How to Make Animated Shape Transitions in After Effects

After Effects November 18, 2018 5 min read

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to make your own custom shape transitions in After Effects using shape layers and repeaters. There are three types of transitions to create below: two styles of rectangular transition, and a circular transition. All of these techniques use just a few keyframes, so they’re easy to set up and adjust. Let’s dive in!

Create 3 Custom Shape Transitions

1. Rectangular Animated Transition

This is a classy transition made up of a single shape layer which can be duplicated and offset to create a series of animated rectangles wiping across the screen from the middle. It would fit right at home in any travel video.

Step 1: Create a New Shape Layer

  1. Begin by making a new composition at 1920 x 1080 with 29.97fps
  2. Go to Layer > New > Shape Layer
  3. Add a Rectangle and a Fill to the shape layer. 
  4. Change the Fill to your desired color. 

Step 2: Create the Rectangle Animation Using Keyframes

  1. In the rectangle path, set a keyframe for Size at frame 0 for 0, 220. 
  2. At frame 30, set another keyframe for the rectangle path Size with a value of 1920, 220.
  3. Add a Repeater to the shape layer and set the Copies to 3. 
  4. Twirl down the transform properties for the repeater and set the Position to 0, 220. 
  5. In the repeater’s Transform properties set a keyframe at frame 30 for 100%, 100%. 
  6. Set another keyframe at frame 0 for 0%, 100%. 

Step 3: Refine the Animation

  1. With the shape layer highlighted, hit U on the keyboard to reveal keyframed properties
  2. Highlight all 4 keyframes and right-click on one of them. Then go to Keyframe Assistant > Easy Ease
  3. With the keyframes still highlighted, right-click on again on a keyframe and go to Keyframe Velocity
  4. Set the incoming and outgoing Influence to 60%. This will make the ease more dramatic. 

Step 4: Separate the Layers

  1. Add another Repeater to the shape layer and set the copies to 2. 
  2. Under the Transform properties of the new repeater set the Rotation to 180 degrees
  3. Duplicate the Shape Layer and Offset the duplicated one by 8 frames. 
  4. Change the Fill of the duplicated Shape Layer to another color so you can see the difference between the two layers. 
  5. Duplicate one of the shape layers again and Offset the new one so that it starts at frame 27. 
  6. Change the Blending Mode of the new Shape Layer to Silhouette Alpha

This blending mode cuts out everything below it based on its alpha channel. Now you can use this composition in other compositions as a transitional element!

2. Circular Animated Transition

This next transition is a similar movement but based around an ellipse shape. It’s a stylish addition to any presentation and great for any softer content that deserves less of a jagged edge,

Step 1: Create an Ellipse

  1. In a new composition, create a new Shape Layer by going to Layer > New > Shape Layer.
  2. Add an Ellipse and a Fill to the shape layer. 
  3. Change the fill to your desired color. 

Step 2: Animate the Ellipse Using Keyframes

  1. Set a keyframe for the Ellipse’s size at frame 0 with a value of 0, 0. 
  2. Set another keyframe for the Ellipse’s size at frame 24 with a value of 500, 500. 
  3. Apply an Easy Ease to these keyframes, and set their incoming and outgoing Influences to 60%. 

Step 3: Add More Ellipses

  1. Add a Group to the Shape Layer and make sure it’s above the fill. 
  2. Duplicate the ellipse and drag the duplicate into the group. 
  3. Offset the keyframes of the ellipse in the group so that the first keyframe is at frame 3, and change the ellipse’s Position to -350, 0. 
  4. Add a Repeater to the layer and drag it into the group. 
  5. In the Repeater settings, change the copies to 6. 
  6. In the Repeater’s Transform properties set Position to 0, 0 and Rotation to 60 degrees to create a radial array.

Step 4: Duplicate the Radial Array

  1. Duplicate the group. 
  2. In the new group, change the ellipse’s Position to -700, 0. 
  3. Offset the ellipse’s size keyframes so that the first one starts at frame 6. 
  4. In the new group’s Repeater, change Copies to 12 and the Rotation to 30 degrees. 
  5. Duplicate the group one more time. 
  6. In this new group, change the ellipse’s Position to -1050, 0. 
  7. Offset its Size keyframes, so the first one starts at frame 9. 
  8. In the new group’s Repeater settings change the Copies to 24 and the Rotation to 15. 
  9. Now twirl your layer up to clean up the timeline. 
  10. Duplicate the Shape Layer and offset the new Shape Layer so that it starts at frame 5. 

Step 5: Separate the Layers

  1. Change the Fill for the layer so you can see a difference between the two layers. 
  2. Duplicate the layer again, change the fill, and offset the new version so that it starts at frame 21. 
  3. Set its blending mode to Silhouette Alpha. Now this one is ready to go!

3. Rectangular Wipe Transition

This transition is similar to the first rectangular transition but made of a couple of very simple angular moves to wipe across the screen and get from one image to the next in a fun, stylish way.

Step 1: Design the Shape

  1. Create a new 1920×1080 composition. 
  2. In a new composition, create a new Shape Layer.
  3. Add a Rectangle, Fill, and Group to the shape layer. 
  4. Set the Fill to your desired color.
  5. Drag both the Fill and rectangle into the Group. 
  6. Change the rectangle’s size to 1920, 540.

Step 2: Animate the Shape

  1. In the Transform properties of the group set the anchor point to -960, 270. 
  2. At frame 0, set a keyframe for the group’s Rotation with a value of -90 degrees. 
  3. At frame 15, change that Rotation value to 0 degrees to set another keyframe. 
  4. Right-click and apply an Easy Ease to this keyframe with an incoming Influence of 100%. 
  5. At frame 23, set a keyframe for the Group’s position with a value of 0, 0. 
  6. Apply an Easy Ease to this keyframe with an outgoing Influence of 80%. 
  7. At frame 38, set another keyframe for the Group’s position with a value of -1930, 0. Leave this keyframe linear. 

Step 3: Duplicate the Shape

  1. Add a Repeater to the Shape Layer and make sure it’s not inside the group. 
  2. In the Repeater settings, set the copies to 2. 
  3. In the Repeater’s Transform properties set the position to 1920, 0 and the Rotation to 180 degrees. 
  4. Duplicate the Shape Layer and offset the duplicate so that it begins at frame 4. 
  5. Change the Fill color to differentiate it from the other shape layer. 
  6. With the new Shape Layer selected, hit U on the keyboard to reveal its keyframed properties
  7. Offset the position keyframes on it so that they begin at frame 19 (should be where the rotation keyframes end).

Pro Tips

Now, you just need to figure out how to use the transitions. If you drag all three transitions into a new composition, you’ll notice that the handles are enormous and the actual animations are much shorter.

Jump back into one of the transitions and right-click in the negative space, select Composition Settings and change the Duration to something much shorter. Head back into the new composition and you’ll see the handle is more usable. Apply this to the other three transitions.

All that’s left to do is throw in some images or footage to the main composition, underneath the transition layers. Switch off the transitions you don’t need and isolate the transition you want to use (or combine all of them together) and bingo — you have a smooth, stylish transition from one clip to the next.


In just a short space of time, you can have three bespoke shape transitions in After Effects. Perfect for slideshows, presentations, or travel videos, have fun exploring these transitions by refining the animations and the colors to make them fit whatever project you’re working on. Find more cool shape transition ideas in the Motion Array library!