Generate the look of water rippling over a logo design and background image using wave, caustics, and noise effects in Adobe After Effects.
What you'll need
This sample file is an Adobe Stock asset you can use to practice what you learn in this tutorial. If you want to use the sample file beyond this tutorial, you can purchase a license on Adobe Stock. Check out the ReadMe file in the folder for the terms that apply to your use of this sample file. Any reference to “Cass Spa” is for demonstration purposes only and is not intended to refer to any actual organization, products, services, or creative work.
In this project, you’ll generate water waves above a background image that looks like an elaborately tiled swimming pool. Whatever background graphic you use, make sure it’s slightly larger than your viewable area. Because the wave-generation effect grabs pixels from outside the frame, it’s good to have plenty of extra pixels to work with. Our layered “Cass Spa” sample logo design in Adobe Photoshop, for example, is sized at 2200 x 1200 pixels for use in a 1920 x 1080 pixel composition in After Effects.
Working in the Standard workspace in After Effects, choose File > Import > File and import your layered logo design from Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop as Composition - Retain Layer Sizes. Enable the Create Composition option and click Open. In the next dialog box, ensure that Layer Options is set to Editable Layer Styles and click OK. Create a new composition (Composition > New Composition) and set its dimensions to 1920 x 1080 pixels. Drag the previously created Cass_Spa composition into your new comp, turning it into a precomp. This will crop the full-size logo design accordingly.
To add a wave pattern, create a new solid (Layer > New > Solid). It should sit above the Cass_Spa precomp in the Timeline panel. Drag the Wave World effect from the Effects & Presets panel to the solid. Move the playhead to the start of the composition. In the Effect Controls panel, change the View option to Height Map. Expand the Simulation section and set Reflect Edges to All. Expand Producer 1. Increase the Frequency to 3 and click its stopwatch to set a keyframe. You’ll want to space out the wave properties, so move the playhead ahead a half-second and zero out Frequency. While there, set a keyframe for Amplitude. Move out a half-second again and zero out the Amplitude. After previewing your animation, move the solid below the precomp layer to hide it.
Generating realistic-looking water surfaces over the pool bottom requires adding light reflections, called caustics. Drag the Caustics effect from the Effects & Presets panel to the precomp layer. In the Effect Controls panel, go to the Water section and click open the Water Surface selector. Choose the layer containing the solid and then set Source to Effects & Masks. Move the playhead about one second into the comp and consult the values in our example. While doing so, set starting keyframes for Wave Height, Smoothing, Surface Opacity, and Specular Reflection.
Move the playhead toward the end of your comp and set ending keyframe values for Wave Height, Smoothing, Surface Opacity, and Specular Reflection to attenuate the waves.
Real water doesn’t ripple so perfectly, so let’s add some noise. Drag the Turbulent Noise effect from the Effects & Presets panel to the solid layer and then move the playhead to the start of the comp. Set the Fractal Type to Swirly and then lower the Contrast, increase the Scale, lower the Complexity, and set a keyframe for Evolution and one for a lowered Opacity value. Finally, set Blending Mode to Soft Light.
Move the playhead to the end of the comp, set Evolution to 5x revolutions, and zero out Opacity. Preview and see how Turbulent Noise made the ripples look more realistic.
For an added touch, go to the Logo layer in the original Cass_Spa comp and keyframe Scale and Opacity over a second or two so that the logo scales up and fades into view. If you don’t want the water ripples to affect the Logo layer, remove it from there (Edit > Cut) and place it at the top of the main comp (Edit > Paste) so the water appears behind it. Because these two comps have different dimensions, the logo won’t be centered. Change its Position setting to compensate.
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