Shape layers in After Effects are powerful tools for making compositions, but designers unfamiliar with the software may find them difficult to use. For those more familiar with Illustrator, you’re in luck: importing Illustrator files into After Effects has become easier with each new release. However, there is still some prep work that must be done to your Illustrator file before it can be imported into After Effects. Here’s what you need to do.

Step 1

For this example, I’m going to start off with Shutterstock image 183708254. You can chose any of the cameras from this image, but I’m going to be using the one pictured below.

retro camera vector

Step 2

Create a new Illustrator document that’s 1920px by 1080px. This will be the size of our composition in After Effects. Copy and paste the camera into the new document and resize to your liking.

importing illustrator files into after effects

Step 3

If we went ahead and brought this into After Effects right now, the camera would act like a single object. The resulting animation would be very boring. You wouldn’t have any control over the individual shapes that make up the camera. Therefore, our main goal before bringing it into After Effects is to separate each shape into its own layer. This can be done two ways.

Option 1:

how to import illustrator files into after effects

Open up the Layers Panel. If it’s not already on your sidebar, go to Window > Layers.

To create a new layer, click the icon that looks like a folded piece of paper at the bottom of the Layers panel. Create a lot of layers so you don’t have to keep going back to that button.

ungroup animation layers

Next, ungroup everything and select a single shape. In the Layers panel, notice that a little square has appeared on the far right side of the layer.

Move shape to separate layer animation

To bring the selected shape into a new layer, click on that square and drag it into one of the new layers. Once it has been moved, rename it so you’ll be able to tell which shape is in that layer.

Do this for each shape. After a shape is moved to its own layer, it’s helpful to hide it. This way, you’ll be able to see which ones still need to be moved to their own layers.

Option 2:

illustrator animation after effects

Open up the Layers panel. Select the camera layer. Next, click the icon at the top-right of the panel and select the Release to Layers (Sequence) option.

vector files in after effects

This will put each individual shape into its own layer. After, select all the layers and drag them outside of the layer they are all in. That empty layer can then be deleted.

Go through all the layers and rename them so you know which shape the layer contains. It may take a while, but it will save you time once you get into After Effects.

illustrator files in after effects

That’s pretty much it. Simple, right? We’re now ready to bring the Illustrator file into After Effects.

Step 4

Retain Layer sizes in AE

Open After Effects and go to File > Import > File. Select your Illustrator file and, at the bottom, where it says “Import As,” make sure to select Composition – Retain Layer Sizes.

how to import illustrator files into after effects

Open up the newly created composition, and you’re ready to animate!

See the top of this post for a sample animation of what could be created using just one of Shutterstock’s many vectors!

Hope you enjoyed this post. For another great Illustrator tutorial, check out our Adobe Illustrator Map Art Tutorial.