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Tutorial

Animate an Arrow on ONE LAYER | After Effects Tutorial & Free Preset

Learn how to create an animated arrow on one layer, that you can easily reuse across many After Effects projects. No plugins or third-party software required!

There are many ways to animate arrows in After Effects, but by creating both the arrowhead and line on the same shape layer, there are no nulls and it’s less layers to clutter your timeline. You can change the position, scale, and rotation, adjust the colors or stroke and add effects to stylize it. Even change the path of the line! Adjust the animation by adjusting the keyframes. All this, and the arrowhead will stay attached to the line!

It’s easy to copy and paste the layer to use it in other comps. Plus, you can save it as a preset so you can easily reuse the arrow, with it’s animation, across any After Effects project; no need to import anything.

This method uses expressions, but I’ll walk you through every step, so you don’t need to know anything about expressions to follow along.

In this video:

  • 1:35 - Create Arrow in After Effects
  • 6:46 - Animate Line Drawing In
  • 7:15 - Attach Arrowhead to Line
  • 13:06 - Orient Arrowhead Along Line
  • 16:05 - Animate the Arrow In and Out
  • 17:32 - Adjust Arrow
  • 18:19 - Create an Arrow with Artwork from Illustrator
  • 23:22 - Solutions to Arrowhead Orientation Issues
  • 24:54 - Switch the Direction of the Arrow
  • 25:50 - Save Arrow as Preset

Download my animated arrow preset and After Effects project file here.

Project file includes:

  • Animated arrow on a single layer
  • Animated arrow with arrowhead and line on separate layers
  • Examples of stylized arrows

How to Install my Arrow Preset

First, download the preset here.

In Finder or File Explorer, navigate to your applications and then Adobe After Effects. Find the Presets folder and drop the preset (arrow.ffx) in. Or, if you want to stay organized, you can create a new folder within the Presets folder, where you put any presets you install or make.

In After Effects, go to the Effects & Presets panel (if you don’t already see it, find it under the Window menu). Toggle open *Animation Presets, then find the arrow preset. Alternatively, you can use the search bar to bring it up. Now just double click on the preset to create a new shape layer that’s an animated arrow.

Note that the first keyframes will be placed wherever your playhead is when you double click the preset.

Create Your Own Animated Arrow

Following the video tutorial, copy and paste these expressions into After Effects to save time! Just make sure that your arrow's line and arrowhead are named exactly like mine or that you change this within the expression.

Expressions

Expression on arrowhead's position property:

Expression for arrowhead's rotation property:

If your arrowhead is similar to mine, you can use this expression on the arrowhead's anchor point property to make it aligned with the line:

Update your Arrow to be Able to Animate Along a Path

Watch "part 2" to update your animated arrow so that you can animate the Offset value, under Trim Paths for the line. This will allow you to animate the arrow sliding along the path of the line.

In this video:

  • 0:54 Update the Arrowhead’s Position Expression
  • 6:35 Update the Arrowhead’s Rotation Expression
  • 7:56 Switch the Direction of the Arrow
  • 9:02 Update the Arrow Preset

Updated Expressions

Expression on arrowhead's position property:

Expression for arrowhead's rotation property:

The expression on the arrowhead's anchor point property doesn't need to be updated.

Download the project file to see how to update the expressions for an arrow with the arrowhead and line on separate layers.

If you liked this tutorial, you can learn more about expressions in this class:

11 Expressions for Animation Efficiency

11 Expressions for Animation Efficiency

in Adobe After Effects

Learn 11 different expressions to automate animations, eliminate excessive keyframes, achieve complex effects, and work more efficiently; no programming experience needed!

Check out the class
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