How to Create 3D Shapes with Newton 3's 2D Physic Simulator
Newont 3 Cover Photo.jpg

Although Newton 3 is a 2D physics simulator and only accepts 2D shapes and text, there is a little workaround to include 3D shapes. Let's take a look.

If you are already familiar with the pros and cons of Newton 3, you can move on to the next section. You can find today's video tutorial here.

If you're new to Newton 3, check out the following twelve-minute basics tutorial before moving on. Newton 3 is a complex plug-in for After Effects, but for the most part, this “101” clip will familiarize you with the basics of the physics simulator.

Newton 3: The Basics

Today's Newton 3 tutorial

The process

I have that. It's a mock-up that goes under the YouTube end cards to give them a bit more flavor. And with Newton 3's physics simulation, we can do just that.

However, we will make sure that the text is displayed as 3D elements. There are some drawbacks to applying 3-D elements in After Effects to Newton 3 animation, but the result is cool.

Newton 3: Applying 3D Elements

First, make sure that your Newton 3 animation is already complete. Because of the manipulation of the shadows and shapes, it's better for minimalist animation than something extravagant where shapes are constantly crossing each other. In the same After Effects composition, we'll create our background body. And while the choices are endless, I find using a matte color works better to sell the effect.

Next, select the first shape layer and change it to a 3D layer. We will then open the geometry parameters and change the extrusion depth to 250. However, this can be adjusted to what is required for your shape layer.

Newton 3: extrusion depth

Here we change the extrusion depth to 250.

At the moment, however, it doesn't look entirely in 3D. We can see some depth in the shape, but it doesn't look right. This is because the side that should be naturally darker has the same brightness.

Newton 3: add depth

At this point we need to adjust the brightness.

Fortunately, After Effects has a number of tools to help fix this. And since we're working with a 3D layer, we're going to add a spotlight to push that area into the shadows.

Newton 3: Add a spotlight

Push this area into the shadows by adding a spotlight.

Like the extrusion depth, the light settings depend on the style of your project, but I set my spotlight to the default brightness of 100. Right now the page is too dark now, and because we did that, if you lower the brightness of the headlight the whole shape becomes darker. Just like with the practical lighting of a set, we will therefore add another spotlight, but this time on the right, and this will serve as a fill light.

If you don't know what a fill light is in film and photography, it's essentially a secondary light that isn't that strong so it doesn't produce the same brightness, but the opposite side brings light out of the shadows for the primary.

Newton 3: light settings

Now we need to add shadows.

This looks like a three-dimensional picture. However, one key feature is missing, the shadows cast by light.


We'll add three effects to this. First we need to create a duplicate of our shape and turn off the 3D layer option of the duplicated layer. This is because the effects will not work properly on 3D objects. For now, we're going to disable the original layer. Also, you want to make sure you have the 3D plane on top.

The first effect will be a To fillInstead of making the fill black, let's try the background color and find a darkened version of that shade.

Newton 3: background color

We'll use a darkened version of this shade as the background.

Next we add a CC Radial Fast Blur. Increase the amount to 100 (or whatever suits your project), change the zoom to brightness and adjust the center point in the top right where the main light is.

Newton 3: Add a CC Radial Fast Blur

Now let's add a CC Radial Fast Blur.

Finally, we're going to add a CC composite to restore the shape to its original color.

Newton 3: add CC composite

Finally, bring the shape back to its original color by adding a CC composite.

To complete this process, enable the visibility of the original layer. Your file should then look like this.

Newton 3: Complete the process

Now we have visual layers and shadows.


Finally, we copy the elements we have created into the text. Since the square is a static object and the text has the Newton 3 animation properties, you may be wondering why we applied the 3D finish to the square first rather than the text. In this particular case, I can properly configure the effect on a larger scale to tweak the settings.

So activate our text shapes, duplicate the text and add it to a precomposition. This way we can cleanly add the shadow effects to a single file instead of adding them to multiple files.

Newton 3: shadow effects

Add shadow effects.

Then copy the geometry properties into the text. However, remember to enable the 3D layer mode of the text.

Newton 3: Geometrical Properties

Copy the geometry properties into the text.

The extrusion is too deep for my project. So I have to reduce the amount to a level proportional to the square.

This is the basis for making your 2D shapes appear 3D.

The Tl; Dr.

Okay, let's recap the process in bite-sized points.

  1. Apply Newton's 3 physics simulation to your shapes.
  2. Create a solid color for the background and place it at the bottom of your composition. Muted colors look best.
  3. Select the largest shape and turn it into a 3D plane.
  4. Open the geometry options and increase the depth of extrusion.
  5. Add two spotlights to be placed on either side of the shape – one with 100% strength and one with 75%.
  6. Duplicate the shape layer, turn off the 3D layer feature for the duplicated layer and place it below the original 3D layer. Also, disable visibility for the original layer for now.
  7. Apply three effects to the duplicated layer to create a dynamic shadow. To fill, CC Radial Fast Blur, CC composite. The fill color should be that of your background, but darker. Increase the radial blur to 100, position the center near your button light, and change the zoom mode to brightness.
  8. Re-enable the visibility of the original layer.

You will then mimick the process for the additional shapes or text layers, but make adjustments to the shadow and extrusion depth as these settings can be different depending on the shape size.

It's not perfect. Without additional plugins or special 3D physics software, shapes cannot move and rotate in 3D space. However, this is the best step in adding extra depth for simple shapes and text to your Newton 3 animations in After Effects.

Since After Effects is already open, add some of these techniques to your bag of tricks:


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