Make your motion more organic with these easy-to-use, built-in distortion tools in After Effects.

These four distortion tools in After Effects allow you to easily distort a layer to whatever extent you need in order to give your animation a final lifelike touch in that “squash and stretch” kind of way. All four effects will “loosen up” the movement of your graphics and, best of all, they’re all already built directly into After Effects and super-easy to use. Let’s take a look.

1. CC Bend It

Create Lifelike Movement with Distortion Tools in After Effects: CC Bend It

CC Bend It is a limited tool, but it’s an extremely quick way to give an object a consistent and natural-looking bend. All you need do is set your Start and End Points, and keyframe your bend amount.

Create Lifelike Movement with Distortion Tools in After Effects: CC Bend It, Start and End Points

This effect doesn’t work well with excessive movement, but it is a great choice for something like, say, a palm tree swaying back and forth or a character dancing. Just be sure to enable rasterization on layers you apply this effect to.

2. Warp

Create Lifelike Movement with Distortion Tools in After Effects: Warp, Adjustable Axes

Warp (like CC Bend It) features minimal controls. However, it allows you to choose from a variety of warp styles with adjustable axes.

Create Lifelike Movement with Distortion Tools in After Effects: Warp

You can also independently adjust the horizontal and vertical distortion levels. For animations with lots of movement, this is a great choice. The Squeeze Warp style is arguably the most useful, and is very effective for bouncy movement.

3. Puppet Tool

Create Lifelike Movement with Distortion Tools in After Effects: Puppet Tool

The Puppet Tool is one of the most crucial parts of animating characters. This tool allows you to place pin points anywhere on your layer, and drag them to distort your layer accordingly. This effect is extremely versatile and works well for really specific movement.

Just be sure to not to keyframe the position of a layer that is using the Puppet Tool. You can instead precompose your Puppet Tool animation, then keyframe the position of the resulting composition. Here’s a tutorial from lynda.com that demonstrates the tool.

4. Bezier Warp

Create Lifelike Movement with Distortion Tools in After Effects: Bezier Warp

Bezier Warp is arguably the most precise of these effects, automatically providing you with twelve points that you can move to distort your layer. It almost always creates a smooth surface and can be modified regardless of how much the layer is moving and rotating. It is certainly time consuming, but it allows for a lot of possibilities.

Create Lifelike Movement with Distortion Tools in After Effects: Bezier Warp, 12 Points


What other After Effects tools do you use to sell your organic motion? Let us know in the comments below.