How to Use After Effects

So, you want to learn After Effects? Well, don’t worry, it’s super easy, and you’ll be a master in no time. Okay, that might be a little ambitious. After Effects is a complex and robust program that does take some time to learn. But the good news is, we’ve gathered up some introduction tutorials that will set you on the right path. You may not be a master tomorrow, but if you follow these guides, and keep practicing, you’ll be well on your way.

After Effects is a compositing and animation tool built by Adobe. It’s great for creating motion graphics like lower thirds, transitions and a host of other graphics. It’s great for creating 2D animations. And it’s great for compositing visual effects like explosions or spaceships flying through a scene.

Here’s an example of a 2D animated spot using After Effects (with a lot of skill and expertise).

So, you want to do that right? There are lots of things to learn, but we’re going to help you get there. First off, aside from the free tutorials that we’ve gathered below, there are also lots of paid options. For example, offers up several courses on After Effects, over 200 in fact, for about $25 a month.

There are also several good online intensive programs for learning After Effects. You can check some of them out in our post A Look At Online After Effects Training Programs.

Now, on to the tutorials.


The title of this beginner tutorial may be a little misleading. You aren’t going to learn the whole of After Effects in 20 minutes, but this beginner tutorial does a good job of showing you the very basic function of After Effects.

It explains how and what assets can be imported. It shows you how to set up a comp, how layers work, and a few basics of the animation timeline. Not a bad place to start for the ultimate beginner.

Adobe After Effects Basics and Tips Part 1

In this video, YouTuber real motion goes over some of the basic ways that animation is used in After Effects. But first he explains how users can customize their workspace for ultimate workflow. He goes on to explain shape layers and then some of the tricks behind animation.

Adobe After Effects Basics and Tips Part 2

In part 2 of the After Effects Basics tutorial by Real Motion, the teacher goes over a few more techniques that get used everyday by professional AE users.

First up is keyboard shortcuts, another way to make your workflow faster. He goes on to show how motion blur works. This is one of the keys to making realistic looking animation.

He also dives into pre-composing, which is a core function of how After Effects works. It’s a huge part of the structure of a project that helps link things together and helps you build more complex animations.

Adobe After Effects Basics and Tips Part 3

The final video in the series explains a few more advanced topics, but all things that you need to know. First up is the concept of animation presets. While, it’s important to learn the rules of animation and how to do it first, presets can make your life easier by doing some of the heavy lifting for you.

Then, we learn how to set up renders and output video files, a must if you ever want anyone to see your work after all.

101 After Effects - Basic Keyframing

Here is a great tutorial that dives deeper into the concept of keyframing. Keyframing is the method of creating animations in After Effects. Essentially, a user sets a keyframe for a layer based on a parameter like position, scale, or rotation. Then they set another keyframe with a different value somewhere else on the timeline. After Effects does the work of animating between.

Go through this tutorial to learn even more about how keyframes work, the different types, and how to use them.

Surfaced Studio After Effects Basics

One series not to be missed for beginners is the After Effects Basics by Surfaced Studios. While there are too many videos to post here, the entire series is worth looking into.

The host breaks down complex topics like masking, parenting, and adjustment layers into individual videos. These are all things will want to know about by the way.

He also covers some of the topics from above like compositions, pre-composing, and keyboard shortcuts. Watch them all.

After Effects Tutorial - Basic Typography & Motion Graphics

As you start to get your bearings with regards to how layers and compositions work in After Effects, you can dig into this tutorial by vfxbro on how to use typography in AE.

Typography is a big part of motion graphics design, and here we learn not only how to add typography to a project, but also some techniques for making it look good and for animating it in a professional way.

How To Make a Cartoon | For Beginners

This last tutorial may be a bit confusing if you don’t run through some of the other tutorials first. But once you have a handle on the basics of layers and compositions, this one can be a lot of fun.

In this tutorial, we actually get to make an animated character from scratch. Ross Plaskow shows viewers how to create a simple 2D character broken into several layers. Then he explains how to “rig” the character so that when you animate parts, they all work together.

Not only is this a fun tutorial, it’s a great way to take the skills you’ve learned about compositions, layers, and keyframes, and to put them to work on something that is fun and unique.

So, there you have it. You can spend hours and hours reviewing materials on After Effects. There is plenty of great stuff to take in. But try starting with the tutorials above that should give you a great foundation. Then just practice at your craft. The very best way to learn is by trial and error. With a little time and patience, you will become that After Effects master.

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