Instagram Stories: Getting Started After Effects Guide

Why do we use Adobe’s After Effects for Instagram Stories when there are already animations and typography built into the Instagram platform? Because we like to stand out. Primarily, we use After Effects to create animations for our weekly events page to showcase some of the weekly events on campus. We understand that our Instagram audience may get bombarded with Instagram Stories from their friends or celebrities they follow. Our goal is to stand out in the crowd and increase awareness and engagement for these campus events.

“The world accommodates you for fitting in, but only rewards you for standing out.”

― Matshona Dhliwayo

Setting up After Effects environment

With Instagram Stories, there are a few constraints when creating animations: time and aspect ratio. Our phones typically have a 1080px x 1920px aspect ratio (9:16) vertically so we want to follow that when making a composition in After Effects. We try to stay away from making horizontal videos for Instagram Stories because users would rather skip to the next story rather than inconveniently turn their phones to watch it. The second one is time. We keep each animation at 15 seconds or less since 15 seconds is the max for each story. The screenshot of the composition settings is below:

If, for some reason, the story you are making demands more than 15 seconds, feel free to increase the duration to however long it needs to be. Once you got the animation on your phone, you can download an app called CutStory. You can upload your story there and it will automatically cut your videos in 15 second increments and save them in your Photos.


The fun part. There are so many possibilities when animating using Adobe’s After Effects. Each animations can be designed specifically for a single story. While the freedom to create is yours, I still follow a couple of guidelines whenever I create an Instagram Story:

1. Readability: It is so easy to get caught up with all the animations you can do for After Effects that you just want to try them all. However, you have to remember that the primary purpose of this is to inform your audience. If your animations are amazing but your audience could not read the information you were trying to relay then you failed.

2. Simplicity: This goes hand-on-hand with readability but it is important to find a balance between interesting enough to watch it but not having to spend a whole day for one animation.

3. Music:  It is important that each animation is coupled with music that goes along with the story you are posting. The song should play off the mood of the story like having an upbeat song for sports events to get your audience pumped up for it. Your song choice is important in relaying the mood of the story that you are trying to portray.

While animating on After Effects is very fun, it also has somewhat of steep learning curve. I personally had to teach myself from numerous YouTube channels on how to use it. Rather than trying to explain it myself, I will link some videos that are helpful in getting started with animating. Don’t be intimated, if I can learn, you can too.



Once you learn more and more animations, you can mix and match those animations and create your own.

When you are comfortable with After Effects and found your animation aesthetics, you can create templates of After Effects animations that you can save so you can reuse them later on. This was a lifesaving method for me as I am a working university student.

Happy New Year! I hope to see more Instagram Stories animated with After Effects in 2019.

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