after effects Tutorial

After Effects: Making a Candle Flicker

|3 min read
Written by Joe


In this After Effects tutorial, Joe introduces a technique to simulate the gentle flicker of a candle's light. This method can be extrapolated to various light sources, such as light bulbs or even the corona of the sun. Understanding the fundamental physics of light and its interaction with our environment can make your work look more realistic.

A real candle flicker is caused by tiny variations in the combustion of the wick and wax, leading to changes in the light it emits. In digital animation, we mimic this by manipulating opacity, gradients, and color.

1. Setting Up The Base Layer:

Create a solid canvas for the candle or light source to shine against.

  • Select the Shape Tool and create a dark, preferably black, shape. This contrast helps in visualizing the light effect more distinctly.

2. Gradient Application:

Gradient tools provide the essence of how light dissipates, giving a natural fade.

  • After finalizing your shape, opt for the Gradient Tool.
  • Apply the gradient to your drawn shape with a simple click.
  • Progress to the Freeform Gradient section.

3. Color Manipulation:

Define the core appearance of your light source using color gradients.

  • Modify the gradient colors to mirror the desired light. For a candle glow, a warm yellow suffices.
  • Set an area of the gradient to white and dial its opacity back to zero. This offers the light a soft edge, emulating how real light fades.

4. Refining the Gradient:

Tailor your gradient to visually resemble your desired light source.

  • Adjust gradient handles until you achieve the required light spread and intensity. This might involve experimentation.
  • If you find unwanted color points, feel free to modify or remove them.

5. Animating in After Effects:

Now, bring your gradient to life by animating its flicker.

  • Transition your setup into After Effects, if you have a ready workspace.
  • Find your Light Object Layer.

6. Emulating the Flicker:

By adjusting light intensity (opacity), craft the illusion of a flicker.

  • Vary the opacity of the light object layer across a timeline to craft the flicker. Introducing organic, non-uniform opacity changes can offer a more natural appearance.
  • To soften the opacity transitions, employ the Easy Ease function. It's optional but can add a layer of polish to your animation.

By using these steps, Joe showcases how combining gradient adjustments with opacity modifications in After Effects can yield a realistic candle flicker. This approach provides a straightforward yet compelling method to embed genuine-looking lighting nuances in your digital projects.


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