How to animate Freepik vectors (Part 1/2)

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In this tutorial you'll learn how to animate Freepik vectors. Read this step-by-step tutorial about how to create vector animations in After Effects.

Gifs and motion graphic videos are a trendy way to tell your stories. It goes a step further than static design and speaks for itself. Let us create a simple yet attractive little animation using vectorsFreepik is one of the best sites for free vectors. A huge and inspiring selection of designs is very tempting and inspires to animate. The design files are animation friendly and well arranged. 

These animations are done using only two software programs. Adobe Illustrator and After Effects are like brothers and go hand in hand in vector animation. For this tutorial I've selected this beautiful and elegant underwater Sea Life vector design for Animation. I loved the simplicity and it will be perfect to demonstrate introductory animation in After Effects. Just download it from the Attachment section and you're good to go. Let’s learn how to animate Freepik vectors.


This is the final animation output we will be getting at after the animation! Exciting isn’t it?

Don’t worry! This animation is not complex and a basic understanding of After Effects will do. Even if you're entirely new to After Effects, just follow the easy step by step guide and you'll get used to it in no time. So grab your coffee and let’s jump in! This will be done before your coffee gets cold.

1. Preparing the file in Adobe Illustrator

Open the file in AI (Adobe Illustrator) and you will see that there are two layers.

You need to decide which elements are going to be animated and put them in different layers in AI itself. For example, I'll be animating the tail and the fin of this fish. So there will be 3 layers; the body layer, the fin layer and the tail layer.

Similarly, for the turtle, we need a body layer, a tail layer, a fin layer and I want to animate his head propelling ahead as well, hence a head layer.

Do this for all the layers like water, plants, boat and clouds etc. It's important to separate these layers because in AE (After Effects) we need to animate them separately. Save the file with your preferred name and we're set.

2. Creating the octopus

Create a new composition in AE by clicking on Composition > New Composition. Set the comp size as required. I have created a Comp of 1280 x 720 resolution for now (we can change this later anytime). Name it Sea_Life and click OK.


Now import the AI file of our Design. Press Ctrl/Cmd + I or click on File > Import > File and import as Composition. Click OK.


All the layers we created in AI will be imported as separate layers in AE.


Create another Composition named octopus with the desired resolution and cut - paste the two octopus layers in this Comp from the previous one.


We need to animate the tentacles and eyes of the octopus. As the body and tentacles are one object in AI, we'll have to recreate the octopus in AE again. Don’t fret! It’s easy. Just like in AI, click on the Pen tool in the tool bar and start drawing the head. You will notice that once you click on the screen to draw, a new shape layer is automatically created. Create just the head shape with the Stroke off and the Fill on.


Now for the tentacles, create a line with a pen tool and this time turn on the Stroke and turn off the Fill. Make it roughly the width of the reference design. Rename the Layer as Arm-4.


To turn the Line cap round, click on the little arrow in front of the layer name to dropdown the properties. Similarly click on Contents > Shape 1 > Stroke 1. In front of the Line Cap option, you'll see Butt Cap selected. Change that to Round Cap.


Repeat this process to make the other 4 arms naming them appropiately and align it with the head.


So far we have one head shape with a fill and four tentacles/arms with stroke.


Now we need to adjust the Anchor point from where the arms are going to rotate. To do this, click on the anchor point tool in the toolbar and select the layer for which the anchor point is to be adjusted.


Locate the current position of the anchor point and drag/bring it to the point where the arm is attached to the head. This will be our pivot point for the rotation (you may need to adjust this a little later on as we start on animating).


To change the color, select all the arm layers, click on the stroke color button, select the color picker from the window and pick the color from the reference layer. Do the same for the head layer by changing the Fill color.


Now bring up the OctoEyes layer as a guide.


We need to draw the eyes and the patches too. Click on the shape tool just beside the Pen tool in the toolbar to draw a circle for the eyes. (Click and hold the button to dropdown and select Ellipse tool)


By holding down Shift, drag to create a perfect circle. Position it exactly as in the reference. Turn off the stroke and keep the Fill on. Change the color to dark grey if you have to (I almost never use pure black). Rename the layer by Right clicking on the layer and selecting rename from the menu.


Duplicate the layer by pressing Ctrl/Cmd + D and move the duplicated layer on the other eye. Name both layers as Eye-L and Eye-R. On another layer named Spots, recreate the spots of the head in the same way and change the color respectively.


Now to mask this layer from the head, duplicate the head layer and put the spots layer between the copies. Now select the Spots layer and in the Matte options select the first option – Alpha Matte.


(If you don’t see the Matte options, click on this button to toggle the view).


3. Animating the octopus

Let’s move on to the interesting part now. Animation! (I guess it’s going to take more than one coffee).

We'll animate the tentacles of our octopus. Select the Arm-1 layer. Go to the effects window, which you can find in Window > Effects and presets or press Ctrl/Cmd + 5. In the search box, type in CC Bend it.


Drag and drop that effect on the selected layer. In the Effects properties window, you'll see these options:


Position the start and end bend control points according to the anchor point of the arm which we had previously set. Give some value to the Bend controller and experiment. Do this for all the Arms and your rig is set to animate.


Animating the arms is easy. But you do need to know the basics of animation principles to make it believable and alive. Remember that only movement is not animation. The way it moves gives life to it. Having said that, let us start animating.

Select the Arm-1 layer and go to the first frame in the timeline. In the CC Bend it controls, increase the value of Bend as desired. (I have used about 73 here).


Now you need to set a key to it. Click on the little clock button in front of the Bend control. This will set a key on the current frame on your timeline.


This is the up position of the arm. The Anticipation pose. Now move the time slider about 3 to 4 frames ahead and here, zero out the bend value. This is the push position of the arms. The hit. Do this with Arm-4 as well but instead of value 73, you will have to use -73 as this arm needs to bend in the opposite direction.


Now if you playback, you'll see that the arms are animated. Hurray! But wait. It looks dead doesn’t it? Too robotic. To make it smooth, rubber band select all the small dots - our keys – in the timeline and right click. Go to Keyframe assist > Easy Ease. Or simply press F9. The animation will be a lot smoother. You can go in the Graph editor and enhance this further, but let’s keep that for advanced editing. Repeat this process for all the arms where one pose would be expand and the other would be push.


To make this a loop animation, you need to make three poses where the first and last pose would be exactly the same. To do this, copy the first keyframe and having the time slider on the desired frame, paste that keyframe at the end. Now if you play the animation from first to last frame it would be, Open – Close – Open again.

(To set the start and end of the time slider, press B at the first frame and N at the last frame setting the In and out of the time slider. Now when you hit play, it will only play the set frames in loop).

To animate the head, we'll cheat. Select both the Eyes and the Spots layer and press P on the keyboard. This will drop down the position controllers for all the selected layers. On the first frame and the pose of our character, click on the little clock button adjacent to the position control to set a key. You'll notice that when multiple layers are selected, clicking one will key all the layers automatically. Now go to the push pose frame on the timeline and move the selected objects upwards in Y – axis. You'll notice that the objects won't go outside the head mask which is what we want. Like we did before, copy the first pose of the objects again and paste in the last pose. This will make the first and the last pose the same. Easy Ease the keyframes.


Now when you play, you will see that our octopus looks up when he pushes and looks front when anticipating. (You may need to move around the keyframes to get what you want. Play with the timing and holds of the poses). Ta-da! We're done with the octopus (well almost). The animation should look like this.


We need to animate the ups and downs of the octopus. Go to the main comp – Sea_Life – and from the project window, drag and drop the octopus comp we just created. It will stack up like a layer and we can easily animate its position.


Adjust the anchor point using the Anchor point tool like before if you have to and position the octopus in your scene.


Press P with the layer selected. This will open up the Position property. Key the first frame and pose. Now drag the Time slider to see where the next pose is. On that frame, change the value of the Y – axis position moving the octopus up. (You can enter the value directly or drag on this value slider left or right).


Now check the frame where the last pose is (which is same as the first pose) and bring the octopus down again. It has to be the same value for it to work in loop. You can just copy the first key and paste it here. We need to float our octopus down before he kicks off again. To do this, add another keyframe in between the up position and down position, and make the octopus come to roughly the position of the first pose. So now we have him kick off – go up – float down – kick off again and so on. Use Easy ease to smooth out the animation as required. You can animate holds and distribute the keyframes as you like to modify the timing as you see fit. (We can of course fine tune it in the graph editor but that is a whole other level and we'll soon cover that in detail in another tutorial. For now, I think Easy ease would be more than enough)

Let’s copy this animation four times in loop so we'll have screen time for other elements. Bring your time slider on to the last pose and having your layer selected, press Alt + ] to cut and end the layer at that frame. Now duplicate the layer four times and arrange like this where the start of the top layer is at the end frame of the previous one.

Our octopus animation cycle is complete. It should look like this.


I hope you enjoyed animating the octopus vector. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the tutorial: How to animate Freepik vectors (Part 2/2)  with some interesting and fun animation effects.


Now you can show the world what you have learned.

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