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Smudge effect

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Diana Prins
Smudge effect
on Nov 10, 2019 at 4:43:32 pm
Last Edited By Diana Prins on Nov 10, 2019 at 6:37:43 pm

Hey everyone,

I've been struggling to create a smudge effect on after effects. I see there's a post discussing this on this forum in 2017 but no solution was found and my goal is annoyingly specific. Here's an IMGur post for reference

I'm trying to create the first effect but without the background, so only the smudge line as a brush. I've managed to this on photoshop simply by using a smudge tool on top of line pattern. For still images, I just remove the background "by hand".

My goal at the moment is to do that is a more effective way as an animation in after effects. So far I have animated a brush line with the Write-on effect on a shape layer (I don't know if this makes a difference, I'm relatively new to AE). Then I imported a line wallpaper, masked it to the shape layer and tried to distort it. So far, CC Smear has helped me achieve the closest result but it's still very flat and miles away form the photoshop smudge tool version.

Would anyone have any clue on how to achieve the smudge effect in a more "dramatic" way, such as the photoshop example? The biggest difference for me is that in photoshop the smudge tool changed the image entirely by dragging the pixels along its line, something I haven't managed to replicate yet. Everything so far, even is more distorted than the example above, looks just like a mask with some distortion in the background.

Any tips welcome!


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Graham Quince
Re: Smudge effect
on Nov 23, 2019 at 4:22:35 pm

Is this close to what you're trying to achieve?

Displacement Map + Vegas

I've used a solid with a mask drawn on it and added the Vegas effect set to:
  • Blend Mode = Transparent

  • Segment = 1

  • Width = massive :)


  • Then I used a displacement map on an adjustment layer pointing to the solid with Effects and Masks chosen and displaced via Alpha for both vertical and horizontal.

    http://www.YouTube.com/ShiveringCactus - Free FX for amateur films
    http://shiveringcactus.wordpress.com/ - FX blog


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