Quickly Switch Between Mask Modes in After Effects

In this post, I will show you how to quickly switch between mask modes in After Effects.

When you work with masks in After Effects, you can easily switch between mask modes (Add, Subtract, Intersect, Lighten, Darken, and Difference) by using simple keyboard shortcuts that are very easy to remember.

The reason why they are so easy to remember is because they are the first letter of every single word until you get to the last two (Darken and Difference) because they both start with D’s. The keyboard shortcut for Darken is D and F for Difference.

That said, now let me show you what I am talking about here. The key is to remember to use those keyboard shortcuts when you are in what I call Active Mode. For example, if you select a Rectangle Tool and left click/hold to draw a square on the canvas, you are in what I consider Active Mode until you click away.

Right now I am in Active Mode and the mask is set to Add.

While in Active Mode, I can press N on my keyboard and it will change it to None.

Then I can actually see what I am doing. So I can quickly position the square like this.

I can draw another square over it and again, by default, the mask mode is set to Add.

However, I can press N to set it to None so I can see what I am doing here.

Remember, once you click away, you are no longer in Active Mode.

So once you click away, you cannot use those keyboard shortcuts but you can quickly click and hold down on one point to get back to the Active Mode. Then you can use those keyboard shortcuts like A for Add.

We can do the same thing for the second square by simply clicking and holding on a point and then pressing S for Subtract or any other keyboard shortcut.

That simple! I hope these simple mask mode keyboard shortcuts will speed up your workflow in After Effects.

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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