School of Motion

After Effects Hotkeys | Part 1: The Absolute Essentials

  • By Amy Sundin
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We've got more than just these hotkeys. Check out What the Pros Know and the Hidden Gems.

You betta' learn those Hotkeys.

One of the quickest ways to set yourself apart from the crowd of average MoGraphers is to work on your speed. It might seem superficial, but being able to work as fast as you think is a very impressive quality to clients and producers who are in a position to hire you. Start developing the muscle-memory now so that your hands will just “know” where to go when you’re on your next project. Make this a priority!

If you want a neat and tidy list of all of these hotkeys grab the PDF Quick Reference Sheet by becoming a VIP member at the bottom of this page.

But you don't need to memorize all 300 of them...

If you've been to the Official Adobe After Effects Hotkey page your brain probably exploded trying to sort through everything. We've got you covered. We put together a shortlist of the most essential hotkeys that you’ll use every day.

The Must Know After Effects Hotkeys.

Let's start with the most useful group of hotkeys there is...

The Layer Properties


P - Position
S - Scale
R - Rotation
T - Opacity

Tap on one of these keys to bring up it's property for the selected layers in your timeline.

No more messing around with those twirl down arrows! Remember; P, S, R, T... Make this your new After Effects Mantra, because you’ll be using these keys ALL the time.

PRST.jpg

View More Properties


Shift + P, S, R, T

Viewing only one property at a time isn’t very practical. Hold the Shift key while you tap on the key for the additional property you want to view to add it on. You can also turn off additional properties this way. Note: One property must be opened up first before this hotkey will work.

SHIFT-PSRT.jpg

Quickly Set Keyframes


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

To quickly set a keyframe for a property you’ll want to pair it up with the Option key if you're on a Mac, or theAlt + Shift keys on Windows. Example: alt + P will set a keyframe for position at the current time.

You’ll save a good deal of time not grabbing the mouse to hit the add keyframe button constantly.

OPT-PSRT_v3.jpg

Reveal All Keyframed Properties


U

The Über key reveals all...Tapping U on a selected layer will bring up any property that has keyframes on it. This is especially useful when you’ve got a lot of keyframes across multiple properties and effects that you need to view on the fly. 

U2.jpg

Quick Access to the Hand Tool


Space Bar
Holding down the Space Bar will bring up the Hand tool in any panel that you click in. This gives you the ability to drag and scroll around quickly not only in the Comp Viewer, but also in the Timeline, Project Panel, and anyplace else you see scroll bars on the bottom or sides.

SPACEBAR.jpg

Timeline Zoom


+ & -  (Plus & Hyphen)
The + (Plus) key will zoom in on your timeline and the - (Hyphen) key will zoom out. These two hotkeys will save you from a lot of headaches from trying to get your zoom level just right with the little slider between the mountains at the bottom of the timeline.

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Comp Viewer Zoom


, & . (Comma & Period)
In the comp viewer if you want to zoom in and out the , (comma) & . (period) keys have you covered. These two keys will quickly move you between the different zoom percentages After Effects has to offer.

PeriodComma_2.gif

Fit Your Comp to the Viewer


Shift + /
This key combo will fit your comp to the exact size of the comp viewer panel. You’ll find yourself reaching for this hotkey often when you need to see your entire comp quickly after being zoomed in or out.

ShiftSlash_2.jpg

Make Your Eases Easy


F9
If you’ve taken Animation Bootcamp you know that 99.9% of the time After Effect’s default linear keyframes are the Hallmark of bad animation. F9 adds and easy ease to your keyframes which will immediately get your motion looking better, and once you learn the secrets of the graph editor will be one of the starting points to fine tuning your animation to perfection.

There are a couple of other ease hotkeys you're going to want to know. To ease in use Shift + F9, and for an ease out use Cmd + Shift + F9.

F9_2.jpg

Move Between Keyframes


J & K
Tapping J and K will move your current time indicator forward and backward between keyframes in your timeline. If you run out of keyframes in either direction it will jump to the beginning or end of your work area.Using these hotkeys will keep you precise when finding keyframes, preventing the dreaded double keyframe that can happen when you're off by a frame or two.

JandK.gif

Jump From In Point to Out Point


I & O
Hitting the I key will move your current time indicator to the In point on a selected layer, and O will move it to the Out point.

I and O make it fast for you to get to the either end of a layer which can be very handy when you need to set the length of a preview range, or shorten and lengthen layers.

IandO.gif

Set Your Work Area


B & N
B sets the beginning of your work area at your current time indicator and N will set the endpoint. These keys are make it much faster to set your preview range to only the area you want to see, instead of previewing your entire animation every time.

BandN.gif

Move From Frame to Fame


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

These two keys will nudge you forward or backward one frame of time, making it easy to see something frame by frame, and giving you absolute precision when you know you need a certain number of frames between keyframes.

Adding Shift to either of these keys will move the time 10 frames forward or backward.

PageUpDown.gif

Preview Twice as Fast


Shift + 0 on the Number Pad
You probably know that tapping 0 on the number pad will preview your animation. If you want to speed that up use Shift + 0 to preview every other frame. Using this hotkey you’ll be able to cut your preview time in half, which is great when you’ve got a very heavy scene that takes a long time to preview.

Shift0.jpg

Bet you're already feeling faster.

We've given you the best hotkeys out there that every MoGrapher needs to know. Now you're ready to blaze through layer properties, set keys with speed, and navigate the timeline like a boss.

Before you go don't forget to pick up this handy PDF cheat sheet with all of the hotkeys you learned, just in case one slips your mind. 

The Absolute Essential After Effects Hotkeys

Download


But wait, there's more...

Now that you've got the Essentials down you're ready to expand your Hotkey arsenal. Click here to check out the Hotkeys the Pro's Know. See you there!