Distort effects

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After Effects includes a vast array of Distort effects, both native and third-party plug-in, for distorting (morphing) an image. The Warp effects include the ability to correct or stabilize images with Rolling Shutter distortion.

Bezier Warp effect

The Bezier Warp effect shapes an image using a closed Bezier curve along the boundary of a layer. The curve consists of four segments. Each segment has three points (a vertex and two tangents).

Andrew Kramer provides a video tutorial on his Video Copilot website that demonstrates the use of the Bezier Warp effect.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.

Bezier Warp effect (before and after)
Original (upper-left) and with variations of Bezier Warp applied (lower-left and right)

The positions of the vertices and tangents determine the size and shape of a curved segment. Dragging these points reshapes the curves that form the edge, thus distorting the image. For example, you can use Bezier Warp to reshape one image to fit another, as in wrapping a label around a jar. Bezier Warp is also useful for correcting lens aberrations, such as the fisheye effect (barrel distortion) that can occur with a wide-angle lens; using Bezier Warp, you can bend the image back to achieve an undistorted look. By animating the effect and choosing a high quality setting, you can create fluid visual effects, such as a jiggling gelatin dessert or a fluttering flag.

Bulge effect

The Bulge effect distorts an image around a specified point, making the image appear to bulge toward or away from the viewer, depending on the options you select.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.

Bulge effect (before and after)
Original (upper-left), and with variations of Bulge applied (lower-left and right)

Horizontal Radius and Vertical Radius

The width and height of the distorted area, in pixels. You can also set the radius values by dragging the selection handles in the layer.

Bulge Height

The apparent depth of the bulge. Positive values push the bulge toward the viewer. Negative values pull the bulge away from the viewer.

Taper Radius

The shallowness of the sides of the bulge. A taper radius of 0 produces a steep, pronounced bulge.


The amount of edge smoothing (blending of colors) at the boundaries of the bulge. Anti-aliasing is applied only when the layer quality is set to Best.

Pin All Edges

Prevents the edges of the layer from bulging.

Corner Pin effect

The Corner Pin effect distorts an image by repositioning each of its four corners. Use it to stretch, shrink, skew, or twist an image or to simulate perspective or movement that pivots from the edge of a layer, such as a door opening. You can also use it to attach a layer to a moving rectangular region tracked by the motion tracker. You can move the corner pins in the Composition panel, the Timeline panel, or the Effect Controls panel.

This effect works with 8-bpc, 16-bpc, and 32-bpc color.

Corner Pin effect (before and after)
Original image (upper-left), corner moved (lower-left), and final image (lower-right)

The AE Enhancers forum describes and links to an animation preset from Donat van Bellinghen for scaling a set of Corner Pin effect points.

The CC Power Pin effect—one of the Cycore FX plug-ins included with After Effects—provides some additional features. For information, see the Cycore website.

Displacement Map effect

The Displacement Map effect distorts a layer by displacing pixels horizontally and vertically based on the color values of pixels in the control layer specified by the Displacement Map Layer property. The type of distortion created by the Displacement Map effect can vary greatly, depending on the control layer and options you select.

This effect works with 8-bpc, 16-bpc, and 32-bpc color.

Displacement Map effect (before and after)
Original (upper-left), displacement map (lower-left), and displaced image (lower-right)

The displacement is determined from the color values of the displacement map. The color values range from 0 to 255. Each value is converted into a scale ranging from -1 to 1. The displacement amount is calculated by multiplying the converted value by the maximum displacement amount you specify. A color value of 0 produces maximum negative displacement (–1 * maximum displacement). A color value of 255 produces maximum positive displacement. A color value of 128 produces no displacement.

The effect uses the control layer specified by Displacement Map Layer, without considering any effects or masks. If you want to use the control layer with its effects, precompose it. If the control layer isn’t the same size as the layer to which the effect is applied, it is centered, stretched, or tiled depending on the setting for Displacement Map Behavior.

Select Expand Output to allow the results of the effect to extend beyond the original boundaries of the layer to which it’s applied. Select Wrap Pixels Around to copy pixels displaced outside the original layer boundaries to the opposite side of the layer; that is, pixels pushed off the right side appear on the left side, and so on.

Online resources for the Displacement Map effect

Rick Gerard provides additional explanation and an example project for the Displacement Map effect on his website.

Trish and Chris Meyer explain how to use blending modes, layer styles, and the Displacement Map effect to make text blend in to appear to be part of a surface in the PDF article “Writing on the Wall” on the Artbeats website.

Chris Zwar provides an example project on his website that uses the Displacement Map effect, the Turbulent Displace effect, the Texturize effect, and a combination of Blur and Color Correction effects to create a transition in which an image appears as a watercolor image washed onto a rough piece of paper.

Robert Powers provides a video tutorial on the Slippery Rock NYC website that shows how to create and use a depth matte and use it as a control layer for the Displacement Map effect. The result is then used by the 3D Glasses effect to create a stereoscopic image.

Liquify effect

The Liquify effect lets you push, pull, rotate, enlarge, and shrink areas in a layer. Several Liquify tools distort the brush area when you hold down the mouse button or drag. The distortion is concentrated at the center of the brush area, and the effect intensifies as you hold down the mouse button or repeatedly drag over an area.

You can limit the area of a layer you distort by using Freeze Area Mask. Use the Reconstruction mode to lessen or undo distortions you’ve created.

The Liquify effect can extend beyond the boundaries of the target layer. This extension is useful when the target layer is smaller than the composition.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.

Liquify effect (before and after)
Original (upper-left), and with variations of Liquify applied (lower-left and right)

Andrew Kramer provides a video tutorial on his Video Copilot website that demonstrates the use of the Liquify effect to distort (morph) a human face into the face of a demon.

Mask properties

Freeze Area Mask

Determines the area of the image in which mask opacity and feather settings affect the distortion. Areas outside the mask are distorted; areas within the mask are distorted according to Mask Opacity and Mask Feather settings.

Mask Opacity

Determines how the distortion affects the area within the mask. If Mask Opacity is set to 100%, the distortion doesn’t affect the area within the mask; if it’s set to 50%, the area within the mask is affected. If you set Mask Opacity to 100%, make sure to feather the mask to prevent jagged edges on the mask.

Mask Feather

The width of the feather used to blend pixels between the masked area and the nonmasked area.



Pushes pixels forward as you drag.


Smoothly scrambles pixels. This setting is useful for creating fire, clouds, waves, and similar effects.

Twirl Clockwise

Rotates pixels clockwise as you hold down the mouse button or drag.

Twirl Counterclockwise

Rotates pixels counterclockwise as you hold down the mouse button or drag.


Moves pixels toward the center of the brush area as you hold down the mouse button or drag.


Moves pixels away from the center of the brush area as you hold down the mouse button or drag.

Shift Pixels

Moves pixels perpendicular to the stroke direction.


Copies pixels to the brush area.


Copies the distortions from around a source location to the current mouse location. Set the source location by Alt-clicking (Windows) or Option-clicking (Mac OS) the source point.


Reverses distortions or applies them in different ways.

Distort an image with the Liquify effect

  1. Select the layer, and choose Effect > Distort > Liquify.
  2. In the Layer panel, create a mask to freeze areas of the image, and then set mask properties.
  3. In the Effect Controls panel do the following:
    • Choose the mask you created from the Freeze Area Mask pop-up menu.

    • Specify a brush size and brush pressure. A low brush pressure makes changes occur more slowly, so it’s easier to stop them at exactly the right moment.

    • Specify a turbulent jitter to control how tightly the Turbulence tool scrambles pixels.

    • Select View Mesh under the View Options control.

    • Set a distortion mesh offset if desired.

    • Drag the Distortion Percentage slider to specify the amount of distortion.

  4. Use the tools to distort the preview of the image.
  5. Use the Reconstruction tool to fully or partially reverse the distortions or to change the image in new ways.

Undo distortions with the Liquify effect

Use the Reconstruction tool and its modes to reverse distortions or redo them in new ways.

  1. Select the Reconstruction tool, and then choose a mode from the Reconstruction Mode pop-up menu:


    Changes unfrozen areas back to their predistorted state.


    Reconstructs unfrozen areas to match the displacement at the starting point for the reconstruction. You can use Displace to move all or part of the preview image to a different location.


    Reconstructs unfrozen areas to match the displacement, rotation, and overall scaling that exist at the starting point.


    Reconstructs unfrozen areas to match all local distortions that exist at the starting point, including displacement, rotation, horizontal and vertical scaling, and skew.

  2. Drag the area to restore. The restoration occurs more quickly at the brush center.

Magnify effect

The Magnify effect enlarges all or part of an image. This effect can act like a magnifying glass placed over an area of the image, or you can use it to scale the entire image far beyond 100% while maintaining resolution.

This effect works with 8-bpc color.

Magnify effect
Original (upper-left), and with variations of Magnify applied (lower-left and right)


The shape of the magnified area.


The center point of the magnified area.


Percentage by which to scale the magnified area.


How the Magnification setting affects the size and edge feathering of the magnified area. Setting Link to any value other than None disables the Resize Layer option.


The size and edge feathering of the magnified area don’t depend on the Magnification setting.

Size To Magnification

The radius of the magnified area is equal to the Magnification value (a percentage) times the Size value.

Size & Feather To Magnification

The radius of the magnified area is equal to the Magnification value (a percentage) times the Size value. The thickness of the edge feather is equal to the Magnification value times the Feather value.


The radius of the magnified area, in pixels.


The amount of edge feather, in pixels.


The opacity of the magnified area, as a percentage of the opacity of the original layer.


The type of scaling used to magnify the image:


This method maintains sharpness in the image but produces pixelated edges at higher values.


Uses spline algorithms. If you scale the image beyond 100%, Soft reduces edge pixelation and maintains image quality. Soft works well at large magnification amounts.


Creates scatter or noise in the image as the image enlarges.

Blending Mode

The blending mode used to combine the magnified area with the original layer. The None option displays transparent pixels around the magnified area.

Resize Layer

If Resize Layer is selected, the magnified area can extend beyond the boundaries of the original layer.

Mesh Warp effect

The Mesh Warp effect applies a grid of Bezier patches over a layer, which you can manipulate to distort areas of an image. Each corner of a patch includes a vertex and two to four tangents (points that control the curvature of the line segment that makes up the edge of the patch). The number of tangents depends on whether the vertex is in a corner, on an edge, or inside the grid. By moving the vertices and tangents, you can manipulate the shape of the curved line segment. The finer the grid, the tighter the adjustments you can make to the area of the image inside the patch.

The Mesh Warp effect is commonly used to morph a pair of images to create a transition from one image to another.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.

Mesh Warp effect
Original (upper-left), with distortion mesh (lower-left), and with Mesh Warp applied (lower-right)


To select multiple vertices, Shift-click the vertices.

Rows, Columns

Specify up to 31 patches vertically (Rows) or horizontally (Columns). For broader distortion, use fewer patches. For finer control, use more. Drag the vertices and tangents to change the grid shape. The image follows the grid shape according to the elasticity setting and the boundary created by the adjacent patch.


Specifies how closely the image follows the shape defined by the curve. The higher the quality value, the more closely the image follows the shape. Higher quality settings require more rendering time.

Distortion Mesh

Animate the distortion over time by clicking the stopwatch.


Each patch becomes a boundary for the distortion. For example, when you stretch a patch, the area of the image in the patch stretches, squishing the area of the image in the adjacent patch. The boundary of the adjacent patch protects the image inside it from being squished to zero. In other words, you can’t push an image out of its patch.

Mirror effect

The Mirror effect splits the image along a line and reflects one side onto the other.

Reflection Center

The position of the line about which the reflection occurs.

Reflection Angle

The angle of the line about which the reflection occurs. An angle of 0° reflects the left side onto the right. An angle of 90° reflects the top onto the bottom.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.

Offset effect

The Offset effect pans the image within a layer. Visual information pushed off one side of the image appears on the opposite side. One use of the Offset effect is to create a looping background from a layer. At Best quality, the offset is performed with subpixel precision.

Lloyd Alvarez provides a simple expression on the AE Enhancers forum that you can apply to the Shift Center To property to simulate a poorly timed film projector.

Shift Center To

The new position of the center point of the original image.

Blend With Original

The transparency of the effect. The result of the effect is blended with the original image, with the effect result composited on top. The higher you set this value, the less the effect affects the layer. For example, if you set this value to 100%, the effect has no visible result on the layer; if you set this value to 0%, the original image doesn’t show through.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.

Optics Compensation effect

Use the Optics Compensation effect to add or remove camera lens distortion. Elements composited with mismatched lens distortion cause anomalies in the animation. For example, tracked objects in a distorted scene don’t match the scene area because linear objects don’t follow the distortion of the scene.

This effect works with 8-bpc, 16-bpc, and 32-bpc color.

Field Of View (FOV)

The field of view (FOV) of the distorted footage. The FOV is relative to the size of the source layer and the selected FOV Orientation. The distortion amount is relative to FOV. No general rule defines what FOV value applies to different lenses. Zooming in reduces the FOV, and zooming out increases it. Consequently, if footage includes different zoom values, you’ll need to animate the FOV value.

Reverse Lens Distortion

Reverses the lens distortion. For example, to remove wide-angle lens distortion, set Field Of View to 40.0 and select Reverse Lens Distortion. Selecting Reverse Lens Distortion enables the Resize control.

FOV Orientation

The axis on which the Field Of View value is based. This setting is useful when matching computer-generated elements to the rendered view angle.

View Center

Specifies an alternate center point of view. This setting is useful when using custom lenses that aren’t centered. However, usually, this control should be left untouched.

Optimal Pixels

Maintains as much pixel information as possible through the distortion. When selected, FOV values are no longer reversible.


Resizes the layer when the applied distortion stretches the layer beyond its boundaries. To use this control, first select Reverse Lens Distortion, and then choose an option. Off doesn’t resize the layer. Max 2X resizes the layer to a maximum of twice the original width and height. Max 4X resizes the layer to a maximum of four times the original width and height. Unlimited resizes the layer as far as it is stretched. This option may require a large amount of memory.

Add and match lens distortion with Optics Compensation

To match FOV values, layers must be the same size. However, if you select Resize, you can apply Optics Compensation again and reverse the distortion using the same value (reversed). You can then apply another effect between the two instances of Optics Compensation.

If you resize a layer using Optics Compensation and then precompose it into a larger composition, you cannot reverse the distortion using the same value until you enlarge the precomposed layer to accommodate the expanded layer.

  1. Select the layer with the distortion, and choose Effect > Distort > Optics Compensation.
  2. In the Effect Controls panel, adjust the FOV until a distorted edge or line appears straight. Note the FOV value.
  3. Select the computer graphic layer you want to distort, and apply Optics Compensation to it using the FOV value from step 2.
  4. Select Reverse Lens Distortion.
  5. Remove Optics Compensation from the footage layer.

Polar Coordinates effect

The Polar Coordinates effect distorts a layer by transposing each pixel in the (x,y) coordinate system of the layer to the corresponding position in the polar coordinate system, or the reverse. This effect produces unusual and surprising distortions that can vary greatly depending on the image and the controls you select. The standard coordinate system specifies points by measuring the horizontal distance (x-axis) and the vertical distance (y-axis) from the origin. Each point is specified as (x,y). The polar coordinate system specifies points by measuring the length of a radius from the origin (r) and its angle from the x-axis (). Each point is specified as (r,).

This effect works with 8-bpc, 16-bpc, and 32-bpc color.

Polar Coordinates effect
Original (upper-left), and with variations of Polar Coordinates applied (lower-left and right)

Stu Maschwitz provides an example project on his ProLost blog that uses the Fractal Noise effect and Colorama effect to create the corona of the Sun and then uses the Polar Coordinates effect to wrap the line of noise around into a circle.


Specifies the amount of distortion. At 0%, no distortion occurs.

Type of Conversion

The conversion process to use:

Rect To Polar

Moves pixels by using (x,y) coordinates from each pixel as (r, ) coordinates. For example, an (x,y) coordinate of (2,3) becomes a polar coordinate with a radius of 2 and a degree of 3. Horizontal lines distort into circles, and vertical lines into radial lines.

Polar To Rect

Moves pixels by using the (r,) coordinates from each pixel as the (x,y) coordinates. For example, polar coordinates of radius 10 and 45° become (x,y) coordinates of (10,45).

Reshape effect

The Reshape effect transforms one shape into another shape on the same layer, dragging the underlying image with it. The image is distorted to fit the shape of the new area. You create or import up to three masks to define the area you want to distort: the source mask, the destination mask, and the boundary mask (optional).

Chris Zwar provides a tutorial on the Creative COW website that demonstrates the use of the Reshape effect to morph one face into another. This tutorial provides many useful tips regarding the use and editing of correspondence points.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.

Reshape effect
Original including three masks (upper-left), and with variations of Reshape applied (lower-left and right)

By default, After Effects assigns the masks a function (source, destination, or boundary) based on the order in which you create or import them. You can also specify different masks. Use a closed path for each mask. All three masks must be on the layer to which you apply the Reshape effect, although you can copy masks from another layer.

Source Mask

The mask that contains the image area you want to reshape. If not specified, After Effects uses the second mask created as the Source mask. In the Composition and Layer panels, a red outline defines the source mask.

Destination Mask

The mask that determines the shape of the final image. If not specified, After Effects uses the third mask created as the Destination mask. In the Composition and Layer panels, a yellow outline defines the destination mask.

Boundary Mask

Specifies what part of the image is reshaped. Anything outside the boundary isn’t altered. If not specified, After Effects uses the first mask created as the Boundary mask. In the Composition and Layer panels, a blue outline defines the boundary mask.


The amount of reshaping. This value is useful for creating partial distortions that increase over time.


Specifies how closely the image follows the shape defined by the curve. Stiff acts like cold rubber, allowing the image to distort the least amount. Super Fluid acts like hot rubber, allowing the image to distort in a fluid fashion. The other settings fall between. The more fluid elasticity settings require more rendering time. If the final image doesn’t follow the curve as expected, use the following elasticity guidelines:

  • In general, use the stiffest setting possible that doesn’t create a polygonal image. Use a higher elasticity setting if the final image looks polygonal but the curves are smooth.

  • Use Stiff, Less Stiff, or Below Normal if the source and destination masks are similar in shape and have low curvature (few curved segments that change direction radically).

  • Use Normal, Absolutely Normal, or Above Average if the source and destination masks are dissimilar and have mild curvature.

  • Use Loose, Liquid, or Super Fluid if the masks are dissimilar and have extreme curvature.

Correspondence Pairs

Shows the number of points on the source mask that are associated with, or mapped to, points on the destination mask. These points appear in the Composition panel and control the interpolation of the distortion through space. To precisely control the distortion, you can add, delete, or move the points on either mask.

You move the correspondence points with the Selection tool, and you add and remove correspondence points with the Add Vertex and Delete Vertex tools, which you activate by holding the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) key. You can only manipulate correspondence points when the effect instance is selected in the Effect Controls panel.

A mask can have an unlimited number of correspondence points, but the more correspondence points it has, the longer the effect takes to render. If the distortion appears twisted, try adding more correspondence points at distinguishing points along the masks. (If the arc lengths of the curves between correspondence points are too different, twisting may result.)

Interpolation Method

Specifies how After Effects determines the distortion of each video or animation frame in the interval between keyframes or if no keyframes exist.


Requires no keyframes because it calculates the distortion at each frame. Discrete produces the most accurate results but requires more rendering time.


(Default) Requires two or more keyframes and performs a straight-line interpolation between the keyframes. Linear produces steady changes between keyframes and sharp changes at keyframes.


Requires three or more keyframes and approximates the distortion using cubic curves, producing distortions with graceful motion.

Use the Reshape effect

  1. Open the layer in a Layer panel.
  2. Create or import the source, destination, and boundary masks into the layer.

    Name each mask so that you can easily recognize it in the Mask menu in the Effect Controls panel.

  3. In the Timeline panel, choose None from the Mode menu for each mask.
  4. Position the boundary mask to specify the area of the image that remains unaltered. Areas within the boundary mask are distorted; areas outside the mask remain unaltered. Keep the boundary mask as far as possible from the source and destination masks to avoid foldovers.

  5. Scale and position the source mask over the image.
  6. Scale and position the destination mask to indicate the final shape. Distortions work best if the source and destination masks are in approximately the same location.
  7. Make the Composition or Timeline panel active, select the layer, and then choose Effect > Distort > Reshape.
  8. From the Mask menus, choose the source, destination, and boundary masks.
  9. Adjust the Percent control, and choose an option for Elasticity.
  10. In the Composition panel, add, delete, or move correspondence points on the masks to control the distortion:
    • To add a point, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the mask.

    • To delete a point, Alt-click, or Option-click the point.

    • To move a point, drag it to a new location.

    • To change the interpolation of a pair of points, Shift-click a point. Smooth interpolation works best with round masks, while linear interpolation works best with angular masks. You can combine smooth and linear interpolation in the same composition.

  11. Choose an interpolation method, and preview the distortion. If Linear or Smooth produces undesired results, add more keyframes. If Discrete produces undesired results, choose another method.

Ripple effect

The Ripple effect creates the appearance of ripples in a specified layer, moving away from a center point in concentric circles. The effect is similar to dropping a stone in a pond. You can also specify that ripples move toward the center point.

Animate ripples at a constant speed using the Wave Speed control. This control doesn’t require keyframes for animation. Animate ripples at varying speeds by creating keyframes for the Ripple Phase control.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.


Controls the distance the ripples travel from the center point. The Radius value is a percentage of the image size. If the center of the ripple is the center of the layer and the radius is set to 100, the ripples travel to the edge of the image. A value of 0 produces no ripples. Like ripples in water, ripples in the layer become smaller as they travel farther from the center.


To create a single-wave ripple, set Radius to 100, Wave Width to a value in the range from 90 to 100, and Wave Height as desired.

Center Of Ripple

Specifies the center of the effect.

Type Of Conversion

Specifies how the ripples are created. Asymmetric produces more realistic-looking ripples; asymmetric ripples include lateral motion and produce more distortion. Symmetric produces motion that travels only outward from the center point; symmetric ripples produce less distortion.

Wave Speed

Sets the speed at which the ripples travel outward from the center point. When you specify a wave speed, the ripples are automatically animated at a constant speed (without keyframes) across the time range. A negative value makes the ripples move toward the center, and a value of 0 produces no movement. To vary wave speed over time, set this control to 0, and then create a keyframe for the Ripple Phase property of the layer.

Wave Width

Specifies the distance, in pixels, between wave peaks. Higher values produce long, undulating ripples, and low values produce many small ripples.

Wave Height

Specifies the height of the ripple wave. Taller waves produce greater distortion.

Ripple Phase

Specifies the point along the waveform at which a wave cycle begins. The default value of 0° starts the wave at the midpoint of its downward slope; 90° starts it at the lowest point in the trough; 180° starts it at the midpoint of the upward slope, and so on.

Smear effect

Using the Smear effect, you define an area within an image and then move that area to a new location, stretching, or smearing, the surrounding part of the image with it. Use masks to define the area you want to distort.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.

To use Smear, first create or import two masks: the source mask and the boundary mask. You can create masks on the layer in After Effects or use masks created in Adobe Illustrator. To use a mask created in Illustrator, copy the mask and paste it into a layer in After Effects. Masks must be closed to work with Smear; if a mask is an open trace, After Effects closes it when you select it. Both masks must be on the same layer as the footage to which you apply the Smear effect, although you can copy masks from another layer.

When you move the source mask within the image, Smear stretches the portion of the image inside the boundary mask to follow the edges of the source mask. The boundary mask tries to protect the image outside it from being stretched. Both the original position of the source mask (set in the Layer panel) and the offset position of the source mask are displayed in the Composition panel. A light red outline indicates the first position of the source mask; a dark outline indicates the new position.

You can animate the position, size, and rotation of the source mask as it moves to its offset position. You can also animate the original position of the source mask in the Layer panel.

Processing can take up to several minutes with certain settings. Computation time increases as the source mask gets closer to the boundary mask. Processing is interrupted when you click a control.

Source Mask

Specifies a mask as the source mask. By default, After Effects selects the second mask you create or import for the layer as the source mask.


Specify both a boundary mask and a source mask to create a distortion.  

Boundary Mask

Specifies a mask as the boundary mask. By default, After Effects selects the first mask you create or import as the boundary mask.

Mask Offset

Specifies a destination position for the source mask. The offset is a position specified by x and y coordinates, which appear to the right of the Offset button. To set an offset location, click the Offset button, and then click the image in the desired location. To set the offset position numerically, type a new value for each axis. When you don’t need the precision provided by Mask Offset, you can simply drag the source mask offset in the Composition panel.


Unwanted undulations may occur if the source mask is close to the boundary mask during animation.

Mask Rotation

Rotates the source mask around its center point, between 0° and 360°.

Mask Scale

Scales the source mask (at its offset position) larger or smaller, in relation to its original position.


Specifies what percentage of the smear is performed. For example, when Percent is set to 50%, Smear performs half of the smear you have specified by moving, scaling, and rotating the source mask. This value doesn’t affect the location of the original and offset positions of the source mask; it affects only the percentage of the effect that is performed.


Specifies how closely the image follows the shape defined by the curve. Stiff distorts the least, while Super Fluid distorts the most. In general, use the stiffest setting possible that doesn’t create polygonal images.

Interpolation Method

Specifies a method for the interpolation that Smear performs between keyframes. Linear requires two or more keyframes and performs a straight-line interpolation between the keyframes. Discrete produces animations in which the distortions change at keyframes. Smooth requires three or more keyframes and approximates the distortion using cubic curves, producing distortions with graceful motion. If you need further precision in the animation between keyframes, add more keyframes. For example, a distortion representing a 90-degree rotation between two keyframes appears as a folding of the image. To make this distortion more fluid, add a keyframe for every 10°.

Use the Smear effect

  1. Open the layer in a Layer panel.
  2. Create or paste the masks to use as the boundary mask and the source mask.
  3. Position the boundary mask to specify the area of the layer you don’t want Smear to affect.
  4. Scale and position the source mask over the area you want to move.
  5. Make the Composition panel active, and choose Effect > Distort > Smear.
  6. Enter a Percent value to specify the amount of smear applied.
  7. In the Composition panel, move the source mask to its destination position by dragging it or by using the Mask Offset value.
  8. Use the Mask Rotation control to rotate the source mask, and use the Mask Scale control to scale it.
  9. Drag the Percent slider as needed, and choose a setting for Elasticity.

Spherize effect

The Spherize effect distorts a layer by wrapping a region of the image onto a sphere. The quality setting of the layer influences the Spherize effect. Best quality samples the displaced pixels to subpixel precision; Draft quality samples to the nearest whole pixel.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.

Transform effect

The Transform effect applies two-dimensional geometric transformations to a layer. This effect supplements the transform properties available for each layer in the Timeline panel. Anchor Point, Position, Rotation, Scale, and Opacity properties function much the same as the layer transform properties in the Timeline panel.

You can specify the shutter angle for motion blur for this layer independently of the shutter angle for the composition. (Motion blur must be enabled for the layer and for the composition for this to be relevant.)


This effect is relative to the input layer. Therefore, to make a layer rotate around the upper left corner, open the layer in the Layer panel, choose Transform from the Layer panel menu, and then move the anchor point and the position to the upper-left corner.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.


Skew amount.

Skew Axis

The axis about which skew occurs.

Turbulent Displace effect

The Turbulent Displace effect uses fractal noise to create turbulent distortions in an image. For example, use it to create flowing water, funhouse mirrors, and waving flags.

This effect works with 8-bpc, 16-bpc, and 32-bpc color.


The type of turbulence used. Turbulent Smoother, Bulge Smoother, and Twist Smoother each perform the same operations as Turbulent, Bulge, and Twist, except that the Smoother options create smoother warps and take longer to render. Vertical Displacement warps the image vertically only. Horizontal Displacement warps the image horizontally only. Cross Displacement warps the image both vertically and horizontally.


Higher values cause more distortion.


Higher values cause larger areas of distortion.

Offset (Turbulence)

Determines the portion of the fractal shape that is used to create the distortion.


Determines the level of detail in the turbulence. Lower values cause smoother distortions.


Animating this setting results in changes of the turbulence over time.


Although the Evolution value is set in units called revolutions, it’s important to realize that these revolutions are progressive. The Evolution state continues to progress infinitely at each new value. Use the Cycle Evolution option to return the Evolution setting to its original state at each revolution.

Evolution Options

Evolution Options provide controls that render the effect for one short cycle and then loop it for the duration of the layer. Use these controls to pre-render turbulence elements into loops, and thus speed up rendering time.

Cycle Evolution

Creates a loop that forces the Evolution state to return to its starting point.


The number of revolutions of the Evolution setting that the fractal cycles through before it repeats. The amount of time between Evolution keyframes determines the timing of the Evolution cycles.


The Cycle control affects only the state of the fractal, not geometrics or, other controls, so you can get different results with different Size or Offset settings.

Random Seed

Specifies a value from which to generate the fractal noise. Animating this property results in flashing from one set of fractal shapes to another (within the same fractal type), which is not usually the result that you want. For smooth transition of the fractal noise, animate the Evolution property.


Create turbulence animations by reusing previously created Evolution cycles and changing only the Random Seed value. Using a new Random Seed value alters the noise pattern without disturbing the Evolution animation.


Specifies which edges to pin so that the pixels along those edges aren’t displaced.

Resize Layer

Enables the distorted image to expand past the original bounds of the layer.

Create a seamless loop using Turbulent Displace

  1. Set two keyframes for the Evolution control, using full revolutions only.
  2. Adjust the time between keyframes, and the number of Evolution revolutions until you’re satisfied with the appearance of the displacement.
  3. Select Cycle Evolution.
  4. Set a value for Cycle that’s evenly divisible by the number of revolutions that you set for Evolution.
  5. In the Timeline panel, move the current-time indicator to the time where the cycle completes. For example, if the Cycle value is 2, find the frame where the Evolution value is 2 revolutions.
  6. Move the current-time indicator back one frame, to prevent a duplicate frame in the seamless loop.
  7. Press the right bracket key (]) to trim the layer Out point to the current time.
  8. Pre-render this layer, and import it into the project.
  9. Set this prerendered footage item to loop. (See Loop a footage item.)

    If you set keyframes for any of the other controls, you must return them to their initial settings at the point on the Timeline panel where the cycle begins to repeat. Otherwise, these properties don’t loop.

Twirl effect

The Twirl effect distorts an image by rotating a layer around its center. The image is distorted more sharply in its center than at the edges, causing a whirlpool result at extreme settings. Because distortion in this effect is significant, After Effects uses special anti-aliasing techniques to produce the highest-quality image. As a result, the Twirl effect can be especially slow to render.

This effect works with 8-bpc, 16-bpc, and 32-bpc color.


How far to twirl the image. Positive angles twirl the image clockwise; negative angles twirl it counterclockwise. For a whirlpool result, animate the angle.

Twirl Radius

How far the twirl extends from the twirl center. This value is a percentage of width or height of the layer, whichever is greater. A value of 50, for example, produces a twirl that extends to the edges of the layer.

Warp effect

Use Warp to distort or deform layers. The warp styles work much like the Warp effects in Adobe Illustrator and Warp Text in Adobe Photoshop.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.

Warp effect
Warping a layer

Warp Stabilizer effect

Warp Stabilizer is a new option for stabilizing unsteady footage. For details see Stabilize motion with the Warp Stabilizer effect (CS5.5 and later).

Wave Warp effect

The Wave Warp effect produces the appearance of a wave traveling across an image. You can produce various wave shapes, including square, circular, and sine waves. The Wave Warp effect is automatically animated at a constant speed across the time range (without keyframes or expressions). To vary speeds, set keyframes or expressions.

This effect works with 8-bpc and 16-bpc color.

Wave Type

The shape of the wave.

Wave Height

The distance, in pixels, between wave peaks.

Wave Width

The size of the wave in pixels.


The direction the wave travels across the image. For example, a value of 225° makes the waves travel diagonally from upper right to lower left.

Wave Speed

The speed (in cycles per second) at which the waves travel. A negative value reverses the wave direction, and a value of 0 produces no movement. To vary wave speed over time, set this control to 0, and then set keyframes or expressions for the Phase property.


Which edges to pin so that the pixels along those edges aren’t displaced.


The point along the waveform at which a wave cycle begins. For example, 0° starts the wave at the midpoint of its downward slope, and 90° starts it at the lowest point in the trough.


Sets the amount of anti‑aliasing, or edge smoothing, to perform on the image. In many cases, lower settings produce satisfactory results; a high setting can greatly increase rendering time. Anti-aliasing is performed only if the layer quality setting is Best.

Third-party effects

Third-party effects in this category included with After Effects are as follows:

  • CC Bend It effect

  • CC Bender effect

  • CC Blobbylize effect

  • CC Flo Motion effect

  • CC Griddler effect

  • CC Lens effect

  • CC Page Turn effect

  • CC Power Pin effect

  • CC Ripple Pulse effect

  • CC Slant effect

  • CC Smear effect

  • CC Split effect

  • CC Split 2 effect

  • CC Tiler effect

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