After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics
Illustration by John Hersey

Building an animated background texture


After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics

with Ian Robinson

Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Video: Building an animated background texture

I've been using this one funky background throughout the course that I created using textures. This is the video where I'll actually show you how I built that background graphic. So, first things first. Let's go over to the Project pane and open our PaintStrokes layers, and you'll notice that we have a layered Photoshop document that's just been imported as a composition. So if we double-click on the Splat layer here and open it up, you can see this is a watercolor brushstroke that I scanned in off of a piece of rice paper.
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 3m 37s
    1. Welcome
      1m 1s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 4s
    3. Defining motion graphics
      1m 32s
  2. 11m 11s
    1. Workflow for creating motion graphics
      5m 7s
    2. Organizing projects for motion graphics
      4m 25s
    3. Defining a motion graphics "package"
      1m 39s
  3. 12m 58s
    1. Collecting visual inspiration
      2m 14s
    2. Listening to imagine
      3m 20s
    3. Creating elements for inspiration
      7m 24s
  4. 33m 4s
    1. Essential theories of typography
      6m 34s
    2. Understanding shortcuts for setting type in AE
      7m 27s
    3. Converting type from Photoshop
      5m 51s
    4. Importing type from illustrator
      9m 44s
    5. Creating shapes from text
      3m 28s
  5. 36m 30s
    1. Understanding the role of timing in motion graphics
      8m 1s
    2. Creating and using markers
      7m 58s
    3. Creating animation with markers
      5m 16s
    4. Using audio to create animated graphics
      5m 47s
    5. Editing techniques for graphics and video
      9m 28s
  6. 49m 27s
    1. Understanding different kinds of type in After Effects
      15m 53s
    2. Using animators with type
      7m 59s
    3. Using type presets
      7m 35s
    4. Creating custom type presets
      4m 35s
    5. Animating paragraph type
      13m 25s
  7. 45m 51s
    1. Exploring the use of color in motion graphics
      10m 40s
    2. Creating and using color palettes
      13m 45s
    3. Exploring color correction tools in AE
      6m 46s
    4. Advanced correction with Color Finesse
      8m 30s
    5. Creating custom color presets
      6m 10s
  8. 59m 6s
    1. Exploring textures in motion graphics
      8m 30s
    2. Building an animated background texture
      16m 48s
    3. Creating textures for type
      10m 19s
    4. Animating seamless textures
      15m 1s
    5. Creating custom vignettes
      8m 28s
  9. 38m 25s
    1. Understanding lighting in After Effects
      12m 57s
    2. Intro to lighting techniques
      5m 17s
    3. Using material settings to enhance lighting
      7m 36s
    4. Adding polish to a light setup
      12m 35s
  10. 50m 32s
    1. Animating swoops and swooshes
      12m 37s
    2. Creating repeating light trails with the Vegas effect
      6m 28s
    3. Repeating patterns with shape layers
      8m 11s
    4. Exploring graphic transitions
      10m 37s
    5. Exploring video transitions
      5m 16s
    6. Adding dynamic elements to a video transition
      7m 23s
  11. 22m 23s
    1. Working in 3D
      8m 36s
    2. Rigging cameras for animation
      8m 45s
    3. Working with depth of field
      5m 2s
  12. 50m 54s
    1. Creating storyboards in After Effects
      10m 20s
    2. Creating an animatic
      18m 14s
    3. Polishing the animation and timing
      8m 45s
    4. Applying the final effects
      13m 35s
  13. 47m 53s
    1. Preparing a map for animation
      7m 59s
    2. Animating and styling a map
      8m 24s
    3. Designing a lower-third graphic
      8m 22s
    4. Adding animation to the lower-third graphic
      9m 10s
    5. Creating bumper animations
      13m 58s
  14. 14m 17s
    1. Defining the toolkit
      2m 2s
    2. Preparing templates
      7m 12s
    3. Creating a style guide
      5m 3s
  15. 1m 3s
    1. Next Steps
      1m 3s

please wait ...
Watch the Online Video Course After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics
7h 57m Intermediate Feb 09, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics with Ian Robinson covers some of the core principles used to create motion graphics, breaking them down into smaller groups of applied techniques in After Effects. The course explores everything from gathering inspiration to integrating traditional typography, transitional elements, animated textures, color, and more into motion graphics. Instructions for building a toolkit with templates and a style guide for future projects are also included. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Converting type from Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Creating shapes from text
  • Using markers in animation
  • Editing techniques for graphics
  • Using type presets
  • Animating type
  • Exploring color correction tools
  • Building animated textures
  • Creating custom vignettes
  • Understanding Lights and Material settings
  • Adding dynamic transitions
  • Rigging cameras for animation
  • Working efficiently in 3D space
After Effects
Ian Robinson

Building an animated background texture

I've been using this one funky background throughout the course that I created using textures. This is the video where I'll actually show you how I built that background graphic. So, first things first. Let's go over to the Project pane and open our PaintStrokes layers, and you'll notice that we have a layered Photoshop document that's just been imported as a composition. So if we double-click on the Splat layer here and open it up, you can see this is a watercolor brushstroke that I scanned in off of a piece of rice paper.

It is on a transparent background. If I go ahead and show the alpha channel, here you can see that I have the rice paper and yeah, there are some slight areas of transparency, but that's literally how the paper looks. If you want to know how I cut that out of the background, feel free to jump to any of the Photoshop training courses. There are plenty of different ways to make selections and cut out backgrounds in Photoshop, and we're not getting into that on this specific video. What I do want to cover is exactly how I created that sense of depth and colorized the scene in my previous video.

Let's go back to our composition for our paint strokes. First thing you'll notice, I have each one of these layers just layered right on top of each other, and as I disable the visibility of each layer, you can kind of see that notice as I'm clicking on layers 3, 2, and 1, see how the eyeball is solid there, whereas the eyeball here you can actually see the little retina? That's letting me know that I've used a blend mode or a transfer mode. So in the mode panels, these top three layers are set to the Multiply blend mode.

Multiply is basically knocking out all the white pixels, but since these graphics were painted onto a rice paper, in the scanning process it actually picked up a lot of the texture of the paper. If I zoom in here, you can kind of see this grainy area and that's letting me know that you know I have texture from my rice paper. Even though there are plenty of ways in After Effects to re-create the look of digital noise or analog noise or anything like that, sometimes it just is a lot simpler if you go ahead and shoot the natural objects and bring it into After Effects, and animate it that way rather than having to try to re-create everything digitally.

You also find that that's a great way to make your graphics stand out from everybody else's. So back to how this was built. First off, we have the different blend modes, and second thing, I have a background layer here. Let me go ahead and scroll out. And if you notice the background layer as I turn its visibility on and off, it's just a white solid. I am going to turn that off for right now, and we will change this large m curve background to Multiply as well.

Now, I know you couldn't see a change, but that's because this m curve has no layer underneath of it to actually blend with. So all you're seeing is the common blend of all the different layers. So let's go ahead and create a background layer that we can animate all the paint strokes above. Go up under Layer and choose New > Solid and we'll click Make Comp Size, just to make sure that it's the right size. And you can leave it whatever color you like. I'm going to leave this gray since that was the last color I chose.

And you notice, by default the layer pops up right here at the top of my canvas. I could just drag this down to the bottom, and we'd have a starting point, but that really wouldn't be that interesting. What we want to do is add some noise to this layer. So if we go up under Effect, we can go to Noise and one of my favorite things to do is actually create fractal noise. So when you click on Fractal Noise, you notice that this kind of cloudy texture gets generated. Don't worry; as we continue exploring textures in this chapter, I'll show you how I use fractal noise to create seamless loopable animated backgrounds.

But for right now, I just kind of want to show you how I'm using this Fractal Noise layer to add to the texture and depth of the overall scene. Now by default, I'll just leave this Fractal Noise layer set to black and white, and let's just move it down below all the other layers and above our background layer, and sure enough, now we have a slightly more interesting scene. But there's still something that bothers me about this, and it has to do with how evenly this image is distributed.

What I mean by that, if you have a texture or a background layer that is consistent in its luminance all the way from one side to the other, a lot of times that doesn't do very much to actually add a sense of depth in your scene. So again, later in the chapter, we are going to explore vignettes a little more in depth, but I am going to show you right now how I added color to the scene and added a very soft vignette to darken the corners and the edges, again, just adding to the sense of depth.

So, the easiest way to do this, with your solid layer selected, go up under Effect and I want to choose Generate > Ramp. What a ramp is is basically a gradient. So I have my layer solid, and if we go ahead and solo this layer, you can see I just have a gradient. So I am going to leave this layer soloed right now, and start to add some color. First thing, let's look at where we set the start and end of our gradient. What I would like to see is a circle of light radiating outwards.

So, first thing, let's go to Ramp Shape and change it to Radial. Okay that's a little better, but this dark area I want to be right here in the center of my composition. Now, once that set up, let's change the end of the ramp by clicking this little target here right next to end of ramp and then move over to one of the corners. So when we click, we're extending the blend of the ramp. Now, I probably want this to be a little further out, so you can drag the coordinates further off of the canvas, if you want to accentuate the size of your ramp.

Let's go ahead and change the colors. So first off, I don't want this to be black and white. So let's change the Start Color. Click in the color well, and just choose kind of a dark orange color. Oh, that's already looking kind of cool. And then for the end of the color ramp, let's go ahead and choose like a very dark red, almost black, but as you can see, there's just that tinge of a red in there. Then click OK. So now, we can deselect the solo layer, and all of a sudden my texture is gone, and that's because I added the ramp after I did my fractal noise.

So let's go ahead and change the order of the effects. Notice when I drag the ramp up to the top and then the fractal noise, now I can see the fractal noise. Still not quite what I'm looking for, but that's okay because I can make an adjustment to the blend mode of the fractal noise. So for this, let's go ahead and look at Overlay. Now, all of a sudden it's starting to look exactly the same way it was in my previous project. Now, this is a little darker, so what I'll do is tweak the colors, just by clicking in the color ramp here.

And as we make changes to the colors, you notice it'll dynamically update, and we can go ahead and tweak this till the cows come home. But there is one adjustment, and let's go ahead and change the Start Color to something a little more bright. Okay, so that's looking a little bit better. Obviously, these colors don't quite match what I had for my main animation, but I think you get the general idea as to how this was built. Another thing we can do is soften the contrast and how blotchy the background is.

So let's go ahead and increase the Brightness here, and notice as we increase the brightness, it's kind of washing out what's going on in the scene. I will let go. There we go. If the texture keeps disappearing, don't worry; that just has to do with the redraw of the graphics card. But I will just go ahead and crank this brightness up here a little bit, and you can adjust the contrast to your liking, but I think this is a little bit better as far as what we are looking for.

If I scrub through my Timeline here, notice there's absolutely zero animation. So one of the subtle little things that I did in my other animation was adjust Evolution. Now Evolution is kind of interesting, and we will touch on this more later in the chapter, but Evolution is something that you can go ahead and click to adjust actually how this noise is flowing around the scene. Now, what's great about it is the fact that I can add a single revolution or varying degrees of a revolution--and of course a single revolution would be 360 degrees.

So with our playhead back at 0, let's set our Evolution to zero and add a keyframe. Now, move your playhead to the end of the composition and let's just click on Rotation, which is the left value, and change that to one. Now you notice there was a slight shift in my background. What you want to do is enable Cycle Evolution. This way, whether I am in my last frame or my first frame, let me go ahead and press End and Home, and you notice I'm not getting any shift at all.

And that's because there is one full cycle for one evolution. So that way, the first frame matches the last frame. Don't worry if you didn't quite understand; that's fine. Like I said, we will touch more a little later in the chapter. But as we scrub through the scene, now you notice I'm getting some kind of subtle animation in the scene. Let's go ahead and actually load a RAM preview, so we get a better idea as to how fast this animation is actually happening.

As you can see, it's quite slow. If you're not sure if your system is playing back in real time, make sure the Info window is completely open. So let's go ahead and check one more time. There we go. Yeah, it's playing back in full real time. Okay, so just by adding this one background layer, we've already added a huge sense of depth to the scene. But we can take this up even higher by offsetting exactly where these individual layers are positioned in three-dimensional space.

So let's go ahead and do that. I am going to select layer 4, Shift+ Select layer 1 so everything is selected, and just enable the 3D switch. And now I know 3D has been enabled because I can see all of the control handles. So let's just add some depth by offsetting the Z parameter of each one of these elements. So as you roll your mouse over any of these control handles here, you notice I get a different letter that appears, and that letter is telling me that I'll move that object on the Y or the X or the Z. And so what we want to do is move this little tiny layer over here to the side, and notice if you don't click directly on a specific handle, you'll just drag your object around the scene.

Notice if we look in the Info panel in the upper-right corner, it's not moving anywhere on the Z axis. So I am just going to move this off to the left a little bit, and now I am going to make sure that I'm over Z, and that way when I click and drag, if you drag to the left, it's going to move the object towards the camera. I know it appears that this object is moving off the canvas to the left, but technically, all it's doing is moving in Z space. But since my camera is angled at a slightly different angle, as it moves closer to the camera it's actually getting further out of frame, but don't let that panic you.

One of the other things you want to do as you're positioning objects in 3D space is make sure that you can see the position parameter for each of the objects. So I will just select all the layers and press P to open up my position. So first off, I can see, okay, 391, 392 pixels. That's how far I've moved this first layer. Let's select the next curve and just click and drag, so we can see--oh okay, so this curve, I'll drag it a little further over to the right here and not quite as far as this tiny curve up here in the left, and this curve, there we go.

This is one of the dominant brushstrokes. So we want is to be a right up in front of the camera. So if we click and drag to the left, notice since this is positioned relatively close to the center of our scene, as I'm dragging this layer, it's actually moving towards the camera. And I don't know if you can see it. It's very subtle, but keep your eyes in the center part of the canvas as I click and drag on the Z axis. See the noise that's actually moving? Again, it's sort of hard to see, but it's just a little subtle bit of grain that was left over from the rice paper in the scan, and it's those kinds of little details that actually really help sell depth, because once these layers are positioned in Z space, when you start animating your camera, all those little highlights and things will start popping out at you, because each layer is on a different plane.

And you'll get that really interesting sort of parallax effect where the lens distorts everything, and you get a really beautiful look of depth in your graphic. So the m curve here, let's go ahead and select that. That's our main curve. If you remember in our previous animation, this is what we used to animate the type layer that was on the path. So we'll just move that a little bit towards the camera. Okay. Now the notice I left the background layer as a two-dimensional layer.

I did this on purpose because as we animate the camera, I don't want this background to move at all. So as long as we leave it as a two- dimensional layer, nothing is going to happen as far as its position in front of the camera. So let's add a camera. Go to Layer > New > Camera, and I always like using 50 millimeter. You can choose whatever size you like; 50 is pretty decent. When I clicked OK, now I have the new camera in the scene, and if I open up the position data for that camera, I can click and drag.

And notice as I'm just offsetting the Z position here--let me zoom in on the canvas so that you can see things a little better. I will make this a little larger. There we go. Notice as I'm animating the Z position, you can see all kinds of details, as far as the texture. I can see that edge of the rice paper. I can see this edge of the rice paper, and some detail. This is all beautiful, beautiful stuff that really helps add depth to your animation. So I am not going to sit here and go through the camera animation techniques that you know were required to build that title, because it's pretty straightforward.

It's just creating some position keyframes, and honestly to help set the depth a little more, if you add some rotation, that also adds to the effect. So let me just show you that right now. If I click on the Y axis, notice how the camera is rotating. I am getting a little more pronounced offset to the graphics in the scene. I hope you enjoyed this little foray into how I built the background, but understand this is just supposed to whet your appetite.

I really want you to go create your own textures and create your own animations. Take this knowledge and enjoy!

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics .

Expand all | Collapse all
please wait ...
Q: How do I transition from one piece of animated type to another in After Effects?
A: There isn't an effect that can create these types of transitions. It's really a matter of animating the type and camera, using basic keyframing and positioning.
If you understand the basics of moving the anchor point of a type layer, animating the parameters of that layer (Scale, Rotation, Position, etc.) and then separately animating the camera around the type layers, you can achieve different types of transitions.  Check out the following videos for more information:

Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Join now Already a member? Log in

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed After Effects: Principles of Motion Graphics.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any page and choose Site preferences from the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.