After Effects


Shape layers – infinitely scalable and resolution independent shapes. They are parametric, meaning that at any point you can change variables and they will be included as state changes.

Interpolation – what After Effects is all about. It is what allows you to have a blue rectangle in the upper left corner of your screen become a red triangle in the bottom left, changing shape and color as it travels from place to place. Interpolation requires at least 2 keyframes to work – A, where you are starting, and B, where you are ending up. Once you have set those 2 keyframes, After Effects follows a set of rules to fill in those gaps between A and B (aka Tweening). Things like how long it takes to get from A to B, how rapidly it accelerates leaving A or decelerates into B, or even how smooth or rigid the path it travels between them is.

Repeater – used for repeating elements with shape layers. A must know tool for After Effects as it makes drawing and repeating elements easy

Trim paths – allows you to animate the stroke of a vector shape. This can be used to create a variety of animations where a line needs to follow a path.

Wiggle path – allows you to draw make a shape or path wiggle and move in a parametric way

Null object – an invisible controller box that can store qualities. Elements can be connected to the null object and be controlled by it. An invisible layer that has all the properties of a visible layer, so that it can be a parent to any layer in the composition. 

Parenting – used to link one or more layers to a single parent layer. Moving, scaling or rotating the parent layer will then automatically affect all of its children. Parenting allows you to easily control a number of layer by linking them to a common parent.

Merge path – allows you to create complex shapes by merging and subtracting shapes

The Workspace

LAB: Animating a logo in 3D

For graphic designers, being able to bring vector files into after effects and turn them into shape layers is imperative. This workflow is still very awkward and hopefully will improve in time.

In this lab, we are going to take a file, break it down into layers with illustrator, import it into after effects and turn it into shape layers. Then we will rotate the logo in three dimensional space.

Importing illustrator files as shape layers

  • separate artwork onto layers, save as a .ai file
  • in After Effects – file – import – as footage with merged layers
  • create – covert to composition (not yet shape layers)
  • right click to select all layers – create shapes from vector layer

Change background color

  • composition – composition settings
  • pick new background color

Adjust in three dimensional space

  • on smart layer, toggle “box” icon to enable 3D editing
  • adjust z position
  • rotate on the y axis
  • give dimension to the shape by extruding (debugging, options gray)