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How to Use Null Layers in After Effects


By using null layers in After Effects, you can mass control multiple layers, create more complex animations, and more easily create things like character rigs. Let’s take a closer look at this important animation tool.

A null isn’t visible when rendering , but serves as a sort of placeholder that you can attach other layers to. Any layers you attach to a null will respond to the transform properties of that null. Working with nulls is easier than you might expect, so without further ado, let’s take a look at how to use them.

Step 1: Create a Null Layer

To create a null layer, navigate to  the Layer Tab in After Effects, then New > Null Object. You can also simply enter Command+Option+Shift+Y for Mac, or Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Y for Windows.

Step 1: Create A Null Layer

Step 2: Attach Layer(s) to Null Layer

Select the layer you wish to attach to your null layer. Ensure it is in the appropriate position relative to the null layer, as it will stay there once attached. Under the Parent Tab, select and drag the pick whip from your new layer to the null layer. This will effectively make the null layer the “parent” and the newly attached layer the “child.”

Step 2.1: Attach Layer(s) to Null Layer

You can alternatively select a parent for the new layer via the  drop-down menu.

Step 2.2: Attach Layer(s) to Null Layer

Step 3: Application

You can attach any number of any layer-type to a null. Nulls can even be attached to one another.

Step 3: Application

As you can see, child layers will interact according to the transform properties of their parent, with the exception of opacity. Null opacity has no direct visual effect on the composition.

Null layers are an integral tool of After Effects animation, and using them can open up a world of potential, both in creativity and efficiency.