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A Guide to After Effects Masks


Masks are a fundamental After Effects feature that allow you to cut out and combine different elements together, build quick & easy transitions, and are the basis of visual effects and compositing work in motion design.

SOM’s Senior Motion Designer Kyle Hamrick breaks down how to use masks to achieve some simple—and a few advanced—effects in After Effects.

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Kyle Hamrick (00:00): Masks are an essential tool in after effects. Professionals use them in motion design and visual effects all the time. Learn how to start using them in your workflow with the short and easy tutorial.

Kyle Hamrick (00:18): Hey, this is Kyle Hamrick senior motion designer at school of motion. Today I’ll cover how to create masks and after effects and show you all about their individual properties. And the best ways to work with them masks are a fundamental after effects feature that allow you to cut out and combine different elements together, build quick and easy transitions and are the basis of visual effects and compositing work in after effects. Let’s take a look at what masks are and what they do, how to create them, the properties of masks and what each of them do working with transforming and animating masks. And then I’ll show you a few useful examples. If you want to follow along, check the link in the description and go snag the project file. So I’ll be using in this tutorial, let’s get started

Kyle Hamrick (01:03): Masks and after-effects allow you to determine the visibility of specific parts of a layer. This is similar to features that may already be familiar. If you use Photoshop, illustrator or other image, editing apps, you can isolate an object in a photo or video, create a cut-out make shapes or even insert your friends into their favorite music. Videos. Masks are created by drawing paths like I’m doing right here on any layer with a visual component that is anything you can create or import into after effects that you can actually see in a composition it’s possible to create what are called open pads, which are just kind of like a line you’re drawing on the layer. And those don’t do anything by themselves. But when you close up that path or draw a complete shape, you’re creating a closed path, which will cut out a portion of the layer like this. When you do this, you’re effecting, what’s known as the layers alpha channel, which is kind of a secret invisible channel that determines the visibility of different portions of the layer, depending on what you do with them. This is the basis of what’s called compositing. When you combine different elements together to create a new cohesive image or video,

Kyle Hamrick (02:13): To create a mask, you first need to select the layer. You want to apply it to then grab one of these shake tools from the toolbar right up here, which you can also cycle through quickly by pressing cue, simply click and drag here in your composition, viewer and congrats. You’ve made a mask. One important note. If you start using these drawing tools without a layer selected, you’ll be creating, what’s called a shape layer, which I love, but that’s a whole other topic. As you can see, your mask will draw from the top left corner, unless you hold command or control. In which case it will draw from the center. If you’re drawing a rectangle or a lips holding shift, we’ll keep all the sides equal, allowing you to make perfect squares or circles. Many times you’ll need to draw something more organic though. And that’s where the pen tool comes in. You may recognize this tool from Photoshop or illustrator, and it works very much the same way here. Again, I need to make sure I select the layer and then just click, click, click, click to make a shape here, to create rounded corners, I’ll click and drag while creating these points.

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By: School of Motion
Title: A Guide to After Effects Masks
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