after effects Tutorial

How to Make Characters Blink in After Effects

Jordan Lambrecht
|3 min read
Written by Jordan Lambrecht


Today, I'm going to show you how to breathe life into your characters by creating a simple yet effective blink animation. We're bypassing joysticks and sliders for this one, and I'll guide you every step of the way.

Starting Point:

Most folks don't realize it, but we blink roughly once every three seconds. Such details matter in animation! Let's begin our journey at this three-second mark.

Laying Down the Basics:

Before we dive into animating, let's prep our canvas. You'll need to design six eye states: right and left eyes in their open, squinting, and closed positions. Now, to avoid any confusion down the line, I love color-coding my layers. Let’s paint ours a vibrant shade of orange.

Once you've got these layers ready, it's time for some animation basics. Hit option T on your keyboard for each layer. This little shortcut will introduce a transparency key frame. Trust me; it's going to be super useful in a bit.

Keeping Our Focus:

Animation can sometimes feel like juggling. With so many layers and elements, things can quickly get overwhelming. To make our lives easier, let's 'shy' away all non-essential elements and bring the spotlight solely onto our eyes. We'll start with the open eyes at full visibility (that's 100% opacity, in animation terms) and dial everything else down to zero.

Animating the Blink:

Here's where the magic happens. Slide two key frames forward and fade out those open eyes. Now, bring forward our half-open, or squinting eyes. These transitions are the foundation of our blink.

Advance two frames again. This time, let those squinting eyes fade to black and introduce the world to our closed eyes. It's a short journey, but in these brief moments, you've created the essence of a blink.

The Blink's Return Journey:

We've closed the eyes, now let's open them back up. Animation is often about mirroring motions. To achieve this, clone your layers, select them, and opt for the 'time-reverse key frames' from the key frame assistant. It's like hitting rewind on your animation. Play it back, and voilà, you've got a blink!

Make it Repeat:

Here's a fun fact: we want our character to blink again and again. This repetitive action can be achieved using the 'loop out' expression. But be warned: without tweaks, our character might end up looking like they've had too much caffeine!

To get the pacing right, set 'start key frames' for all opacities at the beginning of the timeline. This step ensures our blink waits patiently for three seconds before gracing the screen again.

Finishing Touches:

Before we wrap up, let's sprinkle in some finesse. Smooth out transitions by slightly easing the frames. And for a touch of cinema verité, switch on the motion blur. It's these tiny details that make your animation leap off the screen.

And that's how we animate a lifelike blink without the crutches of joysticks and sliders. Remember, in the world of animation, it's the tiny details that make a world of difference. Happy animating!


after effects
animating eyes
Character Design
character rigging
eye rig
face rig
Joysticks N Sliders
blinking character

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