Whether you draw your own illustrations and spend hours prepping Illustrator files for import, or work alongside a team and constantly have to remind designers how to split art onto layers, there should be a smarter way to work.
Illustrator and After Effects should feel like companion applications, not rivals. Let each app's strength compliment the other. Let Illustrator become a plugin for After Effects.
Work with shapes, not files.
Open Host apps
Open up Illustrator and After Effects
Open the Overlord extension in both apps
Window > Extensions > Overlord
Select what you need and transfer it as you need it rather than spend all day splitting out layers for what you think you might need.
Art is messy business and having to stop down to prep files for Ae import can kill the energy of a project. Shapes may be pulled from any Ai layer as needed.
This is, for the first time, totally optional. Feel free to transfer what you need and rename the Ae layers.
But if you prefer to keep those layers tidy, Overlord will also transfer naming so all your hard work wont be lost with a Convert to Shape Layers.
Push and Pull
Shapes may be pushed or pulled based on your style of working. Select shapes and push them to the active Ae comp, or select a different comp and pull shapes to Ae to cut down on the app switching.
Fills, strokes, naming, grouping and hierarchy will be preserved. Some Ai features are unsupported simply because Ae works different than Ai.
This shouldn't be a big deal, but it kind of is. Get to typing.
Ai to Ae
This is the core mechanic of Overlord. Select the shapes you want in Ai, regardless of layering, and transfer them to Ae.
This process may be modified by the small switches next to Push and Pull to explode shapes to layers, detect parametric ellipses and rectangles, and more.
Holding SHIFT will add selected AI shapes to the selected AE layers.
Ae to Ai
Overlord is first of all a tool for After Effects, so priority is given to the transfer of Ai shapes to Ae. The vector editing tools in Ai are a lot easier to use than twirling menus in shape layers so Overlord allows you to send shape layers back to Ai for editing. This will effectively allow Illustrator to be used as the drawing interface for shape layers.
Holding ALT will clear the AI document before adding sending shapes to it. It's a good idea to create a new dedicated document if this is how you plan to work.
These tiny switches adjust how shapes are sent to After Effects. They have no effect on how shapes are sent to Illustrator.
Enabling this option create new layers for each top-level shape or group selected. Shapes nested within a group will be combined into a single layer, so ungroup shapes as needed in Illustrator.
Disabling this option will cause all shapes to be transferred to a single layer.
For more advanced and flexible exploding and merging of shape layers, be sure to use Explode Shape Layers.
All shapes in Illustrator are basic paths, but by enabling this option, the system will automatically detect Ellipses and Rectangles.
Note: Vertical and horizontal scaling of a shape is fine, but any path manipulation or rotation to the shape will make it impossible for Overlord to detect these parametric shapes. If Overlord still isn't detecting shapes the right way, check out Parametric Converter.
Center Anchor Point
Enabling this option will automatically reposition the anchor point to the center of the shape(s).
Disabling this option will place the anchor point at the comp center.
This is also available through the menu Layer > Transform > Center Anchor Point in Layer Content and with Motion 2.
Center Shape in Comp
When working off an oversized artboard it might me desirable to simply send objects to Ae to be repositioned later.
Enabling this option will automatically reposition the anchor point to the center of the shape(s) and adjust the position to comp center. This will also enable the Center Anchor Point option.
New to Overlord v1.1 is support for Illustrator Gradients.
Is this a big deal?
Yep. The standard Illustrator file import does support gradients at all –it just turns the layer grey. In previous versions of Overlord, a simple white to black gradient would be applied because the panel that sets the colors is not available to developers (bummer). Through some fancy workarounds, it’s now possible. We all rejoice together.
Because of the complexity of the workaround, there is a limit of 8 colors on gradients. Additional color stops will be ignored.
Gradient strokes are supported, but the additional methods of applying gradients (Along stroke and Across stroke) are not possible in Ae and will be ignored.
Radial gradient aspect ratio will be ignored
If you find your gradient misaligned, select the Ai Gradient tool (G shortcut) and redraw it. Why? If you rotate a shape then reposition that shape, the crazy matrix transformation going on which overrides the access to gradient positioning data.
Black and white gradients 😖
If gradients are still uncolored even after updating to v1.1 you will need to manually reset the support files.
Right-click the Overlord panel the open Settings
Alt-click the Check for Update button to open the support files
Delete the main Overlord folder
Restart Ae and Ai
Re-enter your license key
Twirling down a shape layer and selecting the path, rectangle, ellipse or group that contains one of these will allow Ae shapes to be updated when transferring from Ai.
Updating may be used to replace the current shape or auto keyframe to set key poses from Ai art layers.
New in v1.1, colors will now update when the parent group is selected. Including:
Solid fill color
Stroke color and stroke width
Gradient colors and start/end points
If your Ae shape is a parametric rectangle or ellipse, updating will measure the outer bounds of the new Ai shape and apply these dimension –even if you move path points to break the uniform shape. Right-click the parametric in Ae to Convert to Bezier Path first.
Overlord looks for available Ae properties before updating. It will not create new strokes, fills or gradients if they are not present. This is intentional to prevent extra, un-keyframable properties. Use the Add dropdown to manually add new visual styling.
It's simple enough to switch between apps with a CMD/ALT+Tab, but if you're juggling email, chats, and countless browser windows, it can be more than a single keystroke to switch.
Clicking without a companion app open will launch the most recent version of it (if you have multiple copies of Adobe apps installed).
Artboards in Illustrator may be any size, but it's a good idea to work at the same size and aspect as your comp in AE. This button will create a new artboard (or new document if selected in Settings) matching the size of the comp to send shapes to.
Holding SHIFT when pressing the New Artboard/Comp, does the inverse –new Ai comp button (orange) becomes a new comp button (purple).
Holding ALT will create the non-selected option without having to update your settings. Example: with New Document selected in settings, holding alt will create a new artboard.
Color swatches live in the swatch palette. Select a set of Illustrator color swatches and click to send to AE. There are a couple different transfer options available based on context and in Settings.
Transfer to the current comp as a guide layer
This is the default action
The size and orientation is selectable in Settings
Create a new Ray palette
Enabling this preference (along with having Ray installed) will create a new Ray palette comp
Add to and replace a Ray palette
If you are currently inside of a Ray palette, sending swatches will add colors to the current palette
Holding ALT on the keyboard will create a new layer to add colors to –nondestructively replacing the palette
Starting in CC2019+ and Overlord 1.2, vertical and horizontal guides may be transferred as native Ae guides. Update video.
Non-vertical/horizontal guides (weird shapes) and when transferring to CC2018 and below will be transferred as guide layers (non-rendered layers) in Ae.
Unfortunately, Ai symbols are invisible to 3rd party tools like Overlord. This means they are skipped with transferring. By clicking this button, all selected symbols on the artboard will be converted to regular shapes and will be available to transfer.
Because this process actually modifies your Ai file, it is a separate process rather than being an automatic function of transferring.
Break Symbols is available in Overlord v1.2+.
Unsupported features 😕
While made by the same company and sharing a lot of similarities, After Effects and Illustrator have many differences that make it impossible to replicate every piece of art. Some data (like text kerning) is simply not available Illustrator contains a lot of additional shape data that may be too complex for Overlord. If you run into problems, use Illustrators menu command Object>Expand (or Expand Appearance) to simplify shapes.
Illustrator => After Effects
Unexpanded Pathfinder shapes
Rounded Rectangles to shape layer rounded rectangle (will be transferred as a path)
Multiple fonts/weights on a single layer
The workaround is to transfer the text layer, highlight and copy the text from Ai, then paste to overwrite the text in the Ae layer.
After Effects => Illustrator
Parametric Stars(convert to path first)
Parametric Polygons (convert to path first)
All shape layer effects
This toggles the functionality of the New Artboard panel button between creating a new document or adding a new artboard to the existing file.
Holding ALT while clicking the button will do the opposite of this preference.
Define the vertical or horizontal orientation, along with the swatch size.
Swatches may also be added to a new Ray Dynamic Color palette. Ray must be installed to enable this feature.
As you use Overlord, data about your operating system, Adobe apps, and button presses will be anonymously logged with Google Analytics. They may be turned off if you're an overly private person. Privacy info.
Disable Ae App Switching
Some Windows systems have a problem with resizing the whole After Effects window when switching between apps. Users report fullscreening Ae with Ctrl+\ instead of dragging the window to the top of screen fixes the problem. If that doesn't fix the problem for you, this option is available. (v1.02)
Multiple open versions
Selected shapes from Illustrator will be sent to all open versions After Effects. So if you happen to have CC2014 and CC2017 running at the same time, shapes will go to both. To limit confusion, close the Overlord panel in the app you do not wish to send to.
If you run into problems, use Illustrators menu Object>Expand (or Expand Appearance) to simplify shapes.