Trails using After effects and Photoshop (beginner)


Hello everyone!

This is a technique you can use to create a simple trail using After effects and photoshop.

  1. Open After effects and create a new Composition. For this step I made the size of the composition 1280x720. Any size will do but I like to work with a big file (downscaling is easier than upscaling).

  2. Create a new white solid by right clicking next to the timeline.

  3. Make a new mask in the solid. You can do this by selecting the solid and clicking the rectangle on top of the screen.

  4. Use the option “mask feather” on the solid.
    Step03-1 Step03-2

  5. Select the effect “Roughen Edges” from the effects panel. Change the Edge type to “Spiky” and play with the settings till you get a nice result. Focus on Changing the Scale and Stretch Width. You can also drag the Offset to change the look.

  6. Right click the solid and add a Layer effect called “outer glow”. You can play with the settings to get an effect you like.

  7. Export the picture as a photoshop file by clicking Composition → Save frame as → Photoshop layers.

  8. Open the file in photoshop and go to Filter → Other → Offset. Use the horizontal offset to create a gap in the middle of the trail.

  9. Drag both sides to the middle so that there is no gap anymore. If thee is some inconsistencies you can fix this with the brush or eraser.

  10. The trail still looks a bit straight, which is fine if you want this kind of effect, but I like my trail a bit wavy. To fix this you can go to Filter → Distort → Twirl. Try some twirls out till you find something you like.

  11. Add some details and motion with a very soft eraser.

And you’re set! I hope I helped some people with this who are not as good at drawing trails from scratch.

Props to DocVu FX, I found the After Effects filter through him.


Awesome, thanks for sharing!

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you can use Offset in AE.
Effect match:狞笑:

Oh I didn’t know! Thanks. Since I want to paint over it in photoshop it doesn’t matter that much, but still a nice tip :slight_smile:

Thanks for the tutorial! I like the procedural approach since I tend to rely on hand drawing too often and quickly run out of ideas :grin:

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Thanks a lot!! :blush: