after effects Tutorial

A Guide to Squash and Stretch Animation in After Effects

Andrew Burk-O'Kane
|4 min read
Written by Andrew Burk-O'Kane


In this After Effects tutorial, Andrew Burke-O'Kane covers how to use the Pan Behind tool to move the anchor point, how to use the scale property to make an easy squash and stretch animation, as well as using the time remapping tool.


If you're looking to add depth and personality to your animations, you've come to the right place. Today, we're going to deep-dive into the world of Adobe After Effects, focusing on three essential tools for animators: the Pan Behind tool, the scale property, and time remapping. By the end of this guide, you'll have the know-how to create dynamic, compelling animations that ooze character.


Before we set off on this creative journey, make sure you're prepared:

  • Adobe After Effects: Installed, updated, and ready to go.
  • Basic Skills: A rudimentary understanding of the After Effects interface. If you're a newbie, consider checking out our beginner's guide first.

What is the Pan Behind Tool?

Before we dig into the steps, let's clarify what the Pan Behind tool is and why it's essential for animation. The Pan Behind tool in After Effects allows you to move an object's anchor point. An anchor point serves as the central pivot around which transformations like rotation, scaling, and position occur. It's the "ground zero" for your animations, dictating how and where your object moves. Mastering the Pan Behind tool is crucial for creating natural, believable animations.

Step 1: Setting the Stage

Creating the Composition and Background

  1. Initiate a New Composition: Open After Effects and start a new composition.
  2. The Background Layer: Add a shape layer to serve as your background. Once you've got that, lock it. You don't want to accidentally animate your background.

Introduce Your Shape

  1. Draw Your Shape: For this tutorial, a square will be our guinea pig. However, you're free to use any shape. I chose a blue square, but go wild with your color choice.

Step 2: Alignment and Anchor Points

The Alignment Magic

  1. Shape Alignment: Use the Align tool to place your square front and center in the composition.

Working with the Pan Behind Tool

  1. Locate the Pan Behind Tool: Check out the toolbar, usually situated in the upper right corner.
  2. Anchor Point Adjustment: With the Pan Behind tool, move the anchor point to the bottom middle of your square. This is where your object will pivot during animations.

Step 3: Mapping the Animation

The Conceptual Phase

  1. Think Motion: Visualize the movement of your square. Is it bouncing joyfully or sinking like a stone?
  2. The Weight and Exaggeration: Consider the buildup, the movement, and the resting phase of your animation. Each of these elements is crucial for realistic motion.

Keyframe It

  1. Position and Scale: Place keyframes at significant points in your animation. This captures the necessary scale and position changes.

The Material World

  1. Physics Matters: The material your shape is made of will impact its movement. I chose a gelatinous material for my square, leading to a more fluid, exaggerated animation.

Step 4: The Fine-Tuning

  1. The Review: Play your animation back. Does it look and feel natural? If not, revisit your keyframes and make adjustments.

Step 5: The Time-Saving Trick: Time Remapping

  1. Pre-Composition: Create a new composition that includes your initial animation.
  2. Time Remap: This feature allows you to change the speed of your animation without messing with individual keyframes.

The Takeaway

Creating compelling animations in After Effects is more than just moving shapes around. It's about understanding the principles of motion, the material properties of your objects, and using tools like the Pan Behind tool effectively. Now that you've got the skills and the know-how, it's time to let your creativity run wild. Who knew that animating a simple square could be so enlightening?


motion design
after effects

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