22 Free & Paid After Effects Plugins You Need

After Effects 02/11/2021 6 min read

After Effects plugins are a great way of saving time and energy building animated elements from scratch, unlike templates, which offer you customization over a premade After Effects project. Plugins add tools and functions to the backend of After Effects, making them as simple to use as the built-in effects. So you can get straight on with animating, we’ve put together a helpful list of the best free and paid After Effects plugins.

Part 1: 22 Top AE Plugins for Video Editors

1. Motion Array Adobe Integrations

The Motion Array Adobe Integrations plugin allows you to access Motion Array’s complete stock library straight within After Effects. You’ll no longer have to download your video, music, or template assets from the website. Instead, the Motion Array plugin gives you a control panel to drag and drop directly to your timeline.

Download Motion Array Adobe Integrations Now

2. Displacer

Easily create cool displacement effects in your videos that also rotate and scale for an even more professional look. Featuring powerful map adjustments, such as gamma, softness, easing make this plugin a great addition to your arsenal.

Free Displacer Download

3. Superluminal Stardust 1.5.0 (Free Trial)

Stardust is a 3D Particle creator for After Effects, which lets you create stunningly rendered 3D particle elements. This innovative plugin gives you the ability to combine 3D models, particles, and effects, all existing and interacting in the same shared space. With Stardust, you can create beautiful fluid 3D animations and motion graphics.

Download Superluminal Stardust 1.5.0 Now

4. Free deLayer

You can now easily generate a random delay with any size comp and framerate for cool video effects. Once you install it, easily pick a corner you want the delay to start from and let the plugin do its work. The sky is the limit to what you can do with the free deLayer!

Free Delayer Download

5. Free Particle Builder

As they state proudly on their website, Free Particle Builder allows you to “Make Fire, Dust, Smoke, Magic, Energy, Awards, and More! Cool Visual Effect Particles With Just 1 Click!” and that is what the plugin allows you to do. Particle Builder is incredibly intuitive and easy to use but offers such a wide variety of effects it’s a must-have for any animator.

Free Particle Builder Download

6. Free Hi-Tech HUD Builder

Hi-Tech HUD Builder is a smart little plugin that allows you to more easily create HUD (Heads-up Display) graphics, transitions, overlays, intros, and games effects. If you want to create a Sci-fi film, this plugin is a must-have. Beyond that, you can create some cool effects that would work well in promotional videos, events films, or anything that you want to add that ‘High-Tech’ feel.

Free Hi-Tech HUD Builder Download

7. Free Action FX Builder

Free Action FX Builder is a 2D animation plugin that helps you create impressive explosions, energy, fire, water, smoke, electricity, and Motion Shape effects. The 2D cartoony style makes this plugin great for creating unique text and transitional effects, as well as creating 2D animated sequences of your own.

Free Action FX Builder Download

8. Free Reflection

Reflection is a free plugin from Video Copilot that gives you control over 2D shape reflections in a 3D space. This plugin is perfect for using in-product videos, presentations, and slideshows. You have a tremendous amount of control over the reflection, including the blur, skew, tint, and blend style.

Free Reflection Download

9. Free Thicc Stoke

If you are looking to create amazing animated titles in your next project, look no further than this free stroke plugin. Featuring creative editing capabilities, such as creating gradients along the path, adjusting the thickness and roundness of the stroke, as well as adding neon style bright colors. Download it today!

Free Thicc Stroke Download

10. Free Hologram Generator

This plugin boasts amazing design and detail for easily creating your very own hologram effects in just a couple of clicks! You can adjust the direction and size of the scan lines, as well as the amount of interference, flicker, color, and glow just to name a few of the options available.

Free Hologram Generator Download

11. Free Animation Composer 3

If you are animating icons, text, or graphics, Mister Horse is the plugin for you. You can save hundreds of hours keyframing your compositions, by installing the simple Animation Composer, giving you access to a range of prebuilt in and out effects. Mister Horse also sells additional animation presets in packages for everything from iconography to typography.

Free Animation Composer 3 Download

12. Free Saber Plugin

Saber is a must-have for any animator! This simple plugin allows you to create stunning light effects based on Strokes, giving you the ability to create neon text effects, lightning, laser gunfire, and yes, even lightsaber effects. The Saber plugin also offers a range of styles such as lava, electric, and energy, with complete control over color and intensity. This plugin is super cool and surprisingly simple to use.

Free Saber Plugin Download

13. Free 3DS Max Normality 

Normality is a plugin created for Motion Graphics Artists, to give them a simple and intuitive way to light objects and scenes in a 3D space. The plugin works directly in After Effects, making this a great way of learning how to work in AE 3D.

Free 3DS Max Normality Download 

14. Ease and Wizz

Ease and Wizz is a handy little plugin for those animators who work with iconography, typography, or infographics. The plugin gives you a whole new After Effects panel from which to control the Ease of various In/Out animation presets, including Quart, Sine, Bounce, and Elastic. 

Download Ease and Wizz Now

15. Free DUIK

Duik Bassel.2 is an impressive Rigging plugin for 2D animation in After Effects. If you want to create 2D character animation, this is the plugin for you. DUIK is a complex piece of kit and has a bit of a learning curve, but once you’re up and running, 2D animation and camera work become a breeze.

Free DUIK Download

16. Glitch Builder

With a name like Glitch Builder, this does what you think it does; it gives you a full glitch panel with 100 stunning glitch effects ready to drop straight to your video, images, shapes, and text layers. You can further control the Noise, Flicker, Color, and Wave of each effect, and build them up into millions of combinations.

Download Glitch Builder Now

17. Plexus

The Plexus plugin offers some truly advanced-looking animated styles. The composer allows you to create stunning 3D Plexus shapes, generate particles, and create relationships between them, so they move as a flexible shape. With this one, it’s only limited by your own creativity.

Download Plexus Now

18. Flow

Flow is the plugin you didn’t know you needed, until now. If you spend your time keyframing animations, you’ll probably be familiar with the frustrations of the After Effects Graph Editor. Flow replaces the Graph with an intuitive and easy-to-use panel, preset animation settings, and handles to finely tune your animation.

Download Flow Now

19. Parrot Plugin

Copying and pasting keyframes is a thing of the past with this awesome plugin. The Parrot plugin allows you to create a master animated element and assign other elements to parrot it. Unlike using null layers, which tie all elements to a singular animation, Parrot gives you the ability to stagger the animation points of each element independently, saving vast amounts of time on those complex and repetitive tasks.

Download Parrot Plugin Now

20. Free Random Text Generator

The Random Text Generator does exactly what you think; generates random text patterns. Perfect for use in Sci-fi or Tech-based videos, the Generator allows you to create grids, lines, and shapes of randomly chosen letters and numbers. 

Free Random Text Generator Download

21. Deep Glow

Deep Glow is an awesome little plugin that gives you a heap of new styles to work with. Replacing the lackluster build-in glow effects, Deep Glow gives you a huge amount of control over the glow elements, and how it affects the space. With this plugin, you can not only create shape and text-based glow effects, but you can also use it to help with compositing digital effects.

Download Deep Glow Now

22. Free Light Sampler

The Light Sampler is a great plugin for your next gaming project. Easily apply amazing light effects to mystical objects, weapons as well as magic powers of your characters. Use alongside muzzle, flash, explosion, and spark effect graphics.

Free Light Sampler Download

Part 2: Ins and Outs of Plugins

Plugins are a great time saver and can help you push your work further, but they do need to be installed in the correct way to work. It isn’t challenging to install these plugins, and most will come with instructions, but if you want to learn more about how to use After Effects plugins, check out our handy video. 

Here are our top 3 tips for working with Plugins.

Keep your Projects Organised

Some Plugins can take up quite a bit of rendering power in your machine, so you must keep your projects organized, both within AE and on your hard drive. Regularly back up your work, and try creating effects-heavy sequences in their own project, and importing them into the main once it is complete.

Check for Updates

You should get notifications if there is an update to your plugins, and you must keep them all updated. Some outdated plugins won’t work at all, and some can even cause corruption to your projects if you try. Similarly, an update to After Effects can cause some plugins to stop working. If this does happen, check with the developer for news of fixes or bug issues.

Build your own in After Effects

Plugins give you the ability to build your own version of After Effects that will have different capabilities to other animators. Using Plugins, you can improve your skills and find new creative ways to produce your compositions. Create a collection of plugins specific to your needs.

Plugins are a great way of saving you time and energy, creating keyframe animations or effects from scratch. But more than that, they can help you create new effects you’d never even considered, and introduce you to new ways of working. Now that you know where you can find excellent Adobe After Effects plugins, go get downloading.