After Effects Tutorial

Creating Clouds By Using Turbulant Displace in After Effects

Simon Turner
|4 min read
Written by Simon Turner



Greetings, digital artists and cloud enthusiasts! If you’ve ever gazed up at the sky and wished you could infuse your animations with that ethereal, cloud-like quality, today's your lucky day. We're delving deep into Simon Turner's tutorial on harnessing the power of the Turbulent Displace tool in Adobe After Effects. So put on your creative hats and let's lift your animation skills up to cloud nine!


  • Adobe After Effects: This is your canvas, make sure it's installed and ready to go.
  • Basic Skills: A fundamental understanding of After Effects will go a long way.

Step 1: Your Canvas Awaits

Begin with your desired background and object. For the sake of this tutorial, Simon used a serene blue backdrop with a cloud shape crafted using the Pin Tool in After Effects. Feel free to get creative!

Step 2: Meet Turbulent Displace

How It Works Under the Hood

Before we apply it, let’s understand what Turbulent Displace is doing technically. This tool manipulates the pixel values of your object based on Perlin noise, a gradient noise function. This noise function generates visual patterns that are used to distort your object, making the transformation look organic and complex, yet smooth.

Applying the Effect

  1. Find the Right Panel: Head over to the 'Effects and Presets' panel and type "turbulent displace."
  2. Activation: Drag the effect onto your object or the corresponding layer in your timeline.

Insider Info: This tool is quite the chameleon. Simon has used it to simulate string physics for lights and to make clouds appear less static and more lifelike.

Step 3: Control Parameters

The Holy Trinity: Amount, Size, and Complexity

  1. Amount: This is the intensity knob for your distortion. Higher values equal more distortion.
  2. Size: This parameter controls the wavelength of the distortion. Larger sizes equate to broader, more sweeping distortions, while smaller sizes will produce more intricate, wavy patterns.
  3. Complexity: Think of this as the 'detail level.' A higher value will produce more complex patterns, making your object appear jittery or noisy. Simon recommends a lower value for a smoother, more cloud-like texture.

Expert Note: These parameters can be manipulated directly in the timeline, offering more granular control for those who prefer it.

Keyframing 101

  1. Initial Keyframe: At 3.5 seconds into your timeline, set a keyframe for the cloud's position.
  2. Directional Control: Dragging your object to the right will lower it, while dragging it to the left will raise it.
  3. Size and Complexity: Fine-tune these to your artistic vision.

Extra Tip: Set separate keyframes to make your cloud dance up and down through your scene.

Step 4: Extra Spices

What’s Evolution?

Evolution controls the phase of the noise pattern, essentially rotating the Perlin noise used for the distortion. By keyframing the evolution, you can make the cloud pattern continuously change over time, giving it a more dynamic, evolving appearance.

  1. Evolution Experimentation: Feel free to set keyframes to control how quickly or slowly your object evolves.

Finishing Touches

  1. Easy Ease: Applying 'easy ease' to your keyframes smooths out the transitions, making movements appear more natural.


That’s a wrap! You've not only applied a cloud-like distortion effect but also understood the mechanics of how Turbulent Displace works in After Effects. This versatile tool is like a Swiss army knife for animators, allowing you to bring life-like qualities to objects that might otherwise appear static or dull. From simulating the gentle ebb and flow of water to the erratic movement of jellyfish, the creative possibilities are as vast as the sky itself. So go ahead, float up and bring a touch of the heavens to your next project.


after effects
After Effects Clouds
Effects Presets
Turbulent Displace
Warp Tool
AE Effects

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