Trapcode Particular

Shading group

This set of parameters creates shading from composition lights set by After Effects (AE) or Trapcode Lux. Particular supports up to 128 Spot Lights, 128 Point Lights and unlimited Ambient Lights.

The plug-in needs you to set up an AE Light or Lux Light in the Timeline. Once you've done that, Particular can add special effects shading. These particles are illuminated based on the Light characteristics. This page will show its examples with AE Lights, but similar effects can be created with our Lux plug-in.

At left, the full Shading group. At right, the four kinds of AE Lights.


By default, the Shading group is turned off with the Shading popup set to the Off option. You switch on the Shading group by setting the Shading popup to On. The Shading group needs to work with composition lights. If there are no lights in your Timeline, when you first turn on the Shading group, the particles will seem disappear.

Good way to test the Shading: Add two Point or Spot Lights. Rotate one Light towards the particles and one away from the particles. Keep at least one light a white color. This is a great way to see how the Shading section works. A helpful Light layer property to adjust is Intensity. 

shading-off shading-on0 shading-on1

At left, Shading group is Off. In middle, Shading On without a light. At right, Shading On and an AE Light has been added.

 Using Light properties in AE or Lux

All of the AE Light layer properties are read and used by the Shading group. There are different types of Lights (Point, Spot, Parallel, Ambient) and and each kind has a different set of properties. This includes Color, Intensity, Cone Angle, Light Angle, Orientation and Rotation. These adjustments are all made in the Timeline in the Light properties, not in Particular's interface. However, Particular benefits from those adjustments by displaying their effects.

The Shading controls can also tie directly into the properties set by the Trapcode Lux plug-in.

Light Falloff

Light Intensity is set by the Light's layer property. Light Falloff is what makes that Light Intensity fall away so that the particles far away from the light are less affected by the Shading. Basically, Falloff controls how Light Intensity varies with the distance from the surface to the light. Light Falloff is supported for Spot and Point Lights.  

There are two options.

  • Natural (Lux) is the default setting. Natural lets the light intensity fall off with distance squared. This is how natural light intensities fall off in the real physical world. This is also how Trapcode Lux behaves in its Natural setting. This setting is the most natural looking, since light sources will affect closer particles more than distant ones.

None (AE) can be useful in certain situations. For example, if other 3D layers in the comp are also lit by the same lights. None will make the particles shading behave the same way. After Effects uses a shading model where Point Lights do not fall off, doesn't use distance squared for its 3D layers. You can switch the option to None to be compatible. 

light-falloff-natural light-falloff-ae

Left to right, Light Falloff set to Natural (Lux) and None (AE).

Nominal Distance

This is active when Light Falloff> Natural (Lux) is selected. Nominal Distance defines the distance, measured in pixels, at which the Light has its original Intensity.

For example, if a Light has Intensity at 100% and Nominal Distance is set to 250, this means at a distance of 250 pixels, the Light Intensity will be 100%. Further away there will be a lower Intensity, and closer there will be a higher Intensity.


Ambient defines how much ambient light the particles will reflect. Ambient puts the light color in the shadows, where there is no light from the Point Lights or Spot Lights. Ambient light is a background light that is everywhere and radiates in every direction. It is useful for giving some light (color) to particles that are not lit by Spot Lights and Point Lights.

Ambient needs to work with an Ambient Light in the Timeline. Remember to create at least one Ambient Light in the comp when using this setting. Default value is 20. High values make the light brighter against the shadow. Low values make the light duller.  

 light-ambient-none light-ambient-lowlight-ambient-high

At left, the comp with only a Point Light. In middle, a blue Ambient Light is added and set low. At right, Ambient Light set high.


Diffuse defines how much the particles reflect in a diffuse manner. This means the particles reflect in every direction, no matter which direction you are viewing the particle from. This does not tie into any particular Light but instead affects all Lights in the composition.

Default value is 80. High values make the light brighter. Low values make the light duller. Matte surfaces typically have a large diffuse component.
light-diffuse-low light-diffuse-high

Left to right, Diffuse set low and high.

 Specular Amount

Specular Amount simulates a metallic or glossy look for the particles. Specular defines how much the particles reflect in a more directional way. For example, a glossy surface like plastic or metal have a specular component.

High values make it more glossy. Low values make it less glossy. You may need to lower the Diffuse value to allow the glimmer to come through. Specular Amount is very sensitive to the angle of the particle.

light-specular-low light-specular-high
Left to right, Specular Amount set low and high. 

Specular Sharpness

Specular Sharpness defines how narrow the specular reflection is. For example, glass may be very narrow and plastic slightly less narrow. Sharpness also lets you lower the sensitivity of Specular Amount so it's not so sensitive to the angle of the particle. High values make it more sensitive. Low values make it less sensitive.

Left to right, Specular Sharpness set low and high. Specular Amount set high for both.

Reflection Map

Reflection Map mirrors the environment in the particle volume. To create the Map, select a layer in the Timeline that is turned off. This is a great effect for a scene that has to reflect the environment a lot in the particles. If you can create an environment map from the scene, then the particles will blend in really nicely

shade-map-no shade-map-water shade-map-yes
Left to right, the comp without a Map, the layer used as Map, and the comp with Map applied. 

Reflection Strength

Reflection Strength defines how strong the Reflection Map is. Since the Reflection Map can be combined with the regular shading from comp Lights, this is useful for adjusting the look. At the default value of 100, Strength is turned off. Set lower, you are taking down the strength of the Reflection Map and mixing in the shading from the scene.

shade-strength-low shade-strength-high

Left to right, Reflection Strength low and high.  

Shadowlet Settings group 

Shadowlet Settings provides a soft, self-shadowing for the particle volume. Read more on the Shadowlet group page.