Tuesday Tool Tips – Illustrator and After Effects Workflow

Welcome to the first Tuesday Tool Tip.  Today we will be taking a brief look on how to use an Illustrator to After Effects workflow, and why this process can help make life a lot easier.

I’ll be setting up a vector-based rig made in Illustrator to be made ready to animate in After Effects, however this can be used for any vector elements in your comp such as scenery, characters, logos etc.

First, lets talk about why one would use this workflow as opposed to just importing a regular bitmap image like a .jpg or a .png.  As most people realize, the main advantage of vector art is that it can be scaled up or down without losing quality. However, this is not the only benefit.  Using Illustrator to handle your images in conjunction with After Effects gives you the agility to go back and make changes to your assets, and After Effects can show those changes instantly.  But more on that later.

1: Break Your Illustrator Scene

Smash it with a hammer, incinerate it, blend it.  Then make it again, and break it up into layers.  That is, a separate layer for each part of your scene that you want to animate (if any).


2: Release!!!

Just select everything – all the layers and all the vectors and go to your layers panel.  Click on the options box and select “Release To Layers (Sequence)”.  This is going to make your layers appear in After Effects as they do in Illustrator, which will make any animation on the vectors easy to do.  When that’s done, save out your illustrator file (as a .ai)


3: Import into After Effects

You know the drill: open up After Effects, hit cntrl / cmd + i (or double click in the project window / or File >> Import ) and navigate to the .ai file you saved.  A box will appear after selecting import asking how you want AE to import the Illustrator file.  Import Kind should be set to “Composition” and Dimensions at “Layer Size”.


4:  Open It Up

Open up the composition and presto!  All the layers from your Illustrator project are now layers in After Effects free to be edited and animated individually.  For this walking rig, I will go through and set the anchor points on each layer, and parent some parts together before animating the actual walk cycle.


5: Make Iterations

Five steps! How convenient!  This isn’t really a step though, unless you want to go back and make changes to your Illustrator files (the main advantage we were talking about earlier).  But check out how easy it is – you make the change in Illustrator and save it.  Then if you still have after effects open just reload the footage by right clicking on the individual layers in the project window.  The layers will essentially function like smart objects do in Photoshop.  The other cool thing is that because these are vector files, you can take advantage of After Effects’ “Continuously Rasterize” option – which looks like a sun icon above your layers.  This will make sure that if you are scaling your vectors around, they always stay at 100% clarity.  Furthermore, using this workflow makes it very easy to manage large amounts of images.


See? That was super easy and now you can go make some awesome animations.  Throw some of these files into 3d layers and create some depth, or use the workflow to simply manage large amounts of files for a motion graphics piece.

Check in every Tuesday for more Tool Tips!

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