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Saturday, November 12, 2011

••◊ Sketch effect in Adobe After Effects

Clarence came over last weekend and showed me some of the photos he's been retouching lately with the Photoshop Elements Sketch effect.  I told him, "I bet I could do that in After Effects," and the challenge was on.  This is the type of nerd-gasm challenge I like to take on every once in a while.  Surprisingly it only took about 20 minutes to guess-timate a close approximation to what we were after.
Here's what we're starting with.

...and here's what we're ending with.  If you click on the pictures to make them larger you'll more fully see the effect.

The effect is made up of three image layers and 1 control layer (just for my sanity and ease of use. You can see how I have the project setup in the After Effects window below.  The bottom layer is the original footage with effects applied.  The second from bottom layer is the original footage desaturated.  The top image layer is the image outlines as an overlay.

The bottom layer begins as the original picture, but it's augmented with a curves effect to increase contrast and I also added a Gaussian Blur controlled by a slider on the Null layer (layer 1).

Layer 3 adds a complete black and white desaturation and linear contrast adjustment via curves, as well as a Gaussian Blur.  For sanity sake I made the blur controlled by the same slider control on layer 1.  The layer also has an opacity of 50%.  You can change this value to create more or less color, adjusting to taste. 

On layer 2 the goal is to create the sketch outlines.  The first effect I applied is a Gaussian Blur to take away some of the details in various parts of the picture.  This blur effect is adjust separately from layer 3 and 4.  Then I applied a Find Edges effect for obvious reasons.  I also desaturated because the sketch outlines should always be black.  The last effect was a curves effect to sharpen the edges to be more on/off .  The layer's opacity is set at 66%

That's it.  You saw the results above.  It's a pretty cool effect. The only thing I could think of to make it better is some type of posterizing of the color so it looks like a more limited color palette, but that's an artistic choice not necessarily representative of a sketch.  We're not going for "A Scanner Darkly,"... yet.

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