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How to animate an icon in After Effects

after effects Dec 10, 2018


FREE LottieFiles Icon Animation Course For UX/UI & Product Designers

Create a Professional Icon Animation and Play it on Your Phone (no experience necessary)

Learn how to make an icon animation in Adobe After Effects

Show-off your icon animation on your phone for your team, clients, or stakeholders

Build a portfolio-quality showcase UI Animation

Export your assets for hand-off to engineers

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It’s important to understand and know how to utilize After Effects Icons! On this page you will learn how to Animate Icons and get guidance from me on how you can use them in your design!

Table of Content

1. Why is After Effects good for making animated icons

How can after effects help create animated icons. Why After effects is recommended and best for creating animated icons. What are the Pros and its advantages?

Adobe After Effects is the number one most recommended tool of choice for creating animated icons. It's been used by professional animators for years.

There really is no second best. Many UX, UI & Product Designers want to learn how to animate in After Effects is the most powerful tool, and the one with the most status and prestige. Several years ago, a new framework came out called Lottie, which allows you to export your After Effects icon animations directly to engineers. This was a total game changer and removed all of the prior obstacles that existed.

When you animate in After Effects you have total and complete control over every aspect of your design and animation.

There's no other tool that gives you this range of precision and attention to detail.

The main reason you want to learn how to animate in After Effects is because you can really detail out every nuance of your icon animation.

Your skill level is the limiting factor, whereas with other tools, the tool just doesn’t let you do everything you may want to do.

This ability is critical for apps, websites, and digital products where you want to either design an icon animation with maximum usability or maximum brand expression.

In the case of usability, you want to have as much control and precision as possible. In the case of brand expression, you need the ability to fully design the subtle details and flavors of animation that will create a great product experience.

So to recap, you want to animate in After Effects because you have total control over your icon animation, and because you can now export these animations directly to engineers using Lottie.

2. Steps on How to Animate Icons

Video Tutorials

We’ll be creating shape layers from the Adobe Illustrator file, applying trim paths on each shape, and animating it with a few simple keyframes. You’ll want to go nuts and animate all your icons after this tutorial. The steps I will be covering include:

  • Review the design setup in Illustrator
  • Import the design into After Effects
  • Apply and animate the ‘Trim Paths tool in After Effects
  • Keep doing it to all the icon elements
  • Finesse the timing
  • Enjoy!
Download Free Source Files

3. Tips to Sharpen your Animating Skills in After Effects

What are your tips to help beginners and professionals to further sharpen or improve their skills in using after effects or animating in after effects.

FREE UI Animation Course

When it comes to learning how to animate in After Effects, it is important to sharpen your skills so you can produce professional work. Most of the time, designers learning how to animate in After Effects will become overwhelmed or give up entirely. This is understandable because it is a huge program, specifically designed for creating things like motion graphics (like tv commercials) and visual effects (like zombie makeup that gets added in post production).

Icon animation and most UI animation use only a small subset of the After Effects tools, which makes learning to create them easy to do.

There are several important tips to know.

The first is how to get your design assets into After Effects. These workflows used to be more challenging, but now they've become much simpler. Now you can work with Figma, Sketch, Adobe XD, Adobe Illustrator, and even Photoshop. If you don’t take the time to learn these simple workflows, you can’t even get to the animation stage.

Another important tip is to understand how the graph editor works in After Effects. You will need to know this when you animate in After Effects. This lets you design the timing and easing of your animation. This is where you design how your icon animation feels and the character and flavor that the animation creates for the user.

Another important tip if you want to learn how to animate in After Effects is to use basic keyboard shortcuts. These will significantly improve your animation experience and the time required to animate.

Lastly, just taking the time to understand how shape layers work is critical. If you want to animate in After Effects and hand off to engineers, you must understand the logic of shape layers. Shape layers are vector layers in After Effects. They have fill and stroke, and more importantly, you can animate their basic shape and color. All these properties can be animated. Additionally, After Effects has very cool tools for creating more complex animations, which are also supported by Lottie.

If you're just starting off, I highly recommend you watch my free course on how to create an icon animation in After Effects. You will learn the entire workflow, as well as how to export your work to engineers, so that they can put it into a website, or an app.

4. Animation in After Effects: Basic Understanding

What are the important topics,features or ideas that a person who is starting animation in after effects needs to know and understand first.

share information about the UI Animation Double Certification

We recently got a file from Issara about the Certification Outcomes which you can see here:

The most important aspects of learning how to animate in After Effects, especially if you are a product designer, and especially if you want to create stunning icon animations, is you need to know that Adobe After Effects uses shape layers.

Shape layers are animatable vector layers in After Effects.

You have complete and total control over your shape layers. You can animate the stroke, the fill, the color, etc. You can even add a gradient and animate that.

Once you understand how to import your designs into After Effects, you create keyframes on layer properties, animate your shape layers, and then export to your engineers using a tool like the free LottieFiles After Effects plugin.

Designers who are starting off in After Effects, don't fully appreciate how powerful the program is, and also how relatively easy it is to achieve stunning results quickly.

Once you have understood the logic behind shape layers and the graph editor, you can quickly combine these two features, and create professional icon animations in a very short amount of time.

5. Animation in After Effects: Basic Understanding

A conclusion or overall overview on how to animate in after effects. What is your suggestions or recommendations for people who are new to animation and after effects?


To recap, most sophisticated icon animations are created using After Effects. After Effects is the number one tool of choice for designing animated icons that are used in apps and websites.

Although it may look intimidating, you can learn how to animate in After Effects relatively quickly, because for the most part you're not using all of the complicated features that don't really apply to UI and UX prototyping.

Most of the features in After Effects are for filmmaking and TV commercials. You can animate in After Effects fairly quickly and easily, especially when you are animating icons.

The features that you will use in After Effects, like shape layers and the graph editor, are relatively easy to learn how to use.

And once you master these features, you will be able to produce stunning work to elevate your projects and portfolio.

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