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This tutorial will teach you how to split a layer in After Effects. You’ll learn what splitting a layer means, why you would want to do this, how to split a layer using a keyboard shortcut, and how to do this through After Effect’s Edit menu.

Splitting a Layer in After Effects

To split a layer in After Effects means that you are taking the selected layer and are breaking it into two layers where the Current Time Indicator is. Nothing else is effected. Keyframes don’t move. The layer’s start and end points don’t move. It is just karate chopped at the Current Time Indicator into two layers.

After Effects Timeline Panel after preforming split layer

Do you know After Effect’s awesome replace layer shortcut? Learn it in this quick tutorial.

Why would you want to do this? There’s a million reasons but the one I find myself coming back to time and time again is when working with freeze frames. I want to make a freeze frame but not for the rest of the layer. So I split the clip, move forward a frame, and split the clip again. I now have one frame of the clip on a layer by itself. I then apply the freeze frame to it and expand the clip. Then snap the rest of the clip that’s now on the next layer to the end of it.

Okay, let’s actually split a clip now. It’s super easy to do.

Move your Current Time Indicator (the blue bar in the Timeline Panel) to where you want the layer to be split in two. Go to the Edit menu and choose Split Layer.

After Effects Edit Menu with Split Layer selected

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If you love keyboard shortcuts like I do, then you’ll want to commit this one to memory. Instead of going to the Edit menu, use Command+Shift+D if you’re on a Mac or Control+Shift+D if you’re on Windows.

Note: You can do this to multiple layers at once. So don’t limit yourself.


I sincerely hope that this tutorial helped you. If it did, please consider subscribing to my email newsletter. Do you have thoughts or questions about how to split a layer in After Effects? Leave them below in the comments!

– Josh