After Effects Basics Tutorial - Track Mattes

In today's exciting Adobe After Effects basics tutorial will cover Track Mattes!
In my last basic tutorials I covered masking and Adjustment Layers so go check them out if you haven't yet

Once you know all about masking and adjustment layers, you are ready to move on to Track Mattes!

What are Track Mattes?

A track matte is an invisible layer that is used to control the opacity of the layer directly beneath it. In essence, they replace the alpha channel of the layer they are being applied to.

Let's assume you have 2 layers of footage on top of each other. The top layer will, if its opacity is set to 100% and you have not applied any masks, obscure the layer below it entirely.

However, you can add a track matte to the top layer to control its opacity. First, you will need to add a new layer directly on top of the layer you want to use it as a matte for. This layer can be anything you want: text, shapes, a video or another composition. In the following example I simply added a few shapes onto my new layer:

After Effects Basics Mattes 03 - Matte Layer

The next thing you will have to do is go to your 'TrkMat' column in the layer properties window and enable the track matte on the layer below your matte. If you cannot see this column, you may have to click on the 'Toggle Mode/Switches' button at the bottom of the screen. Or you can hit F4 on the keyboard

After Effects Basics Mattes 01 - Track Matte Layer Column

The column shows a combo box with a number of options for the track matte:

  • Alpha Matte
  • Alpha Inverted Matte
  • Luma Matte
  • Luma Inverted Matte
After Effects Basics Mattes 02 - Matte Layer Options

I will discuss all these options below, but for now just note that you need to set the track matte option on the layer below your track matte layer. This will turn the layer above it into a track matte and automatically make it invisible (because in the most cases you do not want to see your track matte).

Now let's look at the different type of track mattes in Adobe After Effects.


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7 Years Ago
May 1, 2013 @ 10:49 am
Great work, mate. I had some questions and now they are all gone thanks to your wonderfully explained article
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7 Years Ago
May 3, 2013 @ 5:57 pm
Thank you very much! Great to hear you got some useful information out of the tutorial
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7 Years Ago
May 16, 2013 @ 0:38 am
Thank you so much for this tutorial.

I was confused with the concept of Luma and Alpha

for quite a while, your tutorial just explains everything

I need to know. Thanks again. Great tutorial. Love it.
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7 Years Ago
May 21, 2013 @ 1:56 pm
Glad you enjoyed the tutorial and that you got something useful out of it
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7 Years Ago
May 20, 2013 @ 11:56 pm
This was great. Very well explained - thanks!
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7 Years Ago
June 1, 2013 @ 10:04 am
Great concise explanation, this site is terrific.
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6 Years Ago
January 3, 2014 @ 4:00 am
Thank you so much for this tut - cleared things up for me, I am printing this out and hanging on my wall :-)
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6 Years Ago
January 3, 2014 @ 7:10 pm
Glad to hear you found the tutorial helpful!
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6 Years Ago
June 27, 2014 @ 4:10 pm
you can send for me footage in example, please!
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5 Years Ago
November 19, 2014 @ 4:49 pm
Oh have I not come accross your site before!..your tutorials are so great! Thanks for taking the time to make them for us
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5 Years Ago
November 19, 2014 @ 9:16 pm
Thank you very much Justin! Great to hear you're enjoying my tutorials!
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Matt Tyson
4 Years Ago
August 19, 2016 @ 4:08 am
I really appreciate the energy you put into your tutorials. They are fun to watch. Thanks.
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4 Years Ago
September 3, 2016 @ 5:20 pm
thanq so much
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3 Years Ago
March 15, 2017 @ 6:41 am
Great, Tobias!

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