AE fundamentals

Anchor Points

In this After Effects Fundamentals lesson, you'll learn all about anchor points.

An anchor point is where on the layer all transformations happen from. So, for example, if you rotate the layer, it will pivot around its anchor point. Or, if you scale a layer, it will scale based on wherever the anchor point is.


It’ll save you from a lot of headaches to get in the habit of moving your anchor point to wherever you’ll want it right away; before you start animating.

If it’s already too late for that, I have a second video about anchor points with more advanced techniques. Check that out if you’re stuck with an already animated layer with the anchor point in the wrong spot.

Move Anchor Point

To move an anchor point, go up to the Pan Behind Tool or the keyboard shortcut is Y. With this tool you can move the anchor point without moving the layer.

Pan Behind tool in Adobe After Effects

To see the anchor point property in the timeline, the keyboard shortcut is A.


If you hold the shift key while dragging, it will move the anchor point only in straight lines.

If you want to snap the anchor point to the edge, corner, or center of a layer, make sure you’re using the Pan Behind Tool, then hold down ⌘ (Mac) or Ctrl (Windows) while dragging the anchor point. You can also turn on snapping instead of holding down ⌘ or Ctrl.

Adjust in Timeline

You can also adjust the anchor point’s exact values in the timeline, but this will move the layer.

anchor point property in the timeline

If you want to adjust the anchor point's position relative to the layer while keeping the anchor point in place and moving the layer:

  • Select the Pan Behind Tool
  • Hold down the option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) key while clicking and dragging the anchor point

Animate the Anchor Point

The anchor point property can be animated, but this isn't very common. It can come in handy for advanced techniques though.

Center Anchor Point

There are a couple ways to center the anchor point within the layer. No matter which way you do it, make sure the layer is selected first.

The Secret Way

  • Hold ⌘ (Mac) or Ctrl (Windows) and double click the Pan Behind Tool.

Keyboard Shortcut

  • Mac: ⌘ option home
  • Windows: Ctrl Alt Home
  • Obviously, this will only work if you have a keyboard with the home key.

You can select multiple layers and use either of these options to center the anchor point on all the layers at once.

Center Anchor Point on New Shape Layers

By default when you create a new shape layer, the anchor point will be at the center of the composition. A lot of times, I find I want the anchor point to be in the center of the shape.

You can make this the default by going into the After Effects menu → Settings → General and then check Center Anchor Point in New Shape Layers.

Change default for where anchor point is in new shape layers

Now, when you make a new shape, the anchor point will be in the center of the shape by default.

Layer Types and Anchor Points

The default position and coordinates of the anchor point on different types of layers is slightly different.

Shape Layers

  • Default position: center of composition (see above for how to set this to the center of the shape)
  • The value for a centered anchor point is 0.0, 0.0
shape layers and anchor points

Vector, Image, and Video Layers

  • Default position: centered
  • A value of 0.0, 0.0 is in the top left corner
vector layers and anchor points

Null Layers

  • Default position: top left corner
  • A value of 0.0, 0.0 is in the top left corner
null layers and anchor points

Text Layers

  • The default position is a value of 0.0, 0.0 and depends on the paragraph justification
    • Left justified: left side, baseline of text
    • Right justified: right side, baseline of text
    • Center justified: center, baseline of text
text layers and anchor points

Shape Layer and Anchor Points

Any layer that can be seen in the composition viewer will have an anchor point. But shape layers actually have two anchor points.


The first one is under Transform, just like any other layer.

This anchor point is for the entire layer.  A shape layer can have multiple shapes in it.

Anchor point property

Transform: Shape

The second anchor point is under the shape, so in the screenshot below, Rectangle 1 → Transform: Rectangle 1.

This anchor point is for the individual shape within the layer. It’s the slightly smaller, less defined anchor point.

The default is for this to be centered, at a value of 0.0, 0.0.

anchor point property under Transform: Shape

One reason why this is important to know this, is because you may see a number that’s not 0.0, 0.0 for the anchor point of the layer, even though the layer appears to be centered.

anchor point not zero

This happens when you use the Shape Tool to click and drag out a shape in the Composition Viewer.

To fix this, go to the Transform: Shape → Anchor Point and Position properties and type 0.0, 0.0 in for both. This will move the shape, but then go into Transform → Anchor Point and type in 0.0, 0.0. Now the shape should be in the original position.

zero anchor points

To avoid this all together, create a shape by double clicking the Shape Tool to make a shape the size of the composition, then go into the Size property to adjust.

Another reason why it’s important to understand that shape layers have multiple anchor points is because you can use this to accomplish different things. I cover these types of advanced techniques in another video:

Anchor point issues solved

Anchor Point Issues SOLVED!

This tutorial covers some of the most common issues you’ll come across when dealing with anchor points, and how to solve them.

Check out the tutorial

All the keyboard shortcuts you need, in one place:

Up Next

The next lesson is all about parenting in After Effects. Parenting allows you to connect layers to achieve certain effects more efficiently.