Insert a design that tracks to a person’s body in motion using the Mocha AE effect in Adobe After Effects.

Billboard for music tour features a man’s back tattooed with wings.

What you'll need

This sample file is an Adobe Stock asset you can use to practice what you learn in this tutorial. If you want to use the sample file beyond this tutorial, you can purchase a license on Adobe Stock. Check out the ReadMe file in the folder for the terms that apply to your use of this sample file. Any reference to “Hizzo” or “Flutter Tour” is for demonstration purposes only and is not intended to refer to any actual organization, products, services, or creative work.

The Mocha AE effect makes it easy to track a surface in your After Effects composition, such as a person’s body, and then apply that tracking data to an imported design, such as a tattoo. First choose View > Resolution > Full to ensure that your composition is at full resolution. Make sure also that your design matches the resolution of your main composition. For maximum flexibility, either add your design as a composition to your main comp or select the design’s layer and choose Layer > Pre-compose. Either approach makes it easy to animate the design later independently of its tracking behavior. 

Large golden angel wings are added to a layer at the same resolution as the image of the man’s back.

Hide the design layer for now and select the footage layer. Choose Animation > Track in Boris FX Mocha to apply the Mocha AE effect to the footage, and then click the large Mocha button in the Effect Controls panel to open the effect in a separate window. (You may first see a Boris FX registration screen as well as other product-related messages, but you do not need to register to use the effect.)

Animation > Track in Boris FX Mocha is selected, and Mocha button appears in the menu on the left.

With the Mocha AE Plug-in window set to show the Essentials workspace, click the appropriate Track Motion options for your footage. Choose a drawing tool (for example, Elliptical X-Spline Layer) and then click and drag a path that encompasses the surface to track. You’ll see a numbered layer appear in the Layers panel. Click the Show Planar Surface button and adjust the blue area so that it’s large enough to contain your tattoo design. To see more detail, hold down the Z key while dragging up/down with the mouse to zoom in/out. Pressing Shift+8 fits the image in the viewable area. 

The Mocha AE Plug-in is used to draw an ellipse over the man’s back to track the surface.

Once you define the tracking area, drag the playhead to the beginning of the timeline and click the Track Forward button. You’ll see a tracking progress indicator in the upper right. After tracking is completed, click the Play button below the timeline or scrub the playhead to make sure the surface is adequately tracked. Choose File > Exit and save your changes.

Man’s back with ellipses is displayed. Drag Playhead to beginning of timeline, click Track Forward, scrub playhead, save file

Back in the Effect Controls panel, expand the Tracking Data section of the Mocha AE effect and click the Create Track Data button. Select the numbered layer in the Layers dialog box and click OK. Farther down in the expanded Tracking Data section, choose an Export Option — for example, Corner Pin (Support Motion Blur). Set Layer Export to the design layer you want the tracking data applied to and then click Apply Export. 

Mocha FX menu is open on the left, Create Track Data is clicked, Layer 1 is chosen, and layer is exported to design layer.

Unhide the design layer. Although the design now tracks with the surface in the footage, you may need to adjust its position and scale to make it fit the scene better. Because the design layer contains important motion tracking data, you should always do your fine-tuning and design animating in the precomposition. With the Composition panel active, choose View > New Viewer to show both comps side by side.

Winged tattoo design is scaled down and now tracks with the surface of the man’s back.

In the main composition, you may want to adjust the design’s opacity (try 50%) and blend mode (try Darken) so that the tattoo appears more realistic.

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