Shapes layers some of the key features you can’t miss from After Effects it allows you to modified and animate vector art form. In this tutorial I will show how useful After Effects Shapes can be, and what you can do with them. Below the different subjects I will go over.

What are After Effects shapes?

Brief overview for the newbies shape layers are 2D vector graphic layer that can be tweaked directly in After Effects. Shapes are made out of vector path, points, lines. Shapes in After Effects allows you to modified and animate vector art forms.

For in depth information on shape layer you can also check the adobe after effects shape layer documentation page.

Basic standard After Effects shape example below

Since shapes are basically vector art graphics they can also be very detailed and beautiful such as below

Multiple ways to create a shape layer in After Effects?

Here a couple of method how you can create shape layer in After Effects:

Create Shapes from the Ellipse Tool

You can create simple shape directly in After Effects with the Ellipse Tool located on the top tool bar.
Hold Click on the Ellipse tool select the shape you need (Rectangle tool, Round Rectangle Tool,Polygon Tool, Star Tool)

Ellipse Tool After Effects

Shape Tips

Shape Layer Shortcut: To switch between Shape tools press Q multiple times.
after effects shape switch shortcut

Create Shape Instantly
Double click on the shape icon to create a shape layer.
Create After Effects Shape

Change your shape Fill and Stroke color quickly
To switch between opaque color, gradient, or no background
Hold Alt + Click on the “Fill” icon or “Stroke” icon. 
change fill stroke color shape shortcut

Draw Shape Layer

Although Adobe Illustrator is much better to create custom and draw shapes you can still create shapes with the Pen tool Pen Tool After Effects Icon located on the top tool bar.

draw shape layer with pen tool

Make Shape from Illustrator

When it come to After Effects shapes, Adobe Illustrator is your best friend as you can import your AI or EPS file into After Effects and convert to a shape layer.
Simply import an Illustrator file in After Effects, drop it to your timeline and “Create Shape from Vector Layer”
Convert shape from illustrator

Now if feel the method above are boring you can try a higher level and technically create your 3D object in a 3d software such as Cinema4D or Maya and export them as vector file then convert them into shape layer in After Effects.

After Effects Shapes Properties

Once your shape layer is created, you can see and edit the properties such as path, stroke, fill, transform…
After Effects shape default properties

Add Shape Options

Now let get to the cool options that you can use on any vector shapes in After Effects
On the right side of Contents you will see Add: with a right arrow

Click on it you will see the options below:

  • Rectangle
  • Ellipse
  • Polystar
  • Path
  • Fill
  • Stroke
  • Gradient Fill
  • Gradient Stroke
  • Merge path
  • Offset Path
  • Pucker& Bloat
  • Repeater
  • Round Corner
  • Trim Paths
  • Twist
  • Wiggle Paths
  • Wiggle Transform
  • Zig Zag

Here is a brief animated preview of the add shape options based on basic squares, feel free to click on any of the links below to download the After Effects shape project.

shape default state Fill Stroke
Default State Fill Stroke
Gradient Fill Gradient Stroke merge paths after effects
Gradient Fill Gradient Stroke Merge path
Offset path Pucker & Bloat After Effects repeater shape after effects
Offset Path Pucker & Bloat Repeater
Round Corners Shape Trim Path