Building Up Particles
Building Up Particles
A CreativeCOW After Effects Tutorial

James Lee demonstrates a practical use of Particular from Trapcode

James Lee James Lee
Seattle, Washington, USA

©2006 James Lee and

Article Focus:
This tutorial by animator James Lee demonstrates a building up of particles to simulate a disintegrating hot air balloon using Trapcode Particular and Adobe After Effects.

download final movie here download project files here

1. Create a comp 720 x 720 (make the comp bigger) with about 3 seconds and name it Hide 01

  • The length of the timeline doesn't matter; it is just the length of the animation.


2. Drop an image into your time line. (Choose any image you want or you can follow along using the image provided in the project files folder downloaded from the blue bar above.)




  • Create a mask to animate it from top to bottom.



  • Adjust the feather on the mask to avoid the sharp edge. Animate the mask in about 3 sec.


3. Create another comp (same size as Hide 01) and name it Hide 02.


4. Drop the same image into the timeline and create a mask to animate it from top to bottom again.


  • This time, animate the mask to hide the whole image.


  • Don't forget to give some feather on the mask just like you did on the first comp Hide 01.




  • Make sure you hide the entire image at the bottom of the image in the comp.
  • Adjust the feather on the mask to avoid the sharp edge.  It is also about 3 sec.



5. Create a final comp. I made a normal size NTSC DV and named it "Particle build 01".


6. Drop both comps "Hide 01" and "Hide 02" into the new comp you've just created and make sure you turn the 3D layer on.


7. Make a solid with the same size as the new comp and place it on the top of the layers.



8. Change the name of the new solid to Particle 1 and apply the effect "Particular" from Trapcode.


  • Once you apply, small particles will appear.




9. After the particular effect is applied, there are some adjustments to make.

  • Emitter Type: Change it to "Layer". This will open up more options to follow.
  • Layer: Change it to "4. 03 Hide 01"
  • Layer Sampling: Change it to "Particle Birth Time"


(give plenty of numbers on the Particle/Sec)



  • You should see something similar to the reference image below after the adjustment.


  • If you want to see more particles above the image, then you need to extend the comp size.
  • When you change the comp size, make sure you change the Particle 1 (solid) as well.

Extended comp:




  • Would you like to go take it a step further? OK! 
  • Let's say, I want particles to start building the image. 
  • To build an image, start building from the bottom up. All you need to do is to adjust the gravity to change the direction of particles.


Let's Continue:        

  • First, change the Direction under the Emitter to "Directional" and adjust the Gravity.




For your own preference:

  • You can adjust the amount of particles by changing the number on "Particle/Sec".
  • You can adjust the size of the particle by changing "Size" under particle.
  • You can adjust the shape of the particle by changing "Particle Type" under particle.

(This will require further experiment to find out what shape you want the particles to look like by changing and making your own shape.)

Something like this will appear after the adjustment in the effect window.


Now, try previewing the animation to see what you've made so far. It's pretty cool, isn't it?

To make it look like the particle is building up the image, all you need to do is to make a new comp and drop the Particle Build 01 comp into the new comp and do the time remap.

Note: This is a good way of using the particular effect with your customized images and animations, but it does have some disadvantages such as not being able to change the direction of particles in Z depth. It would be cool if you could make a trail path and let the particles follow or fly around and start building up the object. If anyone happens to figure it out, let me know, it'd be superb!

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial and feel free to leave some feedback and questions.

Oh, I forgot to mention: This is the first tutorial I've ever made, so cut me some slack!  THANKS!  J


James Lee

Feel free to ask questions about this tutorial in our Trapcode forum at

If you found this page from a direct link, please visit our forums or read other articles at