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Tutorial: 3D Texture Mapping to Spheres in After Effects

After Effects offers some pretty amazing tools to help your 2D images come to life in a 3D environment. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to use Shutterstock assets to create a 3D animated globe. You'll need two things: a basic knowledge of After Effects, and a flattened image of Earth. I used this this image from contributor _EG_. (If motion isn't your thing, you can also check out this tutorial on creating 3D spheres in Illustrator.)

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Step 1 Create a new project and composition in After Effects. Import your flat image and place it into your composition.

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Step 2 Add the CC Sphere effect by going to Effect > Perspective > CC Sphere. CC Sphere allows you to map a flat object onto a sphere, while also giving you control over lighting, shading, and rotation. To rotate the Earth from side to side, rotate using the Y axis.

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Step 3 Now that you have your 3D Earth, we'll add some stars. To do this, you need to create a new Solid by going to Layer > New > Solid. Then add the CC Particle World effect to your new Solid by clicking Effect > Simulation > CC Particle World. Particle World has quite a few different settings, so you'll have to explore a bit to get the results you prefer.

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Step 4 In this case, I turned my gravity settings to 0 and widened my particle field to fit the composition. I also set my animator to Twirl and my particles to Shaded Spheres. The settings I used for both of the particle layers are below:

Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 4.30.36 PM
Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 4.30.47 PM
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Step 5 To make the Earth pop off the background, I added a glow to the edges by selecting Effect > Stylize > Glow. Make your Glow Based On the Alpha Channel and your Color B = #000000 so that the glow affects the edges of the sphere.

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Step 6 To add some clouds, I used this space image from contributor pixelparticle. I set the blending mode of the layer to Screen and lowered the opacity in order to place the clouds on top of the Particle World.

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Step 7

Add a Camera, animate it, and you have have an awesome rotating Earth in space!

For more inspiration, check out some related work from our amazing Footage contributors »

Images used in this tutorial. Download them and try it for yourself:

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