Pencil Sketch Effect Help

Note that template instructions can also be found inside the Pencil Sketch Effect template, in the "Instructions" comp, and in layer marker notes.

What is the Pencil Sketch Effect template?
The Pencil Sketch Effect is an After Effects template for CS5 and up. The template allows users to transform their video footage into an animated pencil drawing. There are eleven unique customizable pencil drawing effects, called "presets", which can be applied to your footage. the pencil drawing presets include multiple styles like charcoal pencil, colored pencil, line drawings, photo-realism, rough sketch, or a loose sketch. You can choose from over 30 paper texture, and each preset includes multiple customization controls for customizing the look of the drawing effects. Or, you can just drop in your footage and immediately export any of the presets.

First Step - Importing and Preparing Footage
To import your footage into After Effects, go to the File menu, then choose Import, then choose File. Locate and open your footage. In the Project Panel, drag your footage clip into the comp at the top of the Project Panel, named Your Footage. The Your Footage comp will open automatically, and you will see your clip. A good dynamic range (lightest areas are pure white, darkest areas are pure black) in your footage will yield better results from the effects, so if your footage needs any brightness or color correction adjustments, you can do that in this comp.

Choosing a Preset
In the Project Panel, open the folder named Pencil Sketch Presets, and you'll see eleven folders - one for each preset. To preview the different presets with your footage, open the comp named Pencil Sketch Presets Preview. Hide the instructions layer inside, and isolate any of the other layers. Do a RAM preview (0 key on the numpad) to preview any of the presets. Note that some of the layers have a marker note on them which say "Set comp resolution to Full for an accurate preview". By default, the preview comp's resolution is set to Half, but if you switch it Full, you will be able to see what your final exported effect will look like. Leaving it on Half is faster, but it may give you an inaccurate representation of the thickness of lines in your drawing.

Customizing a Preset
Once you have chosen a pencil sketch preset in the Preview comp, you can open that preset either by double clicking the layer, or double clicking the preset's comp in the Project Panel. The preset can be exports as is, or you can customize it by using the slider controls on the CONTROL LAYER, found at the top in the timeline. Just select the CONTROL LAYER, and you'll find the controls in the Effect Controls panel. Each pencil sketch preset is built differently and therefore have different controls. Most presets have controls for adjusting the main outline, sketch lines, shading, color, and looseness (or accuracy) of the drawing.

You can also customize the paper texture. The animated paper texture can usually be found near the top of the layer order. Select the paper texture layer. Next, open the Dynamic Textures folder, found in the Project Panel. Open the second Dynamic Textures folder inside, and then open the Paper folder. Select any of the paper texture comps inside and then, with both the layer selected in the timeline, and the new texture selected in the Project Panel, drag the new texture onto the old layer. This will swap the source of the layer without erasing any of the effects or settings of the layer.

Paper textures in this template are called Dynamic Textures. Dynamic Textures are animated textures made from multiple high-resolution texture images. The images are moved, rotated, flipped, and blended in random amounts on each frame so that no two frames ever look the same. The animated pencil stroke textures used in many of the presets are also Dynamic Textures. You can swap out pencil stroke textures in the same way as described in the paragraph above. You can also customize any dynamic texture. Just double click the texture to open its comp. Inside, you will see another CONTROL LAYER, with multiple slider controls for customizing the texture's color, brightness, contrast, scale, and more.

Effects Comp
Another useful feature is the Extra Effects comp, found in the Pencil Sketch Presets folder. The layers inside are copy-and-paste effects, meaning you can simply copy a layer into your preset comp and put it above all the layers that you want to affect. Some of the effects already exist in the presets in some form. Read the description in the marker notes to see what an effect does. To customize an effect, select the layer and use the slider controls in the Effect Controls panel.

The first effect in the Extra Effects comp, named Stop Motion Effect, is important. The Stop Motion Effect is actually inside all of the presets already, near the top of the layer order. This effect adds a choppy, shaky look to your animated drawing, which imitates a video edited from numerous still photos of multiple drawings. In the Effect Controls panel, you can set the frame rate, and how much each frame will shake, zoom, rotate, and change exposure.

The next effect is Smudge Shading. Artists sometimes rub their paper with their hand and it blends the pencil strokes and smooths out the shading, which this effect imitates.

The Turbulence Effect will warp your drawing in a way that displaces lines slightly, making the drawing take a slightly different shape on each frame. When drawing by hand, lines aren't usually in exactly the right place. This effect "messes up" the sketch to make it look more natural.

The Stroke Warp effect adds some waviness to the drawing in a pattern resembling parallel pencil strokes.

The Outline Effect adds a line that follows the main contours in the footage. In case your pencil sketch preset doesn't have an outline, or in case you want your outline to be darker, you can copy and paste this into your comp.

The Add Color from Footage effect can turn any of the presets into a colored pencil effect. Some of the presets actually have a Saturation control already in them that lets you add color. if a Saturation control is not available, this effect will do the trick.

Always Check Expressions: You may get an error message when you move, delete, or change something. Or, you may not get an error message at all, but something just doesn't look right, or doesn't work as you would expect. Your first action should always be to check your expressions. The majority of issues stem from a broken link in one or more expressions. To reveal expression errors, select all the layers, right-click on a layer, and choose "Reveal Expression Errors". If there are any broken expressions, they will appear with a yellow exclamation mark icon next to them. Turn each expression back on by clicking the equal sign icon next to the expression. You may have to undo your last action, or the expression will continue to give you errors when you turn it back on.