How to Create a Composition in After Effects

Updated on: September 17, 2022

One thing you should be clear about when working with After Effects is that any composition is made up of layers that will appear in the Timeline: an area that will be familiar to you if you've worked before with other Adobe software such as Premiere. But how do you exactly create a Composition in After Effects?

As in Photoshop or Illustrator, the After Effects Timeline is also based on different types of Layers. However, to understand what these elements are and how to bring them into a new composition, you'll need to check first you have these panels visible in your Workspace:

  1. Project Panel (Ctrl + 0/ Cmd + 0).
  2. Timeline.
  3. Composition Panel.
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If you cannot see these boxes, you can activate them by going to the Main menu and selecting each panel from the Window option.

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How to import files in After Effects

Now, to take your first steps in After Effects, you need to import the footage you want to work with into the Project panel. These files will become layers later on. To import them correctly:

  1. Double-click on the empty box of your Project Panel that you will find just below the magnifying glass icon.
  2. Once the browser window appears, select the files on your computer that you will use in your new composition. 
  3. Hit ‘Import’ to see your footage in the Project Panel.
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How to start a Composition in After Effects 

The easiest way to start a composition in After Effects is to click and drag your imported files onto your Timeline. If you follow this method, you will see that after Effects will name your project by default at the top of this area. However, there are also three more traditional steps for creating New Compositions:

  1. Go to the center panel of your After Effects screen and hit the 'New Composition' option.
  2. Name your project as you prefer in the new Settings window and save it.
  3. Drag your footage to your Timeline.
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Now that you have your footage ready to edit, you may have noticed a new color bar on the Timeline. This is what we know as a Layer, which means that every file that gets to this area becomes one.

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Select the new layer if you want to start recognizing certain features, such as the blue Time Indicator, with which you can scroll to different parts of your video.

Remember your Timeline can be as long as you want. It all depends on the length of the footage you are going to work on.

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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