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Once you have your character drawn, either in Illustrator or Photoshop, you can then save it out, and bring it into After Effects. So let's take a look at the workflow for Illustrator first. Now, I have my file here, and before I do any exporting here, I want to make sure I go into Edit > Preferences, and go up to File Handling & Clipboard. Just make sure that Preserve Paths is turned on. This can help later on if we want to create paths that we can animate in After Effects.
Then once you do that, you can go ahead and do a File > Save As. Now in this case, I am just going to save over my old file, which is called Gus_Complete, and hit Save; yes, I want to replace it. The reason I did this is I want to make sure I bring up this menu here for Illustrator Options. Obviously, we can save it in a number of different formats, which is a nice thing that Illustrator does, but I am going to leave this at CS5. And then we want to make sure that we have Create a PDF Compatible File checked.
Once we do that, we hit OK, the file saves out, and we can go into After Effects. Now, we can import the file either through the File menu, File > Import, or we can just double-click on the Project menu. Again, our file is called Gus_Complete. Now, before we import it, we want to make sure that we import this as Composition-Retain layer Sizes. That will make sure that it shrinks the bounding boxes to the size of the layers, and that's kind of important.
Once we do that, we hit Open, and it brings it into After Effects. So I can just double-click on the Gus_ Complete layer here, and you can see we have the character, and all the parts, and each part is a separate layer in the composition. This is why we want to make sure that our layers are named properly in Illustrator, because they flow through to After Effects. So if I have descriptive names here, it makes it much easier to animate once you get into After Effects.
Now, if you are working with Illustrator files, typically you'll have vectors, and this is nice because this way they're kind of resolution independent. Now, for example, let's say I select this hand, and I scale it up. Typically, in After Effects, this will go ahead and scale evenly. The way we want to make sure that this happens is we want to make sure that we have this column turned on, which basically is called Continuous Rasterize.
Now, typically what I do is I just go ahead and select all of my layers, and make sure I click Continuously Rasterize for all of them. Now, notice how when I click it off it gets kind of fuzzy, and that's because it's just using a low res version of the object. But once I do this, it rasterizes, so if I scale, or if I shrink or scale it, it will go ahead and rasterize it, so I always have smooth edges, and that's one of the nice things to do when you're using Illustrator files.
Now, once you have all of your parts in place, you're pretty much ready to start assembling your character in After Effects.
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