How to Start With Adobe After Effects: First Steps for New Users

How to Start With Adobe After Effects

As a video creator or motion graphics designer, you understand the need for powerful and versatile tools. Adobe After Effects is the industry standard for animation and compositing, used by professionals across film, TV, and online media. However, as a beginner, the interface and capabilities can seem daunting. The good news is that with some patience and practice, you can master the fundamentals and start using After Effects for your projects.

In this article, we will walk you through the basic steps to get started with After Effects. We will show you how to navigate the interface, import media, create your first composition, work with layers, animate objects, add effects and keyframes, and render your final video. With these essential skills, you will have a solid foundation to take your creativity to the next level and produce professional motion graphics and visual effects with Adobe After Effects.

The journey may seem long, but every expert was once a beginner. Follow along and soon you will be creating stunning animations and VFX of your own.

How to Install Adobe After Effects

To get started with Adobe After Effects, you must first install the software. Follow these steps:

  1. Make sure your computer meets the minimum system requirements to run After Effects. You will need a 64-bit multi-core processor, at least 8GB of RAM, and 2GB of GPU VRAM. After Effects works best with a high-end graphics card.
  2. Purchase and download Adobe After Effects. You can buy an annual license for the individual app or get the entire Creative Cloud suite. Install the After Effects app once the download completes.
  3. Open After Effects for the first time. The interface may seem overwhelming at first, but take time to explore. The main sections are the Project panel, Composition panel, Layer panel, Effect Controls panel, and Timeline panel. These panels will be your main tools for building compositions.
  4. Learn the basics. Watch video tutorials to understand key concepts like layers, keyframes, effects, masks, and render order. Practice the fundamentals by creating your first composition with layers of video footage and images. Animate layers by setting keyframes.
  5. Explore the animation presets and effects. Apply animation presets to automatically animate layers. Drag and drop visual effects onto layers to enhance your compositions. Adjust effects using the Effect Controls panel.

With regular use, the interface will become familiar. Continuously learn new techniques to improve your animations and push the boundaries of motion graphics. Adobe After Effects is a powerful tool for creating cinematic visual effects and motion graphics. Following these initial steps will set you up for success in this exciting creative field.

Master Adobe After Effects and Become a Pro

Understanding the After Effects Interface

Understanding the After Effects Interface

To get started with Adobe After Effects, it’s important to understand the interface. The interface is made up of panels, bins, and windows that you can arrange to suit your needs.

  • The Project panel contains your imported footage and compositions. This is where you organize your files.
  • The Composition panel displays your currently selected composition. This is where you preview footage and see the results of applying effects and animations. You can have multiple composition panels open at once.
  • The Timeline panel shows a visual representation of your composition layers over time. This is where you animate layer properties and add effects.
  • The Effect Controls panel allows you to adjust effects and animations for selected layers. Things like opacity, scale, rotation, and applied effect properties can be adjusted here.
  • The Tools panel contains selection tools, editing tools, and viewing tools for navigating your compositions. The most used tools are the Selection tool, Pen tool, and Zoom tool.
  • The Info panel displays options for the currently selected tool. Things like brush size, layer styles, shape properties, and more can be set here.

Familiarizing yourself with these core panels and windows is the first step to becoming proficient in After Effects. Take time to arrange the panels in a way that suits your workflow. You can save panel arrangements as workspaces to quickly switch between different setups. With regular use, the interface will become second nature and allow you to focus on the creative process.

Adding Your First Layer and Applying Effects

Adding a Layer

To begin using After Effects’ robust set of tools and effects, the first step is adding your initial layer. A layer acts as a container for footage, images, audio, text, solids, shapes, and more.

To add your first layer, go to the Layer menu at the top of the screen and select New > Solid. This will add a solid color layer to your composition. You can then add footage, images, or text to layers. To import media, go to File > Import > File or double-click an empty area of the Project panel. Select your footage and click Open.

Your imported media will appear in the Project panel. Drag and drop it onto the Create a new Composition icon at the bottom of the Project panel to add it to a new comp, or drag it onto an existing comp in the Timeline panel. Your media will now appear as a layer in that comp.

Applying Effects

With your initial layer added, you can now apply effects to alter its appearance and add visual interest. After Effects includes hundreds of effects for color correction, distortion, stylization, transitions, and more.

To apply an effect, select a layer in the Timeline panel. In the Effect Controls panel, click the triangular Add button to see a menu of effect categories. Choose an effect from one of the categories. The effect will be added to the selected layer, and its controls will appear in the Effect Controls panel. Adjust the effect’s properties to achieve your desired result.

For example, add a Gaussian Blur effect and increase the Blurriness value to soften your footage. Add a Color Correction effect and adjust the Gamma and Saturation values to change the overall tone. Add a Distort > Transform effect and animate the Scale and Rotation properties to create movement.

Play around by adding different effects and tweaking their values. Don’t be afraid to experiment—you can always remove effects by highlighting them in the Effect Controls panel and pressing Delete. With some practice, you’ll be creating amazing visual effects and motion graphics in no time!

Keyframing: How to Animate Your Layers

What is Keyframing?

Keyframing is the process of setting two keyframes to create an animation path in After Effects. A keyframe marks the point in time where you specify a value for a layer property, such as position, opacity, or scale. After Effects interpolates values for the layer property between keyframes.

By setting just two keyframes, you can animate the position, scale, rotation, opacity, and other properties. Additional keyframes provide more control over the interpolation.

How to Add Keyframes

To add a keyframe, simply select the layer you want to animate in the timeline, then go to the time when you want to add a keyframe and adjust the layer property. A keyframe will be added automatically. Alternatively, you can toggle the stopwatch icon for the property to manually add a keyframe.

Adjusting the Keyframe Interpolation

The space between two keyframes is called interpolation. After Effects calculates the values for a layer property between keyframes through interpolation. You can adjust the interpolation by right-clicking a keyframe and selecting “Keyframe Interpolation”. The default is “Auto Bezier” which creates a smooth curve, but you can choose from:

  • Linear: Straight line between keyframes. Abrupt changes.
  • Bezier: Curved line. Smooth changes.
  • Hold: No change between keyframes. Layer property remains constant.

Adjusting the interpolation allows you to create different motion paths – smooth, abrupt, or constant. Play around with the different options to achieve your desired effect.

Additional Tips

  • Use the Graph Editor to visually adjust the interpolation curves.
  • Add easing to your keyframes to create organic motion by selecting keyframes and choosing an easing preset like “Ease In”.
  • Use the shortcut J, K, and L to navigate between keyframes.
  • Enable “Toggle Hold Keyframe” to freeze a layer property at the current frame.
  • Copy and paste keyframes to repeat animations.

With some practice, you’ll be creating custom animations and motion graphics in After Effects in no time using keyframing. Let your creativity run wild!


To sum up, After Effects is an incredibly powerful tool for motion graphics and visual effects. While the interface may seem overwhelming at first, by focusing on the fundamentals you can start creating impressive animations and compositions in no time. Take it step by step, learn the basics of the interface and tools, set up your first composition, add layers, and animate them, then move on to more advanced techniques like keyframing, masks, and effects.

With regular practice, your skills will grow and evolve, allowing you to make the impossible possible. Don’t be intimidated, just dive in – the creative possibilities with After Effects are endless. You’ve got this! Start your After Effects journey today.

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