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  1. 3D & Motion Graphics
  2. Adobe After Effects

Creating Clock Hand Animations in After Effects

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Read Time: 3 mins

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to animate a clock hands in After Effects with the help of simple expressions. This is a follow up tutorial of the tutorials Creating An Animated Clock In 3ds Max Using Expressions & Custom Attributes, and Animate a Clock in Maya Using Expressions

What You’ll Be Creating

1. Creating the Clock Template in Photoshop

Step 1

Open Photoshop. Import the BG.jpg file which has been provided with the tutorial. I have made this template for the reference which would help in making the clock.

Open PhotoshopOpen PhotoshopOpen Photoshop
Open Photoshop

Step 2

Press Shift-Ctrl-N to create a new layer. Rename this layer as BG.

Create a new layerCreate a new layerCreate a new layer
Create a new layer

Step 3

With the Elliptical Marquee Tool selected, draw a circular selection.

Elliptical Marquee ToolElliptical Marquee ToolElliptical Marquee Tool
Elliptical Marquee Tool

Step 4

Fill white colour inside the selection.

Fill white color Fill white color Fill white color
Fill white color 

Step 5

Select Text tool and type 12 in black color. Keep it aligned to the background spike.

Text toolText toolText tool
Text tool

Step 6

Following the same way, type all digits and place them accordingly.

Text toolText toolText tool
Text tool

Step 7

Press Shift-Ctrl-N to create a new layer. Rename this layer as Minute Hand.

Create a new layerCreate a new layerCreate a new layer
Create a new layer

Step 8

With the Rectangle Marquee Tool, draw a minute hand selection and fill it with black colour.

Rectangle Marquee ToolRectangle Marquee ToolRectangle Marquee Tool
Rectangle Marquee Tool

Step 9

With the Minute Hand layer selected, press Ctrl-J to make a duplicate layer of it. Rename this layer as Hour Hand

Hour HandHour HandHour Hand
Hour Hand

Step 10

With the Hour Hand layer selected, press Ctrl-T for Free Transform. Rotate the hour hand and align it to 3.

Free TransformFree TransformFree Transform
Free Transform

Step 11

With the help of Free Transform, shorten the length of the hour hand.

Shorten the length of the hour handShorten the length of the hour handShorten the length of the hour hand
Shorten the length of the hour hand

Step 12

With the BG layer selected, click on Add a layer style icon (fx) on the bottom. Select Stroke option in the fly out menu.

Stroke optionStroke optionStroke option
Stroke option

Step 13

It opens the Layer Style window. Select the desired color and width for the stroke. It creates the border around the clock.

Layer Style windowLayer Style windowLayer Style window
Layer Style window

Step 14

Add a Bevel and Emboss layer style also and follow the settings shown in the following image.

Bevel and EmbossBevel and EmbossBevel and Emboss
Bevel and Emboss

Step 15

Save the file as clock.psd. Saving a file in PSD format insures that you can control each and every layer in After Effects. Please note, this is a very simple and basic clock setup just for demonstration purpose. You can add details and make it fancier as per your need.

Save the fileSave the fileSave the file
Save the file

2. Creating Clock Animation in After Effects

Step 1

Open After Effects. Import the clock.psd file.

Open After EffectsOpen After EffectsOpen After Effects
Open After Effects

Step 2

Import it as a Composition with Merge Layer Styles into Footage option.

Merge Layer StylesMerge Layer StylesMerge Layer Styles
Merge Layer Styles

Step 3

The composition contains all the layers in order just like in Photoshop.

All layersAll layersAll layers
All layers

Step 4

Open Rotation properties of both the minute and the hour hands.

Rotation propertyRotation propertyRotation property
Rotation property

Step 5

I want the minute hand should control the hour hand. With the Alt key pressed, click on the Rotation stop watch. It opens the expression editor. Here write, thisComp.layer("Minute Hand").transform.rotation

The alternative way is to click on the pick whip of the Hour Hand’s rotation and drop it to the Minute Hand’s rotation. 

Expression Expression Expression

Step 6

Right now, when the Minute Hand rotates 360 degrees or performs one full rotation, the Hour Hand rotates just like that. I want the Minute Hand to rotate 360 degrees and the Hour Hand should rotate only 30 degrees. In the expression editor, divide the expression by 12

Expression editExpression editExpression edit
Expression edit

Step 7

It’s done. Animate the minute hand and see. When the minute hand performs one full rotation, the hour hand shifts form one digit to another. Just animate the minute hand’s rotation value and the hour hand will rotate automatically.



I hope you must have enjoyed the tutorial. Expressions can do miracles and save your a lot of time. You can do amazing and complex works easily with the help of expressions. 

However, a little bit of mathematics is required. I would try to come up with some more tutorials based on expressions.

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