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Steal Like an Animator

This course is an introduction to animation using After Effects by emulating our favourite motion design artists. We’ll cover how to break down existing animations and create our own using AE.

CurriculumAll CohortsFacilitators

Course Goals and Learning Outcomes

This course is an introduction to animation using After Effects by emulating our favourite motion design artists. We’ll cover principles of animation, how to break down existing animations and how to approach creating a simple motion project. While doing this, we will learn the basic tools and techniques of After Effects.

At the end of the course, each learner will have a good understanding of how to get started with motion design, how to understand and break down techniques used in reference animations, as well as how to approach the software. As for tangible outcomes, we’ll have 1 or 2 “stolen” animations, and a short animation project of our own.

On the technical side, here are the specific things we’ll focus on in After Effects:

  • Interface, key-frames and transform properties
  • Shape layers and masks
  • Easing and the graph view
  • Effects, stylization and loops


The course is 5 weeks long, and meets once a week for an hour and a half. You'll also have homework to complete each week, the complexity of which depends on your commitment to the course.

Syllabus / Schedule

WEEK 1: Putting The Team Together

Introductions: Who we are, our experience with animation, and why we’ve enrolled in the course/what we’re hoping to learn.

The principles of Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like an Artist

  • What can we learn by “stealing”?/What can we learn from examples?
  • Why is it important to steal like an artist?
  • How do we find and pick work that we want to steal?

After Effects:

  • The different “types” of animations
  • Overcoming our fear of the software! aka, understanding the interface
  • Basic transformation properties

Homework: Collect 2 short animation pieces for later use. (We'll also discuss resources/websites to find inspiration, what would make a good resource to steal from.)

WEEK 2: Acquiring The Blueprints

Learning to break down motion design: what combination of techniques can we observe, what principles are others using? We'll also go over the first few animation principles.

After Effects:

  • Shape layers, masks and parenting
  • Import features from Adobe Illustrator
  • Best practices for exporting

Homework: Apply the principles and techniques we learnt today and recreate your first animation!

WEEK 3: Reconnaissance

Show and Tell!

Questions? Did we get stuck anywhere last week?

What principles have we been noticing in other work? What aspects do we want to use for our own project?

After Effects:

  • Recap of the previous two weeks
  • Easing and the graph view


  • Recreating our second animation! Apply more of the techniques we learnt and recreate a slightly more complicated animation.
  • Start brainstorming for our own motion design projects and sketching out some rough storyboards.

WEEK 4: The Grand Theft

Show and Tell again!

Did we have the right tools to make our second animation? Did we get stuck anywhere? Check-ins: how are we feeling about the software now?

After Effects:

  • Effects and Stylization
  • Loops

Discussion: What are your ideas for your project? Do you have the right tools to make this happen?

Homework: Create your own motion design piece! (3-10 seconds long). Can you pick and choose elements from other artists and create a “mashup” of your own?

WEEK 4.5: Who Sounded The Alarm? (Optional)

Office hours/a work session.

Troubleshooting. I can answer specific questions regarding individual projects. We can go over concepts, tools, techniques or any thing else together!

WEEK 5: The Getaway

The final show and tell!

How did you approach your animation? What did you discover along the way? Feedback on the course?

Homework: Don’t forget to keep practicing and sharing your “stolen” animations.

Who Should Sign Up

This course is for you if:

  • You have been wanting to learn animation but don’t know where to start
  • You're secretly afraid of After Effects and overwhelmed by its interface
  • You want a more experimental, learn-by-doing approach to learn After Effects
  • You’re an illustrator and want to learn how to bring illustrations to life
  • You know how to animate but don’t know what to animate (or vice versa!)
  • If you’re just curious and eager to learn something new!

Additional Notes

  • Please please feel free to reach out if you want to talk more about discounts/scholarships. I'm eager to make this course available and accessible to anyone interested.
  • You'll need to have After Effects to work on this course. I'm trying to get a free month-long membership for participants of the course, but until then you can get $30 off from the course to spend on the software.

My personal experiment practicing these techniques every day for a month.

5 WeeksUp to 12 learners

At least a month-long subscription to After Effects (you don't need to know how to use it)

Please feel free to reach out to me if you want a $30 discount to the course to purchase the software.

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