Join Owen Lowery for an in-depth discussion in this video Designing cutout shapes with the Pen tool, part of Creating a Handmade Look in After Effects 01: Paper Cutout and Stop Motion Styles.
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- Shape layers in After Effects are awesome. It's really easy to create smooth, clean vector design natively in After Effects using these shape tools here: the Rectangle, Rounded Rectangle, Ellipses, Polygon Star tools. But, I want scrappy design that looks like it was cut with dull scissors and shaky hands, so I'll avoid these more precise shape tools and I'll use the pen tool exclusively for my design. Let's go ahead and open up the folder for 03 Designing Cut-Out Shapes and double-click on 03_01_Designing Cut-Out Shapes composition.
I've already started the body design of one of my robots. If you want to start fresh and create your own, I say go for it. That would be awesome. I'm going to hit V on my keyboard to make sure I have my selection tool selected, so I don't accidentally add new points or new lines or shapes. I'm going to go ahead and select my composition and hit command plus to zoom in a little bit. I'll hold down my space bar and just take a look at the edges and the shapes of my robot body. As you can see, there's no perfect geometry and very few sides have straight lines without some kind of mistake, slit, or missing bit in the edges.
It's not enough to design shapes that have oblong and uneven lines, you have to take your time adding extra little rough details to make it look like somebody wasn't taking their time at all. Alright. I'm going to zoom out by hitting command minus and hold down the space bar to center my robot design. I'm going to continue with this robot design by finishing up its body and adding its right arm. I'll hit G to get my pen tool, and the first thing I want to do is make sure I'm designing with the same color.
So, I want to go up to the fill, where this fill color is, and click on that, and then click on my eye dropper, and just hover over the robot to select the same color, and hit OK. I want to make sure my stroke is at zero because I don't want there to be any outlines on this design Then I'll select my Shape Layer 2, which is my robot's body, to make sure I'm designing on that same shape. Now I'm going to go ahead and hit command plus to zoom in a little bit and hold down the space bar to move over my composition, and I'll quickly just make the three sections that make up the right arm.
I'll just click, click, click, click, and notice when I hover over this first point that I made I get that little circle next to the pen. That means that I'm closing off this shape. Alright. I'm going to go ahead and move this over just a little bit to get it semi-lined up and now we'll continue on with the second section. Click. Click. Click. Click. Close. Move it over a little bit by selecting those points. And now the final section of the long arm.
I'll just make some points. (clicking) Oh, and notice I made a mistake. I accidentally double-clicked too fast, and I caused this bounding box to come around this arm. I don't want that, so to get rid of this I'm just going to hit return. I'll hit G on my keyboard to go back to my pen tool. I'll hold down shift and I'll select the last point I made in this to deselect it. You'll notice it is not filled in and everything else is so I will once again click on that to select it and then I can continue my robot arm design and close it off.
Now I can move these around and edit them a little bit, but I'm going to worry more about that in just a minute. I'm going to hit command minus to zoom out a little bit. I'm going to go ahead and create another new shape layer by going to Layer, New, Shape Layer and I'm going to select this one where I will make some other new body elements like maybe some knobs or some shapes in a different color that will be on the actual body. I'll do this later to make another for the face elements too I'm going to go up and change the fill color by selecting it and moving to more of an off, muddy red.
I'll hit OK and with Shape Layer 3 selected in the timeline, I'll go ahead and start by making a few little triangles to give it nice, little, random, fun, cut-out shape design. I'm going to hit V to go back to my selection tool. Now I want to take a closer look at this arm and edit it a little bit by hitting command plus a few times, holding down the space bar and going up to it.
I want to give it those rough and ragged little edges and get it just perfect. So with Shape Layer 2 selected, that has my body elements on it, I'm going to hit G to go back to my pen tool, and I'm going to start adding points between these other points. As you can see, if I hover over the lines between points on a shape layer, it'll give me that little plus symbol, which means I can actually add more points to this shape. I'll add a point right here and click and drag it up. Then I'll add another point, click, and drag it down.
I'll go ahead and add a point here. Click and move it a bit. Maybe add another point up here. If I zoom out, hit V for my selection tool, and deselect by clicking on the composition window, we can see that that shape is already starting to match up with some of that rough edge of the rest of the robot body. I'm going to go through and finish up the arm and get it looking perfect, as well as, the other body elements and some face elements too.
So I'll move this around and continue making a few more of these cuts and imperfections. That looks so good and really helps sell our handmade, cut-out design style. I'm going to hit command minus to zoom out and hold down the space bar to go ahead and move my robot to the center.
Then I'll hit V for my selection tool, and I'll click off of that design, just so I can get a look at it. It's looking pretty good so far. By using the pen tool, I have more control over my shapes, but it's at the sacrifice of perfect lines. Good thing I want to mess things up a bit. To finish this robot shape up, I'll add another shape layer for some facial elements, and finish up those body knobs and design elements there, and then go through and mess them all up too. You can go ahead and do that yourself, and then feel free to practice and meet me up in the next video.
Mograph artist Owen Lowery shows how to build the text and image elements, add texture, and then animate the graphics for a stop-motion look. The lessons demonstrate how versatile Adobe After Effects' tools can be when you stretch them beyond their traditional uses and employ some creative problem solving. Members are encouraged to experiment and adapt the techniques shown to other styles and projects.
- Adjusting composition settings
- Designing shape layers in a cutout style
- Creating a paper-like texture
- Building cutout type
- Animating elements for a stop motion look
- Adding imperfection and randomness with wiggle expressions