Join Chad Perkins for an in-depth discussion in this video Using custom shapes and brushes, part of After Effects Project Workflow.
The other important element from Photoshop is basically this one PSD file full of all sorts of miscellaneous little items. Some of them we use for the background textures. Some of them we have exploding with me as I pop out of the banner. And so let's take a look at this document really quick. I'm going to hold the Option key on the Mac, the Alt key on the PC while I click the Visibility icon, so we could solo each layer here. So we have a guitar, some piano keys, some music notes and clefs, a mixer, a speaker, a keyboard, a ninja sword, of course, just a few random things that we may or may not use later on.
Now all these elements were created from either brushes or shapes. I want to show you how I did that. You are not going to have all these exact brushes because some of them were taken from materials that I purchased on the Internet. So you won't have the original brushes, but I'll still show you what I did to create these. Also in the next movie you'll have a little bonus tutorial on how to make your own brushes out of photos. Now before we leave this image, I want to cover the size of it really quickly. I am going to hold Command+ Option+I, or Ctrl+Alt+I on the PC. You'll see that it's 1280x1080 pixels. That's significantly larger than our final output size, which is SD. We have 720x480.
The reason why this is so big is because the final 720x480 composition is kind of like a window into our much bigger composition in the background. So when I'm exporting stuff that's pixel-based, I always try to make sure it's extra, extra big. That way I can resize it up in After Effects and not lose any clarity. So what I am going to do is go to File>New, and I'm going to make a new Photoshop document. I am just going to leave this at the Photoshop size because we're not actually going to replicate this document. I just want to teach you a little bit about using custom brushes and shapes.
First thing's first. We need to create a new layer if we are going to be using brushes. If we were to paint directly on the background layer, those brushes would become part of the background layer, and would not be able to be transparent or isolated. So we need to create a new layer so that they are separate. And I am going to select the Brush tool by hitting letter B on the keyboard. Let's go over to the Brushes panel. If it's not showing, you could also hit this little icon up here. Now what I did here is I went to flyout menu and I loaded this set, Special Effect Brushes. And when this dialog popped up, I just clicked OK to replace those brushes, that are current brushes.
Let's say for example, I like this butterfly. Now there's a bunch of cool mechanics built into this brush so that when I paint, there is a big flurry of butterflies. And that's fantastic and awesome, but that's not what I'm looking for right now. So I'm going to undo that by hitting Command or Ctrl+Z. Go back to our little butterfly here, and let's uncheck all these little extra little goodies that change the way the butterfly is and then we could just click once, and create a butterfly. We could also hit the Right Bracket to bump that up as large as it will go and we could make more butterflies.
Most brushes have a built-in resolution. So if we go too high, let's say we make this butterfly really, really big here, you could see the edges start to lose clarity and look really terrible. Even at this size right now, it looks pretty bad. So I am going to undo that and shrink my brush. And one of the things you can do also, is you can check in the Brushes panel and see the size of the brush. So with this pixel, with this rose here, being 117 pixels, we could probably get bigger with this one, and still have all the clarity that we need as opposed to the butterfly one which is intended to be a little bit smaller.
The cool thing about these brushes is that we could then take this into After Effects and then use it, let's say, for a particle generator, a particle system. We could spit out millions of roses or butterflies or whatever we want. Custom shapes are also a really important source of goodies like that. I am just going to turn off the visibility of the layer here and I am going to go to the Custom Shape tool. And with custom shapes, we don't have to create a new layer because as long as we have this first little icon selected here, which is Shape layer, it will automatically make a shape for us. So then we go to this Shape dropdown here with this tool selected.
If you have any other shape tools selected, you won't be able to select a custom shape here like this. I went to the flyout menu, and I just selected All. So that way it loaded all of the shapes that we have available to us, which are pretty cool. And there's actually a few music notes, such as these right here. And we could just click-and-drag to put this onto on our canvas here. If we hold the Shift key, it will constrain the proportions so that we have equal proportions that otherwise you can just kind of get these all skewy and yucky.
Hold the Option key or the Alt key on the Mac to scale up from the first place that you clicked. And if you don't hold Alt or Option, then the first place you clicked becomes the upper left-hand corner of where the shape scales from. I know it's pretty confusing, right? So I'm going to hold Shift and Option. And I'm also going to hold the Spacebar if I want to, and that'll allow us to move our shape around. And your fingers are probably playing some awesome twister on the keyboard there as you try to hold the Shift+ Option+Spacebar keys down at the same time, but those keyboard shortcuts really do help you as you are creating shapes.
So I let go of this, and now we have a vector-based shape, meaning that we could scale this up as big as we want. We're not going to lose any detail or whatever. We could export this as is to After Effects, and it will create a mask on a layer. So this will come over still as vector, but that's actually not what I want. So I could right-click on this layer and select Rasterize layer, and then it becomes a regular old layer of pixels. That way, when we're playing around with this in After Effects, we don't have to worry about dealing with those masks. So when I was creating this sword and music stuff PSD file, I wasn't really exactly sure what I wanted.
I know I wanted a ninja sword and I know I wanted some guitars to be sticking up in the background. But as far as texture, I kind of left that up in the air. I just kind of created a bunch of different elements and I didn't know what I would use or what I wouldn't use, but I thought I would just get a bunch of stuff anyways and see what I could come up with in After Effects. One of the things that I did end up doing, as you'll see, is that I actually liked the way that these 16th notes look right here, these little ones with the brackets. So what I did is I isolated those in After Effects and I used those as the thing that foam the particle generator spit out.
Some of these other elements, like the mixer, added some great background texture as well. So we'll see how these work together in later chapters. In the next movie, again, we are going to have a little bonus tutorial on how to create custom brushes that look kinda like this out of a photograph.
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