6 of the Most Common Mistakes Made in After Effects (& How to Fix Them)

After Effects is a complicated program, which means that a lot can go wrong when working with it.

If you're finding that you're running into the same issues, or if you just want to avoid them altogether, this video from Surfaced Studio highlights the most common mistakes and problems editors encounter when working with After Effects.

Tobias from Surfaced Studio provides solutions for several issues you might be experiencing:

  • Finding blend mode/switches
  • Creating shapes instead of masks
  • Double clicking layers
  • Order of operations on masking and effects
  • Case-sensitive expressions
  • Exporting using a sensible video format/codec

know this doesn't only happen to me: I'm working in After Effects, doing pretty nice, feeling good about myself and then all of a sudden something happens. A tool doesn't work or there's an unexpected effect appears on my screen. I say, "What the f*** did I just do?" Then I get angry and start blaming the program, blaming the masking tool, blaming Adobe for designing a program that has a defective masking tool (that was working just a second ago and now all of a sudden doesn't). It's their fault, obviously.

It's not, actually. I just don't know AE that well -- and I don't want to admit it to myself.

Even though I can navigate it well enough to create whatever it is I'm trying to make, I'm certainly not an expert on how it works. This video hit home for me particularly because I don't know the ins and outs of AE well enough to run a good diagnostic to find out what the problem (and solution) is. So, having a list (or at least, the beginning of a list) of common mistakes is really helpful for not only dealing with those particular issues, but for learning the program better as well.

If you want to learn more about After Effects (and not be completely helpless the next time a problem arises), Surfaced Studio has a ton of great tutorials that you should check out.

What are more common mistakes that you can add to the list? Share them down in the comments!     

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Your Comment


The biggest mistake anyone makes in After Effects is not keeping their project browser neatly organised. Once you start racking up the pre-comps, solids, nulls, pre-renders etc... It gets pretty messy in there. Use a logical naming system, and be rigorous about tucking stuff away in the right folder - otherwise you waste hours endlessly clicking on comps and trying to figure out what they're each doing.

Also, name tracks logically - for the same reason as above.

June 23, 2015 at 4:27PM

Alex Richardson

I had the chance recently to work with a really talented and experienced motion graphics artist/graphic designer. And what I noticed right away is that she is an absolute stickler about naming her layers, creating organized folders, etc. It made my job working with her material in the edit vastly easier and faster. And that quite honestly gave us more time to experiment with new ideas and variations. It may seem obvious, but it's easy to forget that better organization = more time for creativity!

June 23, 2015 at 7:57PM, Edited June 23, 7:58PM

Benjamin Reichman
Post Supervisor/AE/Editor

Tap into Video Copilot for some of the best tutorials. Andrew Kramer and his team cook up some of the most interesting projects that you can learn from, download and put to use. http://www.videocopilot.net/

October 6, 2015 at 12:06AM, Edited October 6, 12:06AM

You voted '+1'.

Attempting to copy layers with expressions to another xcomp = gone. Hiding layers.. Linear color...oops.

October 6, 2015 at 9:16PM, Edited October 6, 9:16PM