After Effects is a very effective program that even in standard form can produce remarkable effects that were probably never fully expected even from Adobe.
However, one of the greatest things about the product is the proliferation of free After Effects plugins that can help automate some of those effects or even add completely new tools to your arsenal.
There are many plugins and filters available for making your After Effects masterpiece into next stage, ranging from color presets, transitions plugins, sound effects to complicated lighting and 3D tracking packs.
In this article, we will introduce 15 best After Effects free plugins. Let’s begin.
1 ObviousFX Copy-Image Plug in
First on my list is a very simple plug in, however it is such a time-saver that it is definitely a plug in that should be on any list. Copy-Image adds a single command to the edit menu, that command being ‘Copy Image’.
What that command does, in a single click, is flatten and copy the current composition at the time selected to the clipboard, enabling you to paste it into any other program, such as Photoshop, without the need to go through the process of saving a frame to an image file and so on that out of the box After Effects requires.
Not a game changer by any means, but very much a time saver, well worth it.
2. Boris FX Sapphire
Sapphire is very similar to the perhaps better known Boris Continuum Complete, in that it is a brilliant one stop shop for a whole host of VFX plugins. Now on its 11th edition, there are more than 50 new effects to choose from, and the Academy Award winning Mocha planar tracking and masking engine is now included.
Expect to see plenty of motion graphics tool, which are perfect for creating textures and overlays, and cinematic lighting effects that allow you to easily add flares, glints, and glows. There are over 3000 presets to choose from, but if that’s not enough it’s also possible to create your own transitions and effects, so you can really make your composition your own.
As you’d expect, Sapphire’s most recent release has been optimized for maximum CPU and GPU performance, making the user experience faster and smoother than ever.
3. Cineblur Instagram
From a plugin that does everything, to one that does a single thing: Cineblur’s Instagram plugin gives you a super easy way to mimic Instagram’s filters, for instantly enhanced cinematography.
If you’re fairly new to After Effects, or just like to get to your end result as quick as possible, this one click solution is for you. Simply install, choose your filter, and you’re done. It couldn’t be simpler.
This plugin is completely free, so it’s worth having in your arsenal for those days when you don’t have time to grade your footage manually.
4. Shadow Studio
Adding shadows to your work can be computationally expensive, especially if it’s being done by raytracing, and it’s a great way to slow down your workflow. However with Shadow Studio you can simulate these effects in a much faster manner. It’s a native plugin for After Effects CS6 and up that gives you soft shadows, radial shadows and inner shadows, and it comes with three presets to help you quickly get the results you’re after.
5. Video Copilot – Optical Flares
Optical Flare PluginThis one is probably the most well-known plug-in in the industry: Optical Flare by Video Copilot.
Optical flares allow you to create beautiful lighted background environments with lens flares.
This plug-in come with a library of already-made lights/lens flare presets that you can apply and tweak in a few clicks. One of the nice features that I like is that you can use optical flares in different positioning modes such as 2d,3D, track light, mask and luminance. Optical flare also include transparency so you can add any background behind or in front of the flare.
6. RowByte – Plexus 3
Plexus plug-in from Rowbyte is one of those particle engines that became rapidly a trend in the motion graphic industry. One of the features allows users to connect dots/triangles with lines and animate them in a 3D space, similar to the picture above. But Plexus 3 can be much more powerful. It lets you create, manipulate and visualize data in a procedural manner. In simple terms, it means that particles can be animated and have a relationship with each other. I strongly recommend to watch to demo reel to understand. 🙂
Plexus 3 Features:
Create lines between particles
Create facets between particles
Import OBJ sequences
Triangulate and create new surfaces
Render custom sprites based on the particle data
7. AE Flame
This is a lovely effect that generates beautiful colored fractals that can be animated. With options for color, intensity, density and so on they are also highly customizable to enable you to get the precise effect you are after.
There are so many uses for these from intros onward, they do look stunning and are easy to use. Whilst there are plenty of paid for plugins that can produce a similar effect, this one is completely free.
8. Typominal – Digital Typewriter Text Preset
Not something you will use every day, nonetheless, it is a great little plugin to have available, and as it is free, why wouldn’t you? Typominal is applied to a text layer and creates a computer terminal look for the text.
It contains a choice of two cursor types and is very effective at what it does. Think of that scene at the start of Alien, maybe even Wargames, there are many places to fit that style in, science fiction especially. No, it won’t be a go to preset on every project, but for the right project, it is a fantastic effect.
Plexus has essentially given birth to a trend in digital media, and the plugin gets better and better with every new release. Plexus 3 is the newest version of the plugin, and a very handy Object Panel has been added for when you need to organize two or more Plexus objects in your layer. Motion blur has also been added to enhance the cinematography in your animations, and you can use custom camera settings to make your work truly unique.
Obj. support is included, so you can import models from most major 3D graphics software and use them as the containers or forms for Plexus to use.
10. Mister Horse Animation Composer
If you’re an animator, you’ll probably have a whole different tool bag of plugins from film editors, and if it isn’t already, Animation Composer should be a part of your kit.
Motion presets give you an easy way to animate your layers, and you can add, remove and adjust objects and animations with a click of your mouse. You can also take advantage of royalty free content through the precomps which have been created by professional animators and illustrators. This is the quickest way to add aspects such as titles, shapes and illustrations to your animation. Audio is taken care of too, and you can adjust the pitch of your chosen clip to better suit your animation.
What we love most about this plugin is how easy it is to use, which makes it suitable for beginners and pros alike.