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The little-known After Effects tool sending designers wild

Adobe After Effects is one of the most useful pieces of post-production software around, with countless creatives relying on it for visual effects, compositing, motion graphics and more. But even for the most seasoned pros, there'll always be something new to learn about the VFX app.

While our After Effects tutorials are a great place to start, the creative community can often be found sharing tips on Twitter – including this massively time-saving discovery (below) from designer Gavin Strange.

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With such a plethora of options available, it's easy to overlook an incredibly handy tool such a Stencil Alpha, which can be found in After Effects' blending mode options. As Adobe's user guide explains, blending modes control how each layer interacts with layers beneath it, and Stencil Alpha will mask them all.

It might sound like a rather specific tool, the time-saving implications are huge as it removes the need to create multiple masks for every layer. And many digital artists, like Strange, admit they weren't even aware of the feature.

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We love seeing creatives generously sharing tips across the community (such as this designer who's Twitter is a goldmine of Illustrator hacks). And the response often goes to show that it's never too late to discover something new about Creative Cloud – even if you've been using it for years, you could be just one new tool away from an even smoother workflow. 

Fancy trying Stencil Alpha out? Here's how to download After Effects. And don't forget, powerful software needs an equally powerful machine – our best laptops for video editing should be able to handle whatever VFX tasks you throw at them.

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Daniel Piper

Daniel Piper is senior news editor at Creative Bloq, and an authority on all things art, design, branding and tech. He has a particular penchant for Apple products – some corners of the internet might call him an 'iSheep', but he's fine with this. It doesn't bother him at all. Why would it? They're just really nicely designed products, okay? Daniel is also a comedian and national poetry slam champion, and his favourite Bond is, obviously, Sean Connery.