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Mind-Numbingly Easy Waterfall Effect in After Effects

A quick tutorial of an effect that came in handy last week for one of our projects.

Whenever you see the Paragon blog go quiet for a while you know it’s because we’re really busy. But I wanted to share a quick tutorial that came in handy last week for one of the projects that’s been keeping us busy.

We needed to create several natural effects like snow, sand, fog and a waterfall and use them as transition elements for this project, but we were also on a tight deadline so trying for photo-real wasn’t an option. CC Particle World to the rescue!

I’ll tackle the waterfall in this post and share the other natural effects in a separate post.

Here’s the effect we ended up with.

Simple huh? I bet the seasoned pros can already tell how this is done. But for the rest of you, here goes…

Create the Foam

1. Create your comp (any size) and name it waterfall.

2. Create the 1st Solid layer, name it foam. Apply the CCParticle World effect. Click the Options link at the top of the effects panel and select Rendering. Check Force Motion Blur, then click OK, this’ll blend the particles together and give you a nice blurry mess (that’s a good thing).



3. Animate the position of the Producer. For my purposes I animated it going from top right to bottom left, but you do what feels right for you.

4. Turn up the Birth rate. I used 14, but it’s all up to you, whatever you feel is necessary for a good lather.

5. Choose Faded Sphere for the Particle Type and turn up the Birth and Death sizes to 2 each.


6. Adjust the Birth and Death colors to something foam-y. This would be a good time to mess with the size variation and Max Opacity as well, if you’d like.


7. Now adjust the physics and we’re set. I used the following settings:


Now Create the “Water”

1. Create a new solid and name it , you guessed it, water.

2. Apply the CCParticle World effect and do the same Force Motion Blur procedure you did for the foam solid.

3.Place the Producer at the top off the screen so we can’t see where the particles appear.

4. For this one we’re not going to animate the producer, but the Birth rate, starting at something high like 27. Think of it as slowly turning off the faucet. Where you put the keyframes is completely up to you, but here’s where I ended up, trying to time it so that it trailed the foam a little bit:

(click to see it larger)

5. For the Particle type I used TriPolygon at a birth and death size near 0.7 and 0.9 respectively.

6. Change the Brith and death colors to something watery and I used a screen transfer mode, but that’s up to you.

7. Now beef up the physics. Here are the settings I used:

8. The last thing to do now is to add a Fast Blur effect and turn it up on the vertical dimension to help give a more streaky look to the water.

And that’s all! I’m sure there are other ways to do this, and I’d love to see them, so please share, especially if there are more photo-realistic techniques out there!

Andrew Davies

Drew's degrees in Illustration, 2D animation and Broadcast Design, and his volleyball skillz mean he can get your design done and play well with others at the same time. He’s the Creative Director at Paragon and will call you out if you start hanging out with shady-looking fonts and messing around with whacked-out color palettes.


2 thoughts on “Mind-Numbingly Easy Waterfall Effect in After Effects

  1. Lucas Oman says:

    Thanks for the informative… uh… ohmygod, I CAN’T FEEL MY MIND.

  2. Laertes says:

    Good morning!
    Even using the Force Motion Blur effect, the effect does not appear on the screen.
    What can be?

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