Home *Top 5 Tips Learning After Effects Tip 4: Learn the Fundamentals

Learning After Effects Tip 4: Learn the Fundamentals


Tip 4: Learn the Fundamentals

So, you may be asking why ‘learn the fundamentals’ is the fourth tip and not the first. Learning the principles of any discipline is imperative for long term success. My initial goal was to get you started and have some fun while becoming familiar with the program.

“Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”

Michael Jordan

Hopefully you’re coming off the back of watching the ‘Learn from the Pros’ series and have already started making cool stuff!

After a few months of working with After Effects and trying my best to replicate the work I admired I realized a couple of things. Firstly my design didn’t look as good as the work I admired and secondly, it didn’t move as well. So it got me asking, ‘what’s different about their work compared to mine?’

A few more months passed and my frustration was starting to build. I was technically getting better but my work wasn’t improving. The more I researched the more it became apparent I didn’t actually know the first thing about design or animation. Not a THING and quite honestly it came as a shock!

At this point I was quite lost. How do I learn the secrets of design and animation and where do I start? I started to learn as much as I could online but really struggled to take any of it in. A lack of motivation and direction led me to eventually attend university.

Ok, ok. You might be thinking, ‘well why are you preaching about online learning when you went to University?’ Valid point. I went to university in 2010 and quite frankly I didn’t know how or where to access the information available today. But, I do think you can get a start learning the fundamentals today.

Where do you begin with the fundamentals? Similar to my last tip, the avenues for exploring these subjects are everywhere. We have videos, books, colleges and universities. My first port of call is to learn through books. I think books are a great medium for learning. You can read at your own pace and refer back to sections at any time.

As design and animation are key to producing good work in After Effects, this is where I recommend you start. Design is at the top of my list because once you have discovered the benefits of great composition, colour theory and type you can then put this all together with a solid understanding of the animation principles.

Learning both design and animation principles are whole fields by themselves and something I can not comprehensively cover in this article. However I will point you in the right direction to the best books available today. The books listed below are my go to’s and still live on my shelf today.

Adobe After Effects Software

Some people still prefer to learn software from a book and who am I to judge? Check out these books below.

After Effects Books
After Effects: The Power of Expressions
After Effects Expressions


Many books exist on graphic design but these three are a great place to start.

Universal Principles of Design
Picture This: How a Picture Works
Non-Designers Design Book


The first and second book are a must for everyone. I still reference these two regularly. The third and fourth books are great for understanding cartoons and the history of animation.

The Animator’s Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion and Internet Animators (Basics)
Timing for Animation (Timing)
Cartoon Animation / Preston Blair (Cartoons)
The Illusion of Life / Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston (History)

Visual Effects

Three great books to get you started with visual effects.

The VES Handbook of Visual Effects: Industry Standard VFX Practices and Procedures
The Art and Science of Digital Compositing: Techniques for Visual Effects, Animation and Motion Graphics
Digital Compositing for Film and Video: Production Workflows and Techniques


We all need some inspiration and these books are perfect for that.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be

Hopefully you have a better understanding on the importance of why learning the fundamentals of both design and animation can help you achieve better success in the work that you do.

Lastly, don’t forget to follow us for additional tips and guidance on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.



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