How to Learn to Animate in After Effects

#WEEK3DAY5: Adobe Libraries, Linking from Illustrator or Photoshop

Photo by Zaksheuskaya from Pexels

Okay so I’m gonna review After Effects a bit. Adobe’s very own tutorials are actually pretty good. Nice pace and nicely divided into small videos, with notes.

Highly recommend.


  • Create a new composition, make sure the frame height and width make sense
  • Organize your assets into a folder in windows, and organize from within the After Effects by Video, Photo, Vector etc…
  • Note that After Effects doesn’t copy files into the project, it references from the Windows folder, so don’t move or delete them, just organize that stuff before the project start
  • Compositions have layers, layer dragging up and down will change where they’re layered
  • Dragging them on the timeline will change when they appear and when they don’t
  • You can drag, resize things in the viewer, hold shift and change to keep aspect ratio
  • V to select the selection tool
  • Open the layer transform properties by clicking the arrow beside it, then P for position, R for rotation, S for scale, T for opacity, A for anchor point
  • Keyframes are the key to animating things
  • To keyframe a layer, click on the stopwatch icon beside the transform property, it will link the property value, the timeline and the layer
  • Then go to another time, for that same layer, and change the property value
  • You can also change the animation timing from linear to easing in and out or anything that’s custom

Now that’s done let's do stuff in Illustrator and then bring it over to AE.


  • Illustrator is just like any vector based drawing app, but if you play with it a bit, it clearly has way more features than something like Sketch
  • It’s almost annoying having to switch tools all the time, whereas in Sketch, everything is intuitive and contextual, in Adobe you have to manually switch your cursor but Keyboard Shortcuts and Stream Deck to the rescue
  • For example, to select a layer and move it around you need the selection tool, with V
  • To open the path and change the shape, you need to press A
  • To zoom in and out Alt and Mouse Wheel
  • Space and drag with mouse to pan around
  • You can draw shapes with the Rectangle and Ellipse tools
  • You can create custom shapes with the Curvature tool
  • To color the shapes, go to the Properties on the Right, and mess around with fill and stroke
  • To add a new Layer, Ctrl L, or the tiny plus icon at the bottom right when you select the Layers tab
  • Oh and also, when you have a shape or layer selected you can left click and do things like reflect the shape horizontally or make compound shapes

Importing to After Effects

  • You just wanna import as Composition instead of Footage, when you import an AI file
  • And after that, all your layers should appear individually in the Project Panel

Stack Overflow Approach to After Effects

  • So I wanted to just practice drawing something in Illustrator then practice porting it over to AE and animating something on it
  • I drew a little solar system and exported to AE, then made the planets orbit the Sun
  • I was having some troubles with it, basically because the layers imported with their frame and position inside the frame
  • While AE wants to animate them from the anchor point of the frame
  • So you do need to either export the layers centered and without a spaced frame or you wanna use this tool to reposition the anchor point
  • Also I learned that you wanna have a general idea of exactly which items to animate, so that you can group the layers that are animated together
  • The stack overflow approach does work, except the actual stack exchange website doesn’t seem to be useful, instead YouTube and google seem more useful here
  • If something doesn’t work, taking a break and just trying something also works, as that can give you a clue as to what exactly is happening

I took a 2–3 week break because of a flood in my apartment… But hopefully it should be smooth sailing from now on.

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