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Create Smooth Graphics By Fine-Tuning Your Keyframes in After Effects


Keyframes are the heart of any After Effects project, and knowing how to manipulate them correctly is essential for creating good motion graphics.

When you’re first getting your bearings in After Effects, understanding how keyframes work can be confusing. I remember when I couldn’t understand how people got their animations to look smooth and rounded while mine just looked choppy and blunt. After learning all the different ways you can shift and adjust keyframes, however, my workflow changed entirely.

Jason Boone at PremiumBeat recently released a in-depth tutorial about the multiple ways you can adjust your project’s keyframes, so let’s have a look and clear up some of that confusion.

Adjusting Values

Create Smooth Graphics By Fine-Tuning Your Keyframes in AE — Adjusting Values

When you’re trying to adjust the precise location of a keyframe according to its positioning, sometimes trying to change it through the stream of menus next to the timeline can be a hassle — especially when dealing with multiple keyframes. An easy way to access a keyframe’s positioning, is simply to double-click it. A dialogue box will pop up, and you can manipulate its location properties several different ways — pixels, percentage of frame, and percentage of composition.

Changing Interpolation

Create Smooth Graphics By Fine-Tuning Your Keyframes in AE — Changing Interpolation

If you’re having problems with your keyframes being too linear and direct, you can adjust the information interpolation through the keyframe interpolation settings. To access these settings, navigate to Animation > Keyframe Interpolation  in the toolbar. This will allow you to change both the temporal and spatial interpolation settings of your keyframes to Linear (straight), Bezier (ability to curve), and Hold. Bezier settings will allow you to curve your transitions to streamline turns and flips.

Moving Motion Paths

Create Smooth Graphics By Fine-Tuning Your Keyframes in AE — Motion Paths

Sometimes, to get the path of your object the way you want it, you have to adjust the keyframes right inside the composition. After forming a rough path with your timeline, you can manipulate the keyframes simply by grabbing them and pulling them to other areas of the composition. You can also edit the Bezier curves of your animation here, giving your movement nice, big swoops instead of hard turns. And you can add keyframes using the Pen tool. The dots along the lines of the animation will show you how quickly your keyframes will move, giving you a visual representation of the different movements of your composition.

Editing the Speed Graph

Create Smooth Graphics By Fine-Tuning Your Keyframes in AE — Edit Speed Graph

When you have two keyframes going from point A to point B, adjusting the speed that your object takes to get there can really give your animation that natural movement you’re looking for. To adjust the settings, go to the speed graph tab on the top of the timeline, and a line representing your movement will pop up. From here, you can adjust the Bezier curves to create a speed ramp, making your movements look more natural and professional.