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2.4 After Effects Tools

After Effects has some basic tools for controlling and modifying media items in your project. This lesson will cover the core AE tools that you will be using 95% of the time.

Related Links

1 lesson, 00:49


2.Getting Started
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What Is After Effects?

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After Effects Tools

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3.Compositions and Layers
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After Effects Composition


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FAQ Introduction

How to Export Video From After Effects

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How to Mask in After Effects

How to Animate Text in After Effects

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How to Duplicate Layer in After Effects

FAQ Conclusion

2.4 After Effects Tools

In this lesson, you're gonna be learning about some of the tools you're going to be using all of the time in After Effects. So right up here, you have the Tools bar, or the toolbar, and you have a collection of various tools. The Selection tool, the Hand tool, the Zoom tool, the Rotation tool, the Unified Camera tool, the Pan Behind Anchor Point tool, the Rectangle tool, the Pen tool, the Horizontal Tech tool. Whoa, there are a lot of tools, I could not do that in one breath and, sadly, I'm not going to cover all of these tools in this lesson. Some of them are just, well, they're outside the scope of a beginner's course in After Effects. There's a lot of things that After Effects can do, but, well, quite honestly, your brain just can't handle it all at once. It's just way too overwhelming, so lets talk about the tools that you're gonna be using all the time starting with the Selection tool. This is kind of the default tool, right? It's like the Pointer tool and you can use it to, well, select stuff. You can also modify your layers. I can click this text layer here and move it around my composition. If I put key frames in, I can animate between them visually by just clicking and dragging, and you're gonna see that coming up as well. I can also adjust the scale of my layer here with the Selection tool. And it's kinda the default tool, it's the one that I switch back to after I do anything else using any other tool. The Selection tool has a shortcut and it's V. And when you hear me say the word shortcut, you should trigger something in your brain that says, remember this. It's important because [LAUGH] shortcuts are really, really helpful in After Effects. Well, they're helpful in any application, but in an application like After Effects, it can be a serious game changer. So start using shortcuts as I mention them and build that muscle memory. The next tool is the Hand tool, and I'm not gonna tell you what the shortcut is, although you just saw it. So please just erase that out of your temporary memory because there's other ways to use the Hand tool that do not involve using the keyboard shortcut, like the middle mouse button. If you're using a mouse with three buttons, so a left click, a right click and a middle mouse wheel, which also has a clickity button. All you need to do is click your middle mouse button or wheel and it becomes the Hand tool. Super, super handy. And it becomes the Hand tool in, well, basically every panel that you need the Hand tool in. So down here in the Composition panel you can see and use the Hand tool. It's not doing anything right now because we're zoomed all the way out, but if I was zoomed in here you can use the Hand tool to move along horizontally. If I had a whole bunch of layers here, I could use the Hand tool to navigate vertically, could also use the scroll wheel to do that as well. Over here in the Project panel I can use the Hand tool. The next tool is the Zoom tool. I'm also not gonna tell you what the keyboard shortcut is for this because there's an easier way to do this, which is the scroll wheel on your mouse. You can also do this down here in the Timeline panel. By default, the scroll wheel will scroll up and down. If I make a whole bunch of copies of my text layer here, you can see that in action. You can see I just created a whole bunch of copies by holding Ctrl+D, and that will duplicate. And if I want to navigate vertically here, I can do that with the scroll wheel. However, if I want to zoom in and out horizontally, all I have to do is hold Alt and that will zoom into whatever I have my mouse cursor. Works the same exact way up here in the Composition panel. If I want to zoom into this corner of this text layer, I'm just gonna hold Alt on the keyboard, and I'm going to scroll up, and it goes right to that point, oop, got a little lost there. By default, if you just use your middle mouse button, it just sort of zooms it in when it's centered up and that's not super useful. So a lot of times I will be using the mouse modifier Alt to zoom into wherever my mouse is. It kind of centers the zoom to wherever the mouse is located. All right, let me get rid of these 30 some odd text layers here because that's way too many. All right, the next tool is the Rotation tool, which is W on the keyboard. And, yeah, I'm gonna tell you what that is because this is pretty useful. Now, you can do rotation, which you actually see it selected here on this layer. We're gonna be talking about this more in another lesson, but there's all kinds of transform properties on a particular layer. One of those is rotation, and you can pull that up on the keyboard just by pressing R. And so I could just a rotation like this. But if I wanna do it visually, really quick here over in the Composition panel, you just select my layer here and just rotate it. And the further I am away from this right here, which is the anchor point, the more precisely I can position this, all right? If you hold Shift, it will snap to 90 degree and 45 degree positions, which is very, very handy. If you wanted to just flip this, select it, start moving it, hold Shift, boom, now we've rotated it 180 degrees, pretty easy. Just going to right-click on this layer here, go up to Transform and reset. Now, you just saw the anchor point move, I don't know if you noticed that, but it did. And I'm actually gonna skip over this tool for now, the Unified Camera tool which, if you click on this tool, you will actually see, this is a handful of camera tools. Orbit tool, Track XY, Track Z. We'll briefly dive into that when we check out some 3D compositions coming up in another lesson. But for now, I'm gonna skip over this and we're gonna talk about the Anchor Point or the Pan Behind tool. Most of the time I call this the Anchor Point tool, but it's also called the Pan Behind tool. Now, the anchor point previously, as you saw when I was rotating that before, was located right in the center of the layer. And that kinda gives you an indication of what the anchor point does. If I switch back to the Selection tool and I scale this layer, you can see that previously it was scaling from the center. Now, if I wanna change where the anchor point is, I can select the Anchor Point tool or the Pan Behind tool. And I'll click and drag on this anchor point, and I can move in back to the center. And now, switch back to the Selection tool here, if I click on one of these transform handles here, you can see I'm now scaling this from the center. But what if I didn't want to? What if I wanted to scale it from this bottom corner? Or probably what you're going to be doing more often, if I switch to the Rotation tool, right now it's rotating from the center, which is cool and that's super great looking. But what if I wanted this to rotate from this corner here? Well, I'm gonna grab the Anchor Point tool, and I'm gonna move the anchor point to that corner. Now when I select the Rotation tool, whoa, check that out, now it's rotating right from that corner. And I know that doesn't, [LAUGH] that doesn't seem super exciting right now, but I'll show you. Let's jump into another composition here, so follow along. You double-click this AE generated assets composition, this will open up. Let's look at this star for example here. If I click on this star and I rotate it, all right, we're rotating more or less around the center, it's not exactly in the center. So if I wanted to get it more towards the center, I can make that adjustment. But let's say I wanted to make this look like it was kind of dangling like a holiday ornament. I'll move the anchor point up to one of the points. Then I'll grab the Selection tool and now, now you can see how this is useful, right? Now I can give this some nice movement here and I can animate this rotation. And it's rotating from the right spot, around this anchor point, or it's rotating relative to this anchor point here. And so the Anchor Point tool is very, very handy. The Pan Behind tool,which is also what it's called, does a different thing and I'm gonna show you that in more detail in an upcoming lesson. All right, that's it for this lesson, but make sure to check out the next lesson where you're gonna learn about some of the shape tools, the Pen tool, and the Text tool in After Effects.

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