How to Add Layers in After Effects

Updated on: September 18, 2022

In all Adobe editing programs, Layers are basically the same thing: the files you import into your project. In After Effects it's no different. If you wanted to import five files into a new composition, you would have five different layers on your Timeline to work with. But how do you create them? Well, this is how to add layers in After Effects. 

First, start by importing a couple of videos to your Timeline this way:

  1. Double-click on the empty box of your Project Panel that you will find just below the Search icon.
  2. Once the browser window appears, select the files you will use.
  3. Hit ‘Import’ to see your footage in the Project Panel.
  4. Drag the two files to the Timeline and check if one video is on top of the other.
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The way you organize files and videos on your Timeline matters. For this reason, you should keep in mind the layer that first appears in your list of imported files will overlap the next one, and so on with all the layers that follow it. Arrange your files in such a way that all imported footage is correctly visible in the Composition Panel.

Remember you can also scale Layers with the Selection Tool (V) so that you can better adapt them to your canvas.

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How to change Layers visibility in After Effects

It's normal to have a lot of layers when animating, so don't panic if you've imported too many files into your Timeline. Since it can be confusing to manage all the elements if they all had the same visibility on your Composition Panel, it is possible to turn layers on and off in After Effects. 

  1. Select any layer and locate the eye icon to the left of your imported files. 
  2. Check the box if you want to turn the layer on, or uncheck it if you want to hide it from your Composition view.
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Tip: Note that once you import the first clip to your Timeline, After Effects will name your composition with the name of that same file. To check this you can go to the Composition Panel and look at its main tag. 

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Rename your Layers to make it easier to identify and manage them in the Timeline by right-clicking on the imported files. Then select the Rename option and type the new name. Once you do this you will see how the Layers in your Timeline are automatically updated.

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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