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Diagonal Lines in Adobe After Effects

Old School vs. AE CS3 By Ko Maruyama
There were so many different ways to make diagonal lines in all kinds of illustration and bitmap applications, but when you want to animate them - you want to head over to After Effects to get it done.  Right?  Well, now in Adobe After Effects CS3, you have more options for how to accomplish it.

In previous versions of After Effects, you could create the diagonal lines very easily with the TRANSITION effect called venetian blinds.  A little angle and transition completion modification and you were there.  Add a ramp and you could set a gradient.  In CS3 - you can still create diagonal lines in that manner, but you can also create the lines by using the new shape tool and repeating the shape with the REPEATER object.

Here's a quick overview of diagonal lines in AE: Old school vs. CS3.  The file for this project is at the end of the page.  You'll need After Effects CS3, but you already have that don't you? ;)  You can follow along with the first steps in previous versions of After Effects if you don't have the newest version yet.

Each one of these images will pop up into an 800x600 image.  I think that you probably know that by now, but it never hurts to say it again - if only to fend off a few more requests to make the images larger.  If you want to see the images larger, check out some training I did for TOTALTRAINING at their website.  You can sample some of it for free - and see the large, close-up and clean views.

Of course you need a layer in your comp, but you don't need more than one to set this up.  Any color here will do because we'll ultimately add a RAMP to it, changing the image to black and white.

Add the venetian blind effect from the transition family of effects.  With the layer selected, navigate to the EFFECTS pulldown menu, choose TRANSITION and VENETIAN BLINDS.  You may want to change the width, but you will definitely want to change the TRANSITION COMPLETION value. (50% is a good place to start).

Change the direction of the blinds.  NOTE: The stripes only goe as far as your solid layer permits.  Don't rotate the transformation value of the layer!  If you do, you'll see an abrupt end of the layer and effect.

Add and modify a RAMP effect.  In After Effects the 2 color gradient is called RAMP.  You can find it under EFFECTS / GENERATE / RAMP.  Or simply use CMD-5 to bring up effects/presets window and search for "RAMP" there.  You can change the start/end value of the gradient to match the direction of your lines.

STEP 5: USING AFTER EFFECTS CS3 : SHAPE TOOL to create diagonal lines.
What's cool about the shape tool - well, I could go for hours on this one, but the main point: It's vector based and therefore continuously rasterizing.

YOU'LL NEED AFTER EFFECTS CS3 to complete the rest of this:

With the shape tool selected, in options, choose gradient fill and null stroke options.


You should now be able to draw a rectangular shape that has the fill and stroke values as described in options.  You can always change these later (and we will).


From the list of operators under the ADD flyout menu (just under the switches/modes column: click the right arrow to get it), select REPEATER


By default, the repeater puts 2 additional objects in your comp, spaced 100px from the previous.  You'll need to change this by modifying the position values (see image: CLICK FOR LARGER)


In the transformation values for the rectangle, modify the rotation and position values so that the diagonal lines fill the screen.  If your rectangular shapes doesn't fit - just use the selection (move tool - V) tool to modify the handles on your master rectangle.

STEP 10:

If you want to modify the color of the gradient, just click on the GRADIENT FILL value to change the colors along the knots described in the editor.  (click each knot to modify the color, or click on the ramp to make a new knot).

That's it.  5 steps (or less) either way, and you get smooth diagonal lines that you can animate to your hearts content.

For rants, ramblings and general announcements - check out a chaotic blog in the BlogZone:

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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:Tutorial, Quick Tip, product review, diagonal lines, After Effects

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