Create Illustrated Explosions in Adobe After Effects | Joshua Butts | Skillshare

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Create Illustrated Explosions in Adobe After Effects

teacher avatar Joshua Butts, Graphic Designer and Photographer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

4 Lessons (19m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. 01 Setting Up Your Workspace

    • 3. 02 Creating The Base Explosion

    • 4. 03 Adding Colors and Layers To Finish Up

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About This Class

Particles, Explosions, Fire, and all the fun you can imagine. In this course, I will be teaching you about the built-in particle simulator effect in after effects. You can use it to create a variety of effects for smoke, fire, and explosions.

I will show you how can combine the particles to create an illustrated look and layer sets of particles to create depth and a variety of colors to make the effects more immersive. There are no 3rd party plugins required to follow along with the course. All you need is Adobe After Effects.

Meet Your Teacher

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Joshua Butts

Graphic Designer and Photographer


Josh Butts is a Graphic Designer and Photographer. He currently works for a creative agency in Provo, Utah. He's worked with many people doing creative work usually involving illustration, logo, and web design. The classes on this channel cover mostly vector illustration but there are also many other valuable skills that can be learned from the other classes on the channel. Join some of his classes to gain from valuable experience and get better at design and photography yourself!

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1. Intro: Hi. In this course, I will be teaching you about the aftereffects particle simulated so you can create an immersive tooty illustrated explosion effect. This course uses only native tools included with after effects, so you won't need a single third party plug in to follow along. In this course, I will teach you how to use various aspects of the aftereffects particle system so you can not only create great explosion effects, but you'll also understand what each property is doing to the particles so you can use it for a variety of other applications. I will also show you a few hidden secrets and shortcuts to speed up your aftereffects workflow, which will give you the power to create effects that will truly impress, so join on and start learning. 2. 01 Setting Up Your Workspace: Alright, guys. So I'm excited to walk you through how to create these fund to the explosions. So let's get started. The first thing you're going to do is open up after effects, obviously, and then you'll go to file and you can create a new project I already have after effects open. So I'm going to go into my project area and then, all right, click in this blank area right here and click new composition. And I'm just going to use the regular HD TV settings. Make sure it's 1920 by 10 80 for this I'm just going to keep it at a 30 frames per second ratio. And 55 seconds should be good enough for this project. Now the background color. For now, I'm going to leave it at just a little bit of, ah, light grey kind of off white. That's gonna help me see kind of a lot of the different shades of colors I'm using. Now this is just going to help. In case later, I decide to add objects on my our board that are white so I can make a white background later. But for now, I'm going to keep that as a white background on my composition. So once I've got this open, the first thing that you're gonna want to do is create a new solid layer. So I'm going to right click and then click solid. And with this, the settings aren't going to matter quite a smudge, because the effect that you're going to place on this solid is going to override it. So now I can go into my effects and presets panel right here. And if it's not showing up, you should be able to see a list of different panels right here, right here. I have it set up here, and if it's not showing up there, you can go under window and then you can go down to your effects and presets, and then it should show up. Now I'm just going to type and particle, and as that showing up, I can see I've got the simulation effects built into after effects, and you're just going to want to grab the particle systems to and drag that right here onto that solid and immediately what should happen is you should see this effects controls panel , and if that's not showing up. You can just make sure you go under window and go to the effects controls in the second section right here. And then it should show this area. Now, this is going to have all of your different settings for your particle system. 3. 02 Creating The Base Explosion: All right, So to get into these particles, what we're going to do is open up all these different tabs on this particle effect. You can see right here on the side, and we're gonna open that all these up and kind of talk about what a lot of them dio. So if I click on my solid right here, and if I just hit the space bar to play this animation, you can see that it's got this emitter right in the middle of my composition. And it's just shooting out this kind of fireworks style of particles all over the place. This is just kind of the default that after effects sets up for the particle systems effect . But obviously, for our needs, this isn't going to work. So we need to start messing with some of the settings over here. Now, to make this more of an explosion, you're gonna look at the birth rate and see this is representing how fast these particles are coming out of that emitter. And so this four represents that speed. So we need to have it stop at a certain point so that it looks like it's exploding rather than having this continuous stream of particles flowing out of it. So what we can do is click on the stopwatch right here, and that's gonna add a key frame. And one shortcut I like to use when I have my layer selected is you on the keyboard and what that does. It shows all key frames for whatever layers you have selected. And if you don't have any later selected than hitting you on the keyboard, simply shows all the key frames for that composition, so I can see right here that key frame that I made. So it starts out at this speed of the birth rate, and I'm just going to hit page down, and that goes forward. One frame for every time I hit page down, or what you could do is just drive the cursor ahead a couple of frames and then add another key frame by hitting this button right here. And I'm going to make sure I set this to zero. And so what that's going to do is make sure that it has that birth rates set, but then once it hits, those key frames, is going to stop the animation. So you can see. It's a little bit more like an explosion now, but I think it's still going for a little bit too long. So I'm going to select these key frames right here, and I'm just going to drag them closer to the beginning of that. So it's a little bit more explosive, something like that. So you can see it happens a little bit shorter, amount of time, and it's a lot more explosive. And to make it a little bit more exaggerated, I can even go to this first key frame right here and make sure that only that key frame is selected. And I can set this to six, and that's gonna make it a lot more crazy of an explosion at first. So now we're going to go into this next setting, the longevity that is just representing how long these particles stay life so you can see it shoots out, and then they start to disappear. Although obviously right here, you can tell that these air disappearing after they're already out of the frame. Which brings us to our next set of properties we're going to look at, which is in the physics tab. So I'm going to go down to where it shows the gravity and that's what's pulling all these particles down. So I'm gonna set this gravity to zero because an explosion is gonna be shooting off kind of everywhere. And now, if I play that back again with the gravity set to zero, you can see the particles start shooting out everywhere. And if this is the type of animation you like, then you can just leave it right here. And it's kind of like a firework effect. But we're gonna keep pushing this and see how we can get this to look a little bit more like a fun illustrated explosion. So now that we have the gravity removed, we're going to set our resistance up really high to something like 20. And what that's going to do is representing this particle system, the effect of airflow eso It shows that these particles are having resistance against them . So if I go back and play it again, you can see that those particles started slowing down really, really quickly after they had shot out because of that resistance against those particles. And now it seems a lot more natural of an explosion. Now, a lot of these properties you can kind of mess with to get a little bit better effect on your explosion if you go to this velocity and the initial velocity. This is showing kind of how these particles air reacting when they're coming out of the emitter. So if I bring my initial velocity up a lot like, say, 50 then it's gonna shoot these particles out really fast when I started and you can see how it's still having that resistance. But if you want to just leave that a zero was gonna affect the distance that your particles air moving from that origin or that emitter, then you'll probably want to mess with your velocity and set that up. Let's say three. And that's gonna push these particles a lot further away from that center so you can see it's still got the resistance, but they're a little further away. I'm gonna drop this back down to about 1.5, actually, so it's a little further away, but not too much. So I think that looks about right, and there's also a couple different parameters you can mess with, like the animation. So there's a couple different options you can do. There is like fractal explosive or twirl. You can see what twirled does. It just shoots thes around. Twirly actually has two layers of it that shoots them in opposite directions. So if I click on that and hit play, you can see how it's moving them in separate directions. You can also do, like vortex or something like that, and it just shoots out like this. We're just going to stick with explosive in this video and keep going to some of these other parameters. The next thing we're going to look at is the particle type. So to make this look a little bit more like a big explosion, we're gonna change these from line and we're going to go to a lens con cave. And what that's going to do is create all these circles. But you can tell in an explosion we're not gonna want these all faded out like this. So we're gonna mess with some of these other settings. We're gonna go to the opacity map and we don't want these fading out. So we're gonna hit Constant, and that's gonna make sure they stay at a constant opacity. So we're also gonna go down to this maximum opacity and bring it up. And so let's go back and just check our animation again. Make sure it's looking good, and this is looking very explosive, but we still need to change a couple more parameters. So this birth size is showing how big these particles are going to grow to be initially. And then the death size is gonna show when these particles disappear right about here. You can see how large they are, but we don't want them that big. So we're going to set the death size to zero because an explosion, everything's going to kind of fade out when it gets to the peak. So this is looking a lot closer to what we want to get, and we're gonna bring that birth size up to, like 0.8. And that might be a little bit too big. So let's bring it down 2.5, and that's looking a lot close to what we want. So if we play that back again, you can see that 0.5. It brings us this really nice explosion. So right now this looks like a pretty close idea of how we want this explosion to be. And I may actually go back into this and set that 2.4, because this first layer that we're gonna add is going to represent the embers, the really hot particles that are coming off of that explosion. And we're gonna add a couple more layers later and you'll really see how this is going to start coming together. 4. 03 Adding Colors and Layers To Finish Up: So now that we have our explosion kind of set up, we're going to go back into our effects and presets and we're going to set the color freeze . And so you're just gonna type in Phil And we're gonna go to wear that says this generate And we're gonna drag a fill on to this layer, and here you can set the color of this first set of particles that you want. So I'm going to click on this color right here in my effects tab and I'll go down and I want this first layer to be like this really hot yellow color. So I'm going to drag it around here and say That looks OK and then I'll go back into the effects and presets and type in simple choker. Now, this is what really brings all these particles together is let's close these other tabs from the particles and just show the simple choker effect. And the more we drag it up, it's going to start connecting all of these particles together into this illustrated gloppy mess. But once we play back, it's gonna look a little bit more like this kind of illustrated explosion. So It's really kind of cool. And there you have it. This is the first layer of the explosion that we're gonna be creating these air, these really hot embers. And so now what you can dio is close everything up on that layer. And then I liked hit either control or command and d on the keyboard. And then that copies that layer and I'm gonna hit enter and we're gonna rename some of these layers. So this top layer we're gonna name hot embers and then dash yellow. And I'll even select the color on this layer and hit yellow so that we know exactly what we're dealing with this next layer it has all those same settings apply to it because this is just a duplicate. And then we're gonna go back into our particle systems, and we're gonna set the birth size a little bit larger because then it's going to create the kind of this outline around these first particles. So we're going to set that 2.6 and you can see how got a little bit larger. But it's underneath that hot embers yellow layer. So it's gonna show up underneath that. So all we have to do now is close that again and go into our Phil. And we're gonna change this to a little bit more of an orange color. So maybe a little bit darker, kind and orange. Yeah, something like that. Let's hit OK, And then what we can do is hit control or command E on the keyboard and copy that layer again. And then let's rename this one to orange hot glow. And we're just renaming these to get a good representation of where they are. So it's easier to find these, and we're gonna set that to an orange color. Let's go to this bottom layer now, and we're gonna do the same thing again. Just keep making this larger, go to the birth size and let's set this 2.8. And now we'll go into the color of that layer and set that to a kind of a red color more of a dark red. Yeah, let's see something like that and you can see if we play this back. Now we're getting really close to having this really cool explosion so you can see how really hot it gets all of this start and then it all kind of dissipates. But we need some smoke in this explosion, too. So we're gonna drag this back down, and then we're going to create another copy of that layer, and we'll rename this red layer to read hot fire because that's the kind of fire layer and we'll click on this last one, and we're gonna set this to none. So it's kind of a gray, and this is going to represent the smoke from that particle system. So we're going to go to the layer and let's drag this out a little bit. And let's set this layer color to kind of a gray. Let's maybe do like a darker gray, and then we can go to hear this particle system and we'll set the birth size to one, and the smoke is going to be a lot larger than the fire. So we're actually just gonna keep dragging that up, and you can see this live update as we're dragging that and you can really see what's going on with us. So that looks about right to me, and the smoke is actually gonna last a lot longer than the fire, too. So if we start this and play it, you can see where everything's going, but the smoke and everything disappears all at the same time. What we can do now is go into our longevity for the smoke and weaken. Drag that up to say three. And then if we hit play, then you can see the smoke dissipates much later than that, the rest of the explosion. And now one thing that you can do to add just another little level of finesse and and make this look a little bit nicer is have that smoke kind of moving around, because if an explosion happened, you'd have wind and it would be pushing this smoke around. So what we can do to do that is create some gravity and give it a negative value. Let's go negative 0.4, and that looks like it's pushing it up a little bit too much. So negative 0.1. And now if we play this again, you can see the smoke starts to kind of lift up a little bit. Maybe we even go a little bit more than that negative point to, and we hit okay, and you can see the smoke really starts to read, raise up. And now one more thing we're gonna do is go to this layer right here and hit P on the keyboard, which pulls up my position, property and let's hit position right there. And then we're going to go to about you know, where this is, part way through the animation, and then we're going to start moving it over to we're going to grab the X value of that position. We're gonna push it over this way a little bit, and then we can select these key frames and right click on them. You can go to Key Frame Assistant and Eazy E's, and what this is going to do is just make sure that eases into this animation, so it doesn't seem too abrupt the way these smoke clouds are moving over. So now let's hit play again and see are really awesome explosion animation. Now you can see that maybe pushed the smoke over a little bit too fast. So if you want to make that a little bit smoother, you can just simply go to your graph editor and select position and this little auto zoom thing. It basically zooms all of your key frames into the view. Then you can right click and go down here to edit speed graph, because this is going to allow us to edit the speed and show how fast that smoke is moving . So we wanted to start off moving really slowly. So we're gonna drag it over a little bit more and kind of have a slowly moving over. And it may even be moving a little bit too fast, so we can even drag this over. We don't want him moving too fast, and you can see these numbers. It shows how fast those pixels are moving on the screen. So 100 50 pixels a second that might even be too fast. And so you can kind of mess around and get a reference for how fast this graph is representing the pixels on the screen. So let's do that and then click off here and then play our animation again by hitting space . And you can see that looks a lot nicer, how it's pushing those smoke clouds all the way over to the side of the screen. It's very slow, and this is a really natural movement for creating this fun explosion effect. So let's play that again. And now what you can do is turn this off and create a new composition by selecting all these layers and then right clicking and say pre composed and we're gonna call this our explosion hit, Okay? And so now we're here in the pre comp for that explosion and weaken. Duplicate that a couple of times to make it a little bit more crazy of an explosion. And maybe we want to drag this in a little bit and you can see that there's these two layers of it and you can see there's additional explosions and it can be, like, really cool adding effects and making this explosion a lot more dramatic. So I'm going to zoom out of this composition and make sure I drag my working space to a little bit a smaller of a view. And then you can see this looping animation and it's really cool. So there you haven't That is how you create a really cool explosion and after effects, using the built in particle systems within after effects. There are no third party plug ins required or anything. This is all just using after effects, so I hope you enjoy using this effect