Here’s How You can Animate React with Framer Motion

Framer-motion is a library that powers animations in Framer, and it’s now available as an independent package that we can use in React applications. It has a very simple declarative API that makes it easy to create and orchestrate complex animations with the minimal amount of code. In this article, we’ll start with very basic animations and gradually move to the more advanced ones.
Note: animation examples in the article may not look smooth because of a low frame rate of GIF images. Rest assured, real animation are butter-smooth. You can play with them in the sandbox here.

Setup

We can start with framer-motion by simply installing it with 

yarn add framer-motion

command.

To animate elements, we’ll need to ditch primitive HTML elements (

div

span

path

, etc.) in favor of their “motion-infused” counterparts – 

motion.div

motion.span

motion.path

, etc. These elements expose the properties that we’ll need to add our animations.

Get things moving

To create the simplest animation, we can specify 

animate

 property that accepts an object with CSS properties that we want to animate. This is how we can animate opacity and background color of the 

div

:

import { motion } from "framer-motion";

const One = () => (
  "rectangle"
    animate={{
      opacity: 0.5,
      background: "#ff00b1"
    }}
  />
);
The properties that we pass to 

animate

 represent the final state of the animation. Framer-motion will infer the initial state based on the specified CSS properties, or their defaults. For example, default opacity for CSS elements is 

1

(even if we don’t set it explicitly), so framer-motion knows how to animate it down to 

0.5

.

We can also set the initial values of animatable CSS properties using 

initial

prop. It also accepts an object with CSS properties that will tell framer-motion what initial values should be like. In the example below, we fade in the rectangle by animating 

y

 and 

opacity

 properties:

const Two = () => (
  "rectangle"
    initial={{
      opacity: 0,
      y: 50
    }}
    animate={{
      opacity: 1,
      y: 0
    }}
  />
);

Animating state changes

The animations that we’ve done so far only run when components mount. Now let’s see how we can animate elements when some internal state changes.

We can set 

animation

 property to different values based on the internal state, and framer-motion will animate between those values when the state changes:

const Three = () => {
  const [active, setActive] = React.useState(false);

  return (
    "rectangle"
      animate={
        active
          ? { background: "#ff00b1", rotate: 90 }
          : { background: "#0D00FF", rotate: 0 }
      }
      onClick={() => setActive(!active)}
    >
      Click me!
    </motion.div>
  );
};

Note that the component re-renders only when state changes, and not on every animation frame, which makes animations very efficient.

Variants

The real power of framer-motion comes from using variants. Let’s start by exploring how we can rewrite the previous example to use variants.

We’ll begin by extracting inline definition of animatable properties from 

animate

 prop into a separate object. This object will contain key-value pairs, where keys are some meaningful names that we give to our animatable properties, and values are the properties themselves. Then we can pass this

variants

object to variants prop, and inside 

animation

 we can toggle animations based on the string names we gave to them:

const Four = () => {
  const [active, setActive] = React.useState(false);
  
  const rectangle: Variants = {
    active: { background: "#ff00b1", rotate: 90 },
    disabled: { background: "#0D00FF", rotate: 0 }
  };

  return (
    "rectangle"
      variants={rectangle}
      animate={active ? "active" : "disabled"}
      onClick={() => setActive(!active)}
    >
      Click me!
    </motion.div>
  );
};

This example works, but it’s not very useful. The power of variants is in orchestrating complex animations throughout a component tree, and to see that, we’ll need a slightly bigger example.

In the example below, we have a container 

div

 that has three child 

div

s inside of it. Container 

div

 uses the same 

onClick

 animation that we’ve seen before:

const Five = () => {
  const container: Variants = {
    active: {
      background: "#ff00b1"
    },
    disabled: {
      background: "#0D00FF"
    }
  };

  const [active, setActive] = React.useState(false);

  return (
    "active" : "disabled"}
      onClick={() => setActive(!active)}
      className="container"
    >
      {[0, 1, 2].map(value => (
        
"box" /> ))} </motion.div> ); };

Now we can animate children elements simultaneously with the parent by setting their own variants object. If the descriptive names of child animations match those of the parent, child animations will be triggered when parent animation is triggered.

Notice how both 

container

 and 

box

 variants have the same keys 

active

and 

disabled

:

const Six = () => {
  const container: Variants = {
    active: {
      background: "#ff00b1",
    },
    disabled: {
      background: "#0D00FF"
    }
  };

  const box: Variants = {
    active: {
      rotate: 90,
      opacity: 1
    },
    disabled: {
      rotate: 0,
      opacity: 0.7
    }
  };

  const [active, setActive] = React.useState(false);

  return (
    "active" : "disabled"}
      onClick={() => setActive(!active)}
      className="container"
    >
      {[0, 1, 2].map(value => (
        key={value} className="box" variants={box} />
      ))}
    
  );
};

Configuring variants

Variants also allow us to orchestrate the child animations. We can do that by providing 

transition

 property inside the animation object.

For example, we can set 

staggerChildren

 children property, which specifies the delay in seconds between child animations:

const container: Variants = {
  active: {
    background: "#ff00b1",
    transition: {
      staggerChildren: 0.5
    }
  },
  disabled: {
    background: "#0D00FF"
  }
};
Note how transition is applied only when we transition into a given variant. Since we defined 

transition

 property inside 

active

 variant, the stagger animation is only applied when we transition from 

disabled

 into 

active

, but not when we transition from 

active

 to 

disabled

.

By default, variants start animating parent element and its children at the same time. We can control that behavior using 

when

 property. We can set it to 

beforeChildren

 to make parent element animate first, or to 

afterChildren

, to make parent element animate after its children:

const container: Variants = {
  active: {
    background: "#ff00b1",
    transition: {
      staggerChildren: 0.5,
      when: "beforeChildren"
    }
  },
  disabled: {
    background: "#0D00FF"
  }
};
With this configuration, the parent 

div

 changes background color first, and then child elements rotate with a staggered delay.

There are a lot more properties of variants that we can control – animation delays, stagger direction, etc. You can find more information on them in framer-motion documentation.

Wrapping up

In this article, we’ve seen how easy it is to animate React components using declarative API that framer-motion provides. However, we just scratched the surface, since there’s a lot more that framer-motion is capable of – gestures, dragging, working with SVG paths and much more. If you’re interested in learning more – subscribe for my upcoming course that will cover all the cool things that framer-motion has to offer.

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