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Animation basics

  1. After Effects User Guide
  2. Beta releases
    1. Beta Program Overview
    2. After Effects Beta Home
  3. Getting started
    1. Get started with After Effects
    2. What's new in After Effects 
    3. Release Notes | After Effects
    4. After Effects system requirements
    5. Keyboard shortcuts in After Effects
    6. Supported File formats | After Effects
    7. Hardware recommendations
    8. After Effects for Apple silicon
    9. Planning and setup
  4. Workspaces
    1. General user interface items
    2. Get to know After Effects interface
    3. Workflows
    4. Workspaces, panels, and viewers
  5. Projects and compositions
    1. Projects
    2. Composition basics
    3. Precomposing, nesting, and pre-rendering
    4. View detailed performance information with the Composition Profiler
    5. CINEMA 4D Composition Renderer
  6. Importing footage
    1. Preparing and importing still images
    2. Importing from After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro
    3. Importing and interpreting video and audio
    4. Preparing and importing 3D image files
    5. Importing and interpreting footage items
    6. Working with footage items
    7. Detect edit points using Scene Edit Detection
    8. XMP metadata
  7. Text and Graphics
    1. Text
      1. Formatting characters and the Character panel
      2. Text effects
      3. Creating and editing text layers
      4. Formatting paragraphs and the Paragraph panel
      5. Extruding text and shape layers
      6. Animating text
      7. Examples and resources for text animation
      8. Live Text Templates
    2. Motion Graphics
      1. Work with Motion Graphics templates in After Effects
      2. Use expressions to create drop-down lists in Motion Graphics templates
      3. Work with Essential Properties to create Motion Graphics templates
      4. Replace images and videos in Motion Graphics templates and Essential Properties
      5. Animate faster and easier using the Properties panel
  8. Drawing, Painting, and Paths
    1. Overview of shape layers, paths, and vector graphics
    2. Paint tools: Brush, Clone Stamp, and Eraser
    3. Taper shape strokes
    4. Shape attributes, paint operations, and path operations for shape layers
    5. Use Offset Paths shape effect to alter shapes
    6. Creating shapes
    7. Create masks
    8. Remove objects from your videos with the Content-Aware Fill panel
    9. Roto Brush and Refine Matte
  9. Layers, Markers, and Camera
    1. Selecting and arranging layers
    2. Blending modes and layer styles
    3. 3D layers
    4. Layer properties
    5. Creating layers
    6. Managing layers
    7. Layer markers and composition markers
    8. Cameras, lights, and points of interest
  10. Animation, Keyframes, Motion Tracking, and Keying
    1. Animation
      1. Animation basics
      2. Animating with Puppet tools
      3. Managing and animating shape paths and masks
      4. Animating Sketch and Capture shapes using After Effects
      5. Assorted animation tools
      6. Work with Data-driven animation
    2. Keyframe
      1. Keyframe interpolation
      2. Setting, selecting, and deleting keyframes
      3. Editing, moving, and copying keyframes
    3. Motion tracking
      1. Tracking and stabilizing motion
      2. Face Tracking
      3. Mask Tracking
      4. Mask Reference
      5. Speed
      6. Time-stretching and time-remapping
      7. Timecode and time display units
    4. Keying
      1. Keying
      2. Keying effects
  11. Transparency and Compositing
    1. Compositing and transparency overview and resources
    2. Alpha channels and masks
    3. Track Mattes and Traveling Mattes
  12. Adjusting color
    1. Color basics
    2. Color management
    3. Color Correction effects
    4. OpenColorIO and ACES color management
  13. Effects and Animation Presets
    1. Effects and animation presets overview
    2. Effect list
    3. Effect Manager
    4. Simulation effects
    5. Stylize effects
    6. Audio effects
    7. Distort effects
    8. Perspective effects
    9. Channel effects
    10. Generate effects
    11. Transition effects
    12. The Rolling Shutter Repair effect
    13. Blur and Sharpen effects
    14. 3D Channel effects
    15. Utility effects
    16. Matte effects
    17. Noise and Grain effects
    18. Detail-preserving Upscale effect
    19. Obsolete effects
  14. Expressions and Automation
    1. Expressions
      1. Expression basics
      2. Understanding the expression language
      3. Using expression controls
      4. Syntax differences between the JavaScript and Legacy ExtendScript expression engines
      5. Editing expressions
      6. Expression errors
      7. Using the Expressions editor
      8. Use expressions to edit and access text properties
      9. Expression language reference
      10. Expression examples
    2. Automation
      1. Automation
      2. Scripts
  15. Immersive video, VR, and 3D
    1. Construct VR environments in After Effects
    2. Apply immersive video effects
    3. Compositing tools for VR/360 videos
    4. Advanced 3D Renderer
    5. Import and add 3D models to your composition
    6. Import 3D models from Creative Cloud Libraries
    7. Image-Based Lighting
    8. Extract and animate lights and cameras from 3D models
    9. Tracking 3D camera movement
    10. Cast and accept shadows
    11. Embedded 3D model animations
    12. Shadow Catcher
    13. 3D depth data extraction
    14. Modify materials properties of a 3D layer
    15. Work in 3D Design Space
    16. 3D Transform Gizmos
    17. Do more with 3D animation
    18. Preview changes to 3D designs real time with the Mercury 3D engine
    19. Add responsive design to your graphics 
  16. Views and Previews
    1. Previewing
    2. Video preview with Mercury Transmit
    3. Modifying and using views
  17. Rendering and Exporting
    1. Basics of rendering and exporting
    2. H.264 Encoding in After Effects
    3. Export an After Effects project as an Adobe Premiere Pro project
    4. Converting movies
    5. Multi-frame rendering
    6. Automated rendering and network rendering
    7. Rendering and exporting still images and still-image sequences
    8. Using the GoPro CineForm codec in After Effects
  18. Working with other applications
    1. Dynamic Link and After Effects
    2. Working with After Effects and other applications
    3. Sync Settings in After Effects
    4. Creative Cloud Libraries in After Effects
    5. Plug-ins
    6. Cinema 4D and Cineware
  19. Collaboration:, and Team Projects
    1. Collaboration in Premiere Pro and After Effects
      1. Install and activate
      2. Use with Premiere Pro and After Effects
      3. Frequently asked questions
    3. Team Projects
      1. Get Started with Team Projects
      2. Create a Team Project
      3. Collaborate with Team Projects
  20. Memory, storage, performance
    1. Memory and storage
    2. How After Effects handles low memory issues while previewing    
    3. Improve performance
    4. Preferences
    5. GPU and GPU driver requirements for After Effects
  21. Knowledge Base
    1. Known issues
    2. Fixed issues
    3. Frequently asked questions
    4. After Effects and macOS Ventura
    5. How After Effects handles low memory issues while previewing

About animation, keyframes, and expressions

Animation is change over time. You animate a layer or an effect on a layer by making one or more of its properties change over time. For example, you can animate the Opacity property of a layer from 0% at time zero to 100% at time 1 second to make the layer fade in. Any property with a stopwatch button to the left of its name in the Timeline panel or Effect Controls panel can be animated.

Stopwatch icons: Active stopwatch and Inactive stopwatch
Stopwatch icons

A. Active stopwatch B. Inactive stopwatch 

You animate layer properties using keyframes, expressions, or both.

Many animation presets include keyframes and expressions so that you can simply apply the animation preset to the layer to achieve a complex animated result.

You work with keyframes and expressions in After Effects in one of two modes: layer bar mode or Graph Editor mode. Layer bar mode is the default, which shows layers as duration bars, with keyframes and expressions aligned vertically with their properties in the Timeline panel. Graph Editor mode does not show layer bars, and shows keyframes and expression results in value graphs or speed graphs. (See The Graph Editor.)


Keyframes are used to set parameters for motion, effects, audio, and many other properties, usually changing them over time. A keyframe marks the point in time where you specify a value for a layer property, such as spatial position, opacity, or audio volume. Values between keyframes are interpolated. When you use keyframes to create a change over time, you typically use at least two keyframes—one for the state at the beginning of the change, and one for the new state at the end of the change. (See Set or add keyframes.)

When the stopwatch is active for a specific property, After Effects automatically sets or changes a keyframe for the property at the current time whenever you change the property value. When the stopwatch is inactive for a property, the property has no keyframes. If you change the value for a layer property while the stopwatch is inactive, that value remains the same for the duration of the layer.


When Auto-keyframe mode is on, the stopwatch is activated automatically for a property when it’s modified. (See Auto-keyframe mode.)

If you deactivate the stopwatch, all keyframes for that layer property are deleted, and the constant value for the property becomes the value at the current time. Don’t deactivate the stopwatch unless you’re sure that you want to permanently delete all of the keyframes for that property.


Change the keyframe icons in layer bar mode to numbers by choosing Use Keyframe Indices in the Timeline panel menu.

Keyframes as icons compared to keyframes as numbers
Keyframes as icons compared to keyframes as numbers


When a layer property that contains keyframes is collapsed, gray dots (summary keyframe indicators) for the property group show that there are keyframes contained within it.

Some tools, such as Motion Sketch and the Puppet tools, automatically set keyframes for you to match motion that you sketch.


Expressions use a scripting language based on JavaScript to specify the values of a property and to relate properties to one another. You can create simple expressions by connecting properties with the pick whip. (See About expressions.)

Online animation resources

See the video tutorial, "Animating Transform Properties With Keyframes," by Jeff Sengstack and Infinite Skills.

For a step-by-step tutorial that demonstrates the animation of individual layers from a Photoshop (PSD) file, see the “Animating Layers in After Effects“ chapter of the After Effects Classroom in a Book on the Peachpit Press website.

The Graph Editor

The Graph Editor represents property values using a two-dimensional graph, with composition time represented horizontally (from left to right). In layer bar mode, on the other hand, the time graph represents only the horizontal time element, without showing a graphical, vertical representation of changing values.


To toggle between layer bar mode and Graph Editor mode, click the Graph Editor button  in the Timeline panel or press Shift+F3.

Two animated properties (Position and Scale) shown in the Graph Editor
Two animated properties (Position and Scale) shown in the Graph Editor

Two types of graphs are available in the Graph Editor: value graphs, which show property values; and speed graphs, which show rates of change of property values. For temporal properties, such as Opacity, the Graph Editor defaults to the value graph. For spatial properties, such as Position, the Graph Editor defaults to the speed graph. For information on viewing and editing keyframe values, see View or edit a keyframe value.

In the Graph Editor, each property is represented by its own curve. You can view and work on one property at a time, or you can view multiple properties simultaneously. When more than one property is visible in the Graph Editor, each property’s curve has the same color as the property’s value in the layer outline.

When you drag a keyframe in the Graph editor with the Snap button selected, the keyframe snaps to keyframe values, keyframe times, the current time, In and Out points, markers, the beginning and end of the work area, and the beginning and end of the composition. When the keyframe snaps to one of these items, an orange line appears in the Graph Editor to indicate the object you’re snapping to. Hold Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) after you’ve begun dragging to temporarily toggle snapping behavior.

Keyframes in Graph Editor mode may have direction handles attached to one or both sides. Direction handles are used to control Bezier interpolation.

You can use the Separate Dimensions button at the bottom of the Graph Editor to separate the components of a Position property into individual properties—X Position, Y Position, and (for 3D layers) Z Position—so that you can modify or animate each independently. (See Separate dimensions of Position to animate components individually.)

Keyframes in the Graph Editor with direction handles
Keyframes in the Graph Editor with direction handles

Online resources about the Graph Editor

Antony Bolante provides information, tips, illustrations about using the Graph Editor in an article on the Peachpit Press website.

Specify which properties are shown in the Graph Editor

  1. Click the Show Properties button  at the bottom of the Graph Editor, and select from the following options:

    Show Selected Properties

    Displays selected properties in the Graph Editor.

    Show Animated Properties

    Displays animated properties of selected layers in the Graph Editor.

    Show Graph Editor Set

    Displays properties that have the Graph Editor switch selected. This switch is next to the stopwatch, to the left of the property name, when the stopwatch is active—that is, when the property has keyframes or expressions.

Graph options in the Graph Editor

Click the Graph Type And Options button at the bottom of the Graph Editor to select from the following options:

Auto-Select Graph Type

Automatically selects the appropriate graph type for a property: speed graphs for spatial properties (such as Position), and value graphs for other properties.

Edit Value Graph

Displays the value graph for all properties.

Edit Speed Graph

Displays the speed graph for all properties.

Show Reference Graph

Displays the unselected graph type in the background for viewing only. (The gray numbers to the right of the Graph Editor indicate the values for the reference graph.)

Show Audio Waveforms

Displays the audio waveform for any layer that has at least one property in the Graph Editor.

Show Layer In/Out Points

Displays In and Out points of all layers that have a property in the Graph Editor. In and Out points appear as curly braces.

Show Layer Markers

Displays layer markers in the Graph Editor, if they exist, for any layer that has at least one property in the Graph Editor. Layer markers appear as small triangles.

Show Graph Tool Tips

Toggles the graph tool tips on and off.

Show Expression Editor

Shows or hides the expression editor field.

Allow Keyframes Between Frames

Allows placement of keyframes between frames for fine-tuning animation.

Pan and zoom in the Graph Editor

  • To pan vertically or horizontally, drag with the Hand tool

To activate the Hand tool momentarily when using another tool, press and hold the spacebar or the middle mouse button.

  • To pan vertically, roll the mouse scroll wheel.
  • To pan horizontally, press the Shift key as you roll the mouse scroll wheel.
  • To zoom in, click with the Zoom tool.
  • To zoom out, Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) with the Zoom tool.
  • To zoom using the mouse scroll wheel, press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) while scrolling to zoom horizontally. Press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) to zoom vertically.
  • To zoom horizontally, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) to the left with the Zoom tool to zoom out or to the right to zoom in.
  • To zoom vertically, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) up with the Zoom tool to zoom in or down to zoom out.

You cannot pan or zoom vertically when Auto Zoom Height  is selected.

Auto Zoom Height and Fit

Auto Zoom Height 

Toggles Auto Zoom Height mode, which automatically scales the height of the graph so that it fits the height of the Graph Editor. The horizontal zoom must still be adjusted manually.

Fit Selection 

Adjusts the value (vertical) and time (horizontal) scale of the graph to fit the selected keyframes in the Graph Editor.

Fit All 

Adjusts the value (vertical) and time (horizontal) scale of the graph to fit all of the graphs in the Graph Editor.


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Adobe MAX 2024

Adobe MAX
The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online

Adobe MAX

The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online