Adobe After Effects gives everyone the opportunity to add stunning visuals and all sorts of features to videos in post production. It makes it easy for almost anyone to edit video and create professional-standard content at the touch of a few buttons.

However, working efficiently and coming up with the best workflow for After Effects isn’t always easy – especially if you don’t have much experience with it. Thankfully, there’s help available. In this article, we’re going to look at a few keep tips to help you use After Effects efficiently and help you optimize your workflow.

Let’s have a look at how to improve your After Effects workflow in 2021:

Keep organized

Organization is important in any line of work, and some might argue even more so when using After Effects. Coming up with a plan and working through it methodically can help dramatically, rather than trying to use a scatter-gun approach. Create a timeline and try and stick to it as closely as possible, so you know what you’ve got to do, and when. A timeline can also help you find information on what you’re working on easily, and makes it easier to hand over a project to someone else. They’ll already know what’s been worked on and what the next steps are, which can save a lot of time in the end. Collaborating on projects is a great idea, but a lot of time is wasted when work is handed to someone else if it takes the recipient hours just to work out where the project is, what’s been done, and what needs doing next. That’s why organization is always hugely important.

Here are a few more organization tips that are specific for After Effects:

Keep your layers labelled

If you’re using multiple layers in After Effects, it’s really important that you keep them all labelled. Not just to help you find things quickly and easily, but also help anyone else who works on the project. It’s really easy to get lost in loads of layers, especially as you could have hundreds of them. But even if you’ve just got 5 or 10, labelling them makes things much easier, and much more efficient.

Scrolling through each layer to find the right one is time consuming, and you can skip all that by labelling them – it’ll save you much more time in the long run. And if you’re doing this professionally, time is money.

You could also use an additional plugin like Motion V2 which helps you label things quickly and efficiently.

Use multiple folders

Don’t just throw everything into the same folder in a haphazard manner. It’ll make things harder for you as well as anyone else working on the project. It’s as important as labelling and makes it much easier to find stuff quickly and easily. Create folders for different parts of work, like assets or renders. Again, this will save both you and your colleagues’ a lot of time in the long run.

Colour coding

Another way to organize your layers, as opposed to just labelling them, is to use colour codes. This can make finding the right ones even quicker. While it might be too difficult to have a different colour for every layer if you have lots of layers, it works well if you’re only using a few.

For situations where you do have a lot of layers to sort, you can use different colours for categories and types of layers rather than each individual one. To change the colour of layers in After Effects, select the layer or layers and then right click the colour box to change the colour as desired.

Button usage

You can use buttons like lock and shy to make After Effects even more efficient. The lock button helps make sure you don’t accidentally grab the wrong layer and help keep your work flowing well. You can lock multiple layers or individual ones at once.

Other useful buttons include the shy button which helps hide layers you aren’t currently working on without closing them completely.


Using the precompose button can be a really useful way to help make your timeline more efficient. It will help by collecting some of your layers into a composition and can free up space on your hard drive, making things faster (more on that in a minute).

Auto save

Always use auto save. If you’ve ever spent hours on a project and then lost hours of work because you forgot to save, you’ll know how useful this can be. You should automatically save as often as possible to limit the damage here, but remember to make the occasional manual save with a different filename so that you can go further back if necessary, as an autosave will keep re-writing every time.

Make sure After Effects runs quickly

To help make work on After Effects easier and more efficient, you’ll want to keep it running fast and make sure your computer can handle things. Having a reasonably fast computer is important here, but there are some other tips you can use to help keep things in good working order. Try closing unwanted panels when you aren’t using them, as well as changing the resolution of the preview if your computer is struggling.

You can also try using solo layers or disable some effects until you’re ready to render. You can also use pre rendered elements to help speed things up.

Use After Effects shortcuts

Using the right keyboard shortcuts can also make your work so much simpler, easier and more efficient. Learn the basic shortcuts and start using them regularly to get much more done when using After Effects.

Hopefully, these tips are enough to get you started with After Effects so that you can start working more efficiently. As with anything, experience with After Effects can help and you should get better over time, but follow these best practices so you can become better with it sooner rather than later.

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