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There are a few ways you could do this. The easiest one would be if Adobe integreated PS brushes into AE, but that isn't there yet....
So, the least realistic way would be to find a watercolor effect your like (get a watercolor brush for PS and just paint a stroke on a transparent background) and then bring that into AE and animate a reveal of the stroke
The more realistic way would be to use Particular and get some clues from this tutorial by Adam Swaab : http://www.adamswaab.com/tutorials/spray_paint/
This is probably a little harder
An even more realistic way would be for you to actually have some paint drip on a piece of paper or have it spread and record it on camera and then just overlay that on a BG in AE.
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A very common way this is done is with an actual tank of water with ink being dripped into it. If you don't have access to a tank, camera, etc. you can get stock footage of it. I know Digital Juice has some in at least one of their Compositor's Toolkit collections and I'm fairly sure Artbeats has them too.
You can also create it in a 3d program with RealFlow (or other methods)
You can do as Alex suggested and reveal a painted stroke (I'd use a gradient wipe driven by a precomp with a layer with a ramp blended onto a layer with fractal noise.)
You can use a particle system in AE to get it. Search on Vimeo for a video called Let Yourself Feel and be amazed at the effects that can be acheived with just AE.
Thank you--yes, the Estaban Diacono example is very much what I had in mind. Do you think he did that with Particular (or Particle Playground)? Or was that the ink in a tank thing--or some combination? (Or 3DSMAX...?)
I have a DVX100B, but my tank has a frog in it!
Thank you, Alex. The example Szalam pointed me to was more what I had in mind, but this tutorial looks like something I'm going to get a lot out of, just the same. I need to get my feet wet with Particular and the rest of the Trapcode fx, so any tutorials that do that are great.
Read the comments on the video. Estaban says that he did it in After Effects only. And he used Particular.
There is no more powerful 3d particle system for After Effects than Particular. (Yet)
Thank you, Mandar--that's a nice effect. What I was looking for was more like this one:
(I don't necessarily need the 3d, but the watercolor look and movement are what I was after.)
Looks like I'm going to have to learn some new tools to do it, but in the meantime I'm playing with Particular...
Yeah, the closest I've ever seen to that in AE is the Let Yourself Feel video. Although, to be honest, I'm not sure how he did it and I haven't had time to play with it to try to recreate it.
That can be done with ink in a tank or, if you need more control RealFlow and a good 3d app. Houdini is good for this sort of thing from what I hear.