How To Import Illustrator Layers into After Effects (Pro Tips Inside!)

Organizing and separating layers in Adobe Illustrator is crucial for animating them in After Effects. By carefully preparing the .ai file, naming and grouping objects into layers, and following the specific steps to import them into After Effects, you can create intricate animations with full control over each element.

October 19, 2023
How To Import Illustrator Layers into After Effects (Pro Tips Inside!)
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How do I import Illustrator files into After Effects with layers?

Adobe's integration between Illustrator and After Effects is something I've personally experienced as a game-changer in the world of animation. It's not just about importing a file; it's about preparing it, understanding the layers, and knowing how to manipulate them in After Effects. Let's dive into this fascinating process.

Preparing Adobe Illustrator Files for After Effects

Organizing the .ai File

One thing that excites me about using Adobe software is the seamless integration between apps. For example, animating a vector created in Adobe Illustrator using After Effects is a breeze, but only if you prepare the files in the right way.

In my past experience, animation requires attention to detail, and when one step goes wrong, it can be a mess. Layers can be tricky to work with. That's why it's essential to organize the .ai file before using it in After Effects.

Why Import Layers Instead of the File Itself?

After Effects doesn't read groups or sub-layers from the .ai file. So, if you want to animate a specific part of a vector, it has to be on a separate layer. From my perspective, this is where the magic happens, and it reminds me of the endless possibilities in animation.

How to Prepare Adobe Illustrator Files for After Effects

Separating Layers in Adobe Illustrator

Preparing a .ai file for After Effects means separating layers in Adobe Illustrator. Having images and text in different layers isn't enough. Sometimes you even need to separate the path or each letter into its own layer. It's a process I've always wondered about, and it's fascinating to see it in action.

Steps to Import Adobe Illustrator Layers into After Effects

  1. Select the Vector: Right-click and choose Ungroup.
  2. Open the Layers Panel: This is where you'll see the sub-layers of your design.
  3. Release to Layers (Sequence): This will separate each object into its own layer.

I'm passionate about this part, as it's where you truly take control of your design. You can see how each object is in its own layer, ready for animation.

Importing Illustrator Layers into After Effects for Animation

Shape Layers and Their Power

Shape layers in After Effects are powerful tools for making compositions. But I've always wondered how designers unfamiliar with the software find them. For those more familiar with Illustrator, you're in luck! Importing Illustrator files into After Effects has become easier with each new release.

Why Learn How to Import Illustrator Layers into After Effects?

If you're looking to animate an image or vector, Illustrator will allow you to break that image up into individual parts. Once you open up After Effects, you're able to move them around, add expressions, or do whatever you want to those individual objects.

Learn How to Import Illustrator Layers into After Effects

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do this, something I've personally experienced as a vital skill in animation.

  1. Choose Your Image: Select the image you want to work with.
  2. Create a New Illustrator Document: This will be the size of your composition in After Effects.
  3. Separate Each Shape into Its Own Layer: This can be done two different ways, either manually or by using the "Release to Layers (Sequence)" option.

I miss the days when this process was more complicated. Now, it's a straightforward task that brings your designs to life.

Importing Adobe Illustrator Files into After Effects - A Step-by-Step Guide

Creating Graphics in Adobe Illustrator

To begin, you should have your illustrations built in Adobe Illustrator. Since #VanLife is all the rage these days, I'm building a little MiniVan Camper for this example. My favorite part is grouping specific vectors of the illustration into their own pieces.

Grouping Objects in Illustrator

This is a pretty simple step; take any part of the illustration you'd like to individually pick out to animate. Use Command+G to group these items. It reminds me of how you can create complex animations from simple groupings.

Creating Layers After Grouping

Before jumping in, it's best to strategize what individual items you want to control when you animate. Create a new layer by typing Command + L.

Naming Layers for Organization

After you've created your new layer, you'll want to name it so you know what specific item you want to animate later. This is something I'm excited about, as it brings order to the creative chaos.

Importing Your Illustrator File into After Effects

Now that you've created some amazing illustrations and prepared them for animation, it's time to hop into After Effects! This is where your creativity truly shines.

Tips for Importing Your Illustrator File

To bring an Illustrator file into After Effects, you just need to use Command+ I. In most cases, you'll pick the Composition with Retained layer sizes. It's a process I dreamt about when I first started, and now it's a reality.