How to Make a Laser Beam in After Effects


Theorized by Nikola Tesla, who believed in a light so intensely focused it could cut through mountains, and finally created in the 1960s, the laser beam has captured the imaginations of many filmmakers. Film series such as the James Bond franchise, the Star Wars franchise, and the X-men franchise have used this versatile effect. Lasers have been portrayed as being shot out of eyes, emitted from futuristic guns, used in torture devices, and used in swords. This effect is only limited by the imagination. Fortunately, for the average filmmaker on a budget, this effect is readily available through After Effects.

Things You'll Need

  • After Effects CS3
  • Photoshop CS3
  • 1950s Alien Spaceship picture file
  • Picture file of a city

Alien invasion setup

  • Drag both photos, which you have selected for your alien invasion movie, onto the Photoshop CS3 icon.

  • Select the 1950s Alien Spaceship file and make and delete the background. Do this by using the Quick Selection tool. This tool can be found under the Lasso tool in the toolbar, behind the Magic Wand tool. Select your spaceship. Go to "Select" > "Inverse," and press "Delete." You should now have only your spaceship.

  • Select the spaceship picture and drag it onto the city picture. Save these as Photoshop files.

Alien Invasion

  • Open After Effects, and import the city Photoshop file you just saved. Do this by going to "File" > "Import" > "File." Then find the City PSD file. Click on it and click "OK." Another window will open.

  • Select "Composition-Cropped Layers" from the "Import Kind" scroll-down menu.

  • Make sure "Editable Layer Styles" is selected, and then click "OK." This will create a composition in your Project panel with a folder.

    Double click on the composition in your Project Panel. This will open the composition in the timeline and in the window.

  • Select the Spaceship layer and press "P" to reveal your Position Property. This will allow you to animate the position of the layer. Select and move the alien spaceship off screen. "Click" on the Stopwatch Icon to add a key frame. Go to the timeline and move the Time Indicator to the end of the Timeline. Move your spaceship to the opposite end of the screen. This will automatically add a key frame. "Press" the Space Bar to view your animation. The spaceship should glide across the screen

Laser Beams

  • Go to "Layer" > "New" > "Solid." Make this Layer Comp Size by clicking on the corresponding button and then pressing "OK." This will allow you to create a solid color layer that will be the same size as your composition.

  • Go to "Effect" > "Generate" > "Beam." Move the time indicator to the middle of the timeline. Place the start point on your ship by "double-clicking" the cross hairs next to the start point word. Move your cursor over your ship and click on where you want the beam emitted from. Do the same for the end point, and make sure this hits the ground.

  • Click on the time stopwatch icon. Double click the percentage and type 0. Move the time indicator two seconds forward, then type 100 here. The ship should now shoot.

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  • Photo Credit laser battle image by Yali Shi from alien image by Jesse-lee Lang from spaceship 5 image by Paul Moore from Space Ship image by peter Hires Images from
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