What is a Keyframe in After Effects

Updated on: August 29, 2022

As with other Adobe software dedicated to video editing, a keyframe in After Effects is used to determine the start and end of an action that allows you to create any kind of effect related to motion.

How to make an illustration come to life? Well, to go from a frozen image to a cool animation, you must keep in mind several characteristics that, when intervened, will allow you to generate a sensation of movement on your objects.

For example, the most basic ones in After Effects are ‘Position’, ‘Scale’, and ‘Rotation’, which you will find just below each layer you add to your timeline.

Manipulating these actions in the right way will help you create more sophisticated motion graphics. That's where keyframes come in.

Where to find and how to activate keyframes in After Effects

Generally speaking, keyframes are a kind of indicator. That's why you'll find them in the timeline area. First, select a layer, click the Transform tab, and make sure these new actions are displayed:

  1. Anchor Point, for moving any object around a fixed point, as if it were a sort of satellite.
  2. Position, to move the elements of a layer from point A to point B.
  3. Scale, for controlling the size of an object.
  4. Rotation, to reorient it.
  5. Opacity, to modify the amount of visibility of a particular layer from 0 % to 100 %.
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Activating these options also known as 'linear keyframes' is very simple: clicking on the stopwatch icon, and modifying the values as you like. 

Make sure all the properties are highlighted in blue, so you will know that you turned them on correctly. If this is the case, now you can manually indicate to the software the exact moment the action starts and ends. See those tiny dots that now appear on your timeline? Those are your keyframes. 

The keyframes we just previously mentioned are the most common when working with After Effects since they are the ones that control the path of an object. However, there are other four types of them that will help you perform tasks such as controlling the rhythm of each movement or even smoothing them will allow you to create better animations in your projects. These are: 

  1. Linear In, Hold Out.
  2. Auto Beizer.
  3. Continuos Bezier Bezier.
  4. Linear In, Bezier Out.
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Keep in mind these shortcuts that will allow you to identify your main keyframes faster: A (Anchor Point), P (Position), S (Scale), R (Rotation), T (Opacity); and remember that the more you play with their values in each layer, the better motion graphics you will have.

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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