After Effects is known for its effects and in this guide we'll walk through the different types of effects in After Effects. 

After Effects’ Effects Overview

The program After Effects is known for its namesake, its effects. 

After Effects hosts a nearly endless amount of effects, from particle producers to color correction to time remapping. With the effects alone, one can make a professional-looking project with barely any time at all. 

After Effects’ effects are polished, slick, and most importantly, adjustable. They can be layered with each other to interact and make unique, new effects as well. The amount can be overwhelming, so we’ll break down different types of effects and their applications for a handy guide to which effects do what.

Effects are fun and easy to use, so let’s jump in!

Types of Effects

We are going to cover each type of effect After Effects has to offer. Within those types are individual effects. As there’s over a hundred within the program, we’ll be looking at the overall categories, with some of the effects included in each. 

For information on how to use individual effects, Noble Desktop offers comprehensive tutorials on specific effects.

  • GPU Accelerated effects: These effects utilize Mercury GPU Acceleration, a software engine that allows the program to run complicated, information-heavy effects. They include Directional Blur, Gaussian Blur, Gradient Ramp, Noise, Color Balance.
  • 3D Channel effects: These effects work with projects rendered out of a 3D program. They allow After Effects to interpret the incoming 2D footage with 3D aspects. These include Depth Matte, Fog 3D, and Depth of Field.
  • Blur and Sharpen effects: Just what it sounds like! Effects here are used to blur footage or make them sharper and clearer. Included in these are Fast Blur, Channel Blur, Sharpen, Camera Lens Blur.
  • Channel effects: This group of effects centers around the color channels of layers; Red, Blue, Green, and Alpha (for transparency). They include Invert, Blend, Calculations, Minimax.
  • Color Correction effects: Somewhat similar to Channel effects, this group of effects has to do with the colors of your footage. These are used mostly to adjust the colors a bit more subtly. These include Black and White, Change to Color, Curves, Vibrance.
  • Distort effects: These effects are for morphing and altering an image within After Effects. In this group is Bezier Warp, Bulge, Twirl, and Mirror.
  • Expression Controls effects: Expression controls are a way to use simple code to create repetitive looping animations within After Effects. These effects are a quick and easy way to skip the code and directly apply the expressions with the ability to alter them as needed. They include Angle Control, Color Control, and Point Control. 
  • Generate effects: These effects are for creating fun, striking visual effects like lightning, color gradients, lens flare, and more. They revolve around generating new items onscreen or heavily altering the applied layer to produce the effect. They include Checkerboard, Advanced Lightning, Circle, Fill, and Fractal.
  • Keying effects: This group of effects deals with transparency in footage. Each effect will use a different reference point, like color, contrast, or brightness in order to “mask out” unwanted footage. These include Color Key, Extract, and Difference Matte.
  • Matte effects: These effects alter the transparency of your selected layer using “mattes”, or a layer/part of a layer that defines which areas are transparent. These include Matte Choker, Refine Hard Matte, Refine Soft Matte.
  • Noise & Grain effects: Looking to add some visual texture to your project? This group of effects will help you add static, dust, and grain to your footage for some extra personality. This group includes Add Grain, Dust Scratches, and Fractal Noise.
  • Perspective effects: This category of effects allow the user to create optical illusion effects, from making spheres to drop shadows, to even working with footage meant for 3D glasses. These include CC Cylinder, Bevel Edges, and Drop Shadow.
  • Simulation effects: This group of effects is all about creating particle systems and objects like rain, sun flare, and fire. 
  • Stylize effects: These effects are for applying painterly, graphic looks to your project, making them appear made out of tile or even oil paint. Included here is Emboss, Cartoon, Texturize, and Posterize.
  • Text effects: Very simple, these effects turn a regular layer into a text layer. There’s either Timecode, which displays the time elapsed during the video, or Numbers, which displays, well, numbers!
  • Time effects: These effects are about altering the timing of your project to do things like slow down certain parts, overlap frames, or to displace certain pixels within a time frame. This group includes Time Remapping, Posterize Time, and Echo.
  • Transition effects: These effects are for smoothly passing from one image to another within the project. Different transition effects are Venetian Blinds, Gradient Wipe, Linear Wipe, and Radial Wipe.
  • Utility effects: This group of effects are as the name implies, all utilitarian in use. They’re generally for those working with film, managing color profiles, and using HDR color. Grow Bounds, Cineon Converter, and HDR Compander are some examples of these effects.
  • Obsolete effects: These effects are a miscellaneous group of effects brought over from prior After Effects versions. It’s generally encouraged to use an alternative, current After Effects effects but these are for compatibility with older versions. Some of these include Fast Blur, Lightning, Basic Text, and Path text.

Conclusion

Whew! As you can see, After Effects has a huge amount of effects. Hopefully, this overview has given you a better understanding of what each category is for, and you’ve become more familiar with the After Effects library as a result. 

Don’t be afraid to combine effects! Insert a CC Particle Systems ll to create some sparks, adjust the lighting with Brightness, and then transition the scene with a Radial Wipe. Each effect has its own settings you can easily play around with to create cool custom looks for your project.

Want to learn more about specific effects? Take a look at Noble Desktop's After Effects tutorial library for some in-depth tutorials or join us for hands-on training in After Effects.

Happy animating!