As a motion graphics designer, you're expected to be a composition prodigy, and of the many tools in this trade, masks reign supreme. Masks are an indispensable tool in After Effects. If you want to upgrade your work and keep up with the experts, this is one skill you certainly need to pick up. 

Adding an exciting animation behind an object can give an edge to an otherwise dull scene. To achieve this striking look, you must mask the object from your composition and add graphics or text behind it.

But of course, you must learn the basics before trying something super crazy. This simple-to-learn and hard-to-master tool can fuel up your video editing and motion graphics game like never before. 

So, today, we'll introduce you to basic Masking in After Effects and animating a path. So read on this masking in the After Effects tutorial, boot up After Effects, and you'll be an expert in no time.

What is masking?

A mask can be a path or an outline often used to modify layer effects and properties. Typically, a mask in After Effects is a shape that hides or shows a specific area of a layer in your composition.

You can use masking in After Effects to hide or reveal part of a layer or an object. Animations can begin with a mask over an object, such as text, and then slide out to reveal the object. Alternatively, they can remain static on the frame to crop out any unwanted elements.

Moreover, masking plays a vital role in the video production industry because sometimes, you may need to remove something from the video after the shoot, and masking is perhaps the best option in such cases.

Besides, you can remove an object from a photo or video, create a cutout, create shapes, or even insert the graphic of your choice into your favourite music videos!

Now, who wouldn't want to learn that?

Getting started with masking

In Adobe After Effects, masks are perhaps one of the tools you will use the most. Masks are an incredibly versatile tool; however, they can be a little overwhelming and intimidating to get your head around at first. 

New to After Effects and still trying to figure out how to use the masking tool? Let's dive into how you can include masks in your projects.

Step 1 – Load your image

  • Load your image into the project area and then drag and add it to your timeline.

Step 2 – Click on the pen icon

  • On the top left corner of your screen, click on the pen icon. This will activate your pen tool. Now, begin outlining the image you inserted to mask out the background, for instance. 
  • Ensure the mask path is closed, or else it will not work. To know if the path is closed, hover over the node, and if a small circle appears next to the pen tool, that means the path is closed.
  • To edit your path, click outside; the nodes will become tiny, filled-in circles. So, now, when you click on them, you can move them and arrange the handles as you require.

Step 3 – Add the required background

  • Once you are done with the masking, the background will disappear. 

  • After that, place another image behind the masked image. You will get a new background for the image.

Step 4 – Check the final image

  • Check whether the image and background are correctly merged or not. If not, give the masked image feather.

Step 5 – Mask text

  • Now, for masking texts in After Effects, add text to the project and create a shape layer. Place it on the text.

Step 6 – Select Track Matter function

  • Finally, toggle on the Track Matte function on your timeline.
  • To see your Track Matte options, click on the little icon at the bottom left corner, which looks like a circle with square overlapping. 

  • This will reveal a column. In that dropdown menu, select Alpha Inverted Matte to mask the Text.

Watch this video clip to see Masking in action.

Still, wondering about how effective masking can be in your After Effects composition?

Well, once you’ve successfully created your After Effects mask, you’ll notice it has a whole new world of exciting and practical applications. And, exploring these features will gear you up to becoming an expert motion graphics artist since masks are an indispensable component of creating digital art in After Effects.

All set to do Masking in After Effects?

Well, there you go, folks! That was all about the basics of Masks in After Effects. Understanding how masking works is undoubtedly an essential skill for any videographer or motion graphics artist, and this is just the beginning.

Besides, masks make up some of the fundamentals of After Effects, and mastering them will definitely set you on the way to creating remarkable motion graphics in no time. Once you get the hang of the different ways of creating a mask, try creating several within one composition and experiment with the mask modes to see how the masks interact with each other. 

So what are you waiting for? Start masking in Adobe After Effects and animating your masks to create slick and seamless transitions.

And if you are looking for a video editing company or explainer video production company, do get in touch with us.

Editor: Richa Sharma

Frequently Asked Questions

In After Effects, there are two primary types of masking: layer masks and track mattes. Layer masks are used to hide or reveal portions of a single layer, while track mattes are used to control the visibility of one layer based on the content of another layer.

To mask a shape in After Effects, create the shape layer you want to mask, select the layer you want to use as a mask, and then choose “Alpha Matte” from the TrkMat dropdown menu in the Timeline panel. This will use the shape as a mask to reveal the content of the layer beneath it.

To mask a clip in After Effects, create a new solid or shape layer above the clip you want to mask. Draw the desired mask shape on the solid or shape layer using the Pen tool or other shape tools. Then, set the solid or shape layer as an Alpha or Luma Matte for the clip you want to mask by selecting it in the TrkMat dropdown menu.

Masking in After Effects refers to the technique of selectively hiding or revealing parts of a layer or composition. It's a fundamental tool for creating complex visual effects, compositing, and controlling the visibility of elements within your project. Masks can be applied to various layers and can take on different shapes, allowing for precise control over what is shown in your composition.