How to Customize Shapes in After Effects

Updated on: September 23, 2022

There are several methods to create 2D or 3D animated objects you have designed in other vector programs and bring them to life with the different tools that After Effects has.

However, it is also possible to create shapes in After Effects, color them and, of course, add effects to them, so your videos impact your audience. For this, it is necessary to know some basic features, but also to understand how to handle the properties of the shapes placed in the Timeline. This is how you can customize shapes in After Effects.

Creating a new composition to enable the Shapes tool

  1. Hit Q on your keyboard, click anywhere in your composition, and drag the cursor to create a shape as large or as small as you like.
  2. Tap Q on your keyboard several times when looking for a different shape.
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  1. To make a perfect figure with equal sides, hold down the Shift key while dragging the cursor.
  2. Go to the Timeline and notice that a new layer called Shape Layer 1 has been created.
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Although the software has five default shapes, some can be modified. This is the case of the Star or the Polygon shape (which by default is a hexagon). 

If you click and hold on to your composition to make your shape, and at the same time press the up and down arrow keys several times, you can remove or add sides to your shape. This way you can make anything from a triangle to a figure with dozens of vertices.

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How to customize shapes using layers in After Effects

As with other types of layers, After Effects has some properties to modify shapes from the Timeline:

  1. Click on the tab next to the name of your shape layer.
  2. Open the tab related to a particular shape.
  3. Select Fill to choose the main color of your shape.
  4. Hit Stroke to choose the color and thickness of the border of your shape.
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These options are also found at the top of the software interface when you click on the composition the shape you want to adjust.

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There are two options called Transform, that is because the first one that refers to your figure only affects the particular shape you are editing. If instead, you decide to activate any property of the second Transform option below that one, your motion settings will affect all shapes on that same layer. 

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It is also possible to change the shape layout of the Timeline in a time slot. To do this:

  1. Open the (Shape) Path 1 option related to your particular figure. 
  2. Place the Time Indicator at the second you want to start your animation. 
  3. Click on the option called Roundness and set the first value. 
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  1. Move the Timeline a few seconds and type a different value than before.
  2. Hit the space bar to play the transformation.
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Other customization properties that you will find in the options of your shape layer in the Timeline are:

  1. Opacity: to give transparency to a shape or its edges.
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  1. Dashes: to change the stroke of your shape from a uniform line to a dotted one.
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  1. Wave: to change your shapes from having a regular edge to a wavy one.

Tip: Some shapes have more customization properties than others. 

In the case of the Star shape, for example, if you open the Polystar Path 1 tab, you will find that you have options such as Points, which lets you to choose the number of arms of your star; Inner Radius, to stylize your shape; Outer Radius, to lengthen or shorten the arms of your figure; and Inner or Outer Roundness, to round (or not) the edges of your shape, so you can go from a star to a flower.

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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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