11 Best After Effects Shortcuts

Adobe After Effects, like Premiere Pro, is excellent for editing content. After Effects focuses more on visual and animated effects, whereas Premiere Pro focuses more on video editing.

You add motion and animated effects to your content to make it more engaging.

Mastering time-saving shortcuts are crucial if you want to move swiftly and confidently through the various stages of your project’s life cycle.

After Effects Shortcuts

Space Bar To Quick Access The Hand Tool

In After Effects (AE), the hand tool is probably the handiest (pun intended) to use. This tool helps you drag objects around inside the AE interface.

There are a few ways to access the hand tool. You can select it from the top left corner of the menu bar or by pressing the keyboard shortcut H. The best way to temporarily activate the hand tool is by holding down the Spacebar

The hand tool is temporarily selected, and you can use it for what you need, and when you release it, it will revert back to the previous tool you used. The hand tool will enable you to move objects in any section of the AE interface, be it the layer panel, project bin, or timeline. 

Depending on specific circumstances, you can also activate it by pressing the middle mouse wheel button. For example, it will not work when you have the Unified Camera tool active.

Therefore learning to use the Spacebar is much easier and more convenient.  

Quick Select The Selecting Tool

The selecting tool must be the most used tool in AE. This is because you need to select everything.

Toggling between different tools and selectors can add to a lot of unnecessary mouse clicks. For instance, if you are busy with the pen tool (press G) and want to revert to the selection tool.

If you find yourself without the selection tool pressing, V will activate it again. 

Fit To The Composition Screen 

Another one of the actions you will use multiple times throughout a project is to resize or scale the footage or an image to fit the comp screen.

Beginners will often use the selection handles on the image and drag it to fit the screen or right-click and select fit to comp from the dropdown menu. You could zoom into the viewer for some detailed work, and now you need to go back to the zoomed-out view.

To resize or fit the screen in the different panels, use Shift + / (forward-slash) to go to a suitable screen view. 

Use the comma (,) and the period (.) for Fast zooming in (.) or out (,) on the comp viewer

By hitting the + or buttons, you can zoom into specific areas on the timeline.

Revealing All Of The Layer’s Keyframe Properties

A quick way to see any layer’s keyframe properties is to hit the U button while the image or video layer is selected.

Doing so will expand the layer panel to show all the keyframe properties associated with that layer. Hitting the U key again will hide it. You can select one or multiple layers at a time.

A great tip is that if you hit U twice after each other, it will expand the layer properties further, showing the modifications made to that layer as well.

Using the U key is a great way to see what you did when returning to a project after a time away.  

Using Quick Ease To A Keyframe

Staying with keyframes for a moment, you would agree that using linear keyframes is not the most helpful way to apply keyframes to AE.

However, creating custom keyframes in the graph editor can quickly take up much of your editing time, which is why it is excellent to use EasyEase keyframes. The shortcut key for this is F9.

Select the animation keyframes you want to edit and press the F9 button. You will notice the diamond shape keyframes change to an hourglass shape.

If you only wish to use the EasyEase keyframes for the intro animation, use Shift + F9 (the keyframe shape changes to forward arrows). Using it on the outro part of the animation, use Shift + Ctrl + F9 (the keyframe shape changes to backward arrows).

Faster Moving Between Frames And Keyframes

In AE, you will find yourself finetuning sections most of the time, and moving from frame to frame helps you see exactly where you are and where to place keyframes.

The buttons to help you navigate between frames are Ctrl + Right/Left Arrow keys (Windows) and Command + Right/Left Arrow (macOS). You can also try the Page-up and Page-down keys.

Moving between keyframes across layer properties, use the J & K keys to move forwards and backward. 

Precomposing Layers Like A Pro

If there is one thing that will make you look like a noob in AE is not using the precomposing function. Precomposing is a great way to organize your project.

Think of it as creating folders for your layers. To precompose layers, select the layers you want to add as a group and then hit the Ctrl + Shift + C Buttons  Command + Shift + C on macOS.

Splitting Up Layers 

Sometimes you need to split a layer into more layers, and you can do this easily by selecting the layer in question and hitting Ctrl + Shift + D.

For our macOS users, use Command + Shift + D. 

Fast Toggle Between Layers

Still focused on layers for a moment, it is good to know how to navigate between layers quickly and efficiently using Ctrl + Down/Up Arrow.

Again for macOS users, Command + Down/Up Arrow. It seems like little time was saved, but each gained second throughout a project adds up.  

Starting with AE, you would have found yourself going back and forth to the transform property dropdown to select the various options.

Instead, learn to use the shortcuts associated with these properties to save yourself some dropdown frustration.

  • Selecting the Scale Property = Press S
  • Changing the Opacity Property = Press T 
  • Choosing the Rotation Property = Press R
  • For the Anchor Property = Press A
  • Accessing the Position Property = Press P

In addition to accessing these transformation properties quickly, you can also hit Shift + S – T – R – A – P  to view more properties simultaneously.

Adding Alt + Shift + S – T – R – A – P  to the mix will allow you to set keyframes, removing the effort of selecting the stopwatch icon next to the property. For macOS, you use Option + S – T – R – A – P  

The Basic After Effects Commands

Knowing the shortcuts above, one can be very fancy and feel like a pro after a while. Still, I want to remind you of some essential shortcuts you will use across platforms and software.

The simple Copy, Paste, Cut, Undo, and Select All functions. Still, watching people right-click and copy in meetings with clients baffles me.

  • Copy = Ctrl + C
  • Paste = Ctrl + V
  • Cut = Ctrl + X
  • Undo = Ctrl + Z
  • Select All = Ctrl + A

For macOS users, change the Ctrl key with the Cmd key. 

For more shortcuts, check out this PDF.

David Woutersen

Article by

David Woutersen

David is the founder of Outofthe925.com and has been in the social media industry since 2017. Since then, his mission has been to help others take control of their online presence. For some, this has been earning an income online; for others, it's teaching how to use social networks more effectively. And each year, he continues to help millions with strategy, troubleshooting, and inspiration.

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