Asset Best Practices

These are some of the practices we use when creating assets for our animations.

Style Guides and/or Precedents

Using Adobe Illustrator (Ai)

Creating Assets for DrawAlong

Creating Assets for Rigs

Style Guide

Are there any existing internal style guides or brand guidelines from the client? 

Your style guide should have: fonts, color hex codes, typography, composition, and how to handle transitions. Ask your lead animator for more information if the guide does not provide it.

Are there already assets/videos for this style? If yes, try and repurpose old files, edit colors, etc as necessary.

Fonts

Unless the client has  provided a font ONLY  use Adobe Typekit fonts.  If  you have to use a local font file, place it in the 07_Fonts folder in the project file.                                                                                     

If exporting text to outlines: leave the editable text layer on another layer. This makes it easier to do quick edits.

Color swatches and libraries

Does your project have a swatch or a CC library? Do you have the branding hex codes and/or color ratio?

Always make sure all colors in swatches are ONLY from the color palette. Delete “unused colors” from the swatch panel, then add “used colors” after you delete. Add any missing colors manually. This helps keep to the color palette better, especially if someone else comes in to edit your files after 6 months! 

Do this even if you have a CC library. Leave as few ways as possible for someone to stray from the palette

RGB not CMYK.

Please make sure it is RGB before importing into After Effects(Ae). Different color modes will affect how Ae reads your art.

Storyboards are just a guide

The storyboard is a general means to communicate the main beats of the story. The scenes in the storyboard might be intended to be taken verbatim, but this is not always the case. Discuss with the storyboard creator and/or animator prior to creating assets.

Naming Assets

Spell items correctly. These files are often used across multiple videos or even multiple projects. If an animator is to track it down, they will need it to be named and spelled properly.

Naming convention: General→Specific. The name should convey the content clearly and with real words. The names should be arranged from general to specific. So a pizza delivery truck should be named:

Truck Delivery Pizza.ai or Truck Pizza.ai or Delivery Pizza.ai

Artboards

Many Ai files, particularly background files, have elements that don’t fit on the typical 1920×1080 artboard. Only those assets or portions of assets that are on an artboard will be visible in After Effects. So add a second, larger artboard that includes all the elements in the Ai file that might be needed in the animation. This way, an animator can pan across a wide landscape that wouldn’t otherwise fit into a 1920 wide composition.

Symmetry

Icons, pop-circles and other assets that are symmetrical should be created so that they are centered on their artboard. This ensures that when they are brought into an Ae file, they will scale, rotate and move properly.

Scale

Asset scale should be consistent within a scene or a series of videos.

    • Characters, props and backgrounds should be drawn so that they can coexist in the same universe. If necessary, use an existing character or prop asset as your template in creating a new asset that will interact with that character or prop.
    • There are times when a scene requires a close-up or a far-away version of a character or prop. In these cases, a new version of that asset should be drawn so that line weights are not out of scale with the rest of the video. The files in these exceptions should be named accordingly, with a suffix of _close or _far.

Layers

Usually, your Ai file should have no more than 10 layers. If you have more than that, consider breaking the file into smaller files. 

Talk with the animator to clarify what they plan to animate in a scene. These items should have their own layer:

    • Objects in a scene that will need to be moved or repositioned independent of other objects.
      • A pile of boxes might need its own layer if it will be used in different locations.
      • If the assembly of the pile is animated, then each box would need its own layer.
      • If the pile will always be on a shelf in the background, then it should be part of the background layer.
    • Parts of an object or character that will be animated.
      • If a character only waves, then the arm that waves should have its own layer. Depending on the type of wave, the arm might need to have 3 layers: the bicep, the forearm, and the hand.
      • If a character’s face will change expression, then each item that will change will need its own layer (eye(s), mouth, eyebrows)

Name every layer. Each layer should be named in a logical way, with correct spelling and done as briefly as possible while still being clear. This makes animating much easier.

Leave 2-3 extra, blank layers in your file. When an Ai file is imported into an Ae file, the Ae file only remembers those layers that had been imported. If that same file is updated and imported, any new layers are ignored by Ae. To guard against problems down the line when an extra layer is needed in the original file, these extra layers can be used for that.