Mattina Zheng | Video Editor, Singapore
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Quick Solutions for Adobe After Effects

I do not use After Effects on a daily basis and often not remember the quick useful hacks that I managed to find while I was doing some research while working on motion graphics. So here’s a list of quick tricks that I always use.

Auto-center Anchor Point for an object: Press Y to bring up the anchor point tool and hold on to CMD/CTRL key and drag the anchor point, or double click on the anchor point tool button. The anchor point will snap to the center of the object.

You can also select Layer > Transform > Center Anchor Point in Layer Content, shortcut keys CTRL+FN+ALT+Left Arrow Key (Win) or CMD+FN+OPT+Left Arrow Key (Mac)
Relevant video tutorial over here.


Replace layers easily: When you are working with compositions (comps) and want to duplicate it to change several elements, ie. photos, graphics, objects in it without affecting the original elements from the main comp.

For this example we will name the main comp that you want to duplicate, “Gallery A”, and the elements in “Gallery A”, “Mother Photo”, “Father Photo”, “Son Photo”.

  1. Duplicate the individual assets, “Mother Photo”, “Father Photo”, “Son Photo”, rename them to “Aunty Photo”, “Uncle Photo”, “Cousin Photo”. Replace the contents for those duplicated assets.
  2. Duplicate the main comp, “Gallery A” and rename it to “Gallery B”
  3. Go to “Gallery B” and it will still have the original assets, “Mother Photo”, “Father Photo”, “Son Photo” in it.
  4. Select the newly duplicated asset, “Aunty Photo” in the project panel.
  5. In the timeline panel in “Gallery B” comp, select the layer that you want the new duplicated element to replace with, in this case, we will select “Mother Photo”
  6. Press CMD + OPTION + / (on a Mac) or CTRL + ALT + /  (on a PC), the elements will be replaced with the selected new duplicated element, in this case, “Mother Photo” will be replaced with “Aunty Photo” and you can replace the other assets in “Gallery B” with this shortcut key.

Animated Arrows using Trim Paths: Relevant video tutorial here (6 mins)


Drawing & Animating Dotted Lines: Relevant video tutorial here (9 mins)


Cropping a comp after creating a pre-comp from your main composition: Quick article here (2 mins read)


Animating number counter: Relevant video tutorial here (3 mins)  | Another video for adding commas in your numbers | Script for adding commas to your numbers


Masking a number of layers with “Set Matte”: Relevant video here ( 3 mins)

Here’s the whole list of shortcut keys from Adobe for After Effects for reference.

I will add on more to this list when I recall them. If you have an alternative way to solve these issues, do share it in the comments!

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2015. Mattina Zheng.