Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, here are our top 25 After Effects tips and tricks for users of all experience levels.

Just as pilots go back for certification year after year, and  doctors attend medical conferences to keep up with advances in their field, constantly learning newer and better motion graphics techniques is part of working in our industry.  Maybe you’ve been using After Effects for the past 10 years — it still doesn’t hurt to dust off the skill-set now and then. So we’ve compiled 25 tips from beginner to advanced to shake up your workflow.


For Beginners: 5 Tips for Getting Started in After Effects

You’ve got to start somewhere, and the best place is here. In this tutorial, Todd covers the fives essential things you need to know about After Effects. And once you master these, you’ll be ready to move on to some intermediate tasks.

  • How to give your composition motion blur to mimic real-life movement   Does your composition look blocky and unnatural? Unlock the power of the motion blur box to create speed tails for moving objects.
  • Learning all about Keyframing   Keyframes are the building blocks of motion graphics in AE. Learning how to master these will allow you to organize and execute property changes in your objects.
  • Easing your keyframes with the Speed Graph Editor  You ever see a professional graphic and think, “How did they get it to move so smoothly?”  Most of the time, it’s the Speed Graph editor.
  • Masks and Track Mattes  You’ve got to get good at hiding things if you want to excel in AE.
  • Null objects Why add keyframes to every single object when you can pin them all to a single layer and then adjust all your layers?

The After Effects Playbook

So you’ve nailed the basics, and now you want to get into the nitty gritty. A seasoned veteran in the AE world, Todd relies on a particular workflow of tricks he uses all the time on his projects. He gives his secrets away in this video so you can go and steal his clients and then ultimately challenge him to an AE-duel and defeat him, thus becoming the AE champion! There can be only one!

  • Super Smooth Keyframes — Again, making use of the Speed Graph editor is a powerful, powerful tool.
  • Null Stacking — Once you’ve learned the basics of the null object, you can start parenting nulls to other nulls to organize your project.
  • Quick Vignettes — “To make a vignette, create an adjustment layer, and double-click the ellipse tool. Then, feather and customize your mask options, after adding an Exposure effect, and turn it down a stop or two.”
  • How to Fix Banding — When working with vignettes, you might run into an issue with banding. Fix it easily with Gradient Ramp’s ramp scatter tool.
  • Easy Text Reveals — Never settle for boring text reveals. Learn how to expose text creatively in minutes!
  • Bordered Photo Template — When working with photo slideshows in AE, it’s always recommended to give them a little “zhuzh” by adding some motion — or in this case, give it a digital frame.
  • Quick Organic Camera Motion — Using cameras in After Effects can seem complicated, but they really aren’t as bad as they seem. Think of them as glorified position adjusters.
  • Finishing and Color Correction — Sometimes, a little contrast can go a long way. Find out how to use the curves tool to add it to any graphic.
  • Textured Text — When trying to blend text into your composition, you’ll often need to do some work to make it look natural. Use Luma mattes to take on some of the texture from your background.
  • Scale Wipe Animation — Think of this one as a really fun transition that you can create yourself. Learn how to take a solid layer and slide it across the screen in a fun way to get from one thing to another. You can also export these and use them in Premiere!

The After Effects Playbook Part 2

  • Easy Stop Motion Effect — While there are other methods of making your text seem “hand-drawn,” this method takes a displacement map and uses it lightly to your advantage.
  • Keyframe Assistant: Sequencing Layers — For those of you who have worked on a project that required you to “stack” layers in a sequence, you know one thing — doing it manually is an absolute drag. Luckily with the keyframe assistant, that is now a problem of the past.
  • Quick, Bouncy Animations — Making your objects “bounce” doesn’t seem that feasible when you’re just looking at numbers. (“How do I make this look natural?”) Basically, just a few simple keyframe tricks along with some trimming in the Speed Graph editor will get you the bounce you want.
  • Easy Amber/Debris Effects — Did you know you can create debris and particles directly in AE? With the twirl animator and a touch of negative gravity, you can create your very own fire embers without resorting to an overlay.
  • Animators and Repeaters — Copy, paste. Copy, paste. We’ve all been there before. Why isn’t there a button that repeats solids? Oh, wait. There is.
  • Orient Along Path — Instead of painstakingly keyframing an object to move along a path, there is literally a button called “Orient Along Path” that automatically creates a keyframe base along a line you create. Simple.
  • Saving Animation Presets — Worked out an animation or settings that you want to use in a different project? Save and use them later.
  • Screen Capture Animations — Spice up an animation showing off a website or a piece of software with some creative uses of the camera feature in AE.
  • Super Long Timelines with Audio — Here’s my recommendation: don’t use AE for a full video. It’s much easier to create your sequence in Premiere and send your clips one-by-one to AE.
  • Tricky Motion Tracking  — When tracking objects that motion tracking may not recognize, what options do you have? Pre-composing and adjusting the contrast can work extremely well.

Looking for more After Effects tips and tricks? Check out these articles.