How to get an object to follow a path in Adobe After Effects

Written by loralei haylock Google
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How to get an object to follow a path in Adobe After Effects
You can use After Effects to animate objects and make them follow paths. (Adobe Systems Incorporated)

Adobe After Effects is a visual effects program that is primarily used to create two dimensional animations. Like most Adobe software, it is compatible with other Adobe programs. This means you can import files and objects created in Photoshop, Illustrator and a number of other programs, then animate them. Motion paths are created by placing a regular path shape into an object's "Position" properties, meaning the object will then follow that path when the animation is played.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Open your After Effects file that contains the object you want to animate. Add a new shape layer, or null object, on which to draw your path.

  2. 2

    Select the pen tool and draw your path. Place several anchor points and manipulate the links between them to create an irregular path. You can also use the shape tool if you want your path to be a more uniform circuit, but ensure you are using it to create a mask, not a shape layer.

  3. 3

    Select the layer with your path in the timeline tab. Press the "M" key to bring up the mask properties. Select "Mask Path" and use "Edit" followed by "Cut" or "Ctrl-X" to cut the mask path to the clipboard.

  4. 4

    Select your object layer in the timeline and press the "P" key to reveal the position properties. Select "Position" then use "Edit" followed by "Paste" or "Ctrl-V" to paste the mask path into the object's position. Your object should now appear at the start of the path.

  5. 5

    Adjust the duration of the animation by dragging the last keyframe in the timeline out to the desired length. After Effects automatically makes the middle keyframes distribute themselves evenly across the duration of the animation, which means your object will travel at an even speed. Preview your animation by clicking the "Play" button in the preview panel.

  6. 6

    Orient your object to the path if it is not following it well. Select the layer with your object in then click "Layer | Transform | Auto-Orient | Orient along path."

Tips and warnings

  • You can import shapes and objects from other Adobe software to your After Effects file by using the Import function under File.
  • Play around with the customisation options to increase or decrease the speed of your object.

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