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How to Duplicate a Layer in After Effects

By Ryan Plummer
After Effects

Easy After Effects Layer Duplication: A Quick Tip Tutorial

There are lots of reasons for duplicating layers in After Effects. Perhaps you want to experiment with some new manipulations, without losing your original. Maybe you want to create a matte to define the transparent area of the original layer. Or, you might want to produce a 'shadow' by filling in the duplicate layer black and adding some blur.
Whatever your intention, this universal utility is essential for working in After Effects.
In our latest Quick Tip Tutorial, we show you how to perform the critical function of duplicating layers in After Effects — one layer or multiple layers at a time, and manually or using a keyboard shortcut.

How to Duplicate a Layer in After Effects: Quick Tip Tutorial Video

How to Duplicate a Layer in After Effects: Quick Tip Tutorial Project Files

If you want to use the same planets and starry background to practice duplicating layers, download the project files from this tutorial video. You'll find the three starter layers from the tutorial, along with the background.
Note: The glow from the stars was created with Optical Glow using the VFX Suite by Red Giant; the stars were created natively using CC Star Burst, from the Effects and Presets menu, in After Effects.

Project Files: How to Duplicate a Layer in After Effects

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How to Duplicate a Layer in After Effects: Explained

How to Manually Duplicate a Layer in After Effects

To duplicate a layer from the After Effects menu:
1. Select the layer you want to duplicate in your composition
2. Click the Edit menu at the top to reveal its dropdown menu
Where is the edit menu in After Effects.png
3. Click Duplicate
Where is duplicate in the After Effects Menu.png
In the timeline, you'll notice that your new layer is directly above the layer you chose to duplicate.
Sequenced After Effects Layer.png
Conveniently, After Effects automatically sequences layers by number. So, if your original layer was named "Planet 1," your duplicate layer would be labeled "Planet 2." This is especially helpful when duplicating multiple layers, filling up your composition panel.

How to Duplicate a Layer Using a Keyboard Shortcut in After Effects

Using the Edit menu every time you want to duplicate a layer can get very old very quick, especially if you need to create multiple duplicates.
Luckily, like most tasks in After Effects, there is a keyboard shortcut for duplicating layers in After Effects:
  • CMD + D (Mac)
  • CTRL + D (Windows)
CMD D or Menu Option in after effects to duplicate.gif
To quickly duplicate multiple layers using the keyboard shortcut, hold down CMD and continually tap D for reach new duplicate layer you want to create.
To many duplicates of a layer After Effects.gif

How to Duplicate Multiple Layers in After Effects

To duplicate multiple layers in After Effects, you can use either the Edit menu or keyboard shortcut, the only difference being that you need to first select the multiple layers in your composition you want to duplicate.
This can be achieved using a standard lasso select, or by manually selecting multiple layers.
How to duplicate multiple layers in After Effects.gif

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