after effects Tutorial

After Effects: the Basics of the Puppet Tool

Sam Bendix
|3 min read
Written by Sam Bendix


Hey everyone! In today's tutorial, we're diving into the Puppet Tool in Adobe After Effects. Whether you're looking to add some sway to a palm tree or make a character dance, the Puppet Tool offers a flexible and intuitive way to add life to your still images. Let's get into it!

Select Your Layer

Before you unleash the power of the Puppet Tool, you'll need to select the layer you want to animate. For this tutorial, Sam chose a cattail, a marsh plant with a unique shape, as his subject. But feel free to choose any object or layer you want.

Pin It to Win It

Once you've chosen your layer, go to the toolbar and click on the "Puppet Pin Tool," represented by a pushpin icon. Hover over your object and you'll notice certain areas highlighted in yellow. These are your pinning points. You can place pins in these areas to control the movement of your object.

The Strategy with Pins

Here's the real scoop: Where you place your pins determines how your object will move or not move. Sam places three pins on the cattail where he wants to induce motion. He puts additional pins in areas where he wants the cattail to remain stationary. In essence, pins act like anchor points that control the object's degrees of freedom.

Mesh Tab: The Control Center

As soon as you start pinning, you'll notice a new tab appearing below your timeline called 'Mesh.' Think of it as mission control for your puppet pins. This is where you'll find all the pins you've placed, and it's from here that you can make more precise alterations.

The Manual Way: Move Prompt

Alternatively, if you're not into navigating menus, you can directly manipulate your object by hovering over one of the pins on your actual canvas. Your cursor will change into a 'move' icon. Simply grab a pin and move it. It's that straightforward.

A Word of Caution

Be mindful when moving pins around, as it can distort your object's proportions. Unless that's an effect you're going for, exercise caution.


And there you have itโ€”the Puppet Tool in a nutshell. It's a versatile tool that allows you to animate objects in a natural and dynamic way. Whether you're new to After Effects or just looking to expand your toolkit, the Puppet Tool offers a unique way to bring your projects to life. ๐ŸŽฅ๐ŸŒŸ


motion design
after effects

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