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How To Animate A Logo In 7 Simple Steps

Have you ever wanted your logo to be animated?  Did you ever want to add more pizzazz to your sites and videos?  Did you ever open a program like Adobe After Effects and wonder, “What can I do with this?’  We’ve got a seven-step article that lets you answer those questions properly. 

Let’s face it, everything online is moving now; the world is visual, and it’s not sitting still.  Let us show you the basics of After Effects animation.  In a quick, simple process you’ll learn to animate, use shape layers and output your animated logo file.

Even if you’re not a technical whiz, we’ll get you comfortable with everything from adjusting timing to animation file size.  Where you take it from there is entirely up to you.   It’s a good bet you’ll like your new skills, and possibly even expand your horizons.  

So much sophisticated software is available to the masses these days, that people expect a higher level of production on Internet sites.  Whether you’re a professional or an amateur, you need a little more going on if you want to stand out.  One of the ways to give your presentations a nice polish is to have an animated logo.  These look good on any site.  They can be placed over any video or background image as well.  

Making an animated logo isn’t the painful process it used to be.  If you’re reading this, chances are you already have the technical skills to get it done.  Let’s go through seven steps with Adobe After Effects to animate a simple two-word logo.   If you have another program that you think can accomplish the same task, the concepts will be the same.  Another software may use different labels and names, however.  

The Procedure

Step One – Get Your Logo File Ready

Step Two – Bring Your Logo File Into After Effects

Step Three – Create A Composition

Step Four – Use Keyframes To Animate Your Logo

Step Five – Use Shape Layers To Animate Your Logo

Step Six – Fine Tune Your Animation

Step Seven – Export Your Logo Animation

Step One – Get Your Logo File Ready

Let’s begin by making sure your logo file is ready to be animated.  You have to use Adobe Illustrator for this one.  Open your file.  There are two types of graphic image files, basically.  One is called raster, and the other type is vector.  To be able to have the cleanest text when you work (i.e. no jagged edges or blurring) you need your file to be a vector image. 

Your vector image needs to be in layers.  That means individual elements of the image must be separated on their own layered level.  Think of it as laying transparencies perfectly positioned on top of one another on an overhead projector.  If your image isn’t already layered, you can create new layers by clicking the “Add New Layer” button at the bottom of the Layer’s panel.  You may then cut and paste each element onto its own layer.  

Once you’re done, you need to convert your file to the proper color type, if it’s not in that mode already.  The two types of color spaces are CMYK and RGB.  The first one is meant for print and the second is for images that will appear onscreen. 

Change the color type by going to the Edit menu and choosing Edit > Edit Colors > Convert to RGB.   Export your image as an Adobe Illustrator file (.ai).  Close Illustrator and open Adobe After Effects.  

Step Two – Bring Your Logo File Into After Effects

Open After Effects and notice the major work areas.  To the left, you have the Project Panel that holds your media.  The Tool Panel is above that.  It has your manipulation and action tools.  To the left of the Project Panel, and below the Tool Panel, is the Composition Window.  That’s where you see your project fully formed in what’s called a Composition (Comp).  Below the Composition Window is the Timeline.  To the right are various control and function panels for adjusting text, playback, and other functions.  

Import your logo file by dragging it into the Project panel or by clicking File>Import>File. Tell After Effects to import the media as Footage and Merged Layers. 

Step Three – Create A Composition

Now we get to the beginning of creating your animation.  Drag your logo file into the Composition Window, and a new composition is immediately created.  Notice in the project panel how the new composition has the same name as the file that created it.  In the Timeline panel highlight the logo file.  Right click on it and choose  Create>Convert To Layered Comp.  This changes the file to a Composition with its layers separated.  Double click on the file in the timeline.  The converted comp will open.  Notice in the timeline how the elements of the new composition are separate.  

Step Four – Use Key Frames To Animate Your Logo

We will now animate the logo text using keyframes.  A keyframe (it can be spelled either way) is a placeholder that represents the position of an element at a particular place.  For instance, if I make a keyframe, then drag our logo upward, the keyframe is what remembers that position at that time on our timeline.  If I move forward or backward on our timeline and make another keyframe, I can move the logo text again, and this new keyframe will remember the position there.  After doing those actions, I can move along the timeline now. 

As I get close to one keyframe, the text moves in the direction the keyframe says it should be.  As I move towards the other keyframe, the text moves in the direction of that placement. 

After Effects (like all other animation programs) correctly calculates the positions in between the two keyframes.  I don’t have to keyframe any of those placements (unless I want them to be different from what I see).  Quite simply that’s how you get an animation.  

Go to the timeline and click the right-facing arrow that is to the left of the number of the text element.  This expands the element.  You will see the word “Transform”. 

Click the expansion arrow to the left of it.  This will reveal the transform functions:  Anchor Point, Position, Rotation, and Opacity. 

Let’s do a quick animation to move the text from bottom to top.  Since we want to end the animation with the text where it currently rests, let’s move the play head of the timeline to the one-second mark. 

Click the stopwatch icon to the left of Position. 

A diamond shaped keyframe will appear in the timeline.  Move the play head back to the beginning.  Place your cursor over the second number to the left of the “Position” function (this is for vertical movement, the number to its left is for horizontal). 

Click and hold, then drag your mouse to the left until the logo moves down and disappears from view. 

Release the mouse.  Notice your action created a keyframe at the beginning position.  You will also notice a dotted line from the center of the frame to the bottom.  That indicates you have animated movement.  Drag your play head back and forth in the timeline. 

Notice the animation you created!  You can manipulate any of the timeline functions this way.  When you mix and match them, the possibilities become endless.  

Step Five – Use Shape Layers To Animate Your Logo

Let’s add a little bit more than simple keyframe animation.  Shape layers use vector information to create paths and other functionality that adds to animation.  Right-click on your text layer and choose “Create” to generate a shape layer.  Notice the new layer with a blue star to the left of its name. 

Expand the layer and you will see the word “Contents” now above the word “Transform”.  The “Add” button to the right of “Contents” gives you more options.  Simply Highlight the individual Shape elements and add whatever function you choose. 

Each of those functions can be animated individually, providing more animation options for your logo.  

Step Six – Fine Tune Your Animation Timing

Use the Graph Editor to fine-tune your animation.  Subtlety makes art and craft more sophisticated.  If your logo rises slowly, then snaps into place, or moves in quickly before coming to a slow stop, that sends a different message than merely gliding in proportionately.  The graph editor is one way to adjust these discrete timings.  

To the immediate left of the timeline area proper and nearer the top, there is a square icon with a wavy line diagonally through it.  This brings up the graph editor.  Click it and you can make the adjustments we described.  You’ll see a line stretching from one keyframe to the next.  To the extent that you bend and manipulate this line, you can adjust time more smoothly. 

You may have to add more keyframes, but you’ll have more control using the graph editor when you do.  Right-click on the keyframes to change their nature.  You can shift their interpolation (the way they let actions affect them in time).  If you turn them to bezier points, they will have handles that let you slow your approach to them or speed away.   

Step Seven – Export Your Logo Animation

Once you’re done manipulating your animation and have everything where you want it, you can output your creation to an animated GIF or video file. 

To create an animated GIF choose File>Export>Add to Adobe Media Encoder queue.  Under “Format” choose “Animated GIF”. 

This brings up a dialogue and queue where you can choose file sizes, frame rates, and other elements that determine the file size of your final output. 

To export as a video file hold “Control” and the ‘m’ key simultaneously.  This moves the composition to After Effects’ Render Queue. 

There you can choose the type of video file you want to output, as well as your file destination.  

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