After Effects CS6 Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

Getting comfortable with layers


After Effects CS6 Essential Training

with Ian Robinson

Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Video: Getting comfortable with layers

I know I said this in the previous video, but I do really believe that layers are the actors that inhabit the stage which is your composition. So to explore layers more in-depth, let's open the Type composition. Double-click the Type Comp and make sure that you have Type down here in your timeline. With the Type tab setup, you can see I have four layers. And as I click on each one of these layers, you can see things changing in the comp window.
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 8s
    1. What is After Effects?
      1m 8s
  2. 2m 53s
    1. Welcome
      1m 40s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 13s
  3. 1h 8m
    1. The six foundations of AE
      5m 3s
    2. Introducing the interface and the workspace
      7m 51s
    3. Understanding compositions
      8m 48s
    4. Getting comfortable with layers
      7m 33s
    5. Getting started with animation and keyframes
      8m 30s
    6. Understanding effects
      3m 26s
    7. Moving in 3D space
      7m 41s
    8. Rendering your first animation
      8m 20s
    9. Specifying preferences and cache settings
      5m 44s
    10. Staying organized
      5m 15s
  4. 38m 6s
    1. Creating compositions
      7m 19s
    2. Importing footage and compositions
      7m 54s
    3. Preparing compositions for animation
      8m 7s
    4. Introducing renderers
      3m 15s
    5. Understanding precomposing
      7m 16s
    6. Relinking missing footage
      4m 15s
  5. 59m 58s
    1. Defining layers
      6m 23s
    2. Creating type
      5m 58s
    3. Creating layer solids and shapes with masks
      7m 55s
    4. Building shape layers
      6m 17s
    5. Understanding switches and blend modes
      8m 26s
    6. Crafting custom shapes and masks
      6m 18s
    7. Creating variable-width feathered masks
      5m 1s
    8. Rotoscoping with the Roto Brush
      8m 20s
    9. Refining with the Roto Brush
      5m 20s
  6. 1h 8m
    1. Understanding keyframes
      6m 1s
    2. Adding and adjusting keyframes
      9m 54s
    3. Interpolating keyframes
      8m 5s
    4. Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
      7m 17s
    5. Understanding positional keyframes
      7m 0s
    6. Controlling animation with parenting and the pick whip
      9m 57s
    7. Understanding animation paths
      6m 27s
    8. Timing to audio
      4m 41s
    9. Trimming and sliding edits
      5m 31s
    10. Swapping images
      4m 1s
  7. 29m 7s
    1. Layering multiple effects
      9m 13s
    2. Generating graphic effects with adjustment layers
      7m 28s
    3. Building backgrounds with effects
      6m 50s
    4. Creating animated strokes
      5m 36s
  8. 40m 16s
    1. Introducing cameras
      10m 3s
    2. Working with 3D layers
      6m 37s
    3. Positioning layers
      6m 13s
    4. Adding lights and working with Material Options
      9m 22s
    5. Using 3D precompositions
      2m 5s
    6. Adjusting depth of field
      5m 56s
  9. 28m 31s
    1. Caching and prerendering
      6m 33s
    2. Understanding the alpha channels
      5m 18s
    3. Using the Render Queue
      4m 34s
    4. Rendering with Adobe Media Encoder
      7m 15s
    5. Archiving finished projects
      4m 51s
  10. 44m 28s
    1. Creating type animators
      12m 17s
    2. Animating type in 3D space
      6m 35s
    3. Adding and animating type on a path
      8m 45s
    4. Composing 3D type
      8m 41s
    5. Animating shape layers
      8m 10s
  11. 32m 45s
    1. Creating stylized video
      6m 47s
    2. Retiming video footage
      9m 31s
    3. Retouching with the Rubber Stamp tool
      10m 19s
    4. Smoothing shaky camera footage
      6m 8s
  12. 14m 20s
    1. Understanding keying
      3m 19s
    2. Creating a garbage mask
      4m 27s
    3. Getting started with Keylight
      6m 34s
  13. 15m 57s
    1. Importing Photoshop documents
      6m 11s
    2. Importing Illustrator files
      4m 25s
    3. Working With Premiere Pro projects
      5m 21s
  14. 1h 15m
    1. Adjusting ray-tracing quality
      8m 19s
    2. Tracking footage
      8m 16s
    3. Extruding shapes
      8m 40s
    4. Bending layers
      8m 39s
    5. Adjusting ray-traced lighting and materials
      9m 22s
    6. Adding environment maps
      4m 58s
    7. Beginning compositing
      8m 52s
    8. Creating render passes
      10m 17s
    9. Building a final composite
      8m 14s
  15. 1m 8s
    1. What's next
      1m 8s

please wait ...
Watch the Online Video Course After Effects CS6 Essential Training
8h 41m Beginner May 07, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this course, author Ian Robinson introduces Adobe After Effects CS6 and the world of animation, effects, and compositing. Chapter 1 introduces the six foundations of After Effects, which include concepts like layers, keyframes, rendering, and moving in 3D space. The rest of the course expands on these ideas, and shows how to build compositions with layers, perform rotoscoping, animate your composition with keyframes, add effects and transitions, and render and export the finished piece. Two real-world example projects demonstrate keying green screen footage and creating an advanced 3D composition with the expanded 3D toolset, an important addition to CS6.

Topics include:
  • Setting up the workspace, important preferences, and the cache
  • Importing footage and comps
  • Relinking missing footage
  • Creating type, shape layers, and masks
  • Rotoscoping with the Roto Brush
  • Adjusting keyframes in the Graph Editor
  • Timing animations to audio
  • Building backgrounds with effects
  • Rendering with the Render Queue and Adobe Media Encoder
  • Animating 3D type
  • Smoothing shaky footage and retouching footage
  • Keying green screen footage
  • Working with 3D: extruding shapes, adding ray-traced lighting, and more
After Effects
Ian Robinson

Getting comfortable with layers

I know I said this in the previous video, but I do really believe that layers are the actors that inhabit the stage which is your composition. So to explore layers more in-depth, let's open the Type composition. Double-click the Type Comp and make sure that you have Type down here in your timeline. With the Type tab setup, you can see I have four layers. And as I click on each one of these layers, you can see things changing in the comp window.

So let's select this Text layer. I want to point out something. When you are selecting layers in the timeline, it does have an effect as to what you see in the Comp panel but also when you open the disclosure triangle for those layers, you should notice different things for each different kind of layer. So for example, with this Text layer, see I have a text option. And if I open that Text option, I have Path Options. And I have More Options.

Now I'm not going to jump into all the different text things but if you notice when you're working in the timeline I can't see any of my other layers. If you end up with the situation like this, use the scroll wheel on your mouse to scroll up and down and roll through the different layers in your comp. I'm going to close this triangle for Type because I want to select this Vignette here. Now you should notice this bright yellow line that's popped up on my comp window. What this is is a mask.

I know the mask is applied to the layer because I can see it in the comp window. But if for some reason I couldn't, I could also open up the triangle on the Vignette layer, and you notice the first option here is Masks. And if I open the Mask options, you see I have one mask that's applied. Let's close the Vignette layer and look at Layer 3. In here, notice the icon looks ridiculously familiar? Well that's because that's the same icon we used to create our first composition. Now you can have compositions as layers.

These are known as pre-compositions. Now it's interesting if you double- click a pre-composition layer, it will open that other composition. Now this is an interesting point because as you're learning the interface of After Effects, you may get thrown off by this, because right here, now I'm in a completely different tab and the canvas looks different. That's because this a completely separate composition which contains its own set of layers. Now what's kind of cool about this, any changes I make in this composition will be updated in the other one.

So to show you what I'm talking about, let's turn off the visibility of the yellow layer by going over here to the left-hand side. See, layers have these eyeball icons that determine their visibility. So if you're a Photoshop user that should be relatively familiar. Now to jump back to the other comp, I'm just going to look for it right here in the timeline, and click on the Type tab. Now notice that yellow shape is gone out of this composition. So you can switch rather quickly and easily in the timeline between different sets of layers, basically different complete compositions, just by clicking on the tabs.

I know we've spent a lot of time in here looking at some of the different things that layers contain, but if we move over a little bit further, you should see this Effects option here. What this Effects little icon stands for, it's letting me know that there is an effect that's applied to this layer. So if we open the triangle for 3, notice the very first option here is Effects. So if we open that triangle, you can see I have a Color Balance setting and a Drop Shadow that's been applied.

If I want to turn this effect off, I can just turn it off here on the left-hand side of the timeline. See my Drop Shadow has disappeared and now it's reappeared. This isn't deleting the effect completely, it's just telling After Effects that I don't really want to have this appear in my composition. So let's turn that effect back on and close Layer 3. There is one other thing I want to show you other than effects that you can apply to layers. When we select the Type layer here, notice it has kind of this outer glow.

Now I'm going to zoom in to my canvas using my scroll wheel and press the Spacebar to grab my Hand tool so I can move up here so you can see this a little more clearly. On the Text layer, if we open up its triangle, yes we have our Text options, let's go ahead and close that. We also have Transform options which should look pretty familiar. Let's close that for now. We'll come back to that in a quick second. Let's look at Layer Styles. See Layer Styles are exactly what you might think they are if you're coming to After Effects from Photoshop.

These are the layer styles that you would have in Photoshop. So if I open this up, you can see I have an Outer Glow applied and I can turn the visibility off. I also have a very narrow stroke which is kind of hard to see. But let's turn on the Outer Glow. I can make adjustments to this by opening its triangle, and then hovering over any of the specific parameter values. And if you click and drag, that will allow me to drag it up to the right or down to the left and make an adjustment as to that specific setting.

This works with any of the settings within the timeline. Now let's close the Text layer, and move a little bit further over to the right here. These switches in this parent section, if you don't see these in your timeline, you can pop-up any of these options at any point just by right-clicking right next to the layer name and going to Columns. See Columns are a way of organizing what you're seeing in your timeline on a horizontal level.

So right now, I have Parent and Modes selected. If I don't want to see one of these options, I can just click on it and it will disappear out of my timeline. Now let's move all the way to the right. I want you to pay attention to these solid color lines. See, these lines determine exactly when these objects are going to appear in the composition. Now this little thing right here, the big yellow guitar pick kind of looking thing, is actually the current-time indicator.

So if you click and drag on that, it's moving the playhead, if you will, to different points in time and that is allowing me to see the animation. I can trim when a layer begins just by hovering my mouse over one end or the other. I just happen to be trimming the end point by clicking on the left side. Now once you hover over, click and then drag and notice if I drag it past my current-time indicator, I've trimmed the length of that layer. You can also change where that layer lives in the timeline by clicking on it and dragging to the left or back to the right.

Now look in the upper right corner of the interface. See that Info window? As I clicked and dragged, it gave me really important information like when that layer is going to appear and when it's going to disappear out of my composition. So I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of layers, and have a better understanding as to how the actors function on their composition stage.

There are currently no FAQs about After Effects CS6 Essential Training.

Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Join now Already a member? Log in

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed After Effects CS6 Essential Training.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any page and choose Site preferences from the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.