After Effects CS5 Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

Using the paint tools


After Effects CS5 Essential Training

with Chad Perkins

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Video: Using the paint tools

Whether your workflow is more motion graphics-based or whether it's more visual effects and compositing-based, After Effects has some really cool paint tools that work well in both arenas. First, we're going to look at how the basic Brush tool works and how that applies to motion graphics. Then we'll move on to see how it can help you to do visual effects and compositing. I have here this motion graphics background that I've created and I have this solid layer, which just says Paint On Me. So, we can't miss that. What we're going to do is select the Brush tool. But in order to paint on this layer, we actually have to open this layer up in what's called the Layer panel, which we looked at earlier in this training series.
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  1. 5m 40s
    1. Introduction
      1m 30s
    2. What is After Effects?
      3m 12s
    3. How to use the exercise files
  2. 28m 14s
    1. After Effects workflow overview
      2m 18s
    2. Bringing elements into After Effects
      2m 23s
    3. Adding elements to the Timeline
      1m 57s
    4. Working with layers
      3m 45s
    5. Creating animation with presets
      3m 24s
    6. Applying effects
      3m 34s
    7. Creating animation without presets
      5m 38s
    8. Previewing your work
      2m 46s
    9. Exporting content as a movie file
      2m 29s
  3. 27m 20s
    1. Touring the interface
      6m 2s
    2. How After Effects projects work
      4m 47s
    3. What is a composition?
      4m 52s
    4. Tips for adding content to compositions
      2m 49s
    5. Understanding the properties of video
      8m 50s
  4. 57m 8s
    1. Importing an Illustrator file
      4m 57s
    2. Animation basics
      7m 12s
    3. Animating opacity
      6m 40s
    4. Understanding anchor points
      4m 57s
    5. Animating position
      6m 8s
    6. Animating rotation
      4m 41s
    7. Animating scale
      7m 19s
    8. Using the Puppet tool
      7m 13s
    9. Copying and pasting keyframes
      3m 4s
    10. Animation shortcuts
      4m 57s
  5. 9m 42s
    1. Understanding precomposing
      6m 51s
    2. Navigating through compositions quickly
      2m 51s
  6. 1h 12m
    1. A showcase of effects
      2m 34s
    2. Creating a layer for effects
      3m 1s
    3. Applying effects
      4m 54s
    4. Animating effect properties
      4m 29s
    5. Using Glow
      5m 34s
    6. Creating patterns and textures
      6m 57s
    7. Creating a fireball
      7m 9s
    8. Using the Cycore effects
      5m 58s
    9. Adding blur
      5m 45s
    10. Creating a galaxy scene from scratch
      8m 38s
    11. Distorting objects with effects
      4m 7s
    12. Creating and using lens flares
      4m 21s
    13. Creating lightning bolts
      4m 3s
    14. Viewing random variations with Brainstorm
      4m 39s
  7. 30m 52s
    1. Shortening the duration of layers
      4m 23s
    2. Trimming in the Footage panel
      4m 14s
    3. Slowing and accelerating video speed
      7m 9s
    4. Applying video transitions between clips
      6m 7s
    5. Working with image sequences
      4m 47s
    6. Importing footage with an alpha channel
      4m 12s
  8. 36m 11s
    1. Brightening dark footage
      9m 12s
    2. Changing colors in footage
      6m 34s
    3. Creating cinematic color treatments
      8m 17s
    4. Creating a quick vignette
      3m 42s
    5. Colorizing black-and-white objects
      4m 50s
    6. Using adjustment layers
      3m 36s
  9. 21m 9s
    1. Creating and editing text
      7m 39s
    2. Applying text animation presets
      4m 41s
    3. Animating text manually
      4m 43s
    4. Applying layer styles to text
      4m 6s
  10. 28m 58s
    1. Let's get better
    2. Using work areas
      3m 37s
    3. Creating markers
      6m 17s
    4. Replacing layers
      2m 35s
    5. Mastering Timeline navigation
      3m 18s
    6. Aligning and distributing layers
      3m 4s
    7. Selecting layers quickly
      1m 56s
    8. Cropping layers
      3m 43s
    9. Adjusting comp resolution
      3m 51s
  11. 23m 53s
    1. Using the paint tools
      9m 35s
    2. Using the Roto Brush tool
      9m 25s
    3. Animating growing vines
      4m 53s
  12. 40m 29s
    1. Creating and using masks
      6m 42s
    2. Exploring mask options
      7m 57s
    3. Creating masks with Auto-trace
      6m 51s
    4. Masking objects with other objects
      5m 33s
    5. Making shape layers
      3m 43s
    6. Modifying shape layers
      9m 43s
  13. 30m 44s
    1. Turning 2D layers into 3D layers
      9m 22s
    2. Creating lights and cameras
      6m 14s
    3. Creating shadows
      4m 23s
    4. Using depth of field
      4m 42s
    5. Working with 3D effects
      6m 3s
  14. 18m 10s
    1. Removing a green screen background
      4m 37s
    2. Refining the matte
      4m 48s
    3. Compositing with color adjustments
      4m 50s
    4. Compositing with blend modes
      3m 55s
  15. 25m 44s
    1. Understanding spatial interpolation
      2m 5s
    2. Creating and adjusting motion paths
      3m 55s
    3. Orienting moving objects along a path
      1m 29s
    4. Drawing motion with Motion Sketch
      2m 51s
    5. Creating pauses in animation
      3m 6s
    6. Understanding temporal interpolation
      1m 56s
    7. Easing keyframes
      5m 57s
    8. About the Graph Editor
      4m 25s
  16. 12m 13s
    1. Stabilizing shaky footage
      7m 46s
    2. Tracking the motion in footage
      4m 27s
  17. 24m 58s
    1. Setting up parent layers
      5m 49s
    2. Working with null objects
      2m 31s
    3. What are expressions?
      7m 17s
    4. Modifying simple expressions
      2m 20s
    5. Using the wiggle expression
      7m 1s
  18. 6m 52s
    1. Understanding audio in motion graphics
      1m 22s
    2. Previewing and mixing audio
      3m 55s
    3. Enhancing audio tracks with effects
      1m 35s
  19. 11m 36s
    1. Adding comps to the Render Queue
      2m 30s
    2. Exploring key Render Queue settings
      4m 11s
    3. How should I export my video?
      4m 55s
  20. 7m 16s
    1. Using Photoshop with After Effects
      2m 10s
    2. Using Illustrator with After Effects
      3m 2s
    3. Using Flash with After Effects
      2m 4s
  21. 11s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course After Effects CS5 Essential Training
8h 39m Beginner Apr 30, 2010

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the After Effects workflow
  • Precomposing footage
  • Explaining the basics and beyond of animating
  • Creating glows, patterns, textures, and more with effects
  • Color correcting footage
  • Working with text
  • Manipulating video playback speed
  • Masking objects and shape layers
  • Removing backgrounds with keying
  • Compositing multiple pieces of footage
  • Integrating After Effects with the rest of the Creative Suite
After Effects
Chad Perkins

Using the paint tools

Whether your workflow is more motion graphics-based or whether it's more visual effects and compositing-based, After Effects has some really cool paint tools that work well in both arenas. First, we're going to look at how the basic Brush tool works and how that applies to motion graphics. Then we'll move on to see how it can help you to do visual effects and compositing. I have here this motion graphics background that I've created and I have this solid layer, which just says Paint On Me. So, we can't miss that. What we're going to do is select the Brush tool. But in order to paint on this layer, we actually have to open this layer up in what's called the Layer panel, which we looked at earlier in this training series.

So, I'm going to double-click this layer to open up the layer panel. Back in the old school days of After Effects you just had to do everything in the Layer panel. Now pretty much only painting. What I'm going to do is I'm just going to ignore for right now the Brushes and Paint panels. These are kind of like the equivalent to the Character and Paragraph panels for text, but this is the two panels that we used when we were painting. If you're not seeing them, you could click this little icon right here as long as the Brush tool is selected. You can click this to close the Brushes and Paint panel or open them. What I'm going to do is ignore this for right now, because we can change these later.

I'm just going to click and drag a cool little paint squiggle here. Now this is the cool part about painting in After Effects. If I go down to the Layer panel and open up Effects and then Paint and then I open up Brush 1, and you could see I have Stroke Options here. You see most of the parameters and control that we have in the Brushes and Paint panel show up here in the Stroke Options area in the Timeline panel now, including Start and End, which we can animate. So, if I went to the End value, change this to zero, if you start and enter now at zero, and then increase the End value, it's like the paint stroke is drawing itself on.

So, if we want to create and animate stroke of some type of line or something, let's say for example like Indiana Jones or what have you and we were wanting to trace the path of an airplane flying or something, this would be a great, easy way to do that. We could change the diameter after the fact. Click and make this paint size bigger or smaller. Right now, if we zoom in there, we could see that this paint edge is a little bit hard. So, we could take down the hardness and actually make this a soft edged paint stroke. Make it fuzzy if we wanted to. We'll leave it at 100%. One of the first things I want to do is change the color here.

I'm going to click the Eyedropper and I'm actually going to sample the color of the solid. So, now we have kind of like this golden paint stroke on a golden background. What I want to do is actually remove the background, so that when we go over here to our main composition, I want to be able to see the paint stroke on our composition. So, what I'm going to do is I could actually go into the Effect Controls panel and check Paint on Transparent or come down here to the Timeline panel and where it says Paint on Transparent Off, click it once to turn this to On. In the Layer panel, we just now see no background.

But if we go to the Composition panel, we could see paint on the background. Actually, now that we have painted our stroke here, we actually don't even need to use the Layer panel too much anymore. So, I'm going to scroll down. We've already talked about Diameter and we've already talked about Hardness, and I want to talk about Roundness a little bit. If we take this down, we can create an interesting kind of calligraphy effect as this kind of gets flattened a little bit. Now we could use the Angle to kind of move the angle of the paint stroke around. I'm going to take Angle back to zero and I'm going to take Roundness back up to 100%.

One of the interesting things about painting in After Effects, and it's the same way it is in Photoshop actually, is that you have these brushes that you can use and they kind of basically look like little circles or maybe little flat shapes or something. Really what paint strokes are is a series of those shapes. So, if we increase the spacing, we'll see the little paint dots that make up our paint stroke, really just a series of circles. So, as we decrease spacing, we're actually just bringing those closer together. So, what seems like a solid paint stroke is really just a series of consecutive circles.

The cool thing about this is we could use this to create some interesting patterns. So, I might want to take down Diameter a little bit so we have these cool little dots here. If we adjust the End value, we can have these cool animated dotted line patterns that were created with really not much effort on our part at all, really cool for motion graphics and you could imagine if you have these little dots how long it would take you to animate them one by one. But with this effect, it kind of makes it quick and simple. One other thing that I want to point out is that I intentionally started painting on this frame that was not the home frame and you can see where our paint started.

It started at the current frame. So, if we played our composition now, it actually wouldn't start having the paint on until the frame we started painting on. We could just trim this, and we could crop this, just as we would with a regular layer, but just be aware of that. The paint does not come on and tell the frame in which we started painting by default. Now, let's look at painting from a visual effects compositing point of view. I'm going to double-click this layer here. This is a cool shot of our flower shop.

See how it's squished a little bit? This is because the pixel aspect ratio of this footage is a little bit off. So, I'm going to click this button right here, which is a little rectangle with a double-sided arrow. This is the Pixel Aspect Ratio Correction, which shows us what the footage will actually look like if played back on the screen. Let's say I'm going to remove this tree. From a composition point of view, I'm not the biggest fan of this palm tree sticking up here. What I can do is use this Eyedropper tool here in the Paint panel to sample the paint color from around the sky and then I'm going to actually hold down the Command key on the Mac or the Ctrl key on the PC and drag up to resize my brush.

Once I let go off the Command key, then my brush will stop resizing and I could go ahead and paint this out. Now, I'm doing this poorly to illustrate a problem. It's a problem no doubt you've already caught on to. If I just paint out objects like this, we're going to start to see a problem once we zoom in. In some little areas in this it looks okay, but what happens is that video actually creates noise. So, as we play this back, we're getting noise in the sky. We're getting noise all over the place, in the building, everywhere, except where we painted, which is an obvious blunder on our part.

It makes it very obvious that this is fake. We don't want that. So, what I can do is select the Paint effect in the Effect Controls panel and delete it to get rid of all of the paint strokes that I have applied to this layer. Now I'm going to actually select the Clone Stamp tool, which is the tool right next to the Brush tool. What the Clone Stamp tool allows us to do is to sample areas around an object and paste it over the object. So, we're actually taking video pixels and pasting them on top of the tree. So, all of the live noise from the areas that we sample, we paste it into where the tree is.

So, I could zoom in here. And again, I'm going to hold the Command key and click and drag upwards to resize this. And I'm going to sample pixels from the sky around the palm tree by holding the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key on the PC and clicking in an area of sky and then I'm going to simply come over here and click to paint over the palm tree. Now you'll want to do some continuous resampling, because believe it or not, the blue on this side is not the same color as the blue on this side. The blue over here is not the same as the blue on the top.

Even though they look very similar, they are not. So, we want to keep resampling, keep repasting and keep working this, working this, over here on this side. So, you see we're getting a really smooth blend, which is exactly what we need here. I'm continuing to resample and actually sometimes you get stuff like that where you get cloning artifacts, where you get extra pieces of things that you didn't intend, like that roof. So, you need to be careful of that.

I'm going to just get rid of this. Now the softness of my brush is becoming a problem here. So, I'm going to increase the hardness a little bit more and that way we don't have such a soft edge, which makes easier for us to create a better clone around where the roof is here. Okay, so that's good enough for our purposes right now and we could back up. And you can see that there are some issues right around here. I made it little bit too dark. So, what we might want to do is sample and paste over those areas until we get a smoother transition.

That looks much better. So, if we hit the Spacebar to preview this, then from faraway it looks pretty good. And from zoomed in close, we could see that there is noise because again we sampled live video data to paste over the tree. So, whether you zoomed in close or from faraway people, chances are, are not going to notice the digital fakery that we just purported on them. Also, what you might want to try to do is to go in here and try this as an extra exercise after this movie is over. Go in and try to remove this flower area by using the bricks and the street texture to try to replace that, so that we have a clean slate here.

And oftentimes, like on "The Fellowship of the Ring", Peter Jackson noticed in theatrical release there was a Volkswagen Bug in one of the scenes. So, you can use this feature to go in and remove objects that you don't want in your scene. Sometimes, as noted here, it's kind of like a compositional thing where you just kind of like don't like the way something looks. But a lot times, it might be like a visual effects thing where you might have wires or cables connected to something that are kind of giving it away, or something like in "The Fellowship of the Ring", where it's kind of like a historical thing, where it throws off the vibe of the movie.

So, just be aware that these tools are here to help you to fiddle with your footage and create cool motion graphics elements as well.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about After Effects CS5 Essential Training .

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Q: In the "Creating a fireball" movie in Chapter 6, the author showed how to make a fireball. Unfortunately, it all centered around a blob layer that he made without showing how to make a blob layer. How does one go about creating a blob layer like the one used in the video?
A: To create a blob layer, make a shape layer using the Pen tool. Animate the anchor points over time to make it move. These concepts are reviewed in depth in Chapter 4, "Learning to Animate."
Q: In the Chapter 5 video "Understanding precomposing," the exercise file provided does not seem to match up with the file the instructor uses. My file does not include a "Biker Body" layer. Is there an error in the exercise file?
A: Unfortunately, the exercise file originally distributed for this chapter was incorrect. A new file was issued in February 2011. If you downloaded the exercise files prior to then, you can download the corrected file on the Exercise Files tab of the course page.
Q: How do I transition from one piece of animated type to another in After Effects?
A: There isn't an effect that can create these types of transitions. It's really a matter of animating the type and camera, using basic keyframing and positioning.
If you understand the basics of moving the anchor point of a type layer, animating the parameters of that layer (Scale, Rotation, Position, etc.) and then separately animating the camera around the type layers, you can achieve different types of transitions.  Check out the following videos for more information:

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