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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).

Positioning layers with snapping

You’ve created and manipulated shapes in a variety of ways. Now you’ll create a checkerboard pattern. Positioning the layers will be easy with the snapping feature in After Effects.

Creating a new composition

This checkerboard background includes multiple layers, so you’ll create a new composition for it.

  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 Checkerboard, choose HDTV 1080 24 from the Preset menu, and type 10:00 for Duration. Then click OK.

After Effects opens the new Checkerboard composition in the Timeline and Composition panels. You’ll start by adding two solid layers—the building blocks of the checkerboard background.

  1. Choose Layer > New > Solid to create a solid layer.
  2. In the Solid Settings dialog box, do the following, and then click OK:

    • Name the layer Dark Red.
    • Change both the Width and Height to 200 px.
    • Choose Square Pixels from the Pixel Aspect Ratio menu.
    • Select a dark red color. (We used R=145, G=0, B=0.)
  3. With the Dark Red layer selected in the Timeline panel, press R to display the Rotation property for the layer. Then change the Rotation to 45 degrees.

  4. Select the Selection tool (selection-tool.jpg). Then, in the Composition panel, drag the layer up so that only the bottom half of the diamond appears in the composition.

  5. Press Ctrl+Y (Windows) or Command+Y (Mac OS) to create another solid layer.
  6. In the Solid Settings dialog box, name the layer Light Red, and change the color to a light red (we used R=180, G=75, B=75). Then click OK.

The default width and height for the new solid layer match the settings you used previously, so the Light Red layer has the same dimensions as the Dark Red layer.

  1. With the Light Red layer selected in the Timeline panel, press R to display the Rotation property. Then change the Rotation to 45 degrees.

Snapping layers into position

You’ve created two layers, but they have no relationship to each other in the composition. You’ll use the Snapping option in After Effects to quickly align the layers. When the Snapping option is enabled, the layer feature that is closest to your pointer when you click becomes the snapping feature. As you drag the layer near other layers, features on other layers are highlighted, showing you where the snapping feature would snap if you released the mouse button.

  1. Select Snapping in the options section of the Tools panel, if it’s not already selected.

  2. Using the Selection tool, select the Light Red layer in the Composition panel.

When you select a layer in the Composition panel, After Effects displays the layer handles and anchor point. You can use any of these points as the snapping feature for a layer.

  1. Click near the corner handle on the left side of the Light Red layer, and drag it near the lower right edge of the Dark Red layer until it snaps into place, with the sides abutted. Be careful not to drag the corner itself, or you’ll resize the layer.

As you drag the layer, a box appears around the left corner handle you selected, indicating that it is the snapping feature.

  1. In the Timeline panel, select both of the layers, and press R to hide the Rotation property for both layers.
  2. With both layers still selected, choose Edit > Duplicate to copy them.

  3. In the Composition panel, drag the two new layers down to the left, and then down to the right, so that the new Dark Red layer abuts the original Light Red layer. Remember that the snapping feature is determined by where you initially click when you begin to drag.

  4. Repeat steps 5–6 until you have a column of diamonds filling the screen.
  5. Choose Edit > Select All to select the layers in the Timeline panel.
  6. Press Ctrl+D (Windows) or Command+D (Mac OS) to duplicate the layers. Then move them to the left in the Composition panel until they snap into place.
  7. Repeat step 9 until the Composition panel is full. Pull the duplicate layers to the left or right as necessary. Remember to click near an appropriate snapping feature as you begin dragging each time.

  8. Choose File > Save to save your work.
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