Create Highly Controllable Characters in After Effects
Drawing in After Effects
If you want, you can also draw your character in After Effects directly. Now, this has some advantages in that it allows you to actually animate the shapes of your character's body parts; that sort of thing. There are some limitations in terms of layering, texturing; that sort of thing. You will get better results in Illustrator or Photoshop, but there are some places where drawing in After Effects can be advantageous. So let's just take a look at some of the process of drawing character parts in After Effects.
So I have a file here, and one of the things I have is just a reference of my character, and we are going to use that to draw over. So I have a composition here called Comp 1, and I am just going to double-click on that to bring it up, and then select this file Gus_Reference.jpg, and then just drag it into my Timeline. And I want to make sure I lock this layer, because I am going to start drawing over it. So let's take a look at how to use the Shape tools in After Effects.
I am going to zoom in, and in order to draw a shape we need to create a shape layer, so I am going to go into Layer > New > Shape layer. And that just creates an empty Shape layer. Then I am going to select my Pen tool, and make sure my Fill and Stroke are what I want, and I can start drawing. So let's say I want to draw this character's head. So again, I can just -- very similar to Illustrator -- I can lay down, basically, points. So if I click and drag, I get a Bezier handle.
If I just click once, I get a corner. So I am going to go ahead and click and drag, click once, click and drag, click once, click and drag, and then just click again to close. Now once I have done that, I am going to go ahead over to my Selection tool here, and you can see under Contents I have a shape. Now this shape can be used, basically, just like any other part of my character.
So if I want, I can just use the shape as is, or I can animate that shape, which can be a very handy thing to do. So let's say I also wanted to draw some additional shapes. Let's say I wanted to draw the character's hair. So if I want, I can hide this shape, just like I did when drawing in Illustrator. And again, I am just going to create another Shape layer, and this time I am going to select the Pen tool, but my hair is black, so I am going to select my Fill as Black, and my Stroke as Black as well.
And again, I am just going to go ahead and click for corner, click and drag, and so on. Click for corner, corner, click and drag, click and drag, and then maybe a corner here, and then close. So as you can see, I've got a very easy way to draw shapes, and these can certainly be used for character parts in After Effects. Now once you have a shape, you can also change its color.
You can either do that by selecting the shape here, and just selecting the Fill color, so if I want to change that color I can certainly do that. Or I can go into my Shape layer here, into my Shape, and you can see we have some options here as well. So we have, for example, Stroke. We can actually have Layer Effects if we want, and we can also do that with Fill as well. We can also transform shapes individually, or we can use a master transform as well.
So these are just some of the basics of how to draw shapes in After Effects to create characters directly in After Effects.
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