Have you ever installed a plugin in After Effects that has made you ask why I didn’t think of this? Or where has this plugin been my entire life? Yeah, AutoFill is such a plugin.

Plugin Everything has quickly become one of my favorite plugin producers for motion design and beyond. Not only do they release free plugins, but their paid ones are incredibly useful for everyday animation. When I find myself browsing the plugin marketplace to see what plugin I can next add to my wish list, I often daydream about adding the $300 premium-priced plugins to my arsenal. However, what stops me outside of the price point is that these tools are incredibly project-specific in most circumstances. If I’m making a YouTube explainer video, it’s highly unlikely I’m going to need the $249.99 next-gen particle engine Plexus 3. Therefore, if I am going to buy Plexus 3, it will likely be incorporated into the project’s fee.

However, with Plugin Everything, I feel like they should change their name to Plugin Every Day, as the plugins they offer can be used right across the motion design spectrum to assist your everyday workflow. I can’t remember the last time I created a YouTube tutorial and didn’t use Effect Matte.

Well, AutoFill is no exception.

What is AutoFill?

AutoFill is a plugin that automatically fills the bounds of your layer with a fluid filling animation. To visualize it, it looks a little something like this.

Not so much fluid in the appearance of liquid, but how the property of liquid will fill a crevice over a surface.

Of course, this form of animation isn’t revolutionary, and it can already be done in After Effects in several ways.

We could create a path and animate the stroke, revealing how it looks as if the shape is filling with color. Although with this method, the reveal is based more on the stroke path’s intricacy than the original text or form. We could also create a mask and intricately trace the original shape, and frame by frame increases the mask path. But this form of keyframe animation is as mundane as they come. Additionally, we could employ a linear wipe to fill a shape, but this is more of a primitive fill as it doesn’t follow the path set out by the affected layer.

However, those three methods are time-consuming or don’t look elegant. AutoFill works differently. More organic. As noted by the creator, ‘You can compare AutoFill with the water that flows through your image and avoids transparent areas.’

With AutoFill, in just a few simple clicks, it’s going to save you hours of tedious masking.

How Does It Work?

My initial process for this article was to summarize the plugin and then write a step-by-step guide on using it. However, this isn’t going to happen. Plugin Everything states that you “Simply apply AutoFill, set the growth origin, and play. It’s that simple.” And yeah. That’s it. That’s the tutorial. It is as simple as advertised.

I downloaded this maze vector from Mike Taylor, and upon adding the effect to the PNG and setting the start point of the growth source, I was good to go. The plugin flows through the shape like liquid trying to find an exit.

While the plugin is good to go from the outset, there are several adjustable parameters that can help how your animation grows; from the speed of the growth to the compositing (whether the layer is revealing itself or if you’re compositing a color on top of the shape). But outside of these parameters, there’s not a lot involved other than finding the sweet spot of the growth source, and if you are having a hard time finding that spot, you add additional growth points.

At first, it may appear as if this plugin is only good for text, but its usage goes far beyond that. It can aid you in various tasks such as animated reveals, texture adjustments, dissolves, looping animations, transitions, and more. The plugin works with everything with an alpha channel, so that’s shapes, vectors, masks, and AE effects.TIFF, PNG files, and so on. As such, if you have the perfect illustration, but it’s a JPEG, the plugin won’t be able to read the needed information.

With AutoFill, you can also control the rate at which the layer is ‘filled’ with a Speed Map. This feature allows you to use a custom layer to control your animation’s speed in different areas. The lighter the area, the faster the animation will be, and in the darker areas, the animation will fill slower.

I like to think that I have a well-equipped machine for most labor-intensive editing and motion graphics. However, as with most of Plugin Everything’s tools, AutoFill is GPU accelerated. For some reason, my playback was slightly more sluggish than usual—even though the plugin is advertised as having real-time playback. There was even some coil whine, which is very rare for my GPU. Conversely, my After Effects installation has been behaving weirdly lately, so until I’ve spent more time with the plugin, I can’t be certain if it’s slower than advertised or if it’s my software.

The plugin can be purchased for $49.95 from aescripts.com and is easily one of the better plugins I’ve ever used. While I stated that the plugin is straightforward to use, it comes to light when you start combining the plugin with additional layers and shapes to create something wholly unique, such as the Rocketstock text the article, which used six different shape layers. Although I would love to claim that the animation is of my design, it’s actually one of 25 AE project presets that also come with the plugin.

If you interested to see how far you can take this plugin to create something wholly unique, say tuned as I intend to create a dynamic sci-fi map reveal with the plugin, and you can follow those steps right here, next week.

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