How to Add Effects to a Scene

When creating a scene, rigging a character or once your animation is finished, you can add effects such as blurs, glows, shadows, colour filters and transparency filters and to enhance your project's quality. Effects change the way layers or groups of layers are rendered in your scene.

About Effects

Effects are special types of nodes that you can add to your scene's structure. For an effect node to work, it must be connected under a drawing, a composite, another effect, or any other node that outputs an image. Effect nodes alter the image information sent to their input port, and output the processed image through their output port. This gives you flexibility in deciding which elements of your scene are affected by an effect.

Some effects need to be linked to another layer, referred to as a matte layer, which is used to define the area they should affect. A good example of this is the Tone effect, which is used to add a shadow of a given shape to a layer. Alone, the Tone effect has no impact on the drawing it is connected to. Once combined with a matte layer, the Tone effect will use the matte's shape to apply a shadow to the drawing. Even if the matte's shape bleeds outside of the drawing's outlines, the shadow will only be applied within the drawing's outlines.

A matte layer is simply a regular drawing layer that is connected to an effect as its matte. The effect takes the shape of the drawing in the matte layer to determine the area of the drawing it affects. The colours and details in the matte layer are ignored by the effect, only its shape is taken in account.

In the Node view, an effect must be connected to the drawing or composite it is meant to affect by its input (top) port, and its output (bottom) port must be connected to the scene's main composite.

If the effect can use a matte layer, it will have a matte port on its left to which the matte layer can be connected.

The matte port has a Matte icon underneath it. You can invert the matte by double-clicking on this icon, which will make the effect use the negative space of the matte drawing rather than the matte drawing itself as its matte. When an effect's matte is inverted, the Matte appears black on white instead of white on black: .

Once your effect is connected, you can adjust its parameters by selecting it, then adjusting its parameters using the Layer Properties view. You can also click on a node's Layer Properties icon to open its layer properties in a dialog. If desired, you can even animate the parameters of your effect by converting their values to functions.


If you need to use the uncut version of your drawing layer anywhere else in your scene, you can bypass the effect it is connected to by connecting the drawing layer's output port to other input ports of your composite, or to other effects or composite, as needed. This will create new cables, leaving your layer's connection to its effect unaffected.

Adding an Effect

In Harmony, you can add effects by dragging them from the Node Library view to the Node view and connecting them as an intermediary between their drawing layer and their composite. Then, you can achieve the intended effect by adjusting its parameters in the Layers Properties view, and connecting it to a matte or other types of input layers it might require.

To add effects or other types of nodes to the Node view, you must first find them in the Node Library view.

When you create a new project in Harmony, the default node system that appears in the Node view looks similar to the one below.

Notice how layers are connected to your scene's composite. For an effect to work, it must be connected as an intermediary between a layer and its composite, as if it was made to filter the layer's drawing information before it reaches the composite.

Adding an Effect with a Matte

The following tutorial demonstrates how to use the Cutter effect with a matte. Several effects in Harmony use mattes to determine the area of the image they affect.

The Cutter effect cuts out a portion of an image. To do this, it needs to be connected to the drawing it is intended to cut as well as to a matte layer. The cutter will take the shape of the drawing in the matte layer and cut this shape out of the drawing layer. This is especially useful if you want to make a character disappear between a background element, or if you want to cut out a hole in the middle of a character.

Like all effects that use a matte, the Cutter's effect has an Inverted parameter, which is disabled by default. When enabled, the Cutter will have the reverse effect: Instead of cutting the matte's shape out of the drawing, it will cut everything outside of the matte's shape out of the drawing, leaving only the parts of the drawing that are covered by the matte.

You can quickly toggle an effect's Inverted parameter by double-clicking on its Matte icon in the Node view.

Two other examples of effects that work with mattes are the Tone and Highlight effects. The Tone effect applies a shadow to its drawing based on its matte, and the Highlight effect applies a highlight to a drawing based on a matte. These effects are not applied outside of the drawings they are connected to, so you can simply draw your character's highlights and shadow into your matte layers without worrying about drawing outside of their outline.

Adding these effects to a drawing works exactly the same way as adding a cutter to a drawing, except that they have extra parameters to configure the colour, intensity and rendering of the effect.

Animating an Effect

You may need to animate some effects to obtain the expected results. For example, you may want the radius of a Glow effect to slowly increase and decrease to make it pulsate throughout a scene, or you may want the transparency of a Transparency effect to increase from 0% to 100% to make a drawing vanish.

Almost all numerical parameters in an effect can be attached to a function. A function allows you to set a parameter to different values at different points in the scene by adding keyframes to it, and setting each keyframes to a specific value. Between keyframes, the value of the parameter will progress from the value of the previous keyframe to the value of the next keyframe. Drawing layers are animated by having their coordinates associated to functions. Likewise, effects can be animated by associating their parameters to functions.

Some effect parameters can be animated directly in the Timeline view, but not all. When you expand an effect's parameters in the Timeline view, some of its parameters may be hidden to avoid cluttering the Timeline view. You can animate those parameters from the Layer Properties view or the Layer Properties dialog, which display all of a layer's parameters.

Creating an Effect Based on an Animated Character

The following tutorial demonstrates how to combine Effects with other Harmony functionalities to easily create a drop shadow for an animated character. By following these steps, you can create a drop shadow that will automatically follow your character's animation, even if you change the animation afterward.