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Work with Essential Properties

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Learn about Essential Properties and understand the commonly used terms when working with compositions and Essential Properties.

Essential Properties work as primary controls allowing you to access layer and effect properties of a composition when nested in another composition. This can be time-saving when you build complex animations across multiple nested compositions as you don't have to open separate precompositions to view their properties. Essential Properties can override their original values and keyframes, which allows you to reuse the same composition as multiple instances with different values. The source composition remains the same, and your edits only create instances you can render after editing your comp

To create Essential Properties, add properties from a nested composition in the Essential Graphics panel, or nest the composition (Layer > Precompose) after you add the properties. Once you nest the composition, the Timeline panel displays the Essential Properties group of the precomposition layer.

For property types supported by the Essential Graphics panel, see Types of supported controls

The core workflow to create Essential Properties is similar to creating controls for a Motion Graphics template. The difference is how you use the properties - whether you use the essential properties on a precomposition in After Effects or a Motion Graphics template in Premiere Pro.

Glossary of terms

See the glossary of terms (existing and new) to understand the commonly used terms when you work with compositions and Essential Properties:

Nest and Precomposition

Nest: To place a composition inside other composition.

Precomposition: A composition that is nested inside another composition in a project.

Parent composition and Child composition hierarchy

When a composition, for example - Comp A, is placed inside another composition - Comp B, Comp A becomes the Parent composition which contains Comp B - the Child composition.

Essential Properties and Primary Composition
Essential Properties and Primary Composition

A composition you set as Primary in the Essential Graphics panel is the Primary composition. For a primary composition, when you add a layer or effect property from the Timeline to the Essential Graphics panel, the property is called the Essential Property.

Source property
Source property

The layer or effect property that an essential property refers to.

Linked property
Linked property

An essential property of a precomposition when the source property isn’t modified.

Unlinked property
Unlinked property

An Essential Property of a precomposition when the source property is modified.

To change the value, keyframe, or expression of an expression property on a precomposition.

Work with Essential Properties

Linked properties

When you nest a primary composition, the Essential Properties of that precomposition link to the source properties. For example, if Comp B is nested in Comp A, the effect and layer properties of Comp B are the source properties. From Comp B, the properties that you add to the Essential Graphics panel are the Essential Properties. When you modify the source properties, the essential properties of the precomposition also change.

Unlinked properties

However, when you modify Essential Properties of the precomposition, they become unlinked. Unlinking creates an instance of the primary composition. You can modify both the essential properties and the source properties independently.

When you modify an Essential Property, it overrides the value or keyframes of the source property. The precomposition is a unique instance of the primary composition, and only this instance renders with the modified value or keyframes.

Pull and Push buttons

When you modify an essential property, the Pull and Push buttons in the Timeline panel are enabled, and the name of the essential property turns bold. These are the indications that a property is unlinked.

The Pull and Push buttons relink an essential property with the source property. There are Pull and Push buttons for each essential property and for the entire Essential Properties group.


Pull discards the modified value, keyframes, and expression of an essential property.


Push applies the modified value, keyframes, and expression of an essential property to the source property.

After you select either the Pull or Push button, essential properties again link to their source properties and disable these buttons.
Pull and Push buttons
Pull and Push buttons

A. Linked Essential Properties (Pull and Push buttons disabled) B. Unlinked Essential Properties (Pull and Push buttons enabled) 

When you push a modified essential property back to source property, all instances of the same primary composition are updated if the same essential property is linked. For example, you create a primary composition for a credit roll and nest it multiple times, and modify the color essential property on only one of the precompositions. When you push the new color value back to source value, all instances of the primary composition render with the new color value.

The Properties panel also displays the Push and Pull buttons when a property is modified.

Push and Pull options in the Properties panel
Push and Pull options in the Properties panel

Relink Essential Properties

  • To relink multiple Essential Properties of a precomposition with their source properties, select the specific essential properties and select the Pull or Push button on the Essential Properties group.
  • To relink all essential properties of a precomposition with their source properties, deselect all Essential Properties in the Timeline panel and select the Pull or Push button on the Essential Properties group.

Modify Source Text Essential Properties

In the context of a parent composition, you cannot use the Type tools to modify Source Text essential properties in the Composition panel.

To modify the text string of a Source Text essential property, do either of the following:

  • Right-click the Source Text essential property and select Edit Value. Edit the text string in the dialog, then select OK.
  • Apply an expression to the Source Text essential property. Ensure to include double quotes around the new string. For example, "She sells seashells by the sea shore."


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