Advanced Video Editing

After Effects


You can apply shapes to your Composition using the Shape tools located in the tool palette. There are several shapes to choose from, including Rectangles, Ellipses and even Stars.

Step 1: Create a New Composition 

Composition > New

In the Composition Settings, use 1920 x 1080 resolution, 59.97 frame rate and set the duration to 10 seconds. Don't forget to name it and then click OK.

Step 2: Create a Background using a Solid Layer

Layer > New > Solid

In the Solid Settings, go ahead and leave the colour black and set Make Comp Size. Don't forget, you can also name the layer, such as Background. Click OK. 

A Solid Layer appears in the Timeline. Now, and this is important, click in an empty space of the Timeline to make sure that the Solid layer is not selected. Then click on the Shape tool and select a Rectangle from the tool palette at the top of the workspace. 

Once you select the Rectangle tool, you’ll notice new options appear in the top bar above the Composition window. One option lets you set a Fill colour and another the Stroke. Feel free to set the colour and stroke (which places a boundary on your shape) 


Clicking on the "Fill" word itself will open up the Fill Options, which allow you to select from no fill, solid, Linear Gradient and Radial Gradient, in addition to blending and opacity options. Make sure to use the Solid option and click OK.

Clicking on the colour box next to the word Fill will open the Shape Fill Settings. Go ahead and select any colour you want and click OK.

Clicking on the word Stroke itself will open up the Stroke options. Go ahead and select Solid Colour and click OK. 

Then set the Stroke width to 7.

Click in the Composition panel and draw the shape. The shape will retain the colour and stroke that you selected.

In the Timeline, you’ll notice that the Shape Layer has a star next to it, which indicates 
that a Shape layer has been created.  

Under the Contents options you’ll see Rectangle 1 and Transform. 

The Transform properties will modify the whole layer.

For example, open up the Transform properties and try Rotation.

You’ll see that the shape will rotate from the anchor point of the entire layer.

Do you see the anchor point on the right side of the Rectangle?

Now open the options for Rectangle 1 and you’ll see, along with Rectangle Path, Stroke and Fill there is also a Transform that is specific to just the Rectangle itself. Transform: Rectangle 1

So remember, you have Transform properties for the entire layer and also Transform for just the individual shape itself. 

Open the Transform properties for the Rectangle and you’ll find additional options that include Anchor Point, Scale, Skew, Skew Axis and so on. Rotate the Transforms for the Rectangle and you’ll see that the Rectangle moves around its centre. 

You can add a second Rectangle on the same layer. First, select the Shape Layer in the Timeline, and then click and drag in the Composition to create a new Rectangle. 

In the Timeline you’ll see Rectangle 2 appear with its own set of options, so you can change the properties independent of the other shapes in your Composition. 

You can add multiple shapes onto the same Shape Layer. From the Shape selections, you’ll notice Rectangle, Rounded Rectangle, Ellipse, and so on, but no circle. However, there’s a simple trick to making a circle.

Making a Circle

Draw an Ellipse - Hold the shift key to draw a perfect circle,

hold Command key to draw from the centre from where you started to draw,

hold the spacebar and you can move the item around as you draw,

hold Option and you’ll be able to draw with just an outline of the shape.

In the Timeline, open up the disclosure triangle for the Ellipse to reveal the Ellipse Path, Stroke, Fill and Transform controls. Accessing these controls will also allow you to animate the separate properties. 

Up in the tool bar, click on the word Fill and you’ve got options to select No fill (None), Solid, Linear Gradient and Radial, and there are blend modes and even Opacity. Select Linear Gradient.

Click on the Fill's Colour Box to show the Gradient Editor. Note the bar with the markers. Click on the left marker and change its colour swatch. The left side of the circle will show this colour. Click on the right marker and change it to a different colour swatch. The colour appears on the right side of the circle. Shifting the diamond marker (called the midpoint gamma slide) between the colours will transition the colours smoothly or sharpen the transition. 

If you click in the space where the markers are located, then you can add a new colour swatch. Add as many as you like.

Use the Selection Tool to pull the handle (visible inside the circle with points on either end) that will let you adjust the position of the Linear Gradient within the Circle. You can pull the two points of the handle in opposite directions to smooth out the transition. You can even rotate the handle to change the angle of the gradient.

You can also apply a Stroke. Clicking on the word Stroke will show you the same options that are available for Fill. Select the Linear Gradient and then apply the Selection Tool to adjust the Linear Gradient for the stroke, but take the control handles and pull them in opposite directions from the Fill.

Now duplicate the Shape layer using Command + D and rescale it so that it appears smaller within the original layer. Right click on the shape layer to reveal various effects that you can apply. Select Transform and then Flip Horizontal. If the second shape isn’t quite aligned in the middle of the first, then adjust its position using the Position modifications. In the end, you've just made a button! 

Fun with the Star Tool

Select the Star Tool, but before you draw it on the Composition, choose None for the Fill and select a solid colour for the stroke. Then apply the Star to the Composition. It should similar to the image below. 

In the Time Line, open the Polystar Path to reveal options. You can change the number of Points, adjust the Inner and Outer Radius, the Inner and Outer Roundness. Play with making adjustments to change the shape of the star into wild and interesting patterns.


Perhaps you might come up with a pattern like this:

Below are the settings that will produce the pattern in the image above. But have fun experimenting with different patterns. Notice that all of the options also have animation options (the stopwatch). Try your hand at animating any of the options.


Below the Polystar Path is the Stroke option. Try animating any of those values, including changing the colour.


Notice at the bottom the Dashes property. The disclosure triangle won't open any options, but clicking the + button will reveal the properties that are Dash and Offset. 

Change the number of dashes, which will break up the continuous line into dashes. Use the offset to vary the size of the dashes. It will look something like the image below:


Other ways to create shapes


Using the Text tool:

Select the Text tool and click in the Composition workspace. You can set up the font and style that you want using the Character tab, which is to the right of the Composition panel. Type some text (in this example, ACE) and shift it around the Composition using the Selection tool (remember, if you want to move the text make sure that you use the Selection tool). Another way to move the text more precisely to a location is to click on the arrow keys to move it up, down, right and left one frame at a time. This is helpful when you’re trying to centre the text inside a shape, such as for a lower third.


An advantage to creating shapes from text is that it lets you transfer a font to another device that doesn’t have that particular font installed. Once you create the Text layer, select it, then go to the Layer menu and in the options select Create Shapes from Text (you also have another option, Create Masks from Text). 

When you select Create Shapes from Text, the only visible change that happens is in the Timeline. The Text layer is turned off, but a new layer appears above that says, ACE Outlines (because we named our text ACE), and the star next to it shows that this is now a Shape layer. 

Open up the Contents for this layer and you’ll find that the individual letters show up as separate shapes, each of which can be manipulated. If you open the disclosure triangle for any of these letters, you’ll find that they have options for Path, Stroke, Fill and Transform. 

Select Path for the letter A and you’ll find in the Composition that the letter now has handles that you can push and pull with your pointer to change the shape of the letter. 

You can adjust and animate the path, creating a unique look to your letter. 

There’s a very useful function that allows you to change all of the letters at once. It’s the Add button, which you’ll find in the Contents.

Make sure the actual layer is selected (ACE Outlines) and then click the Add button. In the menu that appears, select Group, which will group all the letters together. 

In the Timeline you’ll see a new Group 1 layer under the Contents. You need to select all the individual letters and drag them into Group 1. Simply select the top letter, hold down the Shift key and select the bottom letter, which will highlight all the letters in between and drag them into Group 1. You still have access to changing the individual letters, but now there are properties in the Group that allow you to adjust the Position, Scale, Skew, etc, for all the letters at once.

Using the Pen tool


There are two ways to use the Pen tool – with or without the RotoBezier, which is a button that appears to the right of the Fill and Stroke button at the top of the workspace. 

Try without RotoBezier. Uncheck it. Now, select the Pen tool and click in the Composition four points, making sure that the lines are joined. 

Now turn on the RotoBezier and click four points in the Composition. The shapes are completely different. 

Using RotoBezier produces rounded corners, and without produces sharp corners. But you can still produce rounded corners with the RotoBezier turned off. 

Turn off the RotaBezier.

Click and drag in the Composition, which creates Bezier handles.

Click and drag to produce Bezier handles. Click again just below where you clicked before and drag out the handles. Then click the first one to connect them. You’ll find that you can create a rounded shape that can be modified with the Bezier handles. 

Hold the Alt key down and click on one of the Bezier handles. You’ll notice that the handle is now disconnected from the one on the other side of the centre point, allowing you to modify the shape even further.


With some tweaking and patience you can create a more rounded circle.


Hold the Alt key down and click on one of the Bezier handles. You’ll notice that the handle is now disconnected from the one on the other side of the centre point, allowing you to modify the shape even further. 

Simply experiment with creating shapes, using Fill and Stroke to enhance them. Use trial and error to learn and keep track of designs that you can go back and reproduce in your projects.