Creating stylistic water or fluids can be tricky in After Effects, but Trapcode Mir and Tao can make the process a lot simpler. In this tutorial, we’ll explore some tricks on how to get realistic and stylistic looking fluids inside After Effects.

Achieve the Look

The most important factor on getting a believable fluid look is to experiment and play with the fractal displacement. Tune to amplitude and frequency of the geometry to match the type of fluid you’re going for, whether fast and violent, or soft and calm. Next, the material and lighting sell the overall appeal and style of the fluid. The material should ideally be transparent (low opacity), with high specular (reflective and shiny). Using reflection maps, adjusting the specular of the material, and strategically placing multiple light sources will sell the look of “fake” reflections and glossiness.

Mir vs Tao

If you’re trying to build a large body of fluid, one that doesn’t need to follow any complex path, then Trapcode Mir is the way to go. Mir provides more fractal options, and is great for quickly building complex abstract fluids. If you need the fluid to follow a certain path, Tao is the way to go. It may be trickier to setup the fluid look in Tao with less fractal controls, but you can build displacement maps using Mir, and map it to Tao’s geometry. The overall idea is the same, as the plugins are similar with similar material options.

With a lot of experimentation and fine tweaking, you can achieve a very sellable fluid look for your motion design and possibly vfx work inside After Effects. If you create anything interesting, share them in the comments below.

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