This Valentine's Brought To You By After Effects

Shaun Russell By Shaun Russell

So Valentine's Day is upon us and to celebrate/rub salt in all you singletons bleeding hearts, I’m going to show you how to make a short Valentine's animation to send to your loved one, pet or to that person you’ve been stalking and creeping the hell out of.

We’re going to the take the simple Valentines rhyme of “Roses are red, Violets are Blue. Honey is sweet and so are you.” and create some simple animations for each verse and then combine them together into one final composition. To do this you will need access to After Effects (AE) and Photoshop (PS) and have some basic working knowledge of the two.

Valentines Animated GIF by Eden Agency

Step 1: Create Your Assets

Firstly, you need to make/source your assets. As a Valentine’s Day treat - for I love you all - I have provided a .ZIP file with all the assets you need for the tutorial. But should you want to create your own and by doing so break my heart, feel free to do so, I recommend using either Illustrator or Photoshop. but which ever you create them in, be sure to keep anything you want to animate on separate layers as this same layer structure will remain when you import into AE. (Also, if you would like a tutorial on creating assets in Adobe Illustrator, ready for animating in AE, let me know in the comments below and I’ll cover it next time.)

Note: A download link for the assets will be available shortly.

Step 2: Import Your Assets

So now you have created/got your assets, you need to import them.

  1. Press CMD + I
  2. Find your assets in the finder. If using the assets provided they’re .AI files called (Flower, Hive & Heart)
  3. Change ‘Import As’ from Footage to Composition - Retain Layer Styles.

Import File Dialog

Your assets will now appear as new compositions in the Project panel on the left of your screen along with their corresponding layers.

Step 3: Animating the Flower

For the Flower, we want the stem to grow and as it does so, have the leaves and flower scale up. To do this:

  1. Double-Click the Flower composition in the Project panel.
  2. Next the to the layer names in the Timeline panel, ensure that Continuously Rasterise is set to on.
  3. Select the Stem layer and press P to select the Pan Behind tool.
  4. Drag the Anchor Point to the foot of the stem.
  5. On your Timeline, go to the Transform properties for the Stem layer
  6. Move the playhead along about 15 frames. Use the + and - keys to zoom in and out of the Timeline.
  7. Click the stopwatch icon on the the Scale property.
  8. Click the lock icon to unconstrain the Scale.
  9. Move the playhead to the start and reduce the scale along the X-axis to 0.0%
  10. Select both frames, right-click and from Keyframe Assistant chose Easy ease.
  11. Set the influence to 66%.
  12. Click RAM preview.

Keyframe Assistant Dialog Box

We now have a growing stem. The easing we applied has added an acceleration and deceleration to the animation, making it look smoother. For the flowers and leaves, we first need to move their anchor points, but their animations will be similar.

  1. Move the anchor points (Y) to where they meet the stem.
  2. Stagger the timebars so that they appear as the stem passes.
  3. Set the initial scale keyframe to 0% and the last to 100%.
  4. Move the playhead a few frames back and set to 120%.
  5. Add an easy ease of 33% to both leaves and an easy ease of 66% flower.

Rose Stem

And there you have it: a growing stem with leaves that blossom and a flower that blooms. Lovely.

Step 4: Animating the Hive

The Hive animation for the ‘Honey is sweet’ section, is a very simple fade in and scale animation:

  1. Double-click the Hive composition in the Project panel.
  2. Select the Hex layer.
  3. Next the to the layer names in the Timeline panel, ensure that Continuously Rasterise is set to on.
  4. Click the stopwatch icon about 10 frames in.
  5. Move playhead to the start and set the scale to 0%
  6. Move to frame 6 and scale to 115%
  7. Apply an easy ease of 66% to all three frames.
  8. On the opacity property, go to frame 10 and click the stopwatch icon.
  9. Move to the start and take the opacity to 0%.

The Hex should now fade in and as it does so, scale into view. Now we need to duplicate this and stagger there appearance.

  1. Select your Hex layer in the Timeline and press CMD+D 6 times to create six similar hexagons and position them to match the image below.
  2. Now select Hex2 and drag it along the timeline so it start 5 frames after the previous Hex.
  3. Repeat for each Hex so there’s a 5 frame interval between each layer.
  4. Click RAM Preview.


And our Hive animation is complete. Each Hex should now bounce nicely into view, one after the other.

Step 5: Animating the Hearts

For the hearts, we’re going to have the them fade in and scale up, one after the other.

  1. Open the Heart comp from the Project panel.
  2. Next the to the layer names in the Timeline panel, ensure that Continuously Rasterise is set to on for each.
  3. Stagger each of the Hearts timebars - 13 frames between each.
  4. Select the large Heart and move the playhead to frame 12 and hit the stopwatch on the scale and opacity properties.
  5. Move the playhead back 4 frames and scale up to 120%.
  6. Move to the start of the animation and set scale and opacity to 0%.
  7. Add an easy ease of 66%.
  8. Repeat for the other two hearts.


Now each hearts should pop into view nicely.

NOTE: For all animations throughout this tutorial, feel free to use your own judgement if you think the animation tempo is not to your liking.

Step 6: Setting Out the Text

Now that all our objects are animated and ready to go, we can now focus on setting out the text.

  1. Press CMD+N to create a new composition
  2. Call your composition ‘Roses’ and set it to 1920 x 1080 at 25 frames per second and click OK.
  3. Press CMD+T to select the text tool and click anywhere in your comp.
  4. Choose a nice font. No - Comic Sans and Papyrus are not nice. I chose Mathilde by Type Depot. You can get it here.
  5. Type out ‘ROSES’
  6. Select the ROSES layer in the timeline and press CMD+D twice.
  7. Double-click each and type ‘are’ and ‘RED’ respectively.
  8. Position each at the centre of your comp and move ‘ROSES’ and ‘RED’ an equal distance away from ‘are’.
  9. Scale each of the text layers and alter the spacing so it matches the image below. Don’t forget to use your rulers CMD+R to help you.
  10. Now from the Project panel, drag the Flower comp onto the canvas.
  11. Position it to the left of the ‘are’ text layer and scale to best fit.
  12. Select the flower layer and press CMD+D to duplicate.
  13. Right-click, go to Transform, Flip Vertical and position to the right of ‘are’ so it mirrors the first flower. Some description

Step 7: Animating the Text

So now we have our text laid out, we’ll move onto the animation. We want the ‘ROSES’ to fade in and move up as the ‘are’ scales in to view. Then we want each letter of ‘RED’ to fade into view one after the other.

  1. Select ‘are’ and ‘RED’ and move their timebar’s along 25 frames (1sec).
  2. Move the ‘RED’ timebar along a further 50 frames (2secs).
  3. Move the playhead to frame 25 and hit the stopwatch on the opacity property.
  4. Head to the start, set the opacity to 0% and apply an easy ease of 66%
  5. Choose the ‘are’ layer and set the starting opacity and scale keyframes to 0% and it’s final to 100%
  6. Move the playhead back a few frames and scale up to 150%
  7. Select the ‘ROSES’ layer and move it’s position so it rises and falls in time with the appearance of the ‘are’.

AE has a whole library of preset animations you might like to use. We’re going to use one now for ‘RED’.

  1. Click Window, Effects and Presets.
  2. In the search bar, type Fade Up Characters.
  3. Click and drag the preset animation onto the RED layer.
  4. Move the keyframes until you’re happy with the result.

After Effects Dialog

And there you have it, animated text! Feel free to browse and add any of the animation presets you wish. Hopefully you can see how handy it is having access to the presets, but feel confident enough to animate text yourself should you need to do so.

Step 8: Duplicating Compositions and Editing Them

With our ‘Roses’ composition complete, we can now duplicate it and use it as a basis to create the remaining three - Violets, Honey, and You.

  1. Select the Roses comp in your Project panel.
  2. CMD+R to view your rulers and drag a couple out so you have guide for the boundaries of your text.
  3. Duplicate CMD+D three times.
  4. Rename the new comps to ‘Violets’, ‘Honey’ and ‘You’.

Step 8.1: Violets Are Blue

To finish this comp off, we need change to change and scale the text and add a colour overlay to our Flower comp.

  1. Open up the Violets comp and alter the text to corresponding section of the rhyme. the text so it all fits in the same boundaries laid out by your rulers.
  2. Change the colour of the text to blue. (#5A82F9)
  3. Select the Flowers and click Layer, Layer Styles and colour overlay.
  4. Open up the properties on the left of the timeline and under Layer Styles, Colour Overlay, match the colour to that of the text.

Your red roses have now become blue violets! Yes, I know violets are violets - but humour a nursery rhyme from the late 1700's.

Step 8.2: Honey is Sweet

For the Honey layer we need to change and scale the text and add in the Hive assets.

  1. Open up Honey and alter the text to corresponding section of the rhyme. Scale the text so it all fits in the same boundaries laid out by your rulers.
  2. Change the colour of the text to yellow. (#F9C75A)
  3. Select the Hive comp from the Project panel and position and scale to a similar size to the Flowers.
  4. Duplicate CMD+D the Hive comp.
  5. Right-click, Transform and Flip Vertical.
  6. Move it to the opposite side of ‘is’ so it mirrors the other.
  7. Delete the Flower layers.

Step 8.3: And So Are You

For this we’re going to have to edit the and scale the text, place the Hearts comp and to add and animate a new word and alter a couple of anchor points.

  1. Open up ‘ROSES’ and change the text to the corresponding section of the rhyme. Scale the text so it all fits in the same boundaries laid out by your rulers.
  2. You and change the colour of the text to pink. (#FCB1D0)
  3. Select the Hearts comp from the Project panel and position and scale to similar size to the Flowers.
  4. Duplicate CMD+D the Hearts comp.
  5. Right-click, Transform and Flip Vertical.
  6. Move it to the opposite side of ‘are’ so it mirrors the other.
  7. Delete the Flower layers.

Voila! All you animated parts are complete and ready for the final push! Don’t worry - we’re nearly done now.

Step 9: Final Composition

  1. Create a new comp with CMD+N. Call it ‘Valentines’ with a size of 1920x1080 at 25frames per second and a length of 20 secs.
  2. Press CMD+Y to create a new solid and choose a colour. (I used #FFFEF3)
  3. Select the four completed compositions from the Project panel and drag them into your new comp.
  4. On your timeline, stagger each composition's timebar so that each has enough time to play out. Select the ‘Roses’ comp.
  5. To fade them out, open up the opacity setting and move the playhead to the end of the composition. Click the stopwatch icon. Move the playhead back 10 frames or so and reduce opacity to 0%.
  6. Select both frames and place an Easy Ease of 33%.
  7. With the playhead in the same position as the start of the fade, hit the stopwatch on the position property.
  8. Move the playhead to same point of the completed fade out and move ‘Roses’ down 30 pixels or so.
  9. Repeat this for the ‘Violets’ and ‘Honey’ compositions.

All being well, the compositions should fade out nicely, leaving the canvas empty for the next to be revealed.

Step 10: Altering the Speed of Compositions

If you find the compositions moving to quickly or slowly, we can quickly change their speed without going into the individual comps and altering their keyframes.

  1. Right-click on the comp in the timeline.
  2. Select Time, followed by Time-Remapping. A new option will have appeared under it’s name, along with a two keyframes.
  3. Drag the keyframe at the end of the comp to your chosen point and the duration of the comp will change accordingly.

Step 11: Exporting to GIF

So now the animation is done, we need to export it into a format we can share. In this instance, a GIF.

  1. Drag the Valentines Composition into the Create a New Composition tab at the bottom of the Project panel.
  2. Press CMD+K and resize your new composition. I scaled it down to around 600pixels wide.
  3. Rescale your composition to match the new canvas.
  4. Select Composition then Add to Render Queue.
  5. Double-click ‘Output Module’ and ensure the options are set out as below.
  6. Double click ‘Output To’ and set where you want your video saved.
  7. Hit ‘Render.’
  8. Wait for the ding.

Composition Menu

Now you have a MOV file. Open it and ensure you’re happy with the content. MOV files are far too large for sharing. So to turn it into a GIF we need a little help from Photoshop.

  1. Open up Photoshop
  2. CMD+O to open a file and locate your MOV file.
  3. CMD+ALT+SHIFT+S to save for web.
  4. Change to the output to GIF and match up the options to the image below.
  5. Click save and select where to save it to.

Animation dialog

Well done - you’ve now finished! Now you have a lovely Valentine’s GIF to send to all your loved ones. You could, of course, change the text and send out a really passive-aggressive one to all those you are distinctly ambivalent about. I might do that now actually…

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