The face morph effect was widely acclaimed by Michael Jackson’s video for Black or White and holds up today even more with TikTok challenges and celebrity face games. Did you know it’s possible to recreate that effect using Adobe After Effects? It takes pretty minimal set-up too.
Part 1: How to Create Face Morph Effect in After Effects
Begin your own After Effects face morph process by using a white or single-color background, make sure your subjects are all of a similar style and are wearing similar clothes, and keep the forehead of your subjects open and clear. You’ll need them to be a similar height and the shot needs to be steady, so stick them in front of a screen with the camera on a tripod and you’re good to get started!
Step 1: Warping the Face – the Mesh Warp Effect
Here’s how to use the Mesh Warp Effect to morph faces in After Effects.
- Import your footage into After Effects.
- Add the shot of the first person onto the timeline.
- Add the shot of the second person above the first one.
- Find the part of the clip you want to create the warp and cut the clips with Ctrl/CMD+Shift+D
- Under Tracker, select Stabilize Motion.
- Place a tracking point on your subject’s face near the center.
- Click Analyze Forward.
- Select Apply once After Effects has completed the tracking.
- Repeat this process to any other footage you want to apply the face morph effect to.
- Once done, drag the top clip to the right so the two clips overlap.
- Adjust the Opacity of the top clip to 50% and lock the top clip.
- Go to Effects > Distort and drag the Mesh Warp effect onto the bottom clip.
- Adjust the Rows to 24, Columns to 28, and Quality to 10.
- Move the Playhead to where the two clips begin to overlap and create a keyframe using the Distortion Mesh.
- Move the playhead to where the clips overlap at the end and warp the points in the rows and columns. Focus on the key parts of the image.
- Apply the Mesh Warp effect to the endpoint of the top clip, where the clips overlap.
- Create a keyframe, move to the start point of the overlap, and adjust the mesh columns and rows. Make sure to match the warping effect of the top clip to the bottom clip process you did.
- Finally, Pre-compose the bottom and top clips separately, and select Move all attributes into the new composition.
Step 2: Revealing the Face
- Duplicate the top clip several times.
- Use the Pen tool to mask each duplicate for each different area of the face such as mouth, separate eyes, nose, beard, hair, and clothing.
- Feather each mask.
- Animate the opacity of each mask to reveal over time within your frames. You’ll need to experiment with timings to find the best way of introducing the different elements.
You can apply this same process to photos. Create a series of masks around key elements in the first image, then copy and paste the masks to later in the timeline over the second image. Adjust the second set of masks to better match the second image, then apply the Flex Mask effect.
Part 2: Additional Method with the Liquify Effect in After Effects
- Lay both clips you want to combine on the timeline.
- Line them up as best as possible, overlapping both clips at the point you would like the transition to occur. Adjust the Scale and Position properties to make it as precise as you can.
- Select the top clip and go to Effects > Distort > Liquify.
- At the endpoint where the clips overlap, create keyframes on every property.
- Then select the bottom clip, move to the beginning of the transition and select Liquify again.
- Create keyframes on all the properties in the View Options.
- Under Liquify > Warp Tool Options, adjust the Brush Size.
- Then select the Brush Tool option under Tools, and adjust the image until both faces are lined up.
- Do this at the end keyframes, too.
- In the top layer, at the end of the transition, create a keyframe in Opacity and adjust it to 100.
- At the beginning of the transition adjust Opacity to 0.
- To adjust the finer detail, go through the transition frame by frame and fix the double lines and double exposure of the faces with the brush tool.
If you want to align your audio as well, go to Adobe Audition and select your audio files. Right-click the source file and select Automatic Speech Alignment. Make sure the Reference Clip is the original audio file you want to use. Click OK to make a new file to import into After Effects and use with your final Face Morph footage.
The After Effects face morph is a really fun, impressive visual effect that is not too complex to achieve. All it takes is a bit of planning and some patience in post-production. Use the Mesh Warp effect or the Liquify effect to create similar results in After Effects and amaze your audiences.