Video is pixels and if you want detail you need a bunch of pixels. I think your Photoshop artwork is way too small. You have to design the artwork so that at some point in your composition the scale is at or near 100% but never exceeds about 110% for maximum quality. One pixel thick lines do not work for video. You have to avoid them.
If you are using 3D layers then the minimum distance between the camera and a 3D layer scaled to 100% must be equal to or very near the zoom value for the camera. If you are closer than that you are effectively scaling up the image and loosing quality.
By the same token, if you have crated artwork in Photoshop or are using image files and the scale never gets close to 100% or the distance between the camera and the layer never approached the zoom value then your images are too large and your are loosing quality and increasing your render times.
Type preparing photoshop files for After Effects in the search help field at the top right corner of AE for a lot more detailed information on the process.
Hi Rick Gerard. Thank you for your reply. What you have written makes sense. However, what I can't understand is why some of my Photoshop lines look good enough whereas others are blurry and low-res, as I have circled in the image I linked. They were created the same way - with the same pen, even, so why the difference in resolution in AE?
Your screenshot looks like you've increased the magnification factor beyond 100%
I can clearly see that you have a lot of one pixel wide lines. When the artwork does not perfectly line up with the pixel grid it gets antialiased and these single pixel wide lines get really soft and black on white lines that are a single pixel wide can loose half their color value and become 2 pixels wide. That's just simple math and there's nothing you can do about it but set the layer to draft quality which will make thin lines jitter and really look bad when they move.
I can clearly see in this magnified screenshot that your lines are way too thin for video. You should never use a line that is less than 2 pixels wide, 3 or 4 is better. Nobody pixel peeps when they look at video. The only way to judge quality is to play the video at full resolution and at full speed.
One more point, when you run compression on a delivery format with single pixel lines that are against saturated colors (black lines on a white background are the worst) you'll get compression artifacts that even make the lines look worse. You are working with 8 bit color -- a maximum of 256 different values and a minimum of 4 pixel blocks of color sampling -- and MPEG intra frame compression where the in between frames are made up by guessing which pixels are moving and by how much, and you've got a mess. Add in movement and aliasing and there's not much that the compressor or the de-compressor (your media player) can do to accurately recreate thin moving lines. You have to design around the limitation. To make this artwork work for video it needs to be redone.
Hi Rick Gerard,
thank you so very much for taking the time to reply in such detailed fashion. I understand everything now. Following your advice, I searched for the best method to prepare Photoshop files for AE and found the option Layer > New > Adobe Photoshop File, which I think is exactly what I'm looking for.