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In After Effects CS5 Essential Training, author Chad Perkins discusses the basic tools, effects, and need-to-know techniques in Adobe After Effects CS5, the professional standard for motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects for video. The course provides an overview of the entire workflow, from import to export, as well as detailed coverage of each stage, including animating text and artwork, adding effects to compositions, working in 3D, and rendering and compressing footage. Exercise files are included with the course.
Layer styles are a fantastic feature of After Effects that allow you to add cool effects to not just text, but any type of layer, and we will see this at work. I should preface this by saying that layer styles can be used in a way that's too overdone. So, make sure that you're very careful and artistic about your choices. The layer styles here that we are going to be talking about are just like we find in Photoshop. So, to access them, I am going to select the Hansel layer, right-click on it, and on any layer you are going to have this Layer Styles option when you right-click on the layer.
And these are all the effects that we can add. So, we could for example add Bevel and Emboss, which creates kind of like this three-dimensional look to our text or whatever the layer is by giving it like a highlight and also shadows, which we can't really see because it's black text, but it does give it this kind of chiseled look. We can also add more effects to this. We can right-click on this and go to Layer Styles and choose Drop Shadow to add a very simple drop shadow. You could right-click and continue to add another effect, let's say an Outer Glow. Now, we typically wouldn't have an Outer Glow and a Drop Shadow on the same object at the same time, but just to show you that you can't stack these effects up.
Let's say we are going to adjust the Outer Glow. Let's go down into the layer here and we could open up Outer Glow and you could see all of the layer styles. We have Drop Shadow here and Bevel and Emboss, and you could open them to get their options. And let's say for example that we want to change the color. So, here for the color of the glow, I can click the eyedropper and maybe go to a brighter color of pink, like the background, and we could increase maybe the spread. As you can see, it becomes kind of like a thicker stroke almost around it. We can also increase the size. And now that the size is bigger, I might dial back the spread a little bit.
So, we just have like this faint soft glow behind the text. It might just be a little bit of too much. We can dial back to the opacity a little bit, just click and drag on the Opacity for that layer style for that Outer Glow. And none of the other attributes like the Drop Shadow or the Bevel and Emboss are affected. But it makes it stick out a little bit, which is just kind of cool. Also, the Outer Glow and all these layer styles have their own independent visibility controls, so I can click the eye icon and see it before and after. And so it is a very subtle effect, but it does make a big difference without it and I think it looks better with it. So, you can see tons of cool opportunities for cool effects here, but also you can probably see how it can easily be overdone.
I am going to go to actually the background layer. First, I am going to unlock it by clicking the lock icon for layer 16 here and I am going to right-click on this, and I'm going to choose a layer style. I am actually going to add a gradient overlay. This is going to put a gradient over our layer. This is kind of like the Ramp effect,so you might be saying, "Well, we have already done that. Look, what's the big deal?" Well, the cool thing here is if we open up Gradient Overlays options in the layer area, then we could get to the options for the gradient. And what I'm going to do actually is change the blend mode, which will change the way that this gradient blends in with the background.
Again, we haven't quite talked about blend modes yet. We will, but for right now just go take this dropdown from Normal to Overlay. And so now the darkness is making the background darker where the black was, and the bright areas of the gradient, the white part, is making the bottom part of our background a little bit light. Here is this really nice dark to light overlay or enhancement of the background. I actually might want to flip that, so we can come down here to the Reverse option and it says Off. Just go ahead and click it once to make it On, so it's flipped so now the gradient goes from bright at the top to dark at the bottom.
Kind of a nice effect here. Now again, it might be a little bit too much of an effect, so we could take down the opacity of the effect as we see fit. And now the brights are not as bright and the darks are not as dark, but still looking pretty cool I think. So, again, there's that, and we could take the visibility off of the Gradient Overlay to see the before, and just all standard, top to bottom. And then there is the after, with a slightly brighter top and slightly darker bottom. I like that effect a lot. So, oftentimes when I want to give a background some character or maybe just some text some character, just bring it to life, so it's not just this solid flat color, layer styles, if used appropriately, could be a great way to do that.
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