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A Guide to After Effects Menus: Effect

By Matt Nelson
After Effects

Expand your knowledge of the After Effects Menus with our deep dive into the Effect Tab!

How often do you use the top menu tabs in After Effects? Chances are, you probably have a handful of tools you use, but what about those random features you haven’t tried yet? We're taking a look at the hidden gems in the top menus, and we're just about halfway through!
I’ll never forget the first time I opened After Effects. I saw the tab labeled “Effect” and proceeded to spend about 3 hours exploring those tools. 
There are so many weird and interesting things inside the Effect tab. For this lesson, we’ll hone in on some of the top features. We’ll learn how to:
  • Access the Effect Controls
  • Apply a previous effect
  • Access a slew of other effects
I hope you had a big breakfast, because we're getting right to work.

Effect > Effect Controls 

This one is deceptively simple, but really important. If you open a new project or reset your workspace preferences, something odd might happen: your effect controls will disappear. 
Where did my sweet, sweet effects go? :(
Have no fear. Select any layer on your timeline and head on up to Effect > Effect Controls
Alternatively, you can hit F3 on your keyboard to trigger the same shortcut. Having instant access to the settings on your control panel is critical for your workflow. This approach is almost always better than twirling down the layers in your timeline.

Applying the Last Effect

As you’re working through a project, its quite common that you’ll want to reuse an effect in multiple parts of your project. Rather than dig back through previous comps to try and find the right effect, save yourself some time and try this instead. 
Select the layer that you want to apply the effect to in your timeline. Go to Effect > and look one item below Effect Controls. This should store the last effect that you used elsewhere in the project. 
To access this a bit faster, try the keyboard shortcut:
Option + Shift + CMD + E (Mac OS)
Option + Shift + Control + E (Windows)
Now, you can quickly add previous effects directly to layers without searching through the rest of your project. 

Other Effects

If you scroll further down the list, you’ll notice scores of other effects. Here are a few of my favorites. 


As motion designers, we don’t always have time to edit and export audio from Adobe Audition. If you need to edit custom parameters of your audio file, and don’t want to open other software, try this. 
Go to Effect > Audio and select a new setting. In here, you have a much wider range of tools and settings than just the volume control. This is a great tool to have in your back pocket, just in case you need it. 

Color Correction > Lumetri Color

This tool is by far one of my favorites. Lumetri Color gives you an entire control panel to fine tune and master the color in your project. Everything from exposure, to vibrance, saturation, levels and more. One of the best things about this tool are the built in color filters. Go to the control panel and select Creative > Look. 
Although these filters are aimed at editors and people working with footage, they often look great on animation. If you have a wide variety of contrast and colors in your scene, the better these filters will look. There’s nothing more fun than finding a whole new look for your scene that you hadn’t thought of before. 

Transition > CC Scale Wipe

If you want to try something a little trippy and experimental, the CC Scale Wipe is a great tool to experiment with. Select the layer you want to adjust, and go to Effect > Transition  > CC Scale Wipe
With this effect, you can change the direction, stretch amount, and axis center for some really cool looks. 

We hope this article had a positive effect!

We’ve looked at a wide range of tools, but there is still so much more to explore in the Effect menu. Remember that if you ever lose your Effect Control panel, you can always access it through the Effect menu, or by hitting the F3 shortcut. And if you want to save time as you work through a project, start using the shortcut for applying previous effects. Enjoy! 

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