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Working with Shape Layers in Adobe After Effects CC (2015 release)

Chapter Description

Shape layers make it easy to create expressive backgrounds and intriguing results. You can animate shapes, apply animation presets, and add Repeaters to intensify their impact. Learn how in this chapter from Adobe After Effects CC Classroom in a Book (2015 release).

Creating custom shapes

You can use the five shape tools to create a wide variety of shapes. However, the real power in using shape layers is that you can draw any shape and manipulate it in a myriad of ways.

Drawing a shape with the Pen tool

You’ll use the Pen tool to draw a shape that resembles a lightning bolt. In order to position it properly in the final project, you’ll create a separate composition for this shape.

  1. Press Ctrl+N (Windows) or Command+N (Mac OS) to create a new composition.
  2. In the Composition Settings dialog box, name the composition Bolt, select the HDTV 1080 24 preset, set the duration to 10:00, and then click OK.
  3. Select the Pen tool (pen-tool.jpg) in the Tools panel.
  4. In the Composition panel, draw a shape that resembles a lightning bolt, as in the illustration. When you create the first vertex, After Effects automatically adds a shape layer to the Timeline panel.

  5. Select Shape Layer 1, press Enter or Return, and change the layer’s name to Bolt. Press Enter or Return to accept the new name.
  6. With the Bolt layer selected, click the Fill Color box in the Tools panel, and select a yellow color (we used R=255, G=237, B=0). Then click the Stroke Color box in the Tools panel, and select black (R=0, G=0, B=0).
  7. Change the Stroke Width to 10 px.

Creating a self-animating shape

Wiggle Paths turns a smooth shape into a series of jagged peaks and valleys. You’ll use it to make the lightning bolt more electrifying. Because the operation is self-animating, you need to change only a few properties for the entire shape to move on its own.

  1. Expand the Bolt layer in the Timeline panel, and choose Wiggle Paths from the Add pop-up menu.
  2. Expand Wiggle Paths 1. Then change the Size to 15 and the Detail to 30.
  3. Change Wiggles/Second to 24 to speed up the movement.
  4. Click the Motion Blur switch for the layer, and then click the Enable Motion Blur button at the top of the Timeline panel. Then hide the layer properties.

  5. Move the current-time indicator across the time ruler to see the shape move.
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