Sheets Blowing in the Wind With Adobe After Effects

By Aaron Parson

Updated July 21, 2017

A Wave Warp makes a picture of a sheet appear to flutter.
i Hemera Technologies/ Images

The Wave Warp distort effect built into Adobe After Effects can produce a look similar to a cloth sheet blowing in the wind. This effect uses a sine wave in a selected region to automatically create ripples that look like wind on a sheet. Use the Wave Warp distort effect to set the wind blowing in various directions, change the speed the sheet blows and make minor adjustments to its movement.

Import the image or video you want to warp to a project in After Effects, and then drag it to the timeline.

Press "Control-Alt-Y" to add an adjustment layer, and then resize it to cover the portion of the image or video that you want affected.

Search for "Wave Warp" in the "Effects & Presets" window, and then drag the effect onto the adjustment layer.

Set the Wave Height to a value between zero and 10. Values outside this range cause an unrealistic amount of distortion. As you change the value, you see a preview of the effect on a single frame, which can help you select the best value for your project.

Set the Wave Width between 30 and 100. Values at the lower end of this range make your image seem to flap in the wind, while higher values cause the appearance of blowing up and down.

Drag the "Direction" pointer to face the direction you want the wind to blow. Selecting straight up or down causes unrealistic distortion, but all other directions work well.

Change the Wave Speed to affect how fast the animation loops.

Press "Play" in the Preview window to test your settings, and then make changes as necessary.


For a more customized effect, use a Bezier Warp instead of a Wave Warp. This effect distorts the image using manually positioned vertex and tangent points, requiring far more setup. To use it, click the stopwatch icon by each point you want to modify, move the playhead to various places in the timeline, and then set each point to the position you want it at that time. After Effects automatically creates the frames in between.

You can add effects directly to your image or video's layer instead of creating an adjustment layer, but adjustment layers allow your effects to work across multiple layers, and remain even if you replace your content.


Information in this article applies to After Effects CC and After Effects CS6. It may vary slightly or significantly in other versions.