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After Effects 6.0 Paint Tools

Part 1: Standard vector painting By Ko Maruyama
Adobe After Effects 6.0 has some great new paint features. If you're familiar with its old Vector Paint plugin, you'll definitely love the new options that the After Effects team incorporated with the Photoshop paint engine. And if you weren't a fan of the old paint and its interface oddities, you'll have good reason to take a look at paint again under the new version. With this in mind, this week we kick off a new series exploring the painting features in After Effects 6.0.

After Effects 6.0 Paint Tools
Part 1: Standard painting

Not only has the After Effects team brought over several round and elliptical brushes from Photoshop, with speed that has increased to something that flows, but the parameters are also more edit friendly and lend themselves to more expressive effects. Here, by way of example, is an image containing eight strokes showing just how expressive things can get, even when working on nothing more than a black background.

So let's get into it.

One of the first things you'll notice in After Effects 6.0 is the new tools palette, where you'll find the brand new painting tools, including the Paint Brush icon, which--for those of you who haven't been living in a cave for the last 20 years--will immediately strike you for its similarity to the same tool in Photoshop.

And it's not just a superficial similarity either. The new painting capabilities in After Effects borrow heavily from the Photoshop Paint Engine. Previously, you'd draw directly into your composition, the little icon set hovering to the side as you applied splines to the layer. With the new plugin, you paint on the source of the layer.

This means you'll have to split the tabs in order to see how the strokes effect your comp, but if you work across multiple monitors like I do, it's not much trouble. The speed difference is incredible. With my Wacom tablet, paint reacts much more like Photoshop and behaves more smoothly than any other desktop compositing/paint system I've used.

Paint and Brush Options
Yes, After Effects 6 allows for paintbrush behavior and characteristics to be effected by your stylus' pressure or tilt. In order to access the options for the selected tool, you may have to employ another little button whose icon looks specifically Photoshop-like. AE6 defaults to "auto-open" palettes, so more than likely, your freshly installed version of AE will deliver the option menus when you select the paint brush.

Interestingly enough, these options remain active, even after you create your stroke. Not only do they remain active and available to change, they are keyframable (a wonderful characteristic that makes the option "Duration" superfluous, but who cares, it's there). Take a look at the layer's Effects channel to see that everything is represented. Instead of investigating the palette, I'll move directly to the keyframe options. Here are the default brushes as well:

Of course, you can create your own round and elliptical brushes with various parameters and save them to the library. After Effects will automatically name the brush with the size and roundness in the description, but you can (and should) change the name to something you'll easily recognize.

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