After Effects Tutorial – “Infographics that Animate Themselves”

I recently shared a time-saving expression that I cobbled together some time ago, which has saved me tons of time and keyframes over multiple projects.

Basically, it allows you to bring in tons of layers at the same time, & control them all with a few sliders on a single control layer. It’s great for adjusting the timing of a lot of layers at once. The best part is that, once you’ve created the setup, you can copy and paste this to any new composition & your layers will essentially animate themselves.

The good people at AEtuts+ have the tutorial over at their site. Hopefully it helps you as much as it has helped me.



Dug this test render/comp up from a few months ago. The robot was built for a Prolifik project and used in design elements, but I just couldn’t help scuffing him up and putting him into a scene for fun.

Here’s what he was actually used for:

Cinema 4D to After Effects CS5 – .aec import fix

Just a little help to any motion design readers out there. Hopefully it will save you the frustation I experienced.

If you’ve recently upgraded to C4D 11.5 and AE CS5, you may find that importing an .aec file doesn’t work like it did before. Even after copying the proper plug-in into your AE folder, any .aec file will still be ghosted out. After some trial and error, I finally found the reason: The plug-in that shipped with C4D 11.5 is outdated.

Here’s the new plug-in at Maxon’s site. Unzip it and drop it into the Plug-ins folder inside your AE application folder, and all will be well again.

If you haven’t used an .aec (After Effects Composition) file before, it’s an exceptionally helpful way to marry Cinema4D and After Effects, by syncing up 3D environments and cameras to avoid extra renders and speed up production time. Here’s a tutorial from Maxon to get you started.

Digital Illustration Software Workflow

I’ve used a lot of different software over the years in search of a digital illustration workflow that I really like, for various reasons. I still like a sketch book, but when I’ve got tools like undo, layers, resize, and more, I actually find myself feeling a little more free from the dreaded “fear of the blank canvas” block,  and notice that my drawings exhibit more creativity.

Until recently, I had just decided that I would never be satisfied with a wholly digital process. My computer was just where my drawings ended up when it was time to color them, mainly because of weaknesses in the inking phase. Now, though, I think I’ve found something that will satisfy me in those times when pens aren’t an option.

Illustration Workflow

Here is the pipeline I’m using, with some other comments:

First of all, it kind of goes without saying that if you want to do any serious digital hand-drawn illustration, you’re probably going to want a pen tablet. Any of them will work well, with varying levels of benefit, but the real formula is just “the bigger, the better.” After working my way up through virtually every stage of tablets, the smallest to the largest (all of which were helpful), I’m finally using a Wacom Cintiq, and I’ll never look back. Even if you only get a 6″x8″ tablet, though, you’ll love it.

This one is almost a tie. I’m definitely more familiar with Photoshop, which is a plus, but I really think that Painter edges out PS in the short time I’ve used it.  All I can really say is that it “feels” better.

Another great program that I tried was Alias Sketchbook Pro. I can’t say enough about how smooth the demo was for sketching.  Honestly, if I felt like dropping the cash, I would probably use this one exclusively for penciling, but it’s hard to justify when I’ve already got multiple pencil solutions. And multiple real pencils.

This was my unicorn. I felt like I had tried everything for inking, and the only solution I mildly liked was Flash, which is a weird way to ink, but I liked the vector tools it offered.

Then I found Painter. While I still can’t stay it’s the answer to all of my prayers, the “Fine Point Pen” does give me a result with which I’m satisfied. There are some anti-aliasing issues I’m not thrilled about, but I can usually remedy them by working larger than I need and then downsizing in Photoshop.

So far, I use Essentials, the inexpensive version, which has all I need. I’m sure that the full version would offer more flexibility.

Photoshop all the way. Clipping masks are a life saver, and Photoshop’s post processing tools are hugely beneficial for giving my illustrations a little extra character.

Nothing will ever replace the feel and the look of a pencil in your hands or of real paint on a canvas – and most of the time, I try to use as many real world elements as I can – however, digital illustration offers a lot of perks, so a solid pipeline can be invaluable.