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24 Essential Keyboard Shortcuts for After Effects

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The more time that you spend in an app, the more beneficial it is to learn a few keyboard shortcuts. They're extremely useful to automate those repetitive tasks.

In a complex app like Adobe After Effects, keyboard shortcuts are doubly important. With so many tools and tasks, you have to know the keyboard commands that help you open that buried tool or panel.

After Effects interface
After Effects keyboard shortcuts help you navigate the complex interface, jumping to the important tools you need without clicking around.

In this quick lesson, you'll see the most popular After Effects keyboard shortcuts along with tips to commit them to memory. The end result will be working faster in the app so that you can quickly finish your project.

How to Edit Keyboard Shortcuts in After Effects

Before we review the most important default shortcuts, it's important to acknowledge that every editor has different needs. For example, motion graphic animators will work with projects differently than someone who mostly does color grading.

Because of that, Adobe has included a keyboard shortcut editor that can help you change the keystrokes mapped to your most popular task. To open this menu, go to the Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts menu to open it up.

Edit keyboard shortcuts
Adobe included a keyboard shortcut editor in After Effects so that you can set your shortcuts exactly how you like.

In the lower left corner of this window, you'll see pretty much every imaginable task in the menu. You'll also see the default keyboard shortcut for each of them. If you want to add a new keyboard shortcut, drag and drop it from the Command window onto the keyboard letters of your choices.

In this round-up, the keyboard shortcuts that I'll share are based on the defaults. But don't forget that you can make your favorite commands mapped to practically any keyboard combination.

Top After Effects Keyboard Shortcuts

Without further adieu, let's check out some of the most popular keyboard shortcuts that you can use to speed up your After Effects workflow.

Keyboard shortcuts below are for Windows. Be sure to substitute Command any time that you see Control if you're on macOS.

Managing Projects

Keyboard Shortcut Description
Control + Alt + N Create a New Project
Control + Alt + Shift + P Open last project
Control + Alt + Shift + N Crew New Project Panel Folder
Control + O Open Project (browse)
Control + Alt + Shift + K Open Project settings
Control + 0 Open / Close the Project panel

Launching and Switching Tools

Keyboard Shortcut Description
V Selection Tool
Z Zoom-in tool
H Hand tool
Y Pan behind tool
Control + B Cycle through Brush / Clone Stamp / Eraser tools
W Rotation tool

Timeline zoom
Advanced After Effects projects feature timelines with many layers, so it helps to keep navigation shortcuts in mind to maneuver within the project.

Timing and Positioning

Keyboard Shortcut Description
Alt + Shift + J Jump to a specific timestamp
J / K Jump to previous / next item on timeline
Page Up / Page Down Back / Forward 1 frame
Shift + Page Up / Page Down Back / Forward 10 frames
I / O Jump to Layer in / Out endpoint
D Jump to the current time

Opening and Closing Panels

Keyboard Shortcut Description
Control + 1 Open / Close Tools Panel
Control + 2 Open / Close Info Panel
Control + 3
Open / Close Preview Panel
Control + 4
Open / Close Audio Panel
Control + 5
Open / Close Effects and Presets Panel
Control + 6
Open / Close Character (type) Panel

How to Memorize Keyboard Shortcuts Easily

We all know that our favorite apps have keyboard shortcuts that make it easy to do tasks. The hard part is remembering them! 

If you're like me, you wasted countless hours studying and remembering facts in college. And you probably had techniques you used, like flashcards or audio recordings to make sure you committed the info to memory. Why not use this same approach for

My favorite way to do this is with Anki, a flashcard app that makes it easy to review and memorize information. It's free to use, and it's basically a digital flashcard system.

Study card
Anki is nothing more than a simple digital flashcard system - and that's exactly why it works so well.

On Anki's web browser version, I'll typically setup decks that include two-sided cards. On one side, I'll include the keystrokes that are used, and the flip side includes the action it takes. 

When you cue up your favorite After Effects shortcuts in an Anki deck, you can use your time commuting or in a spare moment to review them. You might be surprised how the shortcuts become memorable!

The Best Resources for Adobe After Effects

In this tutorial, you learned how to save time in After Effects by memorizing the most important keyboard shortcuts. But this is just one of many ways that you can save time and finish with better results.

The best way to master After Effects is to borrow some help in the form of templates. When you use a template, you'll start with much of the heavy lifting already finished. You just have to update the template with your personalization to create a finished video easily.

The best place to source After Effects templates is from Envato Elements. For a single flat rate, you'll gain access to almost 10,000 templates for every type of project imaginable. All that you have to do is download them and add your images, text, and branding. 

Adobe After Effects Templates

In my mind, there are really two ways to use After Effects: draw everything from scratch, or start with a template. The first approach will have you spending hours navigating the app and revising your project, which is fine if you're learning. The latter gives you the blueprint and you need only bring your details to the table and get the job done.

To see a tutorial that uses an After Effects template, hit the link below:

Learn More After Effects Tips and Tricks

Start practicing your keyboard shortcuts today! Combining a memorization tool like Anki with the shortcuts you saw in this tutorial are bound to cut hours of your editing work out.

After Effects is powerful, but it features a tough learning curve. Make sure to check out the tutorials below to learn more about how to use it so that you can spend less time in the app and more time building projects.


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