How to Delete a Layer in After Effects

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This tutorial teaches you how to delete a layer in any version of After Effects with one keystroke.

Delete a Layer

To delete a layer in After Effects select the layer in the Composition Timeline panel then hit the delete key if you’re on a Mac or backspace key if you’re on a Windows computer. It’s that simple. You can even select multiple layers in the composition and delete them by using the delete/backspace key.

Delete Asset From Project Entirely in After Effects

What if you want to delete an asset entirely from After Effects? Maybe you imported in a JPEG or WAV file but don’t actually need it and you want to tidy up your project. Easy!

First find the Project panel and select the asset you want to delete. Then, just like deleting a layer in After Effects, use the delete key if you’re on a Mac or backspace key if you’re on a Windows computer.

If the asset is being used in a composition you’ll receive a warning box to make sure you want to actually delete the asset from After Effects. Note that when you delete an asset from your AE Project you are not deleting the file itself. It will still exist on whatever hard drive you imported it in from.

After Effects warning box when you delete an asset that is used in a composition
This is a warning box if you try to delete an asset that is used in a composition

Do you know how to RAM Preview in After Effects? Learn it in this quick tutorial.

Can’t Find Layer to Remove in AE (Shy Guy Explained!)

Sometimes you might know there’s a layer in After Effects but for the life of you, you can’t find it in the composition. More than likely “Shy Guy” is turned on.

Any layer in After Effects can be “Shy Guy’ed”. Find the Shy column for a layer. It looks like a head sticking out of a hole. Normally a layer is not “shy’ed”. That means you can see it all the time. However if you have a large and complicated composition you may want to limit the layers you see to avoid confusion.

To do this you can click the “Shy Guy” icon for a given layer.

At the top of the Composition Timeline panel you’ll see a Sky Guy icon. If it isn’t colored then “Shy” is turned off and you will continue to see the layer that you’ve “shy’ed”. Click the Shy Guy icon and now any layer that you’ve “shy’ed” will be hidden.

Oftentimes if you are using an AE template you may want to delete or find a layer that you know has to exist but you don’t see it in the Composition Timeline panel. It is probably “shy’ed” so check the Shy Guy icon and make sure “Shy” is turned off so you can see all the layers.

After Effects with Shy turned off
Layer #1 is “shy’ed” but Shy Guy is turned off
After Effects with Shy turned on
Now you can’t see Layer #1 because Shy Guy is turned on

If you’ve read this tutorial and you still can’t figure it out, please leave a comment and I’ll do what I can to help troubleshoot it. But if you can now delete a layer in After Effects, I hope you stick around and check out some of the other After Effects tutorials on my website or consider signing up to get notified about new blog posts and happenings around EVF.


– Josh

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