After Effects Tip: How To Open Shape and Mask Path

In this post I will show you how to Open Shape or Mask Paths. So without any further ado, let’s dive right in!

This is kind of embarrassing to admit but I didn’t know about this small little feature in After Effects. My very talented coworker Jesse Larson brought this to my attention. By the way, you can check out Larson’s work at Jesse is a very kind guy and if you have any questions or comments about his work, just leave him a message and I’m sure he’d be happy to hear from you.

Alright, so let’s get to it. The first thing we need to do is click on the Shape Tool inside of After Effects and select the Start Tool.

Next, double click on the Star Tool to bring it into my composition like so.


Let’s scale our star down a little.


Now I need to convert my star shape into Bezier path because right now I can’t select my vertices.


So let’s go inside the poly star and right click on this poly star path.


You will see Convert To Bezier Path option.

Let’s click on Convert To Bezier Path. You should now see your vertices.


Let’s select them individually.


As you can see, I can freely move my vertices around.


But how do I open this shape and keep editing it?

To do that, select your first vertices.


Then select the second vertices.


So you have to have two vertices selected in order for this to work.

Selecting Vertices in After Effects

Next, right click on the vertices -> select Mask and Shape Path and uncheck Closed by clicking on it.

Mask and Shape Path - Closed - After Effects

Your star shape should now be open.

Next, I can select my first vertices and hit G on the keyboard to bring up the pencil.

Pen tool keyboard shortcut in After Effects

Then I can just keep editing it and keep adding more vertices.

Editing star with pen tool in After Effects

When I hit the last one, it will close it up for me like so.

This example was for shape layers, however, the same thing applies for masks. Let me show you. Let’s select the Pen Tool.

Pen Tool in After Effects

I have these two icons in the menu bar.

Two pen tool icons in After Effects
The first icon is Tool Creates Shape.

Tool Creates Shape After Effects
Which is why we were able to create a shape layer but if you want to create a mask on top of your shape layer, you just switch to Tool Creates Mask.

When you do that, you can draw your mask right on top of your shape layer like so.

If you want to open up the mask, simply select any two vertices.

Selecting both vertices in After Effects

Then right click on them and go to Mask and Shape Path and click on Closed. This will open your mask.

Closed mask paths in After Effects

I hope you found this quick tip useful. Make sure to subscribe to our email list for latest After Effects tips.

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About the author:

Sergei Prokhnevskiy

Sergei Prokhnevskiy is a Charlotte, NC based motion graphics designer, an online tutor, an entrepreneur, and Adobe MAX Master Speaker. Sergei is known for his quick and practical After Effects tips and tricks on YouTube, where he generated well over 6 million views on his tutorials. He has authored an online video course on After Effects Expressions and developed scripts for After Effects. He is also a former senior motion graphics designer at Fox Sports where he worked on graphics for NFL, Super Bowl, MLB, World Series, College Football, NASCAR, Women’s World Cup, and NASCAR Race Hub. He is very passionate about learning and teaching others.


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