Photoshop + After Effects = Awesomeness: Adobe MAX 2018 Lab Recap

Design by Codify Design Studio.

Add a new tool to your design toolbox and supercharge any design project with stunning visual effects. In this hands-on, step-­by-step lab, we combined Photoshop with After Effects to create jaw­-dropping images and effects suitable for use in any medium.

And the best part? If you know Photoshop, you already know the basics!

Learn how we leveraged the power of After Effects to create unique artwork and visuals for print, web, illustration, and photography projects.

How After Effects panels relate to Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign

At its core, After Effects is a design tool — and it works just like other Creative Cloud design apps you are already familiar with. In fact, aside from a few naming differences, the After Effects workflow for file linking works the same as InDesign and Illustrator. And After Effects layer effects and non-destructive smart filters work exactly like Photoshop.

Once you get familiar with basic panels, you’re ready to explore the amazing design and special effects capabilities of After Effects.

Creating a sunset with light rays

Here I’m starting with a photo where I missed the sunset. Using the CC Light Rays Effect in After Effects, I’ll add in a sunset to dramatically enhance this photo.

Start a new project in After Effects, then click New Composition from Footage to begin browsing for your photo. Once selected, your photo will be imported, a composition will be created, and your photo will be placed on a layer in the Timeline panel.

Search the Effects & Presets panel to find the CC Light Rays effect, then apply it to the photo in the Composition panel. This will be the first instance of the effect, so we’ll set the intensity to 80, the radius to 106, the shape to a square, and we’ll position the center point to be just above the trees on the right side of the photo. Select the effect in the Effect Controls and press Cmd+D (Mac) or Ctrl+D (Windows) to duplicate the effect instance. Set the intensity of the second instance to 90, uncheck the color from source, and specify a medium orange color. This will create the orange glow of the sunset.

Finally, duplicate the effect instance again, creating a third instance of the CC Light Rays effect, and set the color to bright red. This will simulate the reflection of the sunset in the lake.

The before-and-after animation above shows the results of the CC Light Rays effect on the original photo.

Exporting your design work from After Effects

Once you are happy with your effects, it is time to export your work from After Effects into a format you can use for printing or inclusion into another application.

Export to Photoshop (PSD)

My favorite feature is the ability to save your After Effects composition back to a layered Photoshop file. To do this, make sure you have the composition panel selected, then click on the Composition menu and choose Save Frame As > Photoshop Layers. After Effects will then create a multilayered PSD file, complete with transparency (if applicable), of the artwork you’ve created. This PSD file in turn can be either opened in Photoshop or imported in any application that supports the PSD format.

Export to PNG or JPG

If want to save your project to another file format, such as a transparent PNG or a JPG, we’ll need to use the Render Queue.

Make sure you add enough pixels for printing

Considering the fact that After Effects is a pixel-based application, it is possible to add enough pixels to your composition to support a wide range of print projects. Photoshop is also a pixel-based application, like After Effects, with the exception that Photoshop can also specify a resolution for a canvas, in addition to the dimensions of the canvas.

The chart above is a common measurement system used by a range of online print and photography services to gauge the necessary pixels for varying quality of print sizes.

Try these projects on your own

Download the handout and project files that were used in the Adobe MAX lab. And while the handout illustrates the steps taken to complete each project, we encourage you to try your own techniques using your own photos and art. The possibilities are endless when you start exploring the capabilities of After Effects.

Learn more ways to use After Effects for your design and photography projects

Learn to use After Effects for a wide range of graphic design and photography projects with these courses available online. The first chapter is FREE on all platforms, so check it out and add a new tool to your design toolbox.

After Effects for Graphic Design

After Effects for Photography

Learn more techniques in this FREE webinar

Have you downloaded ALL of the design tools from the Creative Cloud?

Supercharge any design project with stunning visual effects with After Effects. Join us as we teach you to leverage the power of After Effects to create unique artwork for print, web, illustration, and photography projects.

In the After Effects for Print, Web, Photography, and more webinar and learn to:

Adobe Creative Cloud e-learning series

After Effects for Print, Web, Photography, and more