November 8, 2017

25 Tips & Tricks to Master Your After Effects Workflow

With these 25 tips, tricks, and shortcuts, you'll be navigating Adobe After Effects like a pro.

The world of motion graphics can be a bit daunting if you’re just getting started. The shortcuts listed below are geared to help you become more comfortable working in the wonderful world of Adobe After Effects. These tips and tricks focus on a wide range of topics—learn how to more efficiently navigate the workspace, work with keyframes, customize the interface, and properly handle layers. Let’s get started.

1. IBON

If you’re working with a layer that is shorter than the timeline, this combination of shortcuts will quickly crop the length of the timeline to perfectly fit your layer. Simply select the layer and then press I, B, O, and N, in that order. The I shortcut key takes you to the In point of the layer, B sets the beginning point of the composition, O takes you to the Out point of the layer, and N sets the ending of the composition.

2. Maximize panel (`)

With all of the panels and tools available, the After Effects interface can quickly become quite busy. Use the grave accent key to quickly bring a panel to full screen. After Effects will maximize whatever panel your mouse is currently positioned over.

3. Zoom in/out on composition (, .)

For years, I would use the Cmd/Ctrl with +/- to zoom in and out of the composition panel, but you can quickly use comma and period to do the same thing.

4. Zoom to single-frame units (;)

Sometimes when working on complex projects, you need to view single frames in the timeline. Press the semicolon key to quickly zoom all the way into single-frame units. Press again to zoom back out.

5. Scroll to current time in timeline (D)

If you ever find yourself navigating through the timeline and you suddenly notice that you can’t see the playhead anymore, never fear. Press the D key to immediately jump back and center the playhead in your timeline.

6. Center in view

Trying to align a layer when you don’t know the alignment tools can be quite frustrating. If you want to center a layer in the composition panel, grab the layer and select Layer > Transform > Center in View.

7. Pan behind (Y)

If you don’t want to center the anchor point in your layer’s content, you can manually move it via the Pan Behind tool.

8. Snap anchor point (Cmd/Ctrl)

When moving the anchor point with the Pan Behind tool, you can enable snapping by holding the Command or Control key. The anchor point will snap to the X and Y axes, as well as the edge of the layer.

9. Center anchor point in layer

When you center a layer in view, the layer will center via its anchor point. If the anchor point isn’t where you want it, you can quickly center it in your layer by going to Layer > Transform > Center Anchor Point in Layer Content.

10. Duplicate a clip (Cmd/Ctrl+D)

You’ll often find yourself duplicating clips in the timeline, so it’s helpful to use the Cmd/Ctrl+D shortcut.

11. Parent a layer

When you want a layer to copy the actions of another layer, you can parent one to the other. Use the tools under the parent column of the timeline to connect layers via a pick whip or a drop-down menu.

12. Split a clip (Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+D)

If you want to split a clip instead of duplicating it, simply hold the shift key as you press Cmd/Ctrl+D.

13. Open effect controls (F3)

Working in After Effects means working with a lot of effects. You can launch the Effect Controls panel for a layer just by pressing the F3 key when the layer is selected.

14. Show properties with keyframes (U)

To view all of a layer’s properties that have keyframes, press the U key. If you don’t have any layer selected, After Effects will show you the properties with keyframes of all layers.

15. Change keyframe interpolation (F9 or Cmd/Ctrl+click)

Quickly change the interpolation of a selected keyframe by pressing the F9 key. Or you can hold the Cmd key and click the keyframe to cycle between various interpolation modes.

16. Toggle between switches and modes columns (F4)

The Toggle Switches/Modes button is located at the bottom of the timeline panel. It allows you to view different tools when working with layers in the timeline panel. Use the F4 shortcut key to quickly toggle between the two views.

17. Customize timeline columns

You can customize your timeline by specifying which columns you want to display in the timeline. To do this, right or Ctrl+click anywhere on the column header and then check what you want to be displayed in the Columns drop-down menu.

18. Set markers (Shift+0-9)

With the timeline selected, you can quickly add numbered markers at the playhead by holding shift and pressing any numeric key desired.

19. Apply animation presets

If you don’t have time to create even the simplest of animations, you can utilize animation presets. Select the layer and go to Animation > Browse Presets. This action will launch Adobe Bridge, where you can preview a number of different presets. To apply one, simply double-click.

20. Precompose layers (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+C)

If you’re working in a timeline and you want to nest two or more layers in their own timeline, grab the layers and select Layer > Precompose or use keyboard shortcut Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+C.

21. View a flowchart

Working with a lot of precomps can quickly lead to confusion. To get a bird’s eye view of your project, press the Tab key to view a mini flowchart. To view a full flowchart, select the Composition Flowchart button at the bottom of the composition panel.

22. Create a null object

Null objects are especially handy when used in conjunction with parenting. If you don’t want to add keyframes to a layer, simply create and add keyframes to a null object, and then parent the corresponding layers to the object. To create a null object go to Layer > New > Null Object.

23. Take and show snapshots (Shift + F5-F8)

When working with multiple compositions that you need to compare, use snapshots. You can take a snapshot by holding shift and pressing any of the F5-F8 keys. To view any of these snapshots later simply press the corresponding F key.

24. Purge memory

If you’re ever having problems with After Effects such as crashing and stalling, give this tip a try. Go to Edit > Purge and select if you want to purge everything or something specific.  

25. Keyboard shortcut map

Adobe’s latest release of After Effects now includes a Keyboard Shortcut map, a wonderful new way to visually reference keyboard shortcuts. To open it up go to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts.  

What are your favorite After Effects tips and tricks? Share them with us in the comment section!      

Your Comment

7 Comments

Option + Drag to replace layer in timeline with item from project window, while keeping all the same settings of the layer. Huge time saver!

November 8, 2017 at 1:15PM

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Option + Drag to replace a layer with an asset from the project window. This keeps all layer settings the same (keyframes, effects, etc) and applies it to new asset.

November 8, 2017 at 1:23PM

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It's posts like this that, of late, have made me question whether this is a site for professionals or amateurs trying to learn the basics.

November 9, 2017 at 8:41AM

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Hi Boone. Thank you. This helps me very well

November 9, 2017 at 5:44PM

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Hassan Mohamud Jama
Student
147

Thank you. This helps me very well!

November 9, 2017 at 5:53PM, Edited November 9, 5:53PM

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Hassan Mohamud Jama
Student
147

Wow, good quick list. I have only been using about 20% of these tips and can't wait to add the others into my workflow. My favorite is your keyboard shortcut 4. Zoom to single-frame units (;). That one is going to get used a lot. Thanks again.

November 10, 2017 at 3:29PM

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Gary Foster
Film Instructor, MediaTech Institute - Houston, TX
74

#1 - Alternate method

Cmd+Opt+B sets In/Out based on selected layer length.

November 15, 2017 at 12:56PM

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Terima kasih. Sangat membantu sekali

November 17, 2017 at 1:28AM

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Kaffah ID
Owner
1