When you create masks on a layer, the mask names appear in the Timeline panel outline in the order in which you create the masks. To organize and keep track of your masks, rename them.

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Note: To rename a mask, select it and press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS), or right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the mask name and choose Rename.

When creating additional masks for one layer in the Layer panel, make sure that the Target menu in the Layer panel is set to None; otherwise, you replace the targeted mask instead of creating a mask. You can also lock a mask to prevent changes to it.


When creating or editing masks, look in the Info panel for informationsuch as the mask name and the number of vertices in the mask.

Note: To create a mask that you can move independently of the primary layer that it is masking, do the following:

Create the mask on a separate white solid layer, and use that solid layer as a track matte for the primary layer.Use parenting to make the solid layer a child of the primary layer, so that the mask moves with the primary layer as if it were applied directly. Because the solid layer is a child layer, it can also be animated independently of its parent.
You can convert the alpha, red, green, blue, or luminance channel of a layer to one or more masks by using the Auto-trace command. Auto-trace creates as many Bezier masks as necessary to outline the specified channel values in the layer. It also creates masks with the smallest number of vertices possible while conforming to the settings that you choose. You can modify a mask created with Auto-trace as you would any other mask, and you can link its path to other path types, such as shape paths on a shape layer, using expressions.

When you apply Auto-trace, affected layers are automatically set to Best Quality to ensure accurate results.

Note: To reduce the number of masks createdby Auto-trace, apply a keying effect to the layer to isolate yoursubject before applying Auto-trace.

You create a shape layer by drawing in the Composition panel with a shape tool or the Pen tool. You can then add shape attributes to existing shapes or create shapes within that shape layer. By default, if you draw in the Composition panel when a shape layer is selected, you create a shape within that shape layer, above the selected shapes or group of shapes. If you draw in the Composition panel using a shape tool or Pen tool when an image layer other than a shape layer is selected, you create a mask.

Note: Before drawing in the Composition panel to create a shape layer, press F2 and deselect all layers.

Convert a mask path to a shape path.

Create an empty shape layer by choosing Layer > New > Shape Layer.

Usually, a new shape has a fill and a stroke that correspond to the Fill and Stroke settings in the Tools panel at the time that the shape is drawn. You can use the same controls in the Tools panel to change these attributes for a selected shape after it has been drawn. Shapes created from text are created with fills and strokes that match the fills and strokes of the original text.

Note: To draw a mask on a shape layer, click the Tool Creates Mask button in the Tools panel with a shape tool or Pen tool active. For more information about creating masks, see Creating masks.

In previous versions of After Effects, you could import an Illustrator (.ai), EPS (.eps), or PDF (.pdf) file, however you could not modify the file. Now you can create a shape layer from a vector art footage layer, and then modify it.

With the ability to bevel and extrude objects in After Effects, you can extrude the artwork (for example, extruded logos), as well. See Extruding text and shape layers.

Choose Layer > Create Shapes from Vector Layer. A matching shape layer appears above the footage layer, and the footage layer is muted.

The following issues are known:

Not all features of Illustrator files are currently preserved. Examples include: opacity, images, and gradients.Converted shapes ignore PAR overrides specified in the Interpret Footage dialog box.Gradients and unsupported types may show as 50% gray shapes.Files with thousands of paths may import slowly without feedback.The menu command works on a single selected layer at a time.If you import an Illustrator file as a composition (i.e., several layers), you cannot convert all those layers in one pass. However, you can import the file as footage, and then use the command to convert the single footage layer to shapes.

In this video by Todd Kopriva and video2brain, see how to quickly convert vector graphics from Illustrator to shape layers and animate the paths in After Effects CS6. This process is much simpler than in previous versions of After Effects.

The shape tools are the Rectangle

, RoundedRectangle
, Ellipse
, Polygon
, andStar

Note: To draw a mask on a shape layer, click the Tool Creates Mask button in the Tools panel with a shape tool active.

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Select the Rectangle tool
or theRounded Rectangle tool
, anddo one of the following:

Note: Squares are created to be square according to the pixel aspect ratio of the composition. If the pixel aspect ratio of the composition is not 1, then squares appear square in the Composition panel only if the Toggle Pixel Aspect Ratio button

is selected at the bottom of the Composition panel.