Ever wondered what is the “secret recipe” behind those amazing animations that you come across every now and then?

Well, learning how to use the graph editor beats everything when it comes to transforming your ability to work in After Effects. Having worked in motion graphics for quite some time, I can vouch that most skilled professionals use this feature to bring their animation videos to life. 

So, if you're serious about becoming a professional motion graphics designer, be ready to use the graph editor quite often.

This article will drive you through the basics of the graph editor in After Effects. It may seem quite intimidating at first; however, once you get the hang of this incredible feature, be ready to notice a considerable amount of improvement in the way your animations turn out.

What is a Graph Editor in After Effects?

Hoping to go past default easy-to-use keyframes and looking forward to digging deeper into how to bend curves as per your will?

Well, say hello to your new best companion, the graph editor in After Effects. The fundamental function of the graph editor is to graph how your movement will work out over time in a sound manner, thereby improving the video quality.

The Graph Editor outlines property values using a two-dimensional graph, wherein the composition, time is represented horizontally, i.e., from left to right. On the other hand, in layer bar mode, the time graph represents only the horizontal time element without displaying a graphical, vertical representation of changing values.

Speed Graph vs Value Graph

There are two ways to display and read the information, the speed graph and the value graph. Both are unique in terms of visual representation and in how they can be manipulated. That's pretty straightforward to understand, right? No.

The difference between the two graphs is often pretty confusing to animators who have just stepped into the world of motion graphics design.

So, here's a summary of the two:

  • The Speed Graph is a visual representation of the speed of the movements, out of the possible 100
  • The Value Graph is a visual representation of the property's actual value that is being transformed in the graph editor.

Have a look at the visual example of the two. The Value Graph is on the left side, and the Speed Graph is on the right.

New to After Effects? Or don't know how to use the graph editor in After Effects? Don't worry; you are not alone. Most beginners tend to ignore this essential panel, or some don't even know it exists. However, for those of you who are truly passionate about being a motion graphics artist, it's time you start to learn graph editor in After Effects.

Ready to explore the power of Graph editor? Let’s dive in!

Where is the Graph Editor in After Effects?

Wondering how to open graph editor in After Effects? Well, you can open the graph editor in two different ways:

  • When you go toward the top of the timeline panel, you'll notice an icon looking like a graph, right next to the motion blur; simply click on this button.
  • Press Shift + F3.
  • The Graph Editor is selected once it turns blue.

Types of Graph Editor 

The default keyframes are sometimes not what you need while working on a  particular project. So, if you want to add a pop of life to your animations, you need to have control over what happens between the keyframes.

A rush of speed out and then an immediate halt, a bouncing ball, text overshooting back and forth; well, these are only a few examples of what the graph editor can do. Keep reading to find out how to edit graph in After Effects.

Easy Ease

  • Put something in your composition.
  • Hit “P” to pull up the Position or toggle the arrow down and right-click on Position > Separate Dimensions. 
  • Set two keyframes and move your object from left to right. If you're not too sure about it, move it back to where it started. 
  • Select both keyframes, and Easy Ease them by hitting the F9 key or right-click on the keyframe > Keyframe Assistant > Easy Ease. 
  • Now hit the Shift + F3 keys to open the graph editor or click on the graph icon. 
  • You'll now notice a soft “S” curve. Isn't it a lot better than not putting any ease on an animation?

However, if you genuinely want to make your animations feel like butter, dive deep into the graph editor to push and pull those Bezier handles.

Extreme Ease

  • Now take those Bezier handles and drag them to create a more prominent “S.” 
  • The steeper the line, the quicker your object will move toward the center.

Explode out and Ease in

  • Now take that first keyframe and drag the handle towards the top. 
  • The steep angle will pop out from the start and ease to an end. 

Ease out

  • Easing out makes the animation start more quickly than the linear ones, and it additionally has deceleration at the end.
  • It is a great curve to make something fall.

To learn how you can use the graph editor in After Effects, watch the video.

Wrapping Up

Adobe After Effects is an excellent tool by which you can achieve amazing Visual Effects(VFX), logo animations, and video creation. Of course, it might seem pretty intimidating initially; however, it is a skill that one can master over time. 

Ready to take your animation skills to one level up? Well, working with a graph editor in After Effects will definitely help you transform your motion graphics design careers. This guide is strictly targeted towards those who want to learn how to use the graph editor in After Effects and improve their animation skills for their next video project.

So, what are you waiting for? Start experimenting with Graph editor now!

Editor: Richa Sharma

Frequently Asked Questions

The graph editor in After Effects can be accessed from the Timeline panel. To open it, select a property keyframe by clicking on it in the Timeline panel. Then, navigate to the “Window” menu and select “Graph Editor.” This action will open the Graph Editor, allowing you to visualize and edit the animation curves for the selected property.

If you're unable to see the graph editor in After Effects, there are a few potential reasons. First, ensure that you have selected a property keyframe in the Timeline panel before attempting to open the graph editor. If you still can't see it, check if your workspace layout has been customized. You can reset your workspace to the default layout by going to the “Window” menu, selecting “Workspace,” and choosing “Reset to Saved Layout.” If this doesn't resolve the issue, you may want to check your software preferences or consider reinstalling After Effects.

To open the graph editor in After Effects on a Mac, follow these steps:

  • Select a property keyframe in the Timeline panel.
  • Navigate to the “Window” menu in the top menu bar.
  • Choose “Graph Editor” from the dropdown menu. This will open the Graph Editor, allowing you to work with animation curves and keyframes for the selected property.

To access the speed graph editor in After Effects, follow these steps:

  • Select a property keyframe in the Timeline panel.
  • Open the Graph Editor as described in the previous answers.
  • In the Graph Editor, you'll see two icons at the bottom left corner of the panel: one for the value graph and one for the speed graph. Click on the “Speed Graph Editor” icon to switch to the speed graph view. The speed graph editor displays information related to the velocity and speed of keyframes, providing a different perspective for fine-tuning your animations.