Contour Strips

From 4.3ExperimentalPatternProceduralRaster

Renders strips of thin paper-like material, layered front to back, using the layer luminance or opacity as a height map for each strip.


The number of strips to render.

Range: 0.5 to 200; Default: 10

The height of each strip.

Range: 0 to 15; Default: 1

The angle of the strips. Use 0º for horizonta; strips and 90º for vertical strips.

Range: -3600º to 3600º; Default: 0º

The thickness of each individual strip. When this is set to zero, the strip has no thickness and Edge Color is ignored.

Range: 0 to 1; Default: 0

An amount by which to shift each strip perpendicular to the Angle, as a ratio of the gap between the strips.

Range: -1000 to 1000; Default: 0

Inverts the meaning of the Height Map so that areas that would normally result in taller strips will instead result in shorter, cutaway strips.

Default: off
Edge Color

The color to use for the edges of the strips. This is applied only if the Thickness is greater than zero.

Color 1

The color to use for the top of each strip.

Color 2

The color to use for the bottom of each strip. If you don't want gradient strips, make sure this is the same as Color 1.

Light Color

The color of the light source. This only applies if Thickness is greater than zero, in which case this color is used to light the edges of the strips based on the Light Angle.

Light Angle

The angle of the light source used to light the edges of strips when the Thickness is greater than zero.

Range: 0º to 3600º; Default: 0º
Height Map

The basis on which the height of each strip is determined at each pixel along the length of the strip.

  • Alpha: The height is based on the opacity of the layer; more opaque parts of the layer are taller; less opaque parts are shorter (unless Invert is turned on, in which case this is reversed).
  • Luminance: The height is based on the lightness of the layer; lighter parts of the layer are taller; darker parts are shorter (unless Invert is turned on, in which case this is reversed).
Default: Luminance
Mask To Layer

Determines if the strip samples are masked to the original alpha (opacity) of the layer.

  • Off: The strips will fill the entire project or group canvas
  • On: The opacity of each pixel of a strip will match the opacity of the original layer where the strip was sampled
Default: on


This effect renders multiple overlapping strips of material. The height of each strip varies continuously along its length based on either the luminance (brightness) or alpha (opacity) of each pixel in the layer (you can choose which to use). Because the layer's pixels affect (or map to) the strip height, in this context we refer to them as a Height Map (much like the height map used in the Bump Map effect).

Getting a Height Map

To start with, you'll need a layer to use as a height map. You can use either a layer with partially opaque and transparent parts (an alpha height map) or a layer with bright and dark parts (a luminance height map).

The easiest way to get an alpha height map is to use Gaussian Blur on a shape or vector drawing. You can also use Chroma Key to remove the background of an image or video and then use Gaussian Blur to smooth out the edges.

For a luminance height map, there are many options:

Applying the Effect

Once you have a layer to use as a height map, simply apply the Contour Strips effect to it, then change the Height Map setting to either Alpha or Luminance as appropriate for the kind of height map you are using. Then adjust the other settings to achieve the desired results.

Tip: Gaussian Blur

Even when using an image, video, or procedural effect as a height map, applying a very mild Gaussian Blur on the layer before applying Contour Strips can help filter our high frequency "roughness" and make the results much more pleasing.

For example, consider this use of Contour Strips:

The video on the left has no effects applied. The middle video has only Contour Strips applied. The video on the right has Gaussian Blur applied before Contour Strips.