2D Character Animation with After Effects
Illustration by John Hersey

Animating paint strokes with the paintbrush


From:

2D Character Animation with After Effects

with Angie Taylor

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Video: Animating paint strokes with the paintbrush

After Effects allows you to create a stop-frame style animation by painting on layers with brushes. Now, here, I have my brush tool in the control panel. So, we're going to select our brush tool and start painting in After Effects. If you want to follow along, you can open the stop-frame project from the stop-frame style folder. And then, you can follow along with me. Now, when you select the brush tool, it will open up the brushes and paint pallets here for you, so that you have easy access to the tools that you'll need. Now, if I click on the composition panel with the paintbrush, you'll notice nothing happens. Because I don't actually have anything in there and you can't paint on nothing. You need to create a layer.
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Watch the Online Video Course 2D Character Animation with After Effects
2h 35m Intermediate Feb 14, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In her career as an animator, Angie Taylor has developed some powerful techniques for creating quick but compelling 2D animation, and in this workshop she shares those secrets with you. Learn how to import layered files and paths from Adobe Illustrator into After Effects and how to animate flat vector artwork in both 2D and 3D space, and explore options for outputting your animations. The videos are short, focused, and solution-oriented, and all the project files are included so you can follow along as you go.

Topics include:
  • Best practices for importing source files
  • Sorting and interpreting footage
  • Animating using traditional layer-style animation
  • Creating a grouping structure for body parts
  • Animating with the Puppet tool
  • Creating stop-frame-style animation
  • Setting up control layers
  • Animating using time remapping
  • Exporting files for Flash
  • Making movies via the Render Queue
Subjects:
3D + Animation Video video2brain
Software:
After Effects
Author:
Angie Taylor

Animating paint strokes with the paintbrush

After Effects allows you to create a stop-frame style animation by painting on layers with brushes. Now, here, I have my brush tool in the control panel. So, we're going to select our brush tool and start painting in After Effects. If you want to follow along, you can open the stop-frame project from the stop-frame style folder. And then, you can follow along with me. Now, when you select the brush tool, it will open up the brushes and paint pallets here for you, so that you have easy access to the tools that you'll need. Now, if I click on the composition panel with the paintbrush, you'll notice nothing happens. Because I don't actually have anything in there and you can't paint on nothing. You need to create a layer.

So, we'll go to Layer, New, Solid, to create a new layer. And we shall make it black solid. And make it the comp size by clicking on the comp size button. If you need to change the color, just click on the color swatch and choose black from there, and then click OK. So, here we have our black solid layer. Now, you may think you can just start painting, but watch what happens. If I try and click on here, it actually reverts back to the selection tool and I just move my layer around. So, I'm going to undo that and what I have to do if I want to paint on a layer is open up the Layer panel. Now, with a solid layer, I just double click on it and it will open up the Layer panel.

Now, when I'm painting, I quite like to create a new work space for it. And what I'm going to do is I'm just going to close some of the other panels while I'm painting. I don't really need the timeline open while I'm painting. And I'm going to take the paint panel and I'm going to move it up where the info panel is. So, I've now got my brushes and my paint in close proximity to each other. I can extend the Paint panel, so that I can see all of the settings as well. And I'm just going to close the preview panel as well, cuz I don't really need that open. So, I've got my brushes and my paint.

So, I'm just going to extend this a little bit. Just so that I can see more brushes without having to scroll. Okay, once I'm happy with that, I can save this work space. So, we'll just make this a little bit bigger. And we shall go to Fit Up to 100%. In fact, when you're painting, you best paint at 100%. So, put that one 100% and we can just use spacebar to move around if we need to see the bounds of the layer. Okay, so we can save this as a workspace. So, I could call it Angie Paint, because there's already a default paint in there. So, if I put in Angie Paint, I know that's my version of the paint. Okay, so I'm ready to start painting.

I've got a nine-pixel soft round brush chosen and white is my foreground color, and I'm just going to draw a little stick figure in here. Just a little stick man. Okay, so we draw the head, the body, the legs, very short arms and legs and the arms. Okay and I'm using a brush stroke for each of those body parts. And I'm now going to switch back to my animation mark space and you will see if we have a look down in the timeline, let's just readjust that slightly, that we have paint applied to the layer and we have these brush strokes on our layer.

And as I select each of the brush strokes, you may notice up here that it's indicated by a gray line when it's selected. What I'm going to do is take a minute to rename these. So, this is the head. So, I'm going to select the brush one and hit Return on the keyboard to make it active and type in head. Brush two was the body, so hit Return, type in body. Brush three, I think, was the right leg. Yep, so hit Return, right leg.

Brush four must have been the left leg. Brush five was the right arm. And brush six must be the left arm. A simple process of elimination. So now, we've got six brushes and what we're going to do is animate those brush strokes. So, to animate the brush strokes, you need to select all of them, first of all. So, just click on one, and then shift-click to the bottom. Make sure that all selected. Then if we open up one, we should see a path setting with a stop watch next to it.

Click on that for one of them and it will set keyframes for all of them. Now, if you want to tidy up the timeline make it sort of a bit narrower. If you hit the U key on the keyboard, that will close any of the other properties that aren't being animated and just keep the animated properties open. So, to create our animation, all we really need to do is move to a new point in time. So, I'm going to move to 1 second. Very important, deselect the layers, first of all. And if you scroll down and just select the head layer.

Now, if you have a layer selected, if I have nothing selected and I draw another paint stroke, it just draws a second paint stroke. Okay? So, I'm going to undo that. If instead, I select the head layer first, and then draw another paint stroke, it replaces the old paint stroke with the new one and it animates in between those two points. It's amazing. Okay, so I'm just going to draw it a little bit bigger. So, let's make it a little bit bigger. And then, I'm going to do the same with the body. Select the body, and then redraw it into a new position.

And then, I'm going to select the right leg. I need to scroll down a little bit here. And I'm going to swap that over to that side. And the left leg will swap over to that side. Okay, that foot's a bit big, but we're not going to worry too much about that. The right arm will swap over to the position of the left arm and the left arm will swap over to the position of the right arm. Now, obviously, when you're doing this, you can take a little bit more time over it. So, I'm going to just redo that one a little bit. But I am just doing this very, very quickly, so you can see what's happening.

I'm not having to keep you around for hours to see me redraw it over and over again. And you can see what happens, it animates between those two points. Now, you'll notice that in between, you get this kind of squiggly, horrible kind of mosh happening. So, what you can do, the head and body are okay, but the legs and the arms really need redrawing at that point. So, what I would do is move in between, and then just redraw those legs and arms. So, the arm, I'm just going to do straight down. And the other arm, straight down and the legs too.

So, if we do just the legs kind of a little bit straighter. Okay, and the right leg. Okay, so we've got one step for walk there. Now, there are various ways of making the walk longer. I'm going to open this one here, 07 stop frame end, where I have a little character that I've spent a little bit more time over making the walk loop. So, that's a little bit about how you can use paint to create a looping walk cycle animation.

Now, the loop can be created by copying and pasting keyframes or there are other methods that you can use to loop which we'll be having a look at a little bit later.

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