How to Set up Brushes for Drawing in After Effects

Updated on: October 14, 2022

In After Effects, there's a Brush tool for drawing color strokes on a given layer. This action, which allows you to add effects to your projects, requires understanding the layer utility and activating some features to use the tool correctly.

Therefore, we will show you the panels you should work on within your compositions to perform elementary actions when using the Brush tool. So let's start by learning how to set up the brushes for drawing in After Effects.

Activating the Brushes panel

To draw in After Effects, you need to activate a couple of panels: the Paint panel and the Brushes panel. You may see both boxes in your workspace by default, but if you don't:

  1. Go to the After Effects Menu.
  2. Click on Window.
  3. Select the Brushes and Paint options. 
  4. You can activate them by clicking Cmd + 9 for the Brushes panel and Cmd + 8 for the Paint Panel.
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Now that you have both panels activated go to the Paint panel to make some adjustments. The first one: setting the visibility and intensity of your brushes and strokes. To do this:

  1. Locate the Opacity option and set the blue highlighted value to 100 % to see the brush at its maximum.
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  1. To make more subdued drawings, decrease the previous percentage.
  2. Under Opacity, the Flow option is ideal for setting the intensity of your strokes. Set the value highlighted in blue to 100 % to see the strokes at their maximum. 
  3. Decrease the previous value to soften the lines.
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Next to the Opacity and Flow values, there is a dot with a number below it. That icon indicates the size of your brush. To change it, click on it, and when the Brushes panel automatically appears, change its percentage in Diameter.

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​​Last but not least, remember that selecting the color of your strokes is elementary when using brushes. To choose it: 

  1. Go back to the Paint panel.
  2. Select at least two shades in the two squares beside the brush size. Two colors will help you to change them quickly by pressing the X key or clicking on the arrow above the tool.
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You should keep these basic settings in mind when using the Brush Tool. For now, try out different possibilities based on the above steps to familiarize yourself with the tool; as in later tutorials, you will learn how to use this feature to create excellent and professional effects in After Effects.

Andrea Mercado is a tech-focused journalist and copywriter with over 5 years of experience covering innovation, edtech, AI, and internet trends across media outlets. She is passionate about how technology can democratize access to education and is an avid learner when it comes to emerging tech like AI. Her articles and webinars help readers stay informed on the latest tech developments.
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