The Paper Cutout Look in After Effects | Jake Bartlett | Skillshare

The Paper Cutout Look in After Effects

Jake Bartlett, Motion Designer

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13 Lessons (56m)
    • 1. Course Trailer

      0:23
    • 2. Getting Started

      6:44
    • 3. Applying Textures

      5:19
    • 4. Customizing Colors

      5:32
    • 5. Precomposing Layers

      1:52
    • 6. Working In 3D Space

      7:08
    • 7. Adding Some Details

      7:33
    • 8. Working With 3D Lights And Shadows

      6:22
    • 9. A Little Bit of Motion

      4:00
    • 10. Polishing The Look

      3:33
    • 11. Little Details

      4:13
    • 12. Adding Some Flicker

      2:29
    • 13. Thanks!

      0:37
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About This Class

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In this course I'm going to show you how to create a shadowbox-style paper cutout effect inside After Effects. In each quick video we'll cover things like:

  • Adding textures using track mattes
  • Customizing colors
  • Working with 3D cameras, layers, lights, and shadows
  • Precomposing layers
  • Parenting layers
  • Controlling expressions with sliders
  • Blending modes

And much, much more. As always, I'll be showing you how I use keyboard shortcuts constantly for a more efficient workflow.

Transcripts

1. Course Trailer: Hi. I'm Jake Bartlett and in this course, I'm going to show you how to build the paper cutout look and After Effects. We'll cover lots of topics like texturing, working in 3D, using 3D lights and shadows and lots more. This course is great for anyone with a basic understanding of After Effects, but I'll show you step-by-step how to achieve this effect. I'll see you in class. 2. Getting Started: The format of this class is going to be a little bit different than some of my other classes. You could create your project along the process of watching the videos, but I think it might be more beneficial for you if you watch the entire course and then apply it to your own project. That way, you can seen the big picture of how this effect is built, and it might help you think about your project in a way that will make things easier once you go to build it. some things that you can think about ahead of time is what your dream weekend project is going to be. Try to think of how you want to lay out your project using multiple layers to give a sense of depth once we apply the effect, it's a good idea to have at least three layers of depth, a foreground, your main subject, and a background. Anything on top of that is bonus and will just help sell the effect even more. You can also think about how you want to style your project. Take a look at the Pinterest board that I've created for real paper cutout dioramas. Think about things like if you're going to use color, what kind of paper you want it to be cut out of, how professional or hand done you want it to look, how much detail you're going to put into your graphics, and if you want to animate it, so start thinking about all of these things while you're watching the videos and post your progress on the project page. I'm always hear if you have any questions or if you want any feedback. Before we apply the effect, we have to build our scene. You can design your artwork however you feel most comfortable, you can design it straight inside of After Effects, in Illustrator, or in Photoshop, whatever you're most comfortable with. If you do use Photoshop, makes sure you design your artwork at a hire resolution than you'll be working in inside of After Effects. That way if you enlarge anything, you won't lose resolution and things won't get fuzzy. For this project, I felt most comfortable designing my artwork inside of Illustrator and then importing it into After Effects. If we jump over to Illustrator, this is the artwork that I created for the title of this class. For me, the perfect weekend would be riding a tandem bike in the park with my wife. I started putting together this scene in my head and designed some very basic elements to fill out this scene. When you design your artwork, it's important to think about how you want your final product to look. Is your end result going to look like it was cut out of construction paper by a child? Or will it have a more professional look? With somebody who's experienced in using an exact a knife to get very nice shapes cut out of paper. For most of my design, I was fine with doing stuff pretty rough as if somebody was just cutting this out of construction paper pretty quickly. Other elements like the bike and the people, I wanted to have a little bit more detail, so I spent a little bit more time putting that together. All of these colors don't really matter because they're going to change once we start applying the textures. This is really just for me to get a rough idea of what the scene is going to look like, and I left the leaves off of these trees because I wanted to put the leads on inside of After Effects, so I can show you a little trick with shape layers. For this project, you really need to think in terms of layers because inside of After Effects, we're going to separate all these layers in 3D space to give depth. If you look at the text layer, all the text is going to exist on the same plane and they're all the same color, so I kept that all in the same layer. This next layer is grass foreground. These are the two little hills that are going to be in the very front of the scene, but they're going to exist at the same distance from the camera, so it's okay that they're on the same layer. Now, my seen is pretty symmetrical, so if there's a tree on the left, there's probably going two be another tree on the right at the same distance from the camera, and that's consistent through my whole document. Make sure you put every level of depth of your artwork in its own layer, inside of the layers palette, and make sure to name every layer. This will make things so much more organized once you're inside of After Effects. If you're creating your artwork inside of After Effects, makes sure you name your layers as you go. One last thing to think about before you bring your artwork into After Effects is that you want your art board to be larger than the artwork. If I had set my art board to be the size of my compensate of After Effects, then a lot of the artwork is going to end up outside of the art board and that will cause problems when we go to import the artwork in the After Effects. So make sure your artwork is completely contained within your art boarded. Now, I'll import my artwork into After Effects, and because I separated the artwork into layers inside of Illustrator, I want to be sure to tell After Effects to import the artwork as a composition. That way it will bring my art working as layers instead of as a flat document. I also want to change the footage dimensions from document size to layer size, then I'll press "Okay", and After Effects brings in my artwork. I'll go ahead and start organizing my project by making a new bin and calling this images, and I'll put the artwork inside of that folder, open that up, go into a new column that was created from my artwork, and then I'll scale this to fit up to 100 percent so I can see the hole document. You can see that this is laid out exactly like it was inside of Illustrator with my comp size set to the art board dimensions inside of Illustrator. I want to preserve this comp so if I make any changes later, I can always use it as a reference. The very first thing I'll do is duplicate this comp by clicking on it and pressing "Command" or "Control" on a PC plus "D". Then I'll rename this comp, artwork textured and open up that comp, and now we can be in texturing these elements. Now, if you designed your artwork inside of After Effects, I would encourage you to duplicate your original comp with the artwork laid out the way that you want it before you start playing texture, again, just in case you need to go back to the way things were originally. Next, we need to import our textures. I'll do that by clicking on images and pressing "Command I" or" Control I" on a PC for import, and then I'll go to my construction paper pack. For this project, I know that I won't be needing full resolution images, so that's why he made the half rest folder, it's completely up to you what you want to use, but I know that it's going to render faster if I use the smaller images, and these will work just fine for this project. I'll select that folder and press "Open" to import that entire folder of textures into my After Effects project. Next, I want to precomp every one of these textures. The reason I want to do that is because say I wanted to make a change to the green construction paper that's being used by multiple layers at the same time. Well, if I make the change inside of the precomp, all the layers that are using that texture will be updated, so it's just an easy way to make it changes across the entire document. Fortunately, we don't have to precomp each one of these images one at a time. Instead, I'll select all of my layers and drag it down to the new composition button. That will bring up this little Window which will allow us to precomp all the images at once. I want to make sure that multiple compositions is selected so that it doesn't merge all of our images into one precomp, and then you can choose a duration for the images. Just to be safe, I'm going to change this something crazy like five minutes long, that way I'll known that my textures will never be cut off because my animation isn't going to be anywhere near five minutes long. Then I'll press "Okay", and you'll see that After Effects automatically makes all of these new precomps for every texture image. I'm going to drag these outside of the images folder, close this folder up, close up the images folder, and I'm going to make a new bin and name it precomps. Then I want to make another bin called textures. I'll bring all of these precomps into that Textures folder. At this point, if you haven't done it already, it'd be great idea to save, so I'm going to save my project by pressing "Command S" or "Control S" on a PC. 3. Applying Textures: Now, we can start applying textures. Why don't we start with the sky first? I'll scroll down to my layers to get to the sky layer, and then I'll open up my Textures folder, and I think that the light blue is probably going to be a perfect color for the sky. I'll drag that compound right below the sky layer. Now, when you're working with textures inside of after effects, depending on what resolution you're looking at your comp, it can display a little differently than what you're expecting. Right now, I have my resolution set to automatic, so it's displaying my artwork at quarter resolution. If I change this to half, you can see the texture changes a bit, and if I change it to full, it changes even more. Now, I'm only viewing this at 20 percent, so if I zoom into 100 percent and then hold the space bar to get to the hand tool and pan around, this is what the actual texture looks like. If I change it back to half, you can see that we lose a lot of the detail. But if I zoom out, it's still a pretty good representation of what the texture looks like. So for this project, I'm going to be working at half resolution most of the time. Now, because our sky layer is just a simple rectangle, I actually don't need that layer, and I think this is the only instance in this artwork, that I'll be using the construction paper texture as the object. So I'm actually just going to delete this sky layer. Next, let's do the clouds, I'll grab my white texture and bring that in below the clouds layer, and because the clouds aren't just rectangles, we need to actually get this texture onto the clouds. To do this, we're going to use what's called a track matte; a track matte allows you to apply the opacity of one layer to another, in a couple of different ways. We want to use the clouds layer, as a track matte on top of the white texture layer. To do that, I'm going to come over to my track matte column, and if you don't see this column, come down to the bottom left and this middle button here will be the transfer controls pane. Just click this button to enable that column. With my white construction paper layer selected, I'll click on the track matte dropped down and select Alpha Matte "Clouds." The reason it says clouds is because that's the layer that's directly above it, and that's how track mattes work, with the layer that's directly above it. So Alpha Matte "Clouds" is what we want to select. Now, if I zoom in here, you can see now that the shape of the construction paper is now the same shape as the clouds, and after effects is telling us this is happening by these two little icons, saying this layer is using a track matte and this layer is the track mate. You'll also notice that it turned the clouds layer off. If we turn it back on, it shows up again, but then we can't see the texture. So we want to leave that turned off, so that our clouds are now showing up with the texture we want. Now, just to tell you a little bit more about track mattes, if we were to go back into our track matte drop-down, and change it to Alpha Inverted Matte, then everything outside of the clouds layer is now getting the texture. So this way it's actually punching a hole inside of our construction paper layer. It's not something we need for this class, but it's something good to know. I'm going to switch this back to Alpha Matte, so we have our clouds looking the way that they're supposed to, and I'll continue doing the same process for the rest of my artwork. Choosing the color textures that best represent the colors of the artwork, they don't have to match exactly because we're going to be adjusting the colors later. But for the sky, obviously I'll use a blue layer. For it grass, I'll use the green texture, for the river, probably the blue texture, and I'll just keep doing this until all of my layers have texture to them. So obviously things are looking a little weird, but that's okay, we're going to be changing the colors in just a few steps. But first I want to show you how to deal with the layer that has multiple colors to it. If I solo the trees background layer, and see that this entire layer is made up of two different colors. So if I were to apply the brown texture and set that to an Alpha Matte, that's not going to work because my layers are two different colors. What I need to do is blend the original artwork on top of the texture layer, so that the color is coming from the artwork. This is a case where we do want to turn the track matte layer on, so it's visible on top of the texture, and then we're going to come over to the brown-modes column, click on the "Dropdown" and scroll down to overlay. So obviously these are not the colors that we're wanting, and that's because it's blending the colors from the original artwork on top of this brown color. What we need to do is take out the color from the texture layer, so that the original artworks colors aren't being affected by the textures colors. I'll turn the artwork layer back on, and then I'll add the tint effect to my textures layer. That will desaturate the texture layer so there's no color information, and lets just blend our original colors right on top of that original texture. I'll do that same thing to our bushes layer, bring out the brown construction paper, set it to be an Alpha Matte, enable the artwork layer, set it to overlay, and then apply the tint effect to the construction paper layer. Now, we have that texture being applied to our original artwork with the original artworks colors. One thing you might notice is that a couple of my trees are getting cut off, so if I go to that tree layer, which is this one right here, we can see that the bounding box goes all the way out here, but the artwork is stopping right here, and that's because the construction paper layer is only that large. So I'll scale this layer up by having its elected, and then clicking and dragging while holding the shift key on the keyboard, until it covers that entire layer. I'll do the same thing for this grass layer, I'll scale up the texture while holding shift on the keyboard, until none of the artwork is getting cropped, and I think everything is showing up the way it supposed to now. 4. Customizing Colors: Now we can start adjusting the colors. First of all, I want to make the sky a little bit more vibrant, so I'll go down to that layer, and I'm actually going to rename this layer by having it selected and pressing Enter or Return and typing in sky, and press Enter again. I want to boost the saturation, to do that, I'll just come over to my Effects and Presets and type in hue. Then we'll apply the hue saturation effect on top of the sky layer, and then I'll just boost the saturation a little bit until it's a little bit more vibrant. Next thing that stands out to me is that the bike layer is not as dark set like it, so I'll go ahead and do that next. This time instead of using the hue and saturation effect, I'm going to type in a curves and apply the curves effect. I'll zoom in here so we can see it a little bit better and switch to full resolution. I'll just adjust this curve, till it's a little bit darker. Now this actually saturated my layer as well. Another way to desaturate is to apply the tint effect, which at its default settings will desaturate the layer. Then I'll turn down the amount to tint until it's about where I want it. I'm pretty happy with about that color. Then zoom back out, set it back to half resolution, and then let's change the river color. I'll select that layer and apply the hue and saturation effect. Then I want this to be a little bit more green and definitely brighter, so I'll also apply the curves effect to this layer. Then I'll brighten this curve, and that desaturated my image a little bit, so I'll increase the saturation and then maybe adjust the hue again, so it's a little bit more green. Play with the brightness, and that's about where I want it. Then let's take the path layer and make it a dark gray color. I actually think I want to use a different texture for this because there's a black texture which actually shows up pretty gray. To swap this brown texture out with the black texture, what I can do is have that layer selected, hold down Option or Alt on a PC, and then click and drag the black texture layer on top of the layer that I have selected, and that automatically replaces the texture with the layer I had selected inside of my project panel. I think I want to make that path a little bit darker, so I'll apply the curves effect and then darken it a little bit, and that's pretty good. Next, let's do these trees because this is obviously not the right color brown. I'll find those trees and then apply the curves effect. I want to zoom in again to show you an issue that you can sometimes run into. I'll switch my resolution back to full, and we're going to focus on this tree. If I were to darken this to about the point that I want it, you can see that it's getting very saturated and we're losing some of the details. That's because the brown construction paper was actually pretty bright, and the brown of the trees that we want, isn't that right. Instead of doing this, I'm actually going to replace this brown texture with one of the darker textures, which honestly the black layer is probably going to work with the best. Again, I'll have my trees texture layer selected, then I'll come to the project panel, hold down Option or Alt on a PC and then click and drag that layer on top of my texture layer, so it swaps out the texture. Now that it's starting out as a darker texture, I can go back to my curves effect and darken it just a little bit, and now it's getting to about the same level of darkness as the brown that I'm going after. Then all we have to do is change the color, one way we could do this is with the tint effect. So I'll apply that, now to use the tint effect to change the color, I'll change the Map Black To, from black to a brown color. Now when I do that, you see that I actually lose some contrast. To compensate for that, I would have to mess with the curves and that could work. But I find that it's just a little bit finicky and there's actually an easier way to do this. Undo, get rid of the tint effect and then type in another effect called Tritone, and apply that to the layer. Now this behaves almost exactly the same way as the tint effect, but instead of just allowing us to map the black and the white, it also allows us to map the grays. Now we have Highlight, Midtone and Shadow controls. This will leave the blacks black, the whites white, and then with the Midtones control, we can affect the overall hue much more easily. Now, it's funny that the default color is actually almost exactly what I want for the tree color, but just to show you what this does, if I were to change the Midtone value to something else. We can easily change the color while preserving the blacks and the whites. But I'm actually going to just leave it the way it was, press Okay, and now those two trees are looking pretty good. I want to do the same thing to these two trees, so I'm going to open up the effects of this layer by pressing E on the keyboard and then select both of these effects and copy them by pressing Command Z or Ctrl+C on a PC and paste them on the other trees layer. Now again this is using the original brown texture, so I'm going to want to swap that out with the black texture, again by holding Option or Alt on a PC while clicking and dragging that layer on top of the texture. Now the trees colors are looking pretty good. Now, let's change the color of the bridge. I'll apply the Tritone effect and then pull this down so it's a little bit darker, a little more saturated, and right about there's good. Then finally, I think I want to brighten up the sky just a little bit. I'll apply the curves effect and brighten it up just a bit, maybe add a little bit of contrast, and that's pretty good. Once you've applied all the textures to your layers and you've gotten the colors to about where you like them, we can move on to the next step. It's okay if at this point the colors aren't exactly what you want. 5. Precomposing Layers: The next step is to pre-comp each layer with its texture. So we have less layers to deal with when we're positioning them in C space, but also so that our shadows will cast properly. I'm going to give myself a little bit more room, change this back to half, set it to fit, and let's start at the top. I'll select the text layer and the texture that goes with it, and I'll pre-compose the layer by going to Layer, Pre-compose or by pressing Shift Command C or Shift control C on a PC. I'm going to do that using the hotkey, Shift Command C, and then I'll name it text-textured, and press "Okay." Then I'll just continue doing this for each layer in my document. Now all of my textured layers are pre-comped so that I have one layer to deal with for every level of depth. Now I can make a new composition, that's the actual dimensions that my final video will be. I'll do this by going to composition or by pressing Command N or Control N on PC. I'll name this composition, and I will make it 1920 by 1080, just so it's full HD. Then I want my frame rate to be 24 frames per second, the duration can be something short like 10 seconds, and then I will press "Okay." I'll come back to my Artwork_Textured comp, select all of my layers, by pressing Command A or Control A on a PC, and then copying. Then going back to my new composition and pressing Command V or Control V on a PC to paste. Now I have all my layers in my new composition, but they are not positioned correctly. So I will go over to my align palette, and if you don't have the align palette open, go to Window, Align. I will align my layers to the composition, center, horizontally, centered vertically and now my artwork is lining up the way that it should. 6. Working In 3D Space: Now we get to spread out all of these layers in Z space to create the depth effect that we're going after. So with all my layers selected, I'll click on the 3D layer switch, and if you don't see these switches, come down to the bottom left button right here to enable or disable the layer switches. Now that all of my layers are 3D, I can move them in not only the X and Y positions, but also the Z position. So if I grab my text layer and grab the Z position handle and click and drag, the layer is moving forward and backward in space instead of just left and right or up and down. I'll undo. The next thing we need to do is add a 3D camera. So I'll come up to layer, new, camera. This will open up a window that gives us a whole lot of settings, for this project I'm going to use the preset of 35 millimeters. I'll turn off depth of field because that's not something we need, and then I will press "OK", and nothing has changed. That's because after effects defaults to creating the camera, to recreate the view that you already have set up. At the moment nothing has changed, but if I switch to the Camera Tool by clicking on this button here or by pressing "C" on the keyboard, then I can click and drag to rotate around this 3D scene. You can see that all of my layers are existing in the exact same spot, so everything is flat. What we need to do is spread all these layers out so we can get some depth into our scene, but I want to leave this camera facing the way that it was. So I'll undo, and we could try spacing out all of these layers by hand, by clicking and dragging on the Z position. But it's pretty hard to do from this angle. Fortunately, after effects lets us change the orientation of our view without affecting our compositions camera. To do that, I will come up to this drop-down right here where it says Active Camera and change it to Custom View 1. This gives us a different view of our scene. You can actually see where our camera is in the composition and how much of our artwork could see. Since we're using the Custom View 1, if I select the Camera Tool again by pressing "C" on the keyboard, I can rotate around this scene without affecting the position of the camera layer. What I'd like to do is rotate this camera around just a little bit more so I can see how far apart every layer is once I start spreading them out. Now that I've got my position setup, let's scroll down to the bottom and start with the sky. So I'll switch back to my selection tool by pressing "V" on the keyboard, then I'll click and drag on the Z position handle and move it backwards in Z space. Because this is the background layer, It's going to be further back than anything else, so I'll push it back a pretty good ways. About that far is good. Then I'll click on my clouds layer and move that backwards. I want this to be pretty close to the background, but still a little bit off of it. A good way of figuring out how far away from the background layer you are, is by just pushing it until you can't see it anymore. At that point, you know that you've gone too far, but I can come back until it's just a little bit past that background layer and position it how I'd like. Now keep in mind that all of this can be modified later on. So just spread out your layers roughly where you think you're going to want them, but also think in terms of if you were physically making this, how far apart would you actually want these layers to be? Then I'll move to the hills layer and move that back. Then the trees background should go right in front of that. Pretty close. Then the grass layer, this will be our main grass layer. The river should go pretty much on top of that grass. The path should go right about where that water was. Then I'm going to move the bike and the bridge at the same time because those are pretty much existing in the same space. Right about there. Then I'll just offset the tandem bike a little bit, just a touch. Then we'll come to the trees middle ground, and that goes right about the same spot. Then the trees foreground should go in front of all that. I'm going to rotate my camera a little bit by pressing "C" on the keyboard so I can get a different view. My trees foreground layer should actually be above the bushes layer. So I'll rearrange those and then I'll push my bushes back till it's above the bridge, just a little bit in front. I'll grab the foreground trees, make sure they are rendering where they're supposed to. I want it to be a little bit further in space than that. Then finally we have these two little hills which are actually right where they should be. Then I want to push the text, actually should go back right about where that bridge is in the river. Maybe put out just a little bit. Then I'll reorder that so it's above the bridge layer. Just so I can keep my comp organized in layers of depth, it'll make things easier to think about. So that's pretty much how I want everything spread out. Just by rotating around this camera, you can see how much more depth we have in our scene. Now if I switch back to my active camera, which is the camera that we have inside of our composition, we'll run into a little issue. Now that everything is brought out in Z space, the scale of everything has changed a little bit. This is where our original artwork's composition will come in handy. If I go into my project, I'm going to expand my project panel by pressing the "Tilde key" on the keyboard, which will be just below the escape key on the top left of your keyboard. My main comp got put inside of my textures preComp folder. I'm actually going to pull that outside to keep things more organized, and then I'll go back into my images, take my artworks textured preComp, move that into my preComp spin, and then I'll collapse this panel again by pressing the "Tilde key" on the keyboard. Now if I drag this preComp into my main comp, I can use it as a reference to scale everything back up to the way that I originally had it. I'll turn that off for now. The first thing that is standing out to me is that the sky is not filling up the entire background. So I'll scroll down to the bottom and scale that layer up by selecting it, clicking and dragging on this handle while holding the shift key to maintain the proportions until it fills up the entire composition. I'll do that same thing for all of the layers that are getting cut off. For the other layers that aren't getting cut off, it's a little bit more difficult to know how much to scale them up. That's where our reference image is going to come in handy. We'll enable that artwork layer, and then I'm going to press this button right here that will let us take a snapshot of our composition that we can reference very easily. I'll press that button, and now if I turn it off, the button right next to it allows us to review that snapshot for as long as you hold it down. That's just a quick way to go back and forth on our reference image. So things that need to change, the clouds need to scale up. I'll go to the cloud layer, scale that up a bit, compare it to our reference, still needs to be a little bit larger, and that's pretty good. It doesn't have to be exact. Just resize all of your layers and reposition them until you're happy with the layout. Now everything is roughly back to the size that it was originally. I can get rid of my artwork textured preComp because I won't be needing it anymore. 7. Adding Some Details: The last thing I need to do before moving onto the shading, is add the leaves to these trees. I'll do this by making a new composition, by going to composition, new composition, and naming this tree leaves, and I'm going to make it a square composition. 1080 by 1080 and change the duration to a minute long just to be safe, and then press ''OK''. Then I want to make a perfect circle. I'll do that by gumming up the ellipse tool, double-clicking on it, getting rid of the stroke, and then clicking on my Shape Layer and double tapping ''U'' on the keyboard to bring up all the adjusted properties, and then scale this down to 1,000 pixels. Now press the ''U'' again to collapse everything, and then go into my contents and click on this little drop-down and add a wiggle paths shape operator and bring it into the main contents, collapse my ellipse, open up the wiggle paths, change the size to be pretty large, and you can see that that is deforming my circle. If I turn off the path visibility by clicking on this button, you'll be able to see this a little bit better. First, I want to change the points from corner to smooth, turn the wiggles per second down to zero so that it doesn't change over time, and then turn the detailed down. Then I can adjust the size, maybe change the detail a little bit, maybe turn the correlation up. What this is doing is just making an imperfect circle. It looks a little bit more like a hand made attempt at doing a circle, which is what I'm trying to go for with this entire effect. Now that I have my shape the way that I want it, I will collapse this layer and then go into my textures, bring in the green texture, and then use the shape layer as an Alpha matte of that construction paper, and now I have my leaves. Actually, rename this comp to tree leaves textured, and then move that into my preComps folder. Now that I'm looking at my preComps folder and I'm noticing that none of my other layers textured preComps are inside of this folder like they're supposed to. I'm going to maximize this project pane again by pressing ''Tilde'' on the keyboard and then find these other preComps, which there they are living inside of the images folder. I will select all of them and move them into the preComps folder. It's always a good idea to stay organized. Collapse this down, close this layer. Then I will select my middleground trees and duplicate them by pressing Command D or Control D on a PC, and I want to replace this preComp with my new leaves preComp. I can do this exactly the same way that I was swapping out textures before. I'll go to my tree-leaves-textured layer, and with this layer selected Option or Alt on a PC, click and drag this layer out into the composition, and that replaces the preComp with the selected preComp. Now I have these leaves inside of my comp and I can scale it down, hold down shift to maintain the proportions, and reposition it to wherever I'd like it. I want it to be directly behind this tree, and then I want to make another duplicate by pressing Command D or Control D on a PC, and then reposition it again, maybe change the scale a little bit, duplicate again, reposition, scale it down. I think these are actually all just a little bit too big. I will scale these two down, reposition them, make another duplicate maybe, scale it up a bit, and I'm pretty happy with that. Now because these leaves belong to this set of trees, I'm going to select all of these layers and pair them to the tree layer. I'll do that by clicking and dragging this pick whip to the layer that I want to pair them too and let go. That will automatically pair each one of those layers to the tree layer so that now if I move these trees around, the leaves move with them. Then I'm going to make another duplicate, and then fill out this other tree. Next, I'm not that happy with the color of those leaves. I'm actually going to go inside of that texture preComp and adjust the color inside of here. I'll apply the curves effect to the construction paper layer and then darken it a bit, maybe add some contrast, and then I'll add the hue and saturation effect and make it a little bit more blue, and then I think I'll make it a little bit darker, even a little bit more blue. I'm happy with that. Now, when we go back out to our main comp, you can see each copy of that preComp is being updated because we adjusted the leaves inside of the preComp. Every instance is updated. Now that I'm looking at that, I think it's a little bit too blue, so I'll go back into that preComp, adjust the hue just a little bit, take a look, and that's pretty good. We can always make fine tune adjustments later. Now, I actually want to rename this to be trees-middleground-leaves-textured so that I can make another duplicate to use as the foreground leaves and make adjustments to that without affecting all of these preComps. I will duplicate this preComp rename it to be foreground. Then I'll bring that out into my composition, enable 3D, and then I need this to be in the same position as the foreground trees. A quick and easy way to do this is to hold down Shift while you're pulling the pick whip to the parent layer. When you let go, the child layer automatically moves to the position of the parent layer. If I reposition this, you'll see that it's over top of the foreground tree layer. If I move it back just a little bit, it's right where we want it. I'll position it, scale it down, make a duplicate, scale it up maybe, make one more duplicate. Again, this is just something that's personal taste. Once you're happy with the way that you're scene is looking, you can move on. I do the same thing for the other tree. Scale it down, position, scale it up. Now, I'm going to go inside of this new preComp. I'm going to modify the wiggle paths so that it's just a little bit different from our last one, and I'm also going to change the color to be much brighter. I'm going to reset my hue and saturation, reset my curves. That's a little bit too bright, so I'll make it about there and we'll see what that looks like in our main comp. I think I want it a little bit darker, and that's pretty good. I'm trying to just increase the depth of my scene by adding variation inside of a different greens. One more thing that I want to adjust are these two little hills upfront. They're blending in too much with the rest of the grass because they're the exact same color. I'll apply the curves effect to them. Increase the contrast, maybe make them a little bit more blue then a little bit darker, and now, they just pop out from the background a little bit. Actually, I think I'm going to move them up as well. Now, I'm noticing that my entire scene actually needs to move up just a little bit. I'll select everything in my composition about the camera, and then click and drag upwards. I'm going to turn on my guides by pressing the Apostrophe key on the keyboard, and that'll just give me a guide that will allow me to center things visually. I think that's pretty much where I want my scene. I'll turn the guide off, deselect. Now, I've pretty much set up my entire composition. 8. Working With 3D Lights And Shadows: Now, for the fun part, we're going to add lights and shading to our scene. Let's start by adding a point light, by going to Layer, New Light. This will open up the light settings window, and we'll name this point Light. The light type is already set to point. Color can be white. Intensity, 100 percent for now is fine. Make sure that Casts Shadows is checked. Shadow Darkness, we can probably put to about 50, and then press "OK." Right away our scene updates, we have a new object in our composition that represents the light, and it has the x, y, and z controls just like any other 3D layer. You can click and drag to move it around, and you can see that it is casting light onto our scene, and shading everything at the same time. Now, you can think of a point light like a light bulb. It's going to cast light in every direction, and the closer it is to something, the more brightly lit it will be. If I push this layer through this scene, you can see that once it passes certain objects in z space, they're no longer getting lit. This is where you get to be pretty creative about how you want your scene to look. If you wanted to do an entire shadow box of silhouettes, you could put your light all the way in the background, and then create your design based on that type of lighting. Obviously, it doesn't work that well on this scene because I haven't set it up to work that way. Now where I position this light is going to be dependent on how I want the shadows to look. But right now, we don't have any shadows, even though we told this light to cast shadows, 3D layers by default, are set not to cast shadows. We have to go into the material options of a layer to tell it to cast shadows before any shadows are actually going to show up. You can copy and paste the material options of a layer just like any other property. I'm going to select my material options, copy it, close that layer up, select all of my other objects, and paste. Now, we're seeing shadows. If I click and drag the light, you'll see that it takes much longer to update because After Effects is having a process, a whole bunch of different layers shadows, before it can show you the final result. This part is a lot of fun because you get to be as creative as you'd like, to come up with the look that you're after. For my sample project, I had the light off to the left a little bit pretty much centered vertically, and then just a bit out from the scene. But there are an endless number of ways that you can set this up to cast shadows. Another interesting look would be if I duplicated my point light, and then moved one of the copies to the opposite side. Now, obviously, this is way too much light for this scene, so if I open up the light's intensity by pressing "T" on the keyboard, I can dial these layers back to about 60 percent intensity. Now, we have two shadows. If I zoom in here, you can see that there's a shadow being cast in this direction as well as this direction. That will be the case for every layer in your scene. The number of lights that you have and their position greatly affect how the shadows show up. If I was to move this layer up a little bit, then we've got two different angled shadows. I'm going to go back to one, so I'll delete this layer and change this intensity back to 100 percent, and then I'll zoom in to 100 percent resolution and change my resolution to be full. This is going to take a little bit more time to update because it has to process all of these shadows. Generally, I work at half resolution or lower while I'm positioning the shadows, but it's always a good idea to check your shadows at full resolution every so often. Because as you can see, going from half to full makes a big difference. It's much more feathered at half resolution than at full. Now, if I open up this layer and go to my light options, we have a few more settings that can control a little bit more of our layer. The first is our Shadow Darkness. Now, most of the time, 40 percent is going to be more realistic. But you have created freedom to do whatever you want inside of After Effects, so you can make them much darker if you wanted or make them very light. That's a choice that is completely up to you. I'm going to leave mine at 50 percent. The other option that will affect these shadows is the Shadow Diffusion. If I turn this up to about 50, you'll see that that made the shadows much softer. If an object is very close to another, the shadow will be much crisper, and if it's further away, the shadow will be much softer. I think probably 25 pixels is going to be plenty diffusion for this scene. I'm pretty happy with that. If we zoom out to look at our entire scene, I'll maximize this frame by pressing the tilde key, we can get a pretty good idea of what our final scene will be like. One thing I'm noticing is that our leaves layers aren't casting shadows on one another, and that's because they're all existing in the exact same spot in z space. To fix this, I'm going to switch back to half resolution, bring this back down, collapse this panel back down, and fit it to the window. Then I'll find those layers in my composition, and then just push them back a little bit in z space. Then maybe move this one forward in z space a little bit. I'll reposition it. Again, this is all just to add a little bit more depth to my scene. I'll continue doing this for all of my different leaves layers. Just spreading those layers out just a tiny bit adds so much more depth to my scene. Now, looking at that scene at full resolution, there are some things that I see I want to change, like making the shadows a little bit softer, repositioning a few of the elements. But this is how you set up the basic look of your scene, and you got to be as creative as you want until you're happy with it. Now, one more thing that I want to show you before we move on is that sometimes the point light can make things a little bit too dark. It's not really happening in my scene, but if I push this light closer, you can see that this part of the scene is getting much more dark than I'd like it to. To compensate for that, we can add another type of light. I'll go up to Layer, New Light, and name this one Ambient Light, and then change the type to Ambient and press "OK." Now, this is going to make everything way too bright because the intensity is set too high, so I'll bring up the intensity by pressing "T" on the keyboard and turning this down to about 20. Now, what this is going to do is just fill in the darker areas. If I turn off the point light, you can see that it's affecting everything evenly. If it was set to zero, our entire scene would be black because there's no light to it. If it was set to 100, it would look the same as if there weren't any lights at all. If we combine our point light with an ambient light of set to maybe 20 percent, that just fills in our scene a little bit more so that it doesn't feel too dark. But like I said, I don't really need that for this scene because of the way that I have my point light positioned, it isn't really causing any problems. I'm going to leave it the way that I had it. 9. A Little Bit of Motion: At this point the effect is pretty much finished, but if you want to animate your design you can do a few more things that will really push the look of your animation. Remember that animation is not a requirement for this project, but if you'd like to do it I'd love to see what you come up with. Now you can animate your design however you'd like, but I'm going to show you some techniques that I use to animate my design. I've made some adjustments to my composition. I made the shadow is a little bit softer, I redid the way that the clouds were so that we could have a little bit more depth, repositioned some of the trees, and overall made the entire scene just a little bit brighter. Now we can put some finishing touches on this scene to sell the look just a little bit more, and just add to the overall effect. Let's start with adding a camera dolly. I know that I want my animation to last five seconds, so I've gone to five seconds in my timeline. I'll set my work areas outpoint to five seconds by pressing "N" on the keyboard to snap to the playhead. I know that this is how I want my scene to end up. I'll go to my camera and set a position keyframe by holding Option P or Alt P on a PC, and that brings up a new keyframe. Then I'll move back to zero, and just so everything updates a little bit quicker while I move around I'm going to enable draft 3D, and that just disables all the lighting effects. My scene looks a lot flatter, but it also updates much quicker. Then I want to pull the camera back in z space by adjusting z position, but not too far to where I'm cutting off parts of the scene. I'll just move it back as far as I can, while everything is still displaying the way that it should. Now my camera slowly moves straight through my scene. Now I also know that I want to animate the bike. I'll go ahead and do that by coming down to the bike layer, moving it to the left side of the bridge, opening up the rotation by pressing "R" on the keyboard, and then adjusting the z rotation layer to line up with the angle of the bridge. I'll set a keyframe for the rotation, and then I'll also set a keyframe for the position by pressing Option P or Alt P on a PC. Then I will press "U" to collapse the layer and U one more time to bring up just the keyframed properties. Then I'll go to my outpoint of five seconds. Move the bike to the other side of the bridge, and change the rotation. Then I'll select my pen tool by pressing "G" on the keyboard, and then if I hover over my anchor point of my motion paths I can click and drag to adjust the path of the bike. I'll just match that up to my bridges arch, and now the bike should travel along the bridge just the way that it should. Sure enough it's doing exactly what I want. That's how I want the bike animated. Next I want to bring in the text layers one at a time. I've already separated them out into individual layers per line. Let's say I wanted to take about a second-and-a-half to animate in. Then with all my layers selected I will press "P" to bring up the position value, and set a keyframe for each. Then I'll backup to zero, click and drag while holding Shift to bring all my layers off-screen. Then I'll select these three keyframes and go into the graph editor. Press "F9" key on the keyboard to easy ease and then adjust my speed curve, so it's a stronger ease into that position. Now they all animate in at the same time so I need to offset them by deselecting the first layer, moving the second one a few frames, and then doing the same for the third layer, and now they come in a little bit offset from each other. That's basically what I want. The other thing I'd like to animate is the clouds. I'll go to the clouds layers, and set a keyframe for the position by holding Option or Alt on a PC and pressing "P". I'm actually going to move the first layer to the left just a little bit, and the second one to the right a little bit, and then I'll move to about four seconds in time, move that layer to the left now just a little bit, and do the same thing in the opposite direction for the other layer. Now the clouds move back and forth subtly, but it adds some motion to my overall scene. Just so the clouds don't stop moving I'll go to eight seconds and then copy and paste these first two keyframes so that there's motion at the end of my animation as well. Then I'll easy ease all of these keyframes by pressing "F9" on the keyboard, and now my clouds just have a little bit of movement to them. 10. Polishing The Look: All right. Everything's looking pretty good so far, but my scene looks a little bit flat. What I want to do is add a vignette. To do this, I will add a new adjustment layer by going to Layer, New, Adjustment Layer or by pressing Option+Command+Y or Alt+Control+Y on a PC. If you've never used an adjustment layer before, what it allows you to do is to apply an effect on top of anything that it is above. With the adjustment layer at the top of the layer stack, it will affect everything in the composition because everything is below it. If I were to add a tint effect, it de-saturates my entire scene. But if I move it below these tree circle textured layers, they are unaffected. An Adjustment Layer will only affect what's below it. I don't actually want to add a tint effect, so I'll get rid of that, and I'll add a curves effect to this adjustment layer. Then I'm going to just darken the overall image. That's pretty good. Now, I don't want this to affect the entire image. I just want it to affect the outside corners. To get the adjustment layer to behave that way, I need to add a mask. I'll come up to my ellipse tool and then click and drag from the center of my composition while holding the Command or Control Key on a PC to scale it from the center, plus the Shift Key to make it a perfect circle. I'll scale it until it's about this big, and let go of my mouse before letting go of the keyboard keys. Now, the adjustment layer is only affecting what's inside that mask. I want to change the mask type from add to subtract so it's affecting outside of that mask. Then I'll press F to bring up the mask feather and crank this up to a pretty high value. A little bit more, and now you can see that just added a nice, soft darkening effect around the outside edges of my comp, and that's called a vignette. I can adjust the darkness after the fact to make it more or less intense. This just helps bring the focus to the center of the composition and makes the entire scene just a little less flat. I'll rename this adjustment layer vignette, and then I'm done with that adjustment layer, so I will lock it. Next, I'm going to add another adjustment layer by pressing Option+Command+Y or Alt+Control+Y on a PC, and again add a curves effect. This time, I just want to increase the contrast a little bit. I'm going to bring the darks down a little bit, bring the brights up a little bit. Maybe not quite so much. You can see that that just gives it a little bit more contrast to just increase the vibrance of the entire scene. I'll rename this layer Contrast, and then I'll lock it because I don't need to adjust it anymore. Then I'm going to make another adjustment layer, and this time I'm going to add an effect called posterize time. Now, what this effect does is changes the frame rate of whatever it's applied to regardless of what your compositions frame rate is set to. Since I have it applied to an adjustment layer and that adjustment layer is on the top of the layer stack, it's going to affect everything in our composition. Right now it's set to 24 frames a second, which is what our composition is set to. Nothing will change. If I set this to eight frames per second, now I'll turn on draft 3D to make this renderer a little bit quicker and then I preview my animation. Now that we play this back, you can get an idea of what this effect is doing. Without actually changing the frame rate of our composition, everything looks like it's actually being animated at eight frames per second. It's a much choppier feel and gives a more hand done, stop-motion type look. 11. Little Details: Now, we can push this effect even further. First thing I'll do is add some wiggle to our text layers. I'll come down to the text layer and open up the position, then I'll right-click on position and go to separate dimensions. What this does is it gives us individual controls for each one of the position properties. Since we only animated this on the Y position, we can get rid of the X and Z position keyframes. Now, unfortunately, we lost our easing, so I'm going to go back into the graph editor, easy ease this by pressing F9 on the keyboard and then crank up that ease influence just a little bit more. Then I want to add a wiggle expression on the X position. To do that, I'll hold Option or Alt on a PC and click on the X position stopwatch. This will bring up a dialog box down here that I can type in. The expression we're going to use is very simple. All we have to type is wiggle (5, 20). Now, what this expression is saying is wiggle the value of this property five times a second by 20 pixels. If I solo this layer and just scrub through, you can see what's happening. The value is just shifting randomly by 20 pixels, five times per second, and it will go on forever. I want that to happen, but only until the layer comes to a rest. To control that wiggle, we need to do a couple more steps. I will go up to Effect, Expression Controls, Slider Control. By itself, this does nothing but it allows us to link expressions to it so that we can control the expressions. If I come down to my wiggle expression again and click on it so I can edit it, I'll highlight the second value, which is the number of pixels that it's wiggling five times per second. Then I'll come over to this little icon, which is the expression pick whip, click, and drag up to the effect, slider, and let go. That will automatically type in what After Effects needs to know to base the second value, which is the number of pixels that it's wiggling, off of this slider value. If I click off of this to accept that input, we no longer have that wiggle. That's because it's saying wiggle five times per second based on this slider value, which is set to zero. It's wiggling zero pixels every five seconds. If I turn this up to 20, our wiggle is back. The great thing about doing it this way is we now have the ability to keyframe this value. If I go to about this point in time and set a keyframe for my slider and then press U to bring up the keyframes, there's my sliders and the keyframe, and I go to the last key frame of the Y position animation. I can set my slider to zero and it no longer moves. You can see over that point, the value is changing from 20 to zero and it no longer wiggles. That's exactly what I want. If I enable the post to rise time layer as well, you can see what that looks like. It's just adding a little bit of variation on that position to sell the whole stop motion look a little bit more. I'll do the same thing to the other text layers. I can actually copy and paste the slider control of the other two layers, and then I'll press U to bring up all the key frames and then separate the dimensions of this first layer. Get rid of the X and the Z keyframes. Adjust the ease handle again, and then reposition these keyframes to line up with the end of the Y position animation. Then if I come back to my original text layer and double tap E, that will bring up all the expressions for that layer. Then I can go into that expression and copy it, and then make a new expression on the second text layer by holding Option or Alt on a PC and clicking on the stopwatch for the X position and then paste. That will automatically look for the slider on that layer and base the wiggle position on the slider's value. If I solo that layer as well, we now see that we get that same type of wiggle on that layer. Then we just have to do it one more time for the last text layer. Now, all of our text animates in in just a little bit of a wiggly way. 12. Adding Some Flicker: Now one more step that we can take to sell this stop motion look just a little bit more, is adding some wiggle to the camera itself. I'll open up the rotation of the camera by pressing R on the keyboard and then go into the Z rotation, holding down option or alt on PC and clicking on the stopwatch and then type wiggle parentheses, three, comma, point, two, parentheses. So the Z rotation of the camera is going to wiggle three times a second at point two degrees. It should be very subtle but help sell the effect. Previewing this animation, you can see that our whole scene is just rotating slightly and it just adds a little bit of imperfection to the camera movement, going to rename this adjustment layer 'Posterize Time' and lock it. Then I'm going to add one more adjustment layer and this time I'm going to add the exposure effect and this effect will allow you to adjust the exposure of whatever you apply it to and what I want to do is just add a little bit of flicker to the entire scene, giving the effect that maybe the camera that this was shot on and was set to auto exposure. So it changed between each photo that was taken. I will option or Alt on a PC, click on offset and type in wiggle, five comma, point, two, parentheses. We will wiggle the offset five times per second at a value of point two. We'll see what that looks like and I can already tell from having a preview this much that my value is set way to high. On top of that it's not being affected by the Posterize Time layer because it's not below it. First I need to drag this adjustment layer below Posterize Time then I'll bring up the expression by double tapping E on the keyboard and I need to change this value from point two to something much lower, I'll just put a zero before that two press enter and preview this again. I think the reason I'm getting too much of an exposure change is because I set the expression to the offset property and I should have done it to the exposure property. So I'm going to cut this expression out of offset, open up my exposure, option or Alt Click on the exposure key-frame to give me an expression dialog and then paste that expression into that box and now let's see what that does. Now that I play that back, that little of a value is not nearly enough on the exposure property, I'll put that back to point two. That is much more like I was hoping for. I might adjust it a little bit more but you get the idea of what I'm trying to do and that is really the last thing that I would do to complete this scene. 13. Thanks!: That's all there is to it. I'd like to ask you to review my course if you liked it. Let me know what you thought about the format of this class and if you'd like to see others like it. I always appreciate feedback that I get about my courses. Be sure to check out my other Skillshare classes, and follow me on Instagram, Dribbble, and Twitter to see when I'm working on new classes. If you ever post your class projects to social media, be sure to tag me in it. I love seeing your class projects online and getting to show off your work. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment on the Ask me Anything thread in the discussions page. Thanks again for taking this class, and I'll see you next time.