Color Wheel

Manipulating shapes and colors using expressions in Adobe After Effects


As an exercise to practice our expression coding skills, we would like to create a color wheel using a single shape layer and expressions. The wheel should be made with colored arcs of varying hue, saturation and lightness. We want 4 levels of tint and 12 arcs per level (subdivisions). The following figure shows the different parts of the wheel and the notation we’ll use in the expressions:

Structure of the wheel

Constructing The Base Arc

We want to create an initial arc, add expressions to it, and then duplicate that arc to construct the entire wheel. The setup consists of a shape group containing a trimmed stroked ellipse:

Setup for the base arc

Since the wheel is made of concentric circles, the size of each circle depends on the level. We apply the following expression to the ellipse size:

subdivs = 12;
idx = parseInt(thisProperty.propertyGroup(3).name.split(" ")[1]) - 1;
levelIdx = Math.floor(idx / subdivs);
strokeW = content("Arc " + (idx + 1)).content("Stroke 1").strokeWidth;
diam = 0.8 * thisComp.height - levelIdx * 2 * strokeW;

We add the following expression to the start property of the Trim Paths effector:

subdivs = 12;
idx = parseInt(thisProperty.propertyGroup(3).name.split(" ")[1]) - 1;
arcIdx = idx % subdivs;
arcIdx * (100 / subdivs);

The expression is the same for the end property, except the last line:

(arcIdx + 1) * (100 / subdivs);

The stroke width is set to 10% of the comp height:

0.1 * thisComp.height;

And finally we apply the following expression to the stroke color:

subdivs = 12;
numLevels = 4;
idx = parseInt(thisProperty.propertyGroup(3).name.split(" ")[1]) - 1;
levelIdx = Math.floor(idx / subdivs);
arcIdx = idx % subdivs;
h = arcIdx / subdivs; // hue
s = 1 - levelIdx / numLevels; // saturation (from high to low)
l = linear(levelIdx, 0, numLevels-1, 0.5, 0.3); // lightness (remap range)
a = 1; // alpha (doesn't affect the result here)

This should produce something like this:

Structure of the wheel

Duplicating The Base Arc

Quite a lot of code for drawing a simple arc, but now comes the fun part. We simply press Ctrl+D (Cmd+D on Mac) to duplicate the base arc until the wheel is complete:

Duplicating the base arc

When the number of arcs reaches 48 (i.e., 4 x 12), the wheel is complete:ession to the ellipse size:

The complete wheel

Reveal Animation

As a bonus we would like to animate the construction of the wheel. To this end, we add a second Trim Paths effector to the base arc (don’t forget to remove every other arc):

Adding a second trim to the base arc

We add the following trim end expression to sequentially reveal the arcs with a short delay:

arcRevealDur = 8; // duration in frames
delay = 2; // delay in frames
subdivs = 12;
numLevels = 4;
totalArcs = numLevels * subdivs;
idx = parseInt(thisProperty.propertyGroup(3).name.split(" ")[1]) - 1;
startT = idx * delay * thisComp.frameDuration;
endT = startT + arcRevealDur * thisComp.frameDuration;
linear(time, startT, endT, 0, 100);

The expression is the same for the out tangent except the vector points in the opposite direction:

Revealing the wheel


Through this little exercise we have seen how we can manipulate shapes and colors using simple expressions. Hope you find it useful!

You can also check ConnectLayers PRO, a tool that create lines that are dynamically linked to the layers using powerful path expressions. No keyframes at all!