After Effects – Blending Masks

In our VFX class today we went through what we’ve learned in our past few classes (the various layers in a project, keyframes, transforming shapes, etc.) and how we can start making our own quick animations with these tools and blending masks.

We were given a set of psychedelic tools to work with – four basic layers that we would manipulate one on top of each other, utilising blending and transitioning to have a final design in the last frame. The whole quick project only takes five seconds to go through.

Opening up a new composition and importing our assets, we revisited how to add a quick mask to the first back layer: go to layer > layer styles > gradient overlay. Then, in the back layer, we changed the blend mode to multiply and the style to radial.


This was the end result. It reminded me of a simple, soft-edged spotlight. This seemed like a basic mask, but I think it’s a very nice looking one when used in the right way.


A second basic mask technique we were shown was adding an ellipse shape over the top of a first green layer.


The result looked like the above. While the ellipse worked, it would be nice to add a little more to it. Going into the menu of the layer and finding the correct mask options, you could play with the different settings until you achieved the look you wanted.


After that, we were set lose to make an animation any way we chose, using the layers, movie clips, and sound effect provided. I decided to add a number of different transition effects, along with some overlays and a ripple on one of the layers. The end result was equally as psychedelic as when I first started, but I think it’s eye-catching at least. There could probably be a bit more distinction between the different layers and I would have liked the star to be a bit more obvious. I really like the start, however.

Warning: it’s likely not good to look at this for long.


I’m not too sure if the timeline is that visible, but it just goes to show how many layers go into something that’s a simple 5 second animation. However, I realise I may have made an error by moving the layers further along the timeline? I’ll have to ask whether this is all right to do or whether we should stick to using key frames only – I would have to change the way the layers come in, if that were the case. It’s probably the better way to make the graphics, though.

A final still of the animation.


Kazumasa Nagai


Today we were also introduced to a Japanese print maker and graphic designer. At 87 years old, he has quite the repertoire of work that varies from abstract shapes to animals/nature. His unique style includes using bright colours to convey his message and really does remind me of what we’ve done in class.

While I’m not usually a huge fan of abstract art, there is something very appealing and even inspirational about Nagai’s art style.

It’s interesting to look into other world-renowned artists if only to see their styles develop or what sort of message they’re trying to convey.

Posted in VFX

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