Adobe After Effects: Stunning Visuals Tips
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Use Layer Styles for Visual Effects
  2. Animate with Keyframes
  3. Create Custom Shapes with the Pen Tool
  4. Apply Effects and Presets for Quick Looks
  5. Use the Roto Brush for Complex Selections
  6. Incorporate 3D Objects for Depth
  7. Animate Text for Impact
  8. Use the Wiggle Expression for Random Movement
  9. Render Your Work for Final Output
  10. Tips and Tricks for Advanced Users

The magic of motion graphics and visual effects is within your reach, thanks to Adobe After Effects. This powerful tool provides endless possibilities for animators, designers, and artists alike. Let's explore some top tips to enhance your Adobe After Effects skills and create stunning visuals for your next project.

Use Layer Styles for Visual Effects

Layer Styles are a friend to anyone working with Adobe After Effects motion graphics and visual effects. They can add that extra sparkle to your work and make a good project great. Here are a few ways to use them:

  • Drop Shadow: Want to add depth to your graphics? Easy, use a drop shadow! It's a simple way to make your elements pop out from the background.
  • Bevel and Emboss: This style gives a 3D effect to your shapes. It's like turning a flat circle into a shiny button—right before your eyes!
  • Gradient Overlay: It's not just for backgrounds. Applying a gradient overlay to your text or shapes can give them a unique, eye-catching look.
  • Outer Glow: This style is perfect for creating things like neon signs or ethereal ghostly images. It adds a halo of color around the outside of your shape, creating an illuminated effect.
  • Stroke: This style outlines your shapes. Whether you want a subtle border or a bold outline, the stroke style has got you covered.

Remember, you can combine these styles in creative ways. Play around, experiment, and see what stunning visuals you can create with Adobe After Effects!

Animate with Keyframes

Keyframes are the lifeblood of Adobe After Effects motion graphics and visual effects. They are the checkpoints that guide your animations along a timeline. If you're just starting out, it might seem a bit complicated, but don't worry—I guarantee it's simpler than you think!

Imagine you're creating a simple animation where a circle moves across the screen. Here's how you can do it with keyframes:

  1. Set the Starting Point: You decide where you want your circle to start. Maybe it's on the left-hand side of the screen. You create a keyframe here to mark this as the starting point.
  2. Set the Ending Point: Next, you decide where you want your circle to end up. Let's say, on the right-hand side of your screen. You create another keyframe to mark this as the endpoint.
  3. Let After Effects Do the Rest: Adobe After Effects will now fill in the gaps for you. It will create a smooth animation where the circle moves from the left to the right-hand side of the screen.

That's the power of keyframes! And the best part? This is just the beginning. You can create more complex animations by adding more keyframes and adjusting their properties. So go ahead, give it a try. You'll be surprised at what you can achieve with Adobe After Effects motion graphics and visual effects!

Create Custom Shapes with the Pen Tool

It's time to introduce the Pen Tool—one of the most versatile tools in Adobe After Effects for creating custom shapes. Forget the generic shapes! With the Pen Tool in your arsenal, you're the master of your canvas, able to create any shape your heart desires.

Let's assume you want to create a star shape. Here's how you go about it:

  1. Activate the Pen Tool: Look for an icon that looks like a fountain pen tip in the Tools panel. Click on it, and your cursor will change to a pen—ready to create!
  2. Start Drawing: Click on your composition to set the first point. This will be the top point of your star. Next, click again to set the second point—this will be one of the star's arms.
  3. Keep Going: Continue to click to set more points, forming the rest of the star. Once you've set all the points, click on the first one to close the shape.

And voila! You've drawn a star using the Pen Tool. Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you play around with the Pen Tool, the more comfortable you'll get. So, don't hold back! Dive right in and start creating your own Adobe After Effects motion graphics and visual effects with custom shapes.

Apply Effects and Presets for Quick Looks

Adobe After Effects isn't just about creating shapes and objects—it's also about making them look their best. That's where effects and presets come in. These ready-made settings can give your creations a quick and professional look, all with just a few clicks.

Let's say you've created a shape, and now you want to give it some texture and depth. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Select Your Object: Click on the object you want to apply an effect to. This will highlight it, signaling that it's ready for some beautifying.
  2. Open the Effects Panel: Look for a tab labeled 'Effects & Presets' on the right side of your screen. Click on it to open a world of possibilities.
  3. Choose an Effect: Scroll through the options and find an effect that catches your eye. Let's say you choose 'Glow'. Click on it, then drag and drop it onto your selected object.

Just like that, your shape is glowing! You can adjust the intensity and color of the glow in the Effects Control panel if you want to tweak it further. By applying effects and presets, you can elevate your Adobe After Effects motion graphics and visual effects to new heights, making them more dynamic and engaging.

Remember, there's an effect for almost everything in Adobe After Effects. So, keep exploring, keep experimenting, and most importantly—have fun with it!

Use the Roto Brush for Complex Selections

When you're crafting your Adobe After Effects motion graphics and visual effects, you might encounter situations where you need to select and isolate complex shapes. That's where the Roto Brush comes into play.

Have you ever had to select an object that isn't a perfect square or circle? If you've tried doing it manually, you know it's like trying to catch a fish with your bare hands—not impossible, but pretty tricky!

Well, with the Roto Brush, it's as if you've just put on some super-powered gloves. It allows you to make intricate selections with ease. Let's break down how to use it:

  1. Choose the Roto Brush Tool: It's the little icon that looks like a paintbrush with a dotted outline. Click on it to equip it.
  2. Select Your Area: Use the brush to paint over the area you want to select. The Roto Brush will smartly snap to the edges of your object, making the selection process a breeze.
  3. Refine Your Selection: If the Roto Brush gets a bit too excited and selects more than you want, don't worry! Just hold down the Alt key (Option key on a Mac) and paint over the areas you want to deselect.

And there you have it! You've just used the Roto Brush to create a complex selection, no sweat. The Roto Brush is a powerful tool that can save you loads of time and effort, especially when you're working on detailed Adobe After Effects motion graphics and visual effects.

So next time you're faced with a tricky selection, remember the Roto Brush. It's your secret weapon for tackling complex selections head on.

Incorporate 3D Objects for Depth

Did you know you can take your Adobe After Effects motion graphics and visual effects to the next level by adding some 3D objects? Yeah, you read that right! Adding 3D objects can give your project that extra depth and make it jump right off the screen.

Think about it: If you're creating a scene with a spaceship hovering over a city, wouldn't it be more impressive if the spaceship had a 3D look to it? Of course, it would!

Here's how you can add 3D objects to your project:

  1. Create a New Composition: Click on "New Composition" in the project panel. This will open a new window where you can set your composition's settings.
  2. Import Your 3D Object: Go to "File", then "Import", and select "3D Objects". You can then navigate to your 3D model file and click "Open" to import it into After Effects.
  3. Adjust Your 3D Object: You'll find your imported 3D object in the project panel. Drag it onto the timeline to add it to your composition.

Now that your 3D object is a part of your composition, you can adjust its position, rotation, and scale to fit your scene perfectly. Remember, the goal is to enhance your Adobe After Effects motion graphics and visual effects, not to overwhelm them. So, make sure your 3D object fits naturally into your scene.

Adding 3D objects to your projects can make a world of difference. It's like adding a pinch of salt to your favorite dish—it just brings out the flavor!

Animate Text for Impact

Animation isn't just for images or 3D objects—text can come alive too. With Adobe After Effects, you can animate your text to create stunning motion graphics and visual effects that really grab the viewer's attention.

Have you ever seen a movie trailer where the text dramatically zooms in or out, or maybe even explodes on the screen? That's the power of animated text.

  1. Start with a Text Layer: First things first, you need to create a new text layer. Click on the 'T' icon on the top panel, then click anywhere on the screen and start typing. Now you have a text layer to animate!
  2. Select the Animation Preset: Adobe After Effects comes with a bunch of animation presets that can make your text do some amazing things. Go to the 'Effects & Presets' panel on the right, scroll down to 'Text', and you will see a list of all the text animation presets.
  3. Apply the Preset: Once you've chosen the perfect preset, all you have to do is drag and drop it onto your text layer in the timeline. And voila! Your text is animated.

But don't stop there. You can adjust the animation's properties to make it fit your project perfectly. You can change the duration, the direction, the speed, and so much more. The sky's the limit with Adobe After Effects motion graphics and visual effects.

Remember, the goal is to make your text impactful. So, don't be afraid to play around with different animation presets and properties. After all, the best way to learn is by doing, right?

Use the Wiggle Expression for Random Movement

When it comes to creating motion graphics and visual effects in Adobe After Effects, sometimes you want a little bit of randomness. That’s where the Wiggle expression comes in handy.

Imagine you're creating a scene of a busy city. The cars, the people, the lights, they all move in random, unpredictable ways. Trying to animate all this manually would be a nightmare. But, with the Wiggle expression, you can create this randomness in a snap.

  1. Open the Expression Controls: First, select the layer you want to apply the Wiggle expression to. Then, press 'P' on your keyboard to show the position property. Alt-click (or Option-click for Mac users) on the stopwatch icon next to 'Position' to open the expression controls.
  2. Enter the Wiggle Expression: In the expression controls, type "wiggle(3,10)". This tells Adobe After Effects to move the layer randomly 3 times per second, with a maximum distance of 10 pixels. You can adjust these numbers to fit your needs.
  3. Enjoy the Randomness: Once you're done, hit enter and play your timeline. You'll see your layer moving around in a random, natural-looking way. It's that easy!

The Wiggle expression is just one of the many tools Adobe After Effects offers to create stunning motion graphics and visual effects. It's versatile, simple to use, and can add a whole new level of realism to your project. So, why not give it a try?

Render Your Work for Final Output

Once you've spent time creating fantastic motion graphics and visual effects with Adobe After Effects, the next step is to render your work for final output. Sure, it sounds technical, but don’t worry—you’ve got this!

  1. Set the Work Area: First, you need to define what part of your composition you want to render. Do this by adjusting the 'Work Area' bars in your timeline. Only what's inside these bars will be rendered.
  2. Choose the Render Queue: Next, go to 'Composition' in the menu, then 'Add to Render Queue.' A new window will open at the bottom of your screen. This is where you'll set the options for your render.
  3. Define Output Settings: In the 'Output Module', choose the format for your final video. Common choices are .mp4 for web and .mov for high quality. You can also adjust the size, frame rate, and other settings here.
  4. Choose the Output Destination: Now, click on the text next to 'Output To' and choose where you want to save your rendered video. Make sure you choose a location with enough space—rendered videos can be quite large!
  5. Render Away: Finally, hit the 'Render' button and let Adobe After Effects do its magic. Depending on the complexity of your project and the power of your computer, this could take a few minutes to a few hours. So, grab a coffee, sit back, and wait for your masterpiece to come to life.

And that's it! Rendering your work in Adobe After Effects might seem daunting at first, but once you understand the process, it's straightforward. Now get out there and start creating amazing motion graphics and visual effects!

Tips and Tricks for Advanced Users

Moving on to the realm of advanced users—you've mastered the basics, now it's time to kick it up a notch. Here are some tips and tricks to truly make your Adobe After Effects motion graphics and visual effects stand out.

  1. Use Adjustment Layers: Instead of applying effects to individual layers, try using adjustment layers. Any effect you apply to an adjustment layer will affect all layers beneath it. This can save you loads of time.
  2. Master the Graph Editor: The Graph Editor isn't just for show—it's a powerful tool for refining your animations. Learn how to manipulate speed and value graphs to make your animations smoother and more natural.
  3. Precompose Layers: If your project is becoming unwieldy, you can precompose layers. This puts them into their own composition, like a mini-project within your project. It's a great way to keep things organized.
  4. Use Expressions: Expressions are like mini-programs that control layer properties. They might seem intimidating at first, but they can automate complex animations and save you a ton of time. The 'wiggle' expression is a good one to start with.
  5. Always Keep Learning: The world of Adobe After Effects is vast and constantly evolving. Always be on the lookout for new techniques, effects, and tools to add to your toolbox. The more you learn, the more you can do.

Remember, mastering Adobe After Effects takes time and practice. Don't be discouraged if you don't get it right away. Keep experimenting, keep learning, and most importantly, keep having fun. After all, creating stunning motion graphics and visual effects should be a joy, not a chore.

If you're looking to enhance your Adobe After Effects skills and create stunning visuals, we highly recommend checking out George Dyson's workshop, 'How To Animate A Logo In 2D Using After Effects.' This workshop will provide you with valuable tips and techniques to help you create impressive visuals and animations using Adobe After Effects. Don't miss out on this opportunity to learn from an expert and take your skills to the next level!