Organization may not be the most glamorous subject in the wonderful world of editing, but it sure is important. You may have all of the After Effects skills in the world, but if your workspace is a mess, then you’ll suffer from inefficient workflow. Files go missing, compositions go unnamed, heads brutally ache—all because of poor organizational skills. Tightening those screws will tighten up your whole project and make you a more valuable editor.

Organized workflows don’t help just you. Filmmaking is often a collaborative effort, with many artists and filmmakers working on a single project—imagine receiving an After Effects template to edit, but you can’t find your way around the workspace because the editor before you doesn’t know what a folder is. It’s a nightmare. Lucky for you, we’ve conjured up 5 great tips to hack your After Effects workflow to its full potential.

 

Tip #1: Get Organized Before Even Opening After Effects

How can you stay organized in After Effects if your files look like a pig pen? Sorting every file into specific folders can help prevent lost media and future headaches. Help yourself and become a happy editor by staying organized before you open After Effects.

 
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Tip #2: Tidy Up Your Project Panel

Now that your files are organized, your project panel should be too, right? Wrong! One wrong step while importing and your project panel could leave you more confused than the ending of Inception. Create individual folders for your raw footage, compositions, audio tracks, etc—just like in the previous tip.

 
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Bonus tip: If you’re using a Mac, you can import entire folders from Finder, and the names of the folders and organizational setup will be preserved in the After Effects project panel.

 

Tip #3: Name Your Compositions

This one is a no-brainer. Every composition or pre-composition should be named so they can be easily identified. Nothing is worse than clicking through comp 1, comp 2, comp 3,… comp 47. Naming each and every comp will save time and finger pain.

 
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Tip #4: Color Layers

Too many layers can be overwhelming—especially when they’re the same color. Different layers will automatically show as different colors, but sometimes you have multiple media layers or several adjustment layers. For those advanced projects that require multiple layers—expanding your color pallet can help keep your mind at ease. Simply click the colored square on the layer of your choosing and pick a color that tickles your fancies.

 
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Tip #5: Hide Finished Layers

This tip goes hand-and-hand with Tip #4. When you’re not working on certain layers in a composition, you can hide them by clicking on the shy tool. The layer is still present within the composition, but you can’t see it in the workspace, giving you room to breathe.

 
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There you have it! The key to an efficient workflow is organization. Instead of spending hours trying to locate lost media or clicking through unnamed compositions, follow these five tips and edit like a pro. And if you need files to practice your workflow with, check out our extensive collection of royalty-free, customizable After Effects templates.

 

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