I've been creating simple animations like the one shown here. But I want to find a way to speed up the process by making the path jitter (not the thickness) while keeping a uniform stroke thickness (I'm not looking for a brush). Ideally, I would do it in Illustrator or After Effects introducing gif The animations look exactly how I want them to but the problem is the process is insanely dull and time-consuming.

1. I want a uniform line thickness and I want to be able to scale it easily, so have been free-handing the first frame in illustrator using the pencil tool.

2. Because I want it to wobble but not be too different from the original, I turn the first frame into a guide and free-hand with the pencil tool again. Like so: Introducing Guide
3. Because a two-frame animation looks a bit weird and forced, I end up drawing a third frame using the guide, by which time, I just want to curl into a ball and die. This example is fine, but there are often several, much larger and more complex illustrations to do.

4. I then copy each frame into Photoshop and create a simple three-frame gif. Because I've labouriously drawn the same thing three times, I inevitably miss tiny bits, so I have to go add it in and copy back to PS, remove the dud frame and export again (sometimes a few agonising times).

The ideal tool would take the first drawing and randomise the path accuracy with a varying level of control. I don't mind cleaning up a few odd anchor points but this is ridiculous.

Please help me :(

  • 1
    Good answers already, not worth a new one for this...... simply pointing out that in Illustrator, you can remove the stroke from the path (so it's a hollow object with no appearance), group the path, then add the stroke to the group via the Appearance Panel. This can allow you to move the stroke off the actual path via effects if necessary, leaving the base path the same at all times.
    – Scott
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 18:41

4 Answers 4


Try using the same path with just one effect and changing the parameters every time you copy and paste into Photoshop. This is Roughen at the smallest % size with 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.8, 0.9 and 1 detail.

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • Thanks Danielillo. I've tried roughen but never managed to get the ratios right. What scale is your example? – Artboard and line weight.
    – b_c
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 16:29
  • Text block size: 980 x 260 px
    – user120647
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 19:25

I wanted to add a illustrator method that gives you a lot more artistic control.

  1. make a sequence of straight wiggly curves, this should be easy. At least much easier than moving the curved shape.

  2. Make an art brushes out of the wiggly shapes and then assign those wiggly curve brushes to the object in question in sequence. (this step is easy to script, as is export)

There are some benefits for this method. If you need to choreograph something like say a twist moving across the shape or add some other effects it may be easier to do with this method.

Quick test, path design, workflow design, save as gif sequence in less than 10 minutes (on a machine that's not my own and thus has no workflow enhancing functions):

enter image description here

  • Great suggestion, although not all the drawings are cursive so will definitely have to tinker with this.
    – b_c
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 16:31

I've a far easier solution for you: select your linework, duplicate it, then apply Effects>Tweak with a very low percentage set, and iterate till you get what you want.

Starting sketch: enter image description here

Tweaked once @ 1%: enter image description here

And if you like this idea well enough, you can then apply this effect to your items through the appearance palette, which then allows you both to keep easily iterating at that's a non-destructive workflow and to then save it as a graphic style to then apply iteratively as needed to increment your tweak level.

Appearance palette usage: enter image description here

Saved and re-applied as a graphic style: enter image description here

This same thing can be done with roughen, though with roughen you may want to switch to absolute versus percentage for scale and make it just right for your use-case.

Hope this helps.

  • Thanks and great suggestion. I did try this already but there doesn't seem to be a sweet spot between too subtle and utter chaos as it tends to create awkward angles. Appreciate the help though!
    – b_c
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 8:54

This is best done at the After-Effects stage. Inside AE you can use the displacement effects and various techniques to make your single Illustrator-exported path to take on various appearances. Take a look at this link and be aware that what any one tutorial video for certain AE techniques could contain just the one detail which could super-charge your entire workflow and make all the difference! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MKpqUeek70

  • Thanks for the recommendation, although the tutorial uses a displacement layer to affect the lines uniformity rather than the line. I want the line weight to be uniform and smooth.
    – b_c
    Commented May 8, 2019 at 16:27

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