School of Motion

30 Essential Keyboard Shortcuts in After Effects

  • By Caleb Ward
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30+ Fantastic Keyboard Shortcuts in After Effects. 

If you wanted to increase your speed in After Effects by double what would you do? Some people might spend thousands of dollars on a new computer, but there’s an easier way... keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts have the power to save you a few seconds here or there and those seconds can add up to hours if not days saved on each one of your motion graphic projects. In short, shortcuts rule.

To help make it easier for you to learn those keyboard shortcuts we’ve put together a video with 30 of our favorite shortcuts in After Effects. All of these shortcuts are guaranteed to save you time in AE. Some of them can even cut your work time in half! So if you’re ready to turbo-charge your AE skills here are 30+ of our favorite keyboard shortcuts in After Effects. We’ve also put together a handy guide that you can download in the shownotes at the bottom of this page.

The Transform Properties

A - Anchor Point
P - Position
S - Scale
R - Rotation
T - Opacity

Call up the various transform properties by simply hitting APSRT. This is a heck of a lot faster than hitting the little dropdown menu. 

PRST.jpg

View More Properties

Shift + A, P, S, R, T

If you want to view more than one transform property at the same time hold down the shift key and hit the corresponding hotkey. 

SHIFT-PSRT.jpg

Quickly Set Keyframes

Opt + A, P, S, R, T
Alt + Shift + A, P, S, R, T on Windows

As you probably know to set a keyframe all you have to do is hit the stopwatch icon next to the property you are trying to keyframe. However, if you are working with transform properties all you have to do is hold down option and hit the corresponding transform property.

OPT-PSRT_v3.jpg

Reveal All Keyframed Properties

U

Sometimes you'll need to see all of your keyframes at the same time. To do this simply select your layer and hit the U key. This also works across multiple layers if you want to see the keyframes for your entire composition.

U2.jpg

Quick Access to the Hand Tool

Space Bar

Navigating your comp panel is easy with the hand tool. But instead of going up the toolbar and selecting the hand tool, or hitting the H key for that matter, simply hold down the spacebar and drag. 

SPACEBAR.jpg

Timeline Zoom

+ or - 

Zoom into the important areas on your timeline by hitting + or -. 

PluseMInus2.gif

Comp Viewer Zoom

, or .

Zooming into your comp panel using a mouse zoom wheel is easy but it is certainly not precise. Instead, simply hit the comma or period key to zoom in and out. 

PeriodComma_2.gif

Fit Your Comp to the Viewer

Shift + /

Sick of navigating to the zoom percentage box and selecting 'Fit'? Use the shortcut and simply hit Shift +/ to fit your composition to fill the entire screen.

ShiftSlash_2.jpg

Make Your Eases Easy

F9

Linear keyframes are almost never helpful in After Effects. Instead as a motion artist you probably use a mixture of EasyEase keyframes and custom eased keyframes using the graph editor. To apply a quick ease to your keyframes in After Effects hit the F9 button. 

F9_2.jpg

Move Between Keyframes

J & K

Precisely jump from one keyframe to the next (across properties) by hitting the J & K key. 

JandK.gif

Jump From In Point to Out Point

I & O

Hop to the first frame of a layer by hitting the I key and hop to the end by hitting the O key. 

IandO.gif

Move From Frame to Fame

Page Down and Page Up
or Cmd + Right Arrow and Cmd + Left Arrow

Instead of hitting the small next frame button at the top of the workspace hit page up or page down to move from frame to frame. 

PageUpDown.gif

Preview Twice as Fast

Shift + 0 on the Number PadWhile you may be familiar with previewing by hitting the 0 key on the number pad, you can actually preview your compositions twice as fast by hitting Shift + 0 on the number pad. This trick alone can save you hours off of each one of your motion graphic projects. 

Shift0.jpg

See All Manipulated Properties

UU

If you want to see every property that has been manipulated for a specific layer double tap the U key. 

UU.jpg

Quickly Add Markers to the Timeline

* On the Number Pad

Markers are a really great way to time your animations to music. To add a marker hit the * key on the number pad. If you want to set a marker with text hold down shift + *.

Markers_2.jpg

Precompose Your Layers

Cmd + Shift + C

Precomposing is like putting layers into folders. To quickly precompose a layer or set of layers hit Command + Shift + C. Boom! Your new precomp has arrived.

PreComp.jpg

Easily Move Layers

[ & ]

You can move a layer to start at the current playhead location by hitting [. You can also end your layer at the playhead by hitting ].

Bracket.gif

Move to Work Area Beginning or End

Home
End

You can move your playhead to the beginning or the end of your composition by hitting the home or end key. 

ShiftHomeEnd.gif

Scale Layers to Fit

Cmd + Opt + F

Quickly scale any layer to fit your composition frame by hitting Command + Option + F. 

ScaleToFit.gif

Toggle Ruler

Cmd + R

Rulers are a great way to layout designs in After Effects. You can very easily turn your rulers on and off by hitting Command + R. 

Guides.gif

Different Viewer Resolutions

Full: Cmd + J
Half: Cmd + Shift + J
Quarter: Cmd + Opt + Shift + J

Sometimes the full resolution view is simply too large for you computer to process. Instead of manually adjusting your composition by hand hit the shortcuts mentioned above to very quickly adjust your composition.

Resolution.gif

Replacing Layers

Hold Option + Replace

Did you know you can replace After Effects layers in your timeline? To do so simply select a layer in your timeline, hold down the Option key, select a layer in your project panel and replace by dropping the new layer on the old one. 

AltReplace.gif

Split Your Layers

Cmd + Shift + D

Quickly split any layer or set of layers by hitting Command + Shift + D.

SplitLayer.gif

Toggle Layers

Cmd + Down or Up Arrow

You don't have to use your mouse to select the layer above or below your current layer. Instead hit command + up or down to select the next layer. 

SelectLayers_2.gif

Show the Graph Editor

Shift + F3

The graph editor is essential for smoothing out your animations in After Effects. To quickly call up the graph editor select a layer and hit Shift + F3. 

F3.jpg

Search For It

Cmd + F

To search your timeline hit command + F. This will activate the search box where you can look for a specific layer by name. 

Find_2.jpg

Maximize Any Panel

~ (Tilde)

You can maximize any window to fill the entire After Effects screen by hovering your mouse over any window and hitting the spicy ~ key. 

Tilde1.gif

Hide or Show Layer Controls

Cmd + Shift + H

Layer controls are great for quickly adjusting a layer but they can definitely be distracting. To hide them hit Command + Shift + H.

Hide.gif

Kern Your Type

Option + Right or Left Arrow Keys

Kerned type is essential for giving your motion design projects a custom look. To quickly kern any type simply hold down Option and hit the right or left arrow key. 

Kerning_2.gif

Save the Current Frame

Cmd + Opt + S

Need to send a quick board to a client? Hit Command + Option + S to export a single frame rather than the entire composition. 

CurrentFrame.jpg

Center Shape Layer Anchor Points

Opt + Cmd + Home

As you know, when you are working with shape layers it is usually best to center your anchor points so you don't mess up the look when you scale or rotate your shape. To quickly center the anchor point hit option + command + home. Now you can scale with ease. 

CenterAnchorPoint.gif

Show And Hide the Grid

Cmd + ' (Apostrophe)

The grid is a fantastic way to make sure your objects are proportionally spaced out in After Effects. To turn the grid on and off hit command + ' (apostrophe). 

Grid.png

Got 'em all memorized? Don't worry. Simply try to add a new shortcut into your workflow each time you open up After Effects. If you want a hand tool to help with memorizing these shortcuts we've put together a few PDF guides that can be found by clicking this link right here!