Is in undeniable that After Effects is an incredibly powerful tool. It is also undeniable that After Effects can be incredibly overwhelming and complex to use, especially for new users. This is where plugins come into play. Plugins give creators and artists to share the software they create with other After Effects users to both save time and ramp up creativity. 

After Effects users of all skill levels utilize plugins regularly to better their workflow and elevate their project. So we’ve compiled a list of the best After Effects plugins out there that every After Effects user should be aware of. 

Best after effects plugins list

1. Red Giant Trapcode Particular

Price: $399

It would be difficult to find a list of best After Effects plugins without coming across any by Red Giant. And the crown jewel of their After Effects plug ins is the Trapcode Particular plugin. 

The Red Giant Trapcode Particular plugin works similar to and better than After Effects’ own Particular World plug in. The software creates custom particles that can be based on various patterns, shapes, or sizes. This is incredibly useful when creating weather elements like rain, snow, clouds, or even smoke. For more information and visual examples of what can be created with the plugin, check out the video below.

Trapcode Particular 4: AE plugins

When using Trapcode Particular, you can get creative and combine multiple effects to create truly beautiful and unique compositions. Trapcode Particular is brilliant at creating complex, yet realistic natural effects. While it may boast a whopping $399 price tag, it is voted one of the best AE plugins year after year for a reason. 

Free After Effects plugins

2. Boris FX Sapphire 

Price: $495/year

Boris FX Sapphire has over 3000 presets that you can choose from for various visual effects, video transitions, and compositions. Within Boris FX Sapphire is also an Academy Award Winning Mocha Pro Tracking software. Check out the Sapphire 11 introduction video below to learn more about its new features.

Sapphire 11  •  Best after effects plugins

Despite the heft cost, The Mocha Pro Tracking system itself will have you regularly using Boris Sapphire as an integral part of your workflow. 

Best after effects plugins for download

3. Plexus 3 

Price: $249

If you’re interested in generative art, this next plugin is for you. Plexus 3 lets you visualize and create visual data in a non-linear program like After Effects. Plexus does this by breaking layers into smaller objects. This video shows a few beautiful examples of how Plexus can be used to create complex, visual art. 

Plexus 3 Intro  •  Adobe After Effects plugins

Plexus is great at creating complex 3-D connected dot design that has become popular in recent years. Although the software can be complicated to learn, the complex motion graphics it can create can give your projects the unique look you’ve been searching for. 

Adobe After Effects plugins

4. Orb

Price: Free

Moving on from After Effects plug ins that allow you to let your imagination run wild with its features, let’s take a look at more specific Adobe AE plugins. Orb is designed to assist in creating 3-dimensional spheres. This is primarily used when creating planets.

It may seem like creating a planet in After Effects is as simple as creating a sphere with some textures. However, if you want to create an impressive, professionally detailed planet, Orb is the best tool you have. Not to mention the plugin is free and has a free tutorial that you can utilize.

Ultra 3D Earth Tutorial! + Best after effects plugins

Orb also utilizes a 360-degree environment rendering. This means that not only will you be able to create a detailed planet, but a seamless background of stars as well. 

After Effects fx plugins

5. Shadow Studio

Price: $18

An increasingly popular way to design text is with long shadows. You may have seen it in advertisements, posters, or graphic art. And if you wish to use shadow designs in the text you are creating, you may be frustrated with the tedious and time consuming task. Luckily, Shadow Studio has created a plugin to make long shadows easy to achieve. 

Shadow Studio  •  Adobe After Effects plugins

The plugin comes with various types of shadows that are customizable to fit whatever vision you had in mind. 

Best After Effects plugins

6. Datamosh

Glitch effects are nothing new when it comes to motion graphics and editing, however when Datamosh entered the scene, it became easier than ever to achieve. The Datamosh effect creates unique, surrealistic transitions, morphs, and edits that have been popularly used in music videos such as A$AP Mob’s “Yamborghini High” music video with over 100 million views. Check out the truly unique visual effect in the Datamosh video below. 

Datamosh  •  Adobe After Effects plugins

Datamosh creates a very specific effect, but can be used creatively for very unique projects. Next time you’re looking for some sort of digital surrealistic affect, consider Datamosh.

After Effects fx plugins

7. GEOlayers

Price: $279

Generating a map in After Effects may sound like a daunting task. But it doesn't have to be thanks to the GEOlayers plugin. GEOlayers enables you to render custom maps. The program has various types of maps such as flood maps, topographic maps, and even 3D landscapes. Check out the software interface in the video below. 

GEOlayers 3 Tutorial: After Effects plugins adobe

GEOlayer uses various online databases to create its geographic features in customizable ways. You can also style the colors, imagery, and textures within the plugin. 

Best After Effects plugins

8. iExpressions

Price: $100

Many projects will require you to use After Effects expressions, but writing the code to achieve these expressions may be a bit out of your league. iExpressions addresses this problem. The plugin contains over 100 After Effects expressions that are available to use without the need of writing any code. 

iExpressions 3 f  •  Adobe After Effects plugins

The expressions in iExpressions are customizable. You can modify expression parameters, keyframe expressions, and more. 

Amazing After Effects plugins

9. PQ FUI Toys 2

Price: $50

If you are a user interface designer looking to save time from creating smaller motion graphics, you may want to pay attention to this one. The PQ FUI Toys 2 plugin offers numerous pre-animated motion graphics for you to choose from. What’s new in PQ FUI Toys 2 compared to the first version? Give the video below a watch to check out all the new features. 

PQ FUI Toys 2: After Effects plugins adobe

The PQ FUI Toys 2 plugin is as simple as search, browse, and generate. All motion graphics are also editable within After Effects so you can customize them however you see fit.

After Effects fx plugins

10. Magic Bullet Colorista IV

Price: $199

Colorista is far from a new plugin. However, over the years it has been refined to be an incredibly effective color grading tool for After Effects. As our second Red Giant plugin on our list, you can bet on the newest version of Colorista will get the job done for colorists of every skill level. 

Amazing after effects plugins  •  Magic Bullet Colorista

The Colorista interface is intuitive and includes a three-way color corrector, hue and saturation controls, and even a tone curve. If you’re looking to color grade within After Effects, Colorista is one of the best After Effects plugins you can find. 

After Effects fx plugins

11. Nodes 3

Price: $299

When it comes to 3D imagery with scale, few Adobe AE plugins are more effective than Nodes 3. Nodes 3 can utilize both motion graphics and particle universes in the same compositions.

The result is truly unique, high-end graphics found in films like The Avengers, Planet of the Apes, and Ender’s Game. And that’s just the beginning, discover all the features in the Nodes video below. 

NODES 3 for AE, FCP X, Premiere Pro & Motion 

Nodes 3 comes with a massive library of over 300 templates and presets. They not only save creatives time, but can immediately elevate the production quality of your project. 

After Effects fx plugins

12. Stardust 

Price: $249

Creating unique 3D models seemed to stagnate until the popular utilization of particle systems. Initial AE plugins like Red Giants’ Form and Particular definitely paved the way for advanced 3D models. But Superluminal’s Stardust plugin changes the game. This video shows how Stardust can be used to create particle systems in an intuitive workflow. 

How to use STARDUST ! The new incredible particles plugin for After Effects 

The node-based workflow is really what makes Stardust a game changer when it comes to creating particle systems. With a large library of presets and templates, Stardust is a must for anyone looking to level up their After Effects workflow. 

After Effects fx plugins

13. Duik

Price: Free

Character rigging might seem like a simple animation in After Effects, but as those with experience know, it can be the most difficult to learn. To combat this learning curve, use the Duik plugin. Duik takes After Effects basic rigging system and makes it better and more intuitive. Duik is becoming a standard for an animation work and anyone working in animation should learn how to use it sooner rather than later. You can start by watching this video. 

How To Design For Easy Character Rigging in DUIK Bassel 

Not only is using Duik quickly becoming an expectation in the world of animation, it is also more accessible than any other program since it costs nothing to use. 

After Effects fx plugins

14. Lockdown

Price: $249

One of the most difficult surfaces to track within After Effects is warping surfaces. Things like shirts, fabric, and even skin can warp and bend in ways that make tracking the surfaces nearly impossible.

Lockdown addresses this problem. It allows you to track and warp the surface even as it moves and apply elements that warp with whatever it is you are tracking. Sound too good to be true? Check out this video example for proof. 

Lockdown for After Effect Quick Start Tutorial

If you’re attempting to track and apply graphics or effects to surfaces like skin, fur, or clothing, Lockdown is a must have. It will cut down your time, headaches, and make your work look a whole lot better. 

After Effects fx plugins

15. Lenscare

Price: $199

Last on our list is a plugin called Lenscare that aims to artificially adjust depth of field in After Effects. Lenscare from Frischluft is becoming more and more popular because of its ability to create realistic depth of field.

DOF en After Effects con Lenscare

The lens blurs created throughout Lenscare is one of the most natural looking CG rendered depth of field effects out there. When should you use it? If you find a shot falling flat, if you wish you shot with a shallower depth of field, or if you simply want to draw more focus to a subject, consider the Lenscare plugin. 


Types of VFX and how they're used 

Are you new to the world of After Effects, motion graphics, or VFX? You may want to check out our next article in which we define VFX and how it has allowed filmmakers to create impossible worlds in cinema. VFX can be an overwhelming topic to learn about, but it doesn't have to be. We break it down simply and even dive into a VFX scene recreation of our own. 

Up Next: VFX explained →
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  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

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