3 Basic Tools to Get Started in After Effects

Updated on: August 29, 2022

As we often say in this course, After Effects is the Photoshop of animation. That's why there are some features that you surely already know if you have edited images using Adobe before.

For example, if you are familiar with the Selection tool, you'll notice this feature is for clicking too. In case you’re not, look a little higher up in the Project panel and hit the button that looks like a mouse arrow, or simply hit V on your keyboard.

This is the first one of 3 of the most basic tools to get started in After Effects.

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Make sure you have activated the Selection tool correctly by checking if it is highlighted. Did it turn blue? Good. Now you can either add effects and transformations to your layers or move objects around them while they are unlocked. 

Zooming in and out in After Effects

There are several ways to zoom in and out of compositions in After Effects so you can view and adjust the features of your project more precisely.

One of such methods is to modify the percentage value in the Magnification ratio popup you can locate at bottom of the preview window.


Increase the value to zoom in on your canvas, and decrease it if you want to zoom out and see your project from a wider perspective.

In case you want a full view size of your content adjusted to the space provided by the center panel, click the ‘Fit’ option.

Another quick technique for zooming in or out a frame preview is scrolling your mouse wheel after pressing Z.

What is the Hand tool for?

While it looks like it would do the same thing as the selection tool, the hand feature does not allow you to drag the blocks in the After Effects interface. Instead, this option is perfect for using after zooming, as it allows the user to move around the canvas without affecting the layers of their project.

The hand tool is also useful for selecting different panels without moving them through the workspace


These are the most basic tools that will get you started with After Effects. In an upcoming AAE tutorial, we will show you the main features that will help you create your first motion graphics and how they work.

Andrea Mercado is a tech-focused journalist and copywriter with over 5 years of experience covering innovation, edtech, AI, and internet trends across media outlets. She is passionate about how technology can democratize access to education and is an avid learner when it comes to emerging tech like AI. Her articles and webinars help readers stay informed on the latest tech developments.
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