After Effects is a motion graphics, video compositing, and visual effects program. It is part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud along with Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, Audition, and others. After Effects lets you fix errors during video post-production, fill in elements after the shoot is over, remove items you don’t want in the shot, and let your creativity flow freely with a huge collection of animation templates and plug-ins. 

One of the reasons that Adobe After Effects is such a powerful animation program is that thousands of plug-ins are available for different effects. Some of the add-ons you need to pay for, but many are available as free downloads.

Free Plug-Ins

Here is a list of some of the most popular free plug-ins for Adobe After Effects.

1. ObviousFX Copy-Image Plug-in

Video Copilot’s ObviousFX Copy-Image plug-in is a simple but useful plug-in that creates a “copy image” command. This lets you copy what you are currently working on and add it to the clipboard, which means you can use it in other Creative Cloud applications later. Video Copilot offers many different motion design and visual effects presets. 

2. Video Copilot Light sabers

Another fun free plug-in from Video Copilot is the lightsaber effect., but a big favorite is the free lightsaber plug-in that lets you create fun lightsaber effects in your videos. Video Copilot also offers tutorials on how to use their plug-ins.

3. After Effects Flame

Create fiery effects with this After Effects flame plug-in developed by Andrew Davidson. Multicolored fractals can be animated to look like flames for logos and backgrounds.

4. Normality by 3DCG

Normality is a lighting plug-in developed by Stefan Minning that lets you light 3D objects from within the frame. This free plug-in performs as well as many of the professional lighting features and Normality is free.

5. Digital Typewriter Text Preset

Typominal creates a computer terminal font for use in motion graphics. This can be useful in titles or credits and some sci-fi scenes.

6. Instagram Plug-in by Cineblur

As its name suggests, Instagram plug-in lets you create footage that looks like you have applied Instagram filters. This could be useful for animating screens in videos.

7. Video Copilot Reflection Plug-in

Another Video Copilot plug-in allows you to create reflections in videos. It is easy to use but the company also has a video tutorial to help.

8. Alpha Plug-ins FirTree

Perfect for forest or holiday scenes, the Alpha Plug-ins fir tree effect lets you create evergreen branches. It has a companion plug-in that creates decorations to hang on the boughs. This is useful for holiday ads or games.

9. Random Text Generator Plug-in

This Random Text Generator Plug-in from FxFactory lets you create motion graphics effects with random text. This is useful in infographics or science fiction videos.

10. Ugly Box Plug-in

The Ugly Box Plug-in from Digital Anarchy lets you create ugly makeup effects for zombies and monsters. This is perfect for independent horror videos.

11. Animation Composer

Mister Horse Animation Composer is a collection of presets and plug-ins that lets you make transitions, sound effects, and text boxes with a powerful and useful free version.

12. Duik Bassel

Duik Bassel from Rainbox Lab is a collection of animation and rigging tools for creating 3D characters. Duik also has many automations for wiggling, swinging, springing, and others. 

13. Flicker Freak Plug-in

Flicker Freak plug-in from Digital Anarchy is another free ad-on that is popular with horror video editors. Flicker Freak lets you film in regular electric light and then add an ominous flicker during post-production.

14. DeLayer

DeLayer was developed by the late Tim Thiessen. It allows you to create delaying effects.

15. Pixflow Particle Builder

Particle Builder lets you create many useful effects using particles. You can create fire, dust, smoke, or give the impression of energy in motion with this plug-in.

16. HUD Builder

If you’ve wondered how to create those floating screens in sci-fi films, HUD Builder is the answer. Head Up Display, or HUD, is a technique where text and graphics appear at eye level in front of a character’s face.

17. Action Fx Builder

Action Fx Builder is another Pixflow product that lets you create fun effects with movement. You can design your own or use one of the templates to insert explosions, moving water, electricity, and many more.

18. Thicc Stroke

Thicc Stroke is a text animation plug-in that creates flowing graphics for titles or infographics. You can easily change the thickness of the stroke.

19. Hologram Generator

Hologram Generator from ProductionCrate creates hologram effects for videos. Useful for science fiction projects, you can adjust the size and color, as well as add flicker, interference, and glow effects.

20. Camera Shake Effects

This Camera Shake plug-in from Action VFX adds camera shake to any still photo making it look like it was shot with a hand-held camera.

How to Learn After Effects

While After Effects can be fun to use, it has a steep learning curve. Animation software is very complex and can do so many things, but many people find it easier to learn through taking classes. If you are thinking of changing careers and working in video editing or animation, enrolling in a course is a good start.

You can choose classes that meet in-person or online to learn After Effects. Some people prefer to attend brick-and-mortar sessions when learning new information, but that isn’t always available. Live online classes have a similar set-up with a real-time, remote instructor who can answer questions and take control of your monitor—with permission—to show you how to do things. Training is part or full-time and available weekdays, weeknights, or weekends.

The best way to prepare for a career shift to a technical field like motion graphics design is to enroll in a bootcamp or certificate program. These are intensive training courses that run from a few weeks to a few months and will cover motion graphics and animation in much more depth than tutorials can. Another plus of training is that you will leave class with a professional-quality sample video portfolio that you can show to prospective employers.

It’s easy to learn Adobe’s After Effects and start a new career. Check out Noble Desktop’s After Effects courses. Choose between in-person sessions in NYC at Noble’s location or sign up for live online After Effects courses and attend from anywhere. Use Noble Desktop’s Classes Near Me to find other courses in After Effects in your area.