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The ability to use custom particles provides infinite flexibility in producing particle effects. Use the Sprite and Textured Polygon types to create custom particles. You can load in logos, text or movie clips as custom particles. If there are any effects or masks applied to the custom particle layer, it needs to be pre-composed (Layer> Pre-Compose). If the effects are complex, it is a good idea to pre-render the particle. It is recommended to keep layer size as small as possible; no larger than 200*200 pixels is recommend. A good rule-of-thumb is to keep the custom particle layer no larger than the largest visible particle. If the custom particle layer is larger than that, unnecessary computations are made.
The six Particle Types that can use a custom layer.
Let's create our own particles. It's fun! In this tutorial we'll use After Effects' text tool, which means we will need to create a pre-comp. If an image or movie clip is used as the custom particle, it is not necessary for the particle be in its own comp. Create a new comp (Ctrl/Cmd-N), make it 200*200 and 30 fps. at 5 seconds long. Name it 'Star'. Use the Text tool to type a star asterisk (*). Set the asterisk text to Arial font at size 400px. Use 30px stroke so it looks something like this:
Next we will create the main comp where the Trapcode Particular effect is used. Create a new comp (Ctrl/Cmd-N), make it 640*480 at 30 fps. and 5 seconds long. Name it 'Main'. Create a new comp-sized Solid (Ctrl/Cmd-Y). Select the Make Comp Size option, then click OK. Apply Effect>Trapcode>Particular to the Solid. Drag the 'Star' comp from the Project Window into the Comp Window. Make sure the Star particle layer starts at the same frame as the Main comp. In Particular, set Patricle> Particle Type to Sprite. Set Particle> Texture > Layer to 'Star'. Set Particle> Size to 20. In the Timeline, switch both layers to High Quality. Turn off visibility for the 'Star' layer. Hit RAM preview and it should look something like this:
To colorize the custom particle, set Particle> Particle Type to Sprite Colorize. Set Color to Over Life. Now particles are colorized using Color over Life. Also try setting Particle> Particle Type to Sprite Fill. Both options are colorizing modes, but Sprite Colorize applies lightness to the particle, while Sprite Fill fills the alpha of the particle.