Creation Art Effects Help

The following article is based on the transcript of the video tutorial for Creation Art Effects. Template instructions can also be found inside the template (in the "INSTRUCTIONS" comp and in layer marker notes).

What is Creation Art Effects?
Creation Art Effects is an Adobe After Effects template and all-in-one art studio. The template includes 40 custom art effects for converting your video footage into moving, animated works of art. The 40 effects ("presets") imitate a range of traditional mediums such as oil paint, watercolors, pencil, pen, clay, graffiti, chalk, marker, and much more. The art effects use photos of real hand-drawn or hand-crafted textures, making the effects look very realistic. Each art effect can be customized using slider controls to create a variety of styles and looks. The effects are designed to work with footage, but it will also work with photos, text, and graphics. The template is compatible with After Effects CS5 and up. No plugins are required.

Importing and Preparing Footage
Your first step after opening the project file is to import your footage. Go to the File menu, select Import, and choose your video file(s). Next, drag the file in your Project panel into the comp at the top of the Project panel, named Your Footage. This will automatically place your footage into every comp so you can preview or export each effect with your footage. Dragging your footage into the Your Footage comp will automatically open the comp. Use this comp to add any color correction or brightness adjustments that your footage needs. A good dynamic range (lightest areas are pure white and darkest areas are pure black) will yield the best results from the art effects.

Choosing a Preset
With your footage in the Your Footage comp, open the first folder in the Project panel, named Art Effects. Inside, you'll see numerous folders – each containing a unique art effect. Some of the folders also have multiple art effect presets inside them. If you are not sure which art effect is the right one for your project, you have a couple options for previewing the effects. First, the quickest way to see all of the effects in action is to watch the Art Effects Preview Video. This video shows a few seconds of each effect with their default settings, applied to the same footage so that you can compare the differences. Your second option to preview the effects is to open the comp named Art Effects Preview inside the Art Effects folder. This comp allows you to preview any effect with your footage by isolating a layer and doing a RAM Preview (0-key on the numpad).

Note that some of the layers in the Art Effects Preview comp have a layer marker note which says "Set comp resolution to 'Full' for accurate preview". Choosing a lower reslution on certain art effects can have a dramatic effect on the thickness of lines and how the effect looks. The comp's resolution is set to Half by default to make it load faster, but a quick switch to Full resolution will allow you to accurately preview what the effect will look like when you export your finished video.

Customizing a Preset
Inside every art effect's folder, there is a main comp with the main effect in it. This main comp has the art effect applied to your footage, and it can be exported as is if you are happy with the default settings. Or, if you want to explore the customization options, you can use the slider controls on the "CONTROL LAYER", found at the top of the layer order in the art effect's main comp. To use the slider controls, select the Control Layer, then you will see the controls in the Effect Controls panel.

Inside each art effect's folder, you will also see a folder named Precomps. Inside the Precomps folder is another Your Footage comp. This comp already has your footage inside it by default (if you dragged your footage into the main Your Footage comp). But this Your Footage comp is solely for that individual art effect. You can leave your footage in there, or put something different inside, such as another art effect comp. "Nesting" art effect comps in this manner allows you to essentially combine two or more different art effects.

There may be additional precomps inside the Precomps folder. These are "Dynamic Textures". Dynamic textures are animated textures made from multiple high-resolution texture images. The images are rotated, flipped, moved, and blended together in random ways on each frame, ensuring that no two frames of the animated texture will ever look the same. Dynamic textures are the backbone of many of the art effects, and they play a very important role in the template. All of the animated paper textures and pencil stroke textures are dynamic textures. The dynamic textures used in each art effect preset can be found inside that art effect's Precomps folder. To customize a dynamic texture, open the precomp, and use the controls on the CONTROL LAYER inside.

Swapping Paper Textures (or other Dynamic Textures)
You can find all of the dynamic texture options inside the folder named Dynamic Textures. These textures can be customized using the Control Layer inside each dynamic texture's comp. To swap out one dynamic texture in your art effect preset with another dynamic texture, follow the steps below. This action will allow you to swap the source of a layer without affecting the that layer's settings or deleting its effects.

1. Locate the dynamic texture layer in your art effect preset that you want to swap out and select it.
2. Locate the dynamic texture comp that you want to replace it with in the Project panel and select it.
3. With both the old and new textures selected, hold down the Option (Alt) key and drag the new texture from the Project panel onto the old texture layer in your comp's timeline.

Extra Effects
The layers inside the Art Effects Preview comp are color coded. Blue layers are art effect presets. Pink layers are mattes and borders. Yellow layers are extra "copy-and-paste" effects.

The copy-and-paste effects provide convenient access to some basic effects. They can be added to your art effect preset by simply copying and pasting the layer into your preset's comp. They will affect all layers that are below them. These layers have slider controls on them which can be used to customize the effect. Read the marker notes on each layer to see what the effect does.

The first and most important of the effects is the Stop Motion Effect. This effect is already inside all of the presets. The Stop Motion Effect lowers the frame rate, as well as adds slight position, scale, rotation, and exposure variation to each frame. This gives the appearance that multiple photos were taken of the artwork and then edited together to make the video.

The Smudge Shading Effect imitates the look of an artist smearing their pencil strokes with their hand to create smoother shading.

the Turbulence Effect adds a wavy unnevenness to the picture. The edges of objects will become slightly wavy and randomly displaced on each frame, since lines in a hand-drawing are not normally perfect.

The Stroke Warp Effect is similar to turbulence, but the displacement is in parallel waves, making the image look like it was drawn in strokes.

The Outline Effect will overlay an outline over the contours in your footage, similar to comic book art. You can edit the texture of the outline to imitate different mediums such as chalk, pen, marker, and pencil.

The Add Color From Footage layer simplifies the original colors of your footage, and overlays them over your art effect. This effect is handy if you have a monochrome drawing and you want it to be in colored pencil.

Troubleshooting
If anything doesn't seem to be working the way you would expect, if a control isn't working, or if something in the video just looks wrong, the first thing you should try is check for expression errors. Expressions are bits of code added on every layer. There are hundreds of expressions in this template and they can be unintentionally turned off when layers or controls are deleted or moved. To check for broken expressions, select all the layers in the comp, right-click them, and choose "Reveal Expression Errors". If an expression pops up with a yellow exclamation point icon, click the small equal sign icon to turn it back it on.

If you get an error message, or multiple error messages, it is most likely caused by broken expressions. Continue to close the error message windows until they stop popping up. Next, undo whatever your last action was that caused the error messages to pop up. Lastly, follow the steps above to search for and restore any broken expressions in the comp.