Morphing With Adobe Illustrator
Morphing With Adobe Illustrator
by Rick Gerard
Gerard Productions, Seattle, Washington, USA
©2001 by Rick Gerard. All rights are reserved. Used at CreativeCow.net by kind permission of the author.
Rick Gerard, a frequent visitor and contributor in the Creative COW After Effects Community explores some methods of morphing text using new features in Adobe Illustrator 9.0.
Morph? Can I morph shapes in AE? Sure you can. It's easy if you have Illustrator. The blend tool in Illustrator will 'morph' one shape into another. A new feature in Illustrator 9.0 called release to layers makes it a snap to create a sequence of frames in AE.
A: Working In Illustrator
I want to morph the letter A into the letter B and then into the letter C. So here's my Illustration.
I'm going to use the blend tool in AE to create a bunch of in-between shapes that can be animated to create a morph. Type cannot be blended unless it is converted to outlines. Select the letters ABC. Under the type menu you'll find Convert to Outlines. You can use the shortcut CMND (or CTRL for Win) + Shift + O.
It's time to morph.
Double click on the blend tool and bring up the options. This is where you decide how many frames you want. Illustrator can generate blends with a maximum of 256 steps. That should be plenty for most projects. I want 10 frames between each letter. Choosing 9 steps will give me 10 steps between each of the letters. I'll convert them to frames later in AE.
Set orientation to follow the path. Click OK and you are ready to blend. There is a gotcha here. You have to make sure that the letters are selected in the right order. I want to morph A to B to C so the letter A will be the last letter selected.
Using the blend tool click on the letter C, then letter B, then letter A. It's time for the first trick. Before you can use the blend in an animation it has to be converted into individual shapes or expanded.
You'll find the commands under the 'Object' menu. Expand the blend first. This will create 20 separate objects from the 3 letters. Now, ungroup. You'll have to do this twice to separate all of the elements.
I want my A to turn into a B without changing position. Illustrators alignment palette is perfect for this. Select all the objects and click Horizontal Align Center and they will stack up on top of each other with the A on top.
The second trick is hidden in the upper right corner of the layers palate. There's a great feature in Illustrator 9 that makes it easy to place each object in an illustration on it's own layer. It's called Release to Layers. It's a great tool, but there's a trick to making it work in After Effects. Let me explain.
Clicking on the Release to Layers command will create 20 new sub-layers. This is fine for Illustrator, but AE will treat the sub layers as a single layer. Don't worry, it's easy to fix.
Highlight layer 2. Now hold the shift key down and highlight layer 22. With all of the sub layers selected you can click and drag them above layer 0. Layer 0 is now empty it can be deleted. To make it easier to work in AE I renamed some of my layers. Save the file in Illustrator 8 format and ignore the warnings. We're now ready to animate in AE.
B: Animate In After Effects
AE makes it easy to animate the layers in an Illustrator file. Just import Illustrator as a comp. I find it easier to work on projects like this if I reset the time display to frames. You'll find it under preferences. It is easier to navigate around using frames in the time line and no fields in the comp settings when I'm working with any kind of sequenced animation. If you set time preferences to frames you'll also be able to create a comp that is only 20 frames long.
The first step is to open up the time line and set the duration of all 20 layers to 1 frame. Select all the layers and put the time marker on frame 0. Use Ctrl or CMND + ] to set the out point. There you go. 20 frames. Now all you have to do is sequence them. If you have the production bundle select all layers choose sequence layers from the keyframe assistant. If you don't have the production bundle you will have to drag them out manually. The little movie at the top of the article is from this comp.
C: Nest your Morph.
The easiest way to use an effect like this is to nest the comp in another project. Start a new comp and drag the morph comp into the time line. I added some basic text, a solid with two masks, and wave and scatter effects to create this little gem. I call it Morph and Windy.
Rick Gerard is a frequent visitor and contributor to the Adobe After Effects COW. Pop in to comment on this article or ask questions. Like to see who Rick is and find other articles that he's contributed? Click here.