after effects Tutorial

Mastering the Turbulent Displace Tool in After Effects

Destiney Chitrodom
|3 min read



Are you looking to add some realistic steam to your animations? Or perhaps you're interested in creating other natural phenomena like fire, clouds, or waves? Either way, the Turbulent Displace tool in Adobe After Effects is your best friend. In this guide, we'll dive into how to use this tool effectively, based on Destiney Chitrodom's video tutorial where she uses it to create steam rising from a mug of tea.


Before you proceed, make sure you have:

  • Adobe After Effects installed on your computer.
  • Basic knowledge of how to navigate the After Effects interface.

What is the Turbulent Displace Tool?

The Turbulent Displace tool in After Effects allows you to scramble or warp your objects smoothly. It's a versatile tool commonly used for creating realistic fire, clouds, waves, and in our case, steam. It works by distorting the shape and form of your object based on different parameters, such as amount and offset.

Step 1: Set Up Your Animation

  1. Position: Start by setting up the position of your object, making it move in a squiggly manner, much like how steam rises.
  2. Scale: As your object (in this example, steam) rises, it should become smaller in scale. Adjust the scale to diminish as it ascends.
  3. Opacity: Start at 100% opacity and gradually reduce it to zero as the animation progresses, mimicking how steam dissipates.

Step 2: Apply the Turbulent Displace Tool

  1. Navigate to Effects Panel: Go to your Effects panel and type in "Turbulent Displace."
  2. Drag and Drop: Simply drag the effect into your animation to apply it.

Tweak the Settings

  1. Amount and Offset Turbulence: These are the primary controls you'll be working with. The 'Amount' parameter controls the level of distortion, while the 'Offset' adjusts the shape used for this distortion.
  2. Enable Keyframes for Amount: Click the stopwatch icon next to the 'Amount' parameter. Start with an amount of zero and increase it as your animation progresses. This will create more distortion over time.
  3. Adjust Offset Turbulence: Similar to what you did with the amount, enable keyframes for the Offset Turbulence parameter. Tweak it as the animation plays to add additional complexity to the shape of your steam.

Pro Tip: For both Amount and Offset Turbulence, you don't have to stick to a single value. Feel free to toggle around every second or so to create a more dynamic and realistic effect.

Step 3: Fine-Tuning Your Animation

  1. Review and Revise: Play your animation to see how the steam is behaving. Is it too fast? Too slow? Now's the time to fine-tune.
  2. More or Less: Depending on your preference and the object you're animating, you can increase the amount and offset or bring them closer together to achieve the desired effect.


And that's a wrap! You've successfully utilized the Turbulent Displace tool in After Effects to create a realistic steam effect. But don't stop there! This tool offers a multitude of possibilities, from creating swirling clouds to flickering flames. So go ahead, experiment, and bring your animations to life with a touch of realism.


motion design
after effects

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