[2024] How To Keyframe In After Effects

A keyframe is a time marker that tells After Effects to control parameters such as color, scale or any effect property at a designated point in time. There's one trick you can use to turn your basic keyframe animations in After Effects into smooth, aesthetic movements. Keep reading to find out more!

February 11, 2024
[2024] How To Keyframe In After Effects
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A Guide to Setting Keyframes in After Effects: A Step-by-Step Approach

Take It From An Expert With Over 11 Years Of Motion Design Experience.

Adobe After Effects is known for it's ability to create complex all kinds of animations with 2D and even 3D layers. Whether you're animating an effect, or just playing around with character movements, all animations will require to usage of keyframes to mark variables from one point of time to another.

What Is A Keyframe In After Effects?

In motion design, a keyframe is a point in time that marks the start or end of a change in a property, such as position, rotation, or scale. Keyframes are used to create animation by specifying the values of a property at specific points in time. When you add keyframes for a property, you create a set of values that the property will interpolate between from the first point to the other. This allows you to create smooth transitions and precise movements for your animation.

Keyframes are a fundamental aspect of animation in After Effects and are essential for creating many types of visual effects. You can add keyframes in After Effects using the Timeline panel, or by using keyboard shortcuts. In this guide, we'll go in-depth on how to do just that!

Why do we Need Keyframes in After Effects?

As we mentioned above, After Effects keyframes are used to set the start and ending points of an animation. Without them, animation would not be possible, even with the use of scripts. Scripting alone is as efficient as a fishing rod without bait. Keyframes are utilized in a wide range of properties and effects within After Effects.

For example, if you want to shrink a layer over time, you can set a scale (found under the transform dropdown menu) keyframe at the beginning of the animation to specify the starting size, and then set another keyframe representing a smaller scale value at the end of the animation. The layer will gradually shrink from the starting position to the ending position over the duration from the first to the second keyframe, with the motion occurring smoothly and continuously (unless manually edited using the graph editor). Additional keyframes can be added in-between or outside of the two exiting keyframes to further adjust the shrinking.

This examples explained how keyframes were used to create a size-decreasing animation. But what if you want to animate other things? Such as layer positions, colors, brightness, distortion, shape and other characteristics. In After Effects, there is no limit as to what you can and can't animate. Every single adjustable property can be animated with keyframes. Keep reading to find out the significance of keyframes and how to use them.

Adobe After Effects Keyframe Tutorial

To add a keyframe or animate a certain effect variable in After Effects, simply select the property you want to animate and go to the Timeline panel. Click the stopwatch icon next to the property to enable keyframing. Then, move the playhead to the desired time in the Timeline and change the value of the property. Here's a video + step by step explanation.

How To Add Keyframe In After Effects

I just 3 easy steps, you'll be able to understand how keyframes works by seeing them in action. Here's a quick recap of how to add keyframes in After Effects:

  1. Click on the stopwatch icon next to the property you want to animate. This will produce a diamond shaped icon on the timeline - this is the starting keyframe.
  2. Move the playhead to a different time in the timeline.
  3. Change the value of the property. This will create a second keyframe.

Press play and watch as the property changes from the first to second keyframe. For a more noticeable effect, make greater adjustments between the two keyframes.

You may notice that your animation probably looks plain and boring. This is because it is animation at a constant rate from the first keyframe to the second. Using the graph editor, you'll be able to customize this rate to make the animation look more interesting.

Understanding the Ease In and Ease Out options in keyframe animation

Open up the graph editor (at the top right corner besides the layer controls). You'll be met with a series of options which include easy easy in, easy ease out, hold, and linear.

Ease In refers to the rate of change in speed as an animation starts. It allows the animation to start slowly and gradually increase in speed as it progresses. This creates a smooth, natural-looking start to the animation.

Ease Out, on the other hand, refers to the rate of change in speed as an animation ends. It allows the animation to end slowly and gradually decrease in speed as it reaches the final keyframe. This creates a smooth, natural-looking end to the animation.

In After Effects, you can adjust the Ease In and Ease Out values for a keyframe by selecting the keyframe, right-clicking on it, and going to Keyframe Assistant > Easy Ease or by using the F9 shortcut. You can also adjust the speed graph in the Graph Editor to control the easing of the keyframe.

Using these options you can make your animation more dynamic and realistic, making it look more like the natural movements of real-world objects.

Shortcut to Add Keyframe in After Effects

To add a keyframe at the current time for the selected property in After Effects, you can use the following keyboard shortcut:

Alt + Shift + P, S, R, or T

This shortcut will add a keyframe at the current time for the selected property, which you can then adjust to specify the value you want at that time. If you want to add a keyframe at the current time for all properties that have keyframing enabled, you can use the following shortcut:

Animations Using Keyframing In After Effects (Reddit)

Here are some of the most popular animations made inside of After Effects (with keyframing and scripts obviously).