Make DNA strand from shape layers – Adobe After Effects tutorial

Use shape layers to fake a 3d DNA helix, rotating, turning, tumbling. All without opening a 3d application. We work totally in shape layers using the most basic of keyframes to make it happen. It looks great and you’ll learn lots doing it… maybe.

If you have any questions just let me know in the comments.

Download this project file:





Suggest a tutorial topic:


Spencer Parks says:

I’m sure many people have told you this but you sound a LOT like Seth Rogen. Sounds like you’re Canadian, too, just like him. Nice tutorials and the humor doesn’t hurt!

Noah Yaffe says:

One, that’s not DNA. It’s a single helix, DNA is a double. I didn’t see anyone mention it below, so it was my moral duty to do so.
Two, more importantly, another amazing video. I’ve learned a lot through these since summer, when I was hired to do a mini-doc / promo video. When I took it on I knew I needed to know much more AE real quick before they found out I didn’t really know what I was doing. And hey! You really helped bring it all together. Thanks, brotha, stay warm up north.

Samuel Chung says:

好正,very good, I love your work, AE達人

Juan Mendoza says:

My ball transitons are kinda snappy (lol) as in switching the molecules/choosing what goes in the front and what goes in the back, when i make the switch the white rectangle appears very abruptly but his animation is super smooth and seamless… anyone else having snappy ball problems?

Jay says:

Great trick but video is hard to follow. Specially around min 6 when you add the expression it’s impossible to see what you are doing since subtitles are on the way. Thanks for teaching us but you should make it easier for the learner

Олег Сорокин says:

Thank you for this awesome tutorial! : D

Dídac Zamora says:

Great stuff Evan, thank you.

I did it a bit differently though, I used sequence layers for the time offset and this expression for the position offset

x = 100*(index);


Ataur-Raziq Gonzalez says:

Amazing. I’ve been using AE for like over 7 years and I’ve just learnt a bunch from this video.

Isaac Nieman says:

Killin’ the AE game

KABOB kabob says:

you’re an absolute madman

Gin Lee says:

thank you for sharing

cream bun says:

One dislike… Would that be from the RNA not getting the spotlight? Great tutorial. Thanks.

Nas Alhussain says:

You’re fun!

Denis Begovic says:

You are to fast dude … really hard to follow you.

fernando martinez says:

Thanks nice tutorial so usefull

Juliana Hinton says:

Does editing the smallest unit after creating “group 1” also change the smallest unit(s) in “group 1”?

gevelegian says:

Very well explained and the sound effects are just the icing on the cake! Subscribed, wish I found you earlier.

amkamirin says:

thank you my good sir

Dmitriy Valer'yevich says:

Сool tutorial! It is best to create flen DNA what I saw!

David Vinson says:

Here’s my result. I didn’t “pop” the dots on like you did, but what a cool tutorial! Thanks EC Abrams!

Ilya Tkachenko says:

Thank you so much for your lessons. I learned a lot of techniques, which i couldn’t have learned anywhere else.
Would be happy if you ll check my result here

Greg Bakker says:

I just started this video and already know it’s going to be awesome. Thanks for this.

alok kumar says:

nice work man!

PFProductions says:

How has no one commented on the fact he sounds like Seth Rogen?

Sharpy William says:

After a few vids this one just won you a new Subscriber, I love it, no pluggins, straight up After effects at its prime! You either learn or learn with you, I like that! Keep it up.

Michael Colin Glasner says:

I want to make this and insert it into a live action video, is it possible?

Hope Wall says:

The expression at 14:13 is not working, it just loops it back to the beginning.

Shaun Duffus says:

Your tutorials are freaking AMAZING! Thanks man

J says:

anyone have an issue with the ellipse not sharing the color of the cylinder in after effects it says the fill is the same color but on the monitor they are transparent? I do the same thing that you do at 4:44 but the ellipse shows up without any fill?

Martina Vasileva says:

I’m sorry for the dumb question, but when you do the time remap, how do you write inside the parentesis? Which command should I use? 😀

Liz Shumpert says:

SWEET! How would you go about making a looping GIF in which the DNA animates on, spins spins spins, and then animates off? Is there a way of using the infinite loop out expression like you do in this project, but still tacking an “animate out” on the end so that the ending matches the beginning? THANKS!

Felis Tigris says:

love it, can I use it for a commercial project?

RR says:

EC, what’s that font you use at the end? I’ve seen it in many of your videos and I could swear you said which one it was at one point…

HardcoreFinesse says:

Fantastic work. Love all of these!

Katarzyna Drozd says:

This tutorial is a masterpiece.

Insanity Films says:

Hi there, nice tutorial ! how do get the buttons on the right of your interface like you have them ?

Giulliano Chacha says:

I feel like I’m listening to Seth Rogen give this tutorial and I keep anticipating the Rogen laugh.

Nathan German says:

At 15:30, what is the alt-page down doing? I don’t have the page down button on my keyboard.

Waikwan Ho says:

its awesome! thank you so much bro!

Knottt says:

Thank you so much for your tutorial,it’s really useful for getting Started!

K1Vm4n says:

“[…] we gonna take a look at the most basic building block of life – *the shape layer* […]” – b e a u t i f u l !

Stefan Gustafsson says:

Amazingly cool and informative video. Design wise your stuff looks great on top of that! Thanks for putting it up here.

Dina Puspasari says:

so helpful ilove the way you explain it,

zabotheother says:

Could you explain what’s going on at 14:15 with that loop script and the 1? Thanks mang!

Insanity Films says:

Got it… stacking the panels ! very cool

Robbie I'Anson Price says:

This is amazing and your voice makes this even better! Thank you!

Gameghostify says:

Couldn’t you have used a repeater instead of subsiding everything into small clips?

Ray CHEN says:


Cesare Parmiggiani says:

What a genius!

 Write a comment


Do you like our videos?
Do you want to see more like that?

Please click below to support us on Facebook!