

    Finally Nick – you rock…hard. Love the tutorial and please don’t change a thing. Others here want it quick and fast…they’d probably like it if u came to their house and did it for them too! LOL It took me 2 days on and off to watch because I’d stop and try to work out what you were going to do next as if it were a question on Jeopardy. Thanks so much.
    -mark f

  • Great tutorial once again!

    I personally enjoy these types of tutorials more than the planned out ones. Your attempts to spell bezier made me laugh a lot and it makes the tutorial even better.

  • Wow! Nick you are the man. The unscripted bits were the best part, they really give us a sense of workflow and how to troubleshoot when you’re in a bind. You’re totally right too, whenever I get stuck, I rack my brain for the longest time trying to find a workaround, and it’s usually the simplest solution. I’m a senior Mograph student at SCAD and I had never touched Bezier warp either and now you’ve sparked a million uses for it! THANKS HOMIE. I think you should really do more tutorials this way.


  • It was great. Keep doing the good work πŸ™‚

  • oi,

    i just get in line with everybody else on the feedback, BUT..

    .. one question still remains though.. how’d you do the frickin edge? you know, when it’s relatively close to the squares meeting, there’s some sort of a bevel going on.. care to share?

  • I am from beijing China,thanks
    I only can speak alittle english
    your tutorials is evry well

  • What a hoot! Excellent information and the “bam”, or the superlative “bammity, bam-bam” makes it enjoyable. Thanks for allowing us to follow along with the design process.

  • Thanks a lot to share with us your knowledge.
    Great page, Great tutorials.
    Coming from a profesional like you.
    Also for your sense of humor/.
    Take care man..
    Regards from Mexico..

  • great tut.
    it’s nice to see the pros struggle with complications from time to time.
    extremely enjoyable and informative.

    thanks very much and keep up the good work.
    -geoff brown

  • three animated bars, few mistakes, great sense of humor and bump…perfect

    thanks a lot

  • Really enjoyed this!
    I always keep a google tab open just in case!

  • nice tutorial πŸ™‚ i like that kind of explanation…just to get an idea of how to make it.
    greetings from germany

  • Great stuff man πŸ™‚ And I don’t mind if you are not some kind of all-perfect, all-knowing after effects god who claims he pisses liquid gold.

  • I thought was great tutorial, i have tried doing something like this in the past i knew it was like this but i never got it right, the errors didn’t bug me at all it’s nice to know that i’m not the only one that struggles with after fx once in a while. Great overall thanks.

  • The technique is most important, I like this style of tutorial. Let the users finish it on their own and possibly make their own mistakes. Solving a problem helps you learn more than just following a recipe.

  • Great tutorial, and I like the mistakes, they make everything more human, the way it should be.


  • I love this tutorial and the site, it’s my favorite tutorial site!

  • The Mad Media Geck June 25, 2009 at 9:25 am

    True training and knowledge that ‘sticks’ with you is done by trial and error. We learn best from our mistakes, so I appreciate your honestly and trueness (is that a word)?
    1. You obviously have gone through plenty of oops to gain your knowledge, and 2. there is more than one way to go about doing things (which most tuts dont give ya). Thanks Dude.

  • Hey this is my first tutorial to see and I think I’ll stick around for a while! Love the on screen keystrokes and the fast pace! Great work! Thanks

  • like that tutorial. had the same problem with the circle a couple of months ago. good to see you “cook with water” as well. i guess i will remember that radial whipe just because it wasn’t right there… but you/we needed to find a way. i guess that’s it – because you didn’t tell me the answer before i myself started thinking about the problem. thanks man.

  • Thanks for your organic tutorial. I thought it was great fun. Solving real life problems and very amusing. Personality is much more engaging than listening to some robot unload info. Perhaps give yourself a bit more of a chance next time and make a note or two of the stuff you need but I say keep it real man. Hanging loose is absolutely the way to go.

  • Great work man. I’m not sure if you got my last message but I love the fact you’re keeping it real. Perhaps a part 2 to showing us the polish on this animation would be a nice touch. Applying the paint / texture effects etc.

    Maybe make just a couple of notes though before you kick off:) Seriously, very engaging tutorial. Hanging loose is definitely the way forward.

  • thank you for this tutorial,i was able to use this technic to made a little overview for an excercice for school..

    NB:sorry for my English (3rd language)

  • When I precomp the lines, then make them 3D, my locked background layer disappears (the bg just becomes black). But when the lines layer is not 3D it shows up again. Why is this? Im using CS4.

  • Nick thanks a lot for the tutorial, keep it coming and keep it real. It’s been fun to watch and very inspiring.

  • Hey, i was following the tutorial when i ran into this problem:
    I create a solid (for the Background) while in active camera.
    when i switch to any other views the solid disappears and i can only see the wire frame. if i make it a 3d layer i see it but i need it as a background.


  • I love it mate. Heard about your site a few days ago and now am watching anything and everything you got. I find myself laughing, yelling “its the fucking clock mask thing”. sit down, look at my wife, and calls us all dorks. hahahahahaha. anyway good for you for doing this. you accept tips?

  • why you not use circle standard plugin or wipe linear transition to animate circle

  • Hey how did u do that brush or paint looking stroke at the beggining and the end of the video? I’m trying to figure it out but it looks very vectory unlike your it looks real. Anyways if u can help me out that would be great!

    • gm. not having any luck seeing through the pre-comped stripes into the shape layer below at the custom view(s), no problem in active camera though. Too bad your intro on 3d layers doesn’t include how to combine them with 2d. Otherwise excellent tut.

  • Hey

    Thanks for the tutorial. First time here and learned a lot, and also liked your approach. Its good to see why certain things aren’t working and then exploring routes to a solution! Keep up the good work man


  • I think it is an issue with CS4 where backgrounds (or 2d layers beneath 3d layers) dissappear in custom views but work with the active camera. If anyone has a solution of workaround please let me know. For now I’m just using the active camera.

  • hello ,Go check out andrew kramer using the auto trace button , it really works..

  • Whenever you forget how to spell “Bezier,” just grab the Pen Tool and look directly to the right of it’s icon in the tool bar. πŸ™‚

  • Great tutorial Nick.
    The style of looseness was/is great. I would rather get more of the exploration than cookie cutter over-scripted videos. Whenever I design anything there’s always something that creeps up, it’s never ‘perfect’ and graphic arts wouldln’t be fun if there were no trial and error.
    Keep your style coming.

  • u had 888 mails god

  • Nick.Great Tut man!!!
    I have a idea how to get rid of the mask animating in circle part. Why dont you use Polar cordinates plug to make a nice circle.
    Pull Down the lines and use type of conversion rect to polar.

  • This maybe a little late – However, I really wanted to let you know that I liked the fact that you were working out the problem in real time. It really shows the thought process in which you arrive to the solution. It gives great insight. Thanks for another great tutorial. Please keep it up.

  • Hey, I luved this tutorial, the mistakes show that we need to think things through and problem solve. Your blog is great. Thank you very much.

  • Easiest way to create animated circles :

    New layer
    Generate > Circle (Oh, the SOOO under-valued effect!!)
    Set Edge to “Edge Radius”
    Set outer radius, inner radius
    Apply Radial wipe transition
    Keyframe van 100% to 0% …

    BAM !!! Bob’s your uncle, Rita’s eating pizza and everyone else is happy … and all in about 15 seconds work.

  • Very nice. Just got turned on to your stuff by a friend and wonder why I haven’t seen it before. I add my cudos, and also my vote to revisit the project and briefly go over the organic matte and painterly effects you got goin’ on here – they’re beautiful.

  • Thank you so much for this tutorial, dude! Great stuff. Just what i’m looking for. The simplest and the most artistic tutorial for this kind of stuff that i found so far in the web. So great. I’m in awe, really.

  • Great tutorial! Love the mistakes. I think it’s good to have a good idea of where you’re going (not completely clueless), but you obviously have this stuff down very well, and watching you think out loud is very helpful.

  • Was a nice tutorial and realy fun ! lol


  • This is a much better way of making tutorials. When I see one that is perfectly scripted, by nature I copy it and then intend to change it later.

    Not scripting it out in advance shows us your thinking process and other ways of doing things. Forgetting how to spell Bezier was classic. I always forget how to spell things and go to google for answers.

  • Hey Nick,

    I get hung up on the silliest things, but as I was following along with your video, I stumbled across a very simple and yet annoying problem. At 06:30, the second after you say “I’m going to make it 3D”, my background becomes transparent. I’m not sure what version of After Effects you’re working in. I have CS4. If there’s anything you can do to help me out, I’d greatly appreciate it!

    From a newbie to a pro,

    • I’m not sure what that is. It may be that you have your background set as a 3D layer or it’s in another comp. It’s hard to tell without seeing the file.

      Sorry I can t be more help.

    • did you figure this out? same thing happening to me – as soon as i turn my 3 line pre comp into a 3d layer, my bg disappears!

  • I had a great laugh! tnx, it’s nice to know also great motion graphic designers just get stuck sometime!

    Thank you, i love this kind of tutorial where you just give a glimp at a technique!
    It makes me creative!

    I’m going to use it right now πŸ™‚

  • I really enjoy the behind the scenes and things not going perfect perfect. Your skills are evident and the problem solving is valuable as well. Thank you for your time, we all appreciate it!

  • thnx man very good ? l?ke th?s

  • wow! this awesome
    thank for help to understand AE much more.
    i really learned a lot from…
    thank a million

  • I LOVED IT! One of your most useful and helpful tutorials! I must say though, I would’ve loved to see how you did the paint brushing and particles…

  • I love the idea of using the tutorial format to provide higher level thinking about the process of creating a scene rather than the precise instructions you get other places. I think if you can understand the theory behind your decision making you can learn how to polish it later.

  • I think u are the awesomest person in this world ^^ your tutorials are really awesome xD thank u!!!

  • Heya! Many thanks for this really helpful tutorial! I really need to say that I prefer a “live recorded” video instead of the “scripted” ones..! Cheers from Germany !!! =)

  • ahahaha!! bullcrap auto-orient!!! nice dude πŸ™‚

  • The fact that you were natural and human [made mistakes] made it more enticing. Ive watch tutorials half this time and count down the yours I got lost in the process with you and failed to realize 40 minutes went by. Kudos..and keep up the good art and tutorials.


    ps. Leaving it open ended was great. I never really questioned the fact that I was basically being told what it SHOULD look like, rather then a new tool and medium for which I may create with (even though that remained my intentions…you never know what the subconscious picks up.

  • love your tutorials..your tutorials are of great help to me..thx lots πŸ™‚

    P.S : would it be possible to make a tutorial of Kinetic Typography Animation.

  • Hey Nick! I really love your Conform Non Conform video! I am a sophomore at the Savannah College of Art and design and I am JUST getting into my major (i.e. Motion Media). This is a link to a project I did using simple shapes . I wish I had watched this tutorial and some of your others before I had done it though. While watching, please remember that I am a beginner and am just starting out. HOWEVER!!! I NEED FEEDBACK AND CRITIQUE! Don’t hold anything back please =].

  • Hey Nick! I really love your Conform Non Conform video! I am a sophomore at the Savannah College of Art and design and I am JUST getting into my major (i.e. Motion Media). This is a link to a project I did using simple shapes . I wish I had watched this tutorial and some of your others before I had done it though. While watching, please remember that I am a beginner and am just starting out. HOWEVER!!! I NEED FEEDBACK AND CRITIQUE! Don’t hold anything back please =].


    p.s. ANY1 and EVERY1 can comment so please do =]

  • defiantly a greatttttttttt one really really one of the best I’ve seen so far , but still you didn’t do the 3 stripes that looks likes hand painted πŸ˜‰ this is something i’ve been waiting to see , but great vid and great site as well

  • I’ve just started with AE and this tutorial was really easy to follow, keep making lot more like this

  • I love how you did the tut unplanned, and especially how you forgot how to do some things, shows how to brainstorm ideas quickly; although I was yelling at you to do that radial/clock wipe the entire time.
    I wish you went into more detail on how to get the lines to look more like brush strokes though.
    But overall I like these tuts better than the ‘scripted ones’.

  • Great tutorial Nick. thanks a lot.. here is my animation using your technique . ???

  • Hey gorilla i love your tutorials, your pace is perfect, and i prefer the unscripted approach, i think that works really well, ive learnt more here on this tutorial then anywhere else, your the man!, keep it up.

  • Thanks for the rad tuts! So helpful!

    preference question – after i precomp the 3 lines moving, as soon as i toggle the precomp into a 3d layer, my background disappears and turns into black – what am i doing wrong?


  • Cool stuff, so good to follow your steps; clear and inspiring ! keep it up

  • This was awesome man. Hope to see more tutorials that don’t require a third party plug-in.

  • I don’t mind you showing us your workflow and doing mistakes on cam etc etc. Please make an 8 hour tutorial one day, haha. You could record 8 hours of work and then like pick the best parts and do a voice-over…

    keep sharing knowledge! πŸ™‚

  • Wow, very smart and beautiful way of doing a great animation! I didn’t see how that video was done until I saw this. This made me want to make and learn more After Effects, thanks!

  • That tutorial was great. I was laughing so hard. “bam ba dee bam!”

    More tutorials like this.

  • Hi Nick, can you tell me-dummy, how to make a grungy board for masks?

  • Hi Nick, can you tell me-dummy, how to make a grungy board for mask layers?

  • Thanks for sharing all that you do Nick. Beautiful work.
    One question. I started this tutorial at work on CS3. Now I’m at home on CS4. On CS3, as in your tutorial, the background showed through no problem. But on CS4 I can’t see the background (in ‘custom view’). Is this a bug in CS4, a change? Any advice will be much appreciated.

  • This is probably the best tutorial I’ve seen you do till now. I comment again because I watched it again. lots of nice quotes here from you lol, wachy stuff. and really really helpful.

    Your STYLE OF TUTORIALING is AWESOME, that’s why I’m (we’re?) here!

  • Hey Nick,

    your tutorials are just awesome. I really, really dig this one!

    I personally prefer your tutorials, because they aren’t scripted. You just go through the process of how you would have done it, i really like that πŸ™‚

    This is what i came up with, not the best but at least a beginning..
    I personally couldn’t gain a satisfying result for the besiah, bezia… bezier warp shapes ;D

    Cheers, phil

  • Very cool tutorial! Especially interesting to see Nick looking for some creative ways to do the task..truly inspiring! Also I liked the camera auto-orientation message to Adobe, really cool!:)

  • Awesome tutorial. Check out my results:

    Taught me a lot of stuff that I’ll definitely be using in the future. Much obliged!

    Ever use the plugin Freeform, by the way? Seems perfect for projects like these. Anyway thanks for your hard work! Word up.

  • I just started watching your tutorials as I just picked up Cinema 4D…I’m so glad I can finally wave goodbye to the outdated Creative Cow douchebaggery(mostly). If you ever come to Seattle, I’m buying you a beer.

  • I wish all tuts on the web were shot including your behind the scene .

    I believe they’re they are real situation tuts,

    Keep ur tuts UNscripted
    ThanX A lot

  • Nick, your tutorials have been so insanely helpful to me. If it wasnt for you i would have given up on after effects long ago, I cant thank you enough

  • Thanks a lot. My favorite tutorials are the simple design but large thinking! You made me laugh a lot. Love how you have your own side comments reacting to yourself. I also love your animated sound effects! lol it is really refreshing. I am a novice but you made me feel like i can actually do great stuff with what i have until i learn more. Anyhow .. oh and do not worry about the length of these things. I wish you showed us how you moved the camera to come out of the build up. It was my favorite part. Alright, i am out. It was fun designing this along with your guidance. πŸ™‚

    • Nick,
      Great tutorial. I really enjoyed it. I think showing the errors and the work arounds are great. It’s something that happens in the real work environment.

      How did you do the brush stroke at the end? Was it a plug in? Keep up the great work.

  • coooool tricks!cooool gorilla!

    only one word: transition–>radial wipe πŸ˜›

  • Hey, Nick, we love the “in the moment” process, just keep it up-you are a wonderful communicator!

  • A really good tutorial I appreciate the going
    into how you make designs in AfXffects to be honest even pro’s such as your self hit little stumps. But it shows us the viewers that mistakes can come up, and you showed us work around solutions. Awesome.


  • Oh men! finally i found it! the bezier!!!!! grrraarr! thanks master!!!

  • I loved watching this tutorial, the mistake you talk about is for me more like a learning point.

    I never used clockwise so i learnd a new trick.


  • Thanks for this tutorial. I like to play with simple shape to do animation.

  • Nice tutorial..

    I make this video, following you tutorial..

    check it!!!

  • Great tutorial but for the part with circles, the effect Transition / Radial wipe is I think an easier solution.

  • Ooops… In fact you did use the Radial Wipe effect instead of the mask. Sorry for my previous comment. I posted it before finishing the tutorial. Great stuff again.

  • Just wanted to say thank you. I opened up AE for the first time ever 2 days ago and just completed the first section of the tutorial, using keystrokes and all. Anyway, you’re a saint sir; I really am not worthy.

  • Hey Nick,
    Just wanted to let you know that your tutorials are great! I’m a website developer/designer but I’ve decided to get into motion graphic now. I must say that I’ve looked at many websites with tuts but they all very corporate/boring. What I like about yours is the fact that by making mistakes you show me as well what happens if I use different tool, filter, tool. I think that’s great and I learn much more this way.

    Thanks!!! Looking forward to watching more of your tuts!

  • Awesome tutorial. Thank a lot. I tried to create something with it.

  • Really like this tut.
    I had a go at this, heres what I got

    If I had another go there would be a few things I would do differently. If anone wants some advice, drop me a message : )

  • the bezier thing was damn funny..btw the tutorial was awesome…it makes me think more rather than just follow some steps…hope will see more this kind of tutorial~

  • nice one!!! but instead of using masks to animate the circles, you could have just used the radial wipe under the transition effects…

  • oh! you used the clock wipe, nevermind…awesome tutorial!

  • Great tutorial, but I would change a couple of things. Rather than use solids and masks, just use pen lines and shapes and apply stroke, that way they scale up correctly. If you use either the linear wipe for the lines, or radial wipe for the circles, it’s easy to switch direction and retime it, plus you can add a cool feathering to the edges.

  • Hello !

    Thanks for this tutorial !
    I Have a little question… How to make the paint effect on the begining of the animation ?
    it’s a plug-in, just a texture ?

    Thank you for your help !!!!

  • Love ur Tutorials. So basic for some one new. Adobe sucks but U need to know how to use it. Thank U and ur mistakes shows how much work to spend to make some thing cool and how much to think what I try to make

  • How can you keyframe anything if doesn’t know what is bezier?

  • Great Tutorial Nick. Please keep up the good work. This site is becoming my one-stop shop for tutorials πŸ™‚ Greetings from Dublin, Ireland.

  • I’ve been surfing on-line more than three hours as of late, yet I never discovered any attention-grabbing article like yours. It is lovely price enough for me. Personally, if all webmasters and bloggers made just right content material as you probably did, the web will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  • I like the helpful information you provide on your articles. I will bookmark your weblog and test again here frequently. I am reasonably sure I will be told many new stuff right right here! Best of luck for the next!

  • No matter how scripted the other tutorials are, I’ve to say i’ve learned more from your tuts than from other tutors all around the web, you teach with passion and especially you love what you do. Thanks a ton for making this world a better place and keep up the good work….. God bless!!!

  • great tutorial!

  • Hey I was gonna put that you should use the radial wipe in the part where you were havin some problems with the orange solid, but as soon as I was gonna make this comment you figured it out. Another way that you could do it is have circles with a stroke instead of solids with masks, and then animate the strokes from 0 to 100. Great tut, love the site.

  • i thought the tutorial was great, thanks very much! i please post some more

  • I’m so confused. How are you seeing your 2d background solid through your 3d solids by way of custom view 1? Every time I do this custom view 1 gives me the animation but only with the solid black composition background. Am I missing a step?

    I’ve seen you do this twice now without changing any additional settings. Everyone I ask is of the mind that custom view doesn’t work the way you’re showing, so how is it being done?

    • For Derek Edwards :
      I think you have to leave the background 2D, not 3d, so it stays all the time unchanged of the camera πŸ™‚

      • And work in custom view all the time

        • I have the same problem!! I’m working on Custom Viem 1, when i pre compose the strips and make it 3D my back ground turn black! How can i fix this to do like on the tutorial?

          • I figured out, you just need to change background color of composition, so probably follow this steps:

            1. right-click on comp1
            2. choose composition settings
            3. Find Background color
            4. Take pipette and take the color of your solid layer

  • Amazing vid dude – keep up the ace work!
    Bezier! πŸ˜‰

  • Great video- loved the ad lib mistake fix. Problems like that occur in real professions life + great to see how you worked through it, came up with a better solution, and didn’t give up. Disappointed that you didn’t show how you made the paint textures, brush stroke edges, and the white dots- would still love to know how you created that. Overall great tutorial- I’m a new fan!

  • I love the parts where you you had issues! It really helped going through the motions and thinking it through along side you. Thats how it actually is when I am mucking about in After Effects.
    Do more unscripted videos please πŸ™‚

    Thank you!

  • Hi
    I watched this tutorial all the way through. It was long but that was good because it was real. You made mistakes like I make mistakes but this time I didnt feel like a doosh for not being able to follow the instructions and have it turn out right. Nice job, I hope you feel encouraged to do more tutorials like this.


  • Hey this was a great tutorial. i was thinking about 5 min before you got stuck (around 34:00) that i like that he talks like i dont have to follow a step-by-step script, and then you you got stuck and kinda stumbled along, BUT you came up with a solution [clock wipe]. It was great and that made me feel better about knowing if i get stuck, theres always a way to get through. I really thought it was genuine and i appreciated that. Well thanks for your time!!

  • You are a great teacher and very generous to share this info. I learned, I laughed, I hope you make more. Take care…

  • I just discovered “trim paths” via this tutorial, that will resolve the circle animation:

    cheers, H

  • Tutorials are – in my opinion – about how you do stuff, not about the final outcome. So I’m very happy with this tutorial. Thanks!

  • A Fantastic tutorial, i was hoping that you could explain how you did the paint brush end masking to the stripes at 01:44 i know you said they were self explanatory but i really don’t know how to it, ive been struggling with luma mattes to try achieve it but no luck. i would really appreciate if someone could explain the process, im sorry if it a basic technique to ask for help on it.


  • GSG,

    Great tutorial. Love your work. Fabulous website. You’ve got a good sense of humor too (and don’t take yourself too seriously…which is a good thing to do now and again :-)) Please keep up the great work as it is inspiring to watch what you do and i’m sure many first timers (like myself) are relieved there are great teachers out there, like yourself.



  • Hi !
    Please help me with this:
    I work on a project in Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5 ( a short movie) and I use Dynamic Link to edit scenes from Premiere in After Effects.
    I work with masks to cover different parts of the scene, everything works fine in After Effects, but when I play the same scene in Premiere the mask is a little out of place. I tried everything to fix this..but I didn’t succed.
    Please help, I’m stuck.

    P.S. The masks are made in Mocha.

    Here is an example:

  • Hi there! Your website is absolutely fantastic and I’m proud of your effort in making tutorials available for everyone. Since I can’t pay myself a master’s degree nor a degree in motion graphics / design, you can’t imagine how helpful and inspiring your tutorials are for people who must learn by themselves!

    This has been my result so far:

    I’ve used the radial wipe solution for the circles as well, but added some expressions into a null to randomize their starting angle (using a seed) and the transition completion. So, I did found I hadn’t to use any matte. The drawback is that you must duplicate the circle comp on the project box if you want a bunch of circles with different start wipe angles. (They can be rotated as well).

    Enough talk. Again, thank you Nick!

  • The link to your 2005 project is broken. Would you be willing to share your project with an AE newbie?

  • This was very helpful and entertaining. And as a newbie to After Effects, it’s great to see how you troubleshooted your way through this… it’s always fun to see process. Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚


  • I love your tutorial videos. You make it fun and interesting… I also loved your google search for how to spell Bezier πŸ™‚ I like seeing how you pieced it together, and it’s comforting you had to stop and figure out the preset just like I would. Although, a 45 minute video was kind of long. Other than that, great job! (As usual)

  • 21:34 video stop

  • Thanks for the great tutorial!

  • I really loved this tutorial and technique , Here’s a link to mine

    Thank you Nick for all the hard work you’re putting in these tutorials . I’m also following the C4D ones . I hope i can come up with something soon .

  • Hey thanks for the tutorial! Was wondering how to do the effects lke in Apple’s new ad – It is kind of the same, meaning that lines grow and circles nd the rest. Would you be able to make a tutorial on a bit of the ad?

  • Hello nick πŸ™‚ i also did this recently , i appreciate to hear what you think of it

    Thank you

  • Love this, know it’s old, but your way of working with animation in after effects is nice and relaxed..

    Love some more..
    And the mistakes you make are like you say a good way to show you are only human!


  • What a great tutorial and what an expert animator you are. Many thanks. However, Regarding the circles and how to reveal them by using masks first then clock wipe, There is really a very simple way – in case you haven’t found it out yet after 4 years – which is drawing a circle using the shape tool then adding “Trim path ” effect.

    Many thanks again. keep it up.

  • Excellent.. I only started using after effects again after a 5 year hiatus, (went into print, majored in graphic design; big mistake, thanks dying print industry)… Love the stream of consciousness tutorial, that bezier part: gold..

  • I’m loving your tutorials on AE and C4D nick. Amazing stuff!
    I have another request for the brush or paint strokes at the beginning and end. I too have no idea what to do to get a similar look. Maybe a quick 2 minute video or comment to explain would be great for all of use wondering about this.

    I kept saying to the screen BEZIER!!! WITH Z. WITH Z lol
    Thank you very much for all your time and hard work.

  • Hey man … thts an awesom tutorial… i love it…I have a doubt… How can you create something like this

    The way the text forms…. with those small animating shapes… how to do that…can u plz give me an idea… thanks

  • I’d loved it, it helped me a lot!!! πŸ˜€

  • Hey Nick. Just getting into your tutorials. One question though.

    I just watched your understanding 2D/3D layers tut. In it you mentioned that if you have 2D and 3D layers in your scene, when you switch to custom view, the 2D layers won’t show and your background essentially turns black.

    In this video, after you’ve precomp’d the stripes, you turn the ThreeStripes comp into 3D and switch to your custom view camera. Your off-white 2D background layer that you still shows. When I do it, my view goes black.

    What gives?

  • thanks a lot man very very helpful thank you

  • Awesome!!!!! Extremly grateful!!! IΒ΄m learning much more with your tutorials than with some teachers

  • love this, nice tutorial. I am learning so much from you guys. thanks

  • I learned so much from you nick ,
    here is a simple freelance project i did using what i learned from this tutorial

    Illustrations also made by me in illustrator , just want to note here that all the motion here was done using only After effects CS3 …

  • This taught me more than most tutorials, and its so practical. Nice work. Thanks!

  • This tutorial was so helpful! I had been looking for exactly this and was so glad I found it here as Greyscale Gorilla tutorials are always so easy to follow and understand.

    Here is a link to the project it help me complete!

  • From the description, I thought this tutorial was exactly what I need to learn at the moment. Unfortunately, the video seems to have lost its audio (March 2015). Since it seems to be 6 years since it was posted, I may be giving this feedback to no one. But if anyone is out there who can fix the sound, I’d love to able to watch this. Thanks.

  • I’m just wondering if Greyscalebanana might be a better name?

    ‘This is Greyscalebanana and I’m the banana…’

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.