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The After Effects Apprentice videos on lynda.com were created by Trish and Chris Meyer and are designed to be used on their own and as a companion to their book After Effects Apprentice. We are honored to host these tutorials in the lynda.com Online Training Library®.
- Starting a project from scratch
- Building a composition
- Arranging and transforming layers interactively and numerically
- Animating parameters including motion paths
- Applying and re-using effects
- Creating variations and rendering the final movie
- Importing layered Photoshop files
- Understanding alpha channels
- Avoiding common mistakes
Skill Level Beginner
After Effects has a number of features to help you arrange layers precisely. These include the proportional grid, the regular grid, guides, as well as the Align panel. Let's look at the proportional grid first. This divides the frame into a number of divisions, width and height. In this case, I've used four across and four down. This is a legacy grid from an earlier version of After Effects. One of the drawbacks is that you cannot snap to it; however, you can use it as a simple grid to just help you align things by eye.
I'll turn off the proportional grid and turn on the regular grid. Instead of dividing the frame into a number of divisions width and height, the regular grid is determined by how many pixels are in the grid. In this case, there's 80 pixels, width and height, and then the grid is divided into four subdivisions. So depending on how many pixels are in your comp, you may not have a whole number of grids in the width and height. Under Preferences > Grids & Guides, you can set the color for the grid, which also by the way sets the color for the proportional grid, and then you can tweak the settings.
For instance in the grid, if I set the gridline to every 100 pixels with four subdivisions--maybe we'll change that to two-- you'll see what this looks like. Notice I have my proportional grid simplified to just four divisions, width and height; the default is eight. I'll click OK, and now my grid is 100 pixels wide and tall, divided into quarters. But you'll notice that I don't have an even number of pixels when I get to the edges, but perhaps for this animation, it's more important that I can count in 100-pixel increments.
And by the way, you can turn on both grids at the same time. If I toggle on Proportional Grid, it will overlay on top of the regular grid. So here it's pretty obvious that the grids are not in sync. Sometimes I'll toggle on the proportional grid simply to see if my math is correct for the main grid. Now what's nice about the regular grid is that your layers will snap to the lines and the anchor point will also snap to where lines intersect. Now if your layers are not snapping, check the View menu to make sure Snap to Grid is enabled.
You can also toggle on and off the grid from this menu. So I'll turn off the grid, and this time we'll look at the guides. In order to view the guides, you do need to show the rulers. You can enable it from the View menu, or also from the Grids & Guides pop-up. Once the rulers are visible, you can pull a vertical guide out from the left-hand side. And as I drag, the Info panel will update with its current position. I can pull horizontal guides from the top.
Layers will snap to these guides. If they are not snapping, again, check the View menu and make sure Snap to Guides is enabled. You can also lock guides, so you don't accidentally move them, as well as clear guides. So I hope that was helpful. In the next movie, we'll look at the Align panel, which can help you arrange and distribute layers.