After Effects Tip: Mask Mode Keyboard Shortcuts

Learning keyboard shortcuts is one of the best things you can do to speed up your workflow in After Effects, especially working with masks. In this post, I will show you all the Mask Mode Keyboard Shortcuts you need to know to help you work smarter, not harder.

So let’s dive right in.

Adobe After Effects Set-Up:

In this example, I have a simple set-up. Just a text layer, a circular shape layer, and the background.

Mask Mode Keyboard Shortcuts in After Effects

Step 1: Select the Rectangular Tool

Select the text or any other text that you might have on your canvas and left-click on the Rectangular Tool on the top menu bar.

Mask Mode Keyboard Shortcuts in After Effects 2

Step 2: Draw a Mask

With the Rectangular Tool selected, left-click, and draw a mask over the entire text on your canvas.

Drawing a mask over text in after effects

As soon as you let go of the Rectangular Tool, you will see “Mask 1” appear under our text layer in the left bottom corner of your screen.

Adobe After Effects Mask Mode Keyboard Shortcuts

Step 3: Select the Pen Tool

Next, Press G on your keyboard to bring up the Pen Tool and draw another mask on your canvas.

As soon as you left-click on the canvas, you can see that the second “Mask 2” has been created.

Pen tool adobe after effects mask modes

Now we can draw another shape, but the problem is that we don’t have Mask Mode Options available just yet.

Missing Mask Mode Options In After Effects

The reason why that is happening is that our “Mask 2” is not closed. Make sure to close it off before moving on to step 4.

Close off the mask in adobe after effects

You should now be able to see the Mask Mode option appear next to “Mask 2.

Mask mode visible in after effects after closing the mask

Step 4: Mask Mode Keyboard Shortcuts

Now since it is closed off, you should be able to shuffle through all the Mask Modes with simple keyboard shortcuts.

Mask mode keyboard shortcuts for after effects ukramediaThe shortcuts for the Mask Modes are very easy to memorize. All you have to do is remember the first letter of each word of the Mask Mode options. So, for example:

None – N
Add – A
Subtract – S
Intersect – I
Lighten – L
Darken – D

However, there two shortcuts that might confuse you. Darken and Difference both start with the letter D.

The keyboard shortcut for Darken is D, and for Difference is F.

You won’t be able to shuffle through the Mask Mode Keyboard Shortcuts by just selecting it in the timeline. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that in Adobe After Effects.

You first have to be in what I call “Drawing Mode” or “Active Mode.”

And to do that, you have to left-click and hold on the mask inside your Adobe After Effects canvas. It will enable you to move the mask around freely on the canvas.

Active mode in after effects masking

When you are in this “Dawing” or “Active” mode, that is when you will be able to shuffle through the Mask Mode Keyboard Shortcuts with ease, as long as you are still holding the left-click button on your mouse. So if you press N in that mode, it will go to None, D will go to Darken, AAdd, and so on.

It also works when you left-click and hold on just one of the vertices.

Feather Tool with Mask Modes

You can also do the same for the Feather Tool. If you press G on the keyboard, you will be able to bring up the Feather Tool.

You can also bring up the Feature Tool from the top menu bar by left-clicking on the drop-down icon to the right of the Rectangle Tool.

Feather tool in after effects ukramedia

With the Feather Tool selected, left-click and hold on the edge of your mask. Then slowly move the cursor away from the center.

You should see the feather effect around the edges. Don’t let go of the left-click hold just yet.

Feather effect in after effects ukramedia

So with left-click hold in place, now you can shuffle through the Mask Modes Keyboard Shortcuts again. It is that simple! It is the basics that will help you speed up your workflow in anything you do in life.

I hope you found this quick tip useful. Here is another masking video for After Effects where you will learn How to Apply a Single Mask to Multiple Layers in After Effects. Also, check out all of our Tips and make sure to subscribe to our email list.

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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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