Explode Shape Layer

  • Compatibility After Effects
    Please check exact version compatibility under the "COMPATIBILITY" tab below

Author: Zack Lovatt

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Quick Overview

Explode shape groups into individual layers or merge 'em together!
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Explode Shape Layer

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Do you deal with a lot of shape layers, or shape layers converted from vectors through Adobe Illustrator? Explore Shape Layer will take a shape layer and split each shape group or path within into its own individual layer, for finer control & easier access. Alternatively, you can select multiple shape layers together and merge them into one.

Any filters or effects on the shape layer (fill, stroke, repeater, twist, trim paths, etc) will be carried through to each new layer, along with any markers/keys/settings.

Note that depending on the number of paths & groups on your shape layer, this script may take a while to execute! Please be patient. Also, properties with keyframed animation may cause the script to fail; this script is intended for use before beginning animation.

New in v2.5!

Specify Shape Groups

In v2.5, you can now choose specific shape groups to explode instead of having to explode out everything; good for isolating one element or selected shapes as opposed to every single one (explode only).

Tweaks, Bug Fixes & User Suggestions

Core sections of the script have been rewritten for more efficient performance.

In response to user feedback, the UI has been slimmed down some, merged layers now appear above the topmost selected layer and exploded shape layers will now take the name of the shape group they came from.



  • Use All Shapes – Whether to explode every shape out or just use the selected 
  • Centre Anchor Points – Centre anchor point to individual shape contents (if checked) or leave at default.
  • Delete Source Layer(s) – Delete the original layer(s) instead of hiding them.


Headless Version

Also included in the zip is a "headless"/noUI version -- standard users should only be concerned with installing the file main to their ScriptUI folder, which will give you a dockable panel.

However, if you use something like ft-toolbar or Script Launcher, you may want to be able to run the script directly without fiddling with the UI panel. That's where the headless version comes in.

In the "Headless" folder there is a script file that will execute the script (and centre the anchor point) immediately without any UI panel popup. By holding down certain modifier keys while launching the script, you can alter functionality.

  • Alt/Option – Merge selected shape layers together (vs explode)
  • Shift – Delete source layer(s)
  • Ctrl/Cmd  – Use selected shape groups instead of (default) all

Combine any of the above to mix effects.


Originally requested by Justin Younger.

Merge functionality requested by Navarro Parker.

After Effects CC, CS6, CS5.5, CS5, CS4