Animating Pixel Art in After Effects

Turns out there are very few Pixel Art + After Effects tips out there, so I thought I’d put together some notes on things I’ve discovered that may be of use. You can view it all in a super short video, with some meatier detail below:

(This assumes some basic knowledge of After Effects and does not cover creating Pixel Art)

Start out Small

Work to the original pixelart size, don’t scale it up. Basically we want one pixel in your artwork to match one pixel in AfterEffects. If you’re unsure what to use, perhaps base it on old console resolutions – maybe even updating them to be widescreen. A common size was 320 x 224 (although I prefer 320 x 240 as it’s a 4:3 ratio).

We’ll be scaling the artwork up later to fit whatever size your video is, so don’t worry about that now!

Everything in Draft

The default layer rendering in After Effects ensures there’s a lot of sub-pixel magic to ensure smooth graphics. We don’t want that with Pixel Art. Unless you snap every asset to the pixel grid, it’ll blur as it tries to do sub-pixel smoothing. The easy solution is simply to set the layer Quality to Draft.

[Right click > Quality > Draft]

This ensures there is no Anti-Aliasing applied for any transformation. This includes movement, so the artwork correctly snaps to each pixel.

You can really go to town with this, for example you can fake a super-scaler style road. This uses a looping image of track, then transformed with a perspective and warped to give the appearance of corners:

Scale & Effects

Once the base artwork is animated, you can scale the artwork back up to whatever you like. Again, ensure the layer is in Draft Quality to keep the pixels crisp. This will ensure your artwork still snaps to the pixel grid, no matter how much you scale.

Then if desired, apply effects like CRT effects, bloom and monitor warping. If you use uniform numbers on your scaling (such as 400%) then it makes it easier to align effects to the pixel grid – such as a CRT effect to line up with each pixel.

  • These were a few tips I came up with while creating the video game portions of the music video “Holding out for the Win” by Flawes.
  • Music in the initial video is “Terry115” from King of Fighters 2000.
  • I don’t know why the video is Sonic-themed. I felt like it.


Let me know on Twitter