15 Free Plugins for Adobe After Effects

From light sabers to holograms, these free After Effects plugins will level up your effects game.

Adobe’s After Effects is one of the most widely used visual effects applications. After Effects has a robust suite of visual effects tools that can benefit anyone from YouTubers to motion graphics artists. But even with all its bells and whistles, After Effects doesn’t have everything a creator might need. That’s where third-party plugins made by companies or individual creators come in. With a plugin, you can make After Effects do things it wasn’t designed to do, like duplicate compositions, or create complicated visual effects with the click of a button, like lightsabers.

With many free plugins available, you can improve your workflow and even get inspired without making a huge investment. Below, we’ve compiled a list of our 23 favorite After Effects plugins.

1. FX console

This plugin from Video Copilot comes highly recommended. VFX artists swear by FX Console — many believe it should just be built into the software. 

The plugin adds a toolbar to After Effects that makes searching for effects a breeze. Instead of navigating menus, you can find the effect you want with a few keystrokes. Better yet, once you find the effect, you can immediately apply it to the layer you’re currently working on. While it’s not the flashiest effect on this list, it’s by far the most useful. 

2. Saber

Speaking of flashy plugins, Saber is another gem from Video Copilot you need. The plugin allows you to recreate the lightsaber effect from Star Wars. Whether you’re making titles or filming a lightsaber sequence, this free plugin is all you need. 

Saber has 50 presets and several customizable options to get the perfect energy beam for your shot. Just take a look at the trailer to check it out. 

3. Rift

As explained on the Rift download page, the plugin “provides methods to shift, sequence, stagger, or randomize layers properties like in and out points, keyframes, markers and more, presented in a compact UI.” Put another way, Rift is a shifting script that allows you shift multiple layers at once. 

This is done via the toolbar, which lets you, for example, shift layers in descending or ascending order within a set number of keyframes. With this plugin, you no longer have to shift each layer in the timeline, which saves a lot of time. 

Though the download page lists the plugin at $29.99, that’s only a suggested price. You can download it for free. 

4. Duik Bassel 

There are many character rigging and animation plugins, but Duik Bassel 2 gets mentioned a lot. The plugin lets you take a character from a static object to a fully animated one. As you can see in this video, the toolbar for this plugin looks like a lot to take in, but there’s enough here to use. If you’re planning on rigging or animating characters in your shots, this is a free plugin you’ll want to install. 

5. Displacer Pro

Displacer Pro from Plugin Everything allows you to displace objects with translation, rotation, and scale. The chromatic aberration tool gives movement a glitchy look that will certainly stand out. While you won’t use it all the time, it’s great for creating interesting, trippy transitions with just a few clicks. Just check it out for yourself in the video trailer. 

The free tool has GPU acceleration, taking advantage of powerful graphics cards for an even faster, smoother experience. 

6. Hylian

This Zelda-inspired plugin is extremely simple to use, requiring only a single button to apply the effect. Hylian lets you duplicate a layer, with keyframe properties, as Battle Axe puts it, “linked back to the original layer.” It’s a link to the past that saves you the trouble of recreating the same keyframes on multiple layers. It’s a simple tool with many creative uses.

7. Pan and Zoom

This is the Ken Burns effect reincarnated as a plugin. If you’re familiar with the famous documentarian’s work (and even if you’re not), you know about this particular effect, which zooms in on an image over a period of time. There’s not much more to say about Pan and Zoom, as the title explains it all. 

In addition to being compatible with After Effects, this plugin also works with Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Motion. However, it’s only compatible with computers running Intel or Apple CPUs. (Sorry, AMD users.) 

8. Manifesto

FX Factory makes the list once again, this time with the Manifesto plugin. It’s another plugin that simplifies tedious tasks. With Manifesto, you can easily create title crawls with no keyframes required. You just type out the text, and Manifesto takes it from there. Again, this won’t work with AMD-powered computers. 


Like many of the plugins in this list, AEVIEWER 2 is something that should be built directly into After Effects. This plugin does something very simple: it allows you to search for files and projects and import them from After Effects. With this installed, you won’t have to leave After Effects to dig around for media files, meaning fewer distractions. The free version of the plugin doesn’t have any caveats; it’s free to download and use for as long as you want. However, upgrading to AEVIEWER Pro will allow you to rename files, view additional file formats, organize collections, and a lot more.

10. DecomposeText

DecomposeText is not a flashy plugin, but it is very useful for animating text. This plugin allows you to split up the text in three ways: characters, words, or lines. If the text is split into characters, for example, the plugin creates a new layer for each character, which you can then animate individually to create truly unique text animations without limitations. While DecomposeText is technically free, there is a suggested price of $14.99 for individual creators — businesses and teams must pay the suggested price for a valid license, however.

11. HeliumX AI

It seems like you can’t go anywhere these days without hearing about AI, and the visual effects industry is no different. HeliumX AI is a Stable Diffusion-powered AI image generator that allows you to create AI images from After Effects. The plugin generates images through a text or image prompt. There are also presets for creating images quickly. HeliumX AI is part of the larger HeliumX suite, which requires a yearly subscription. However, the free HeliumX Lite offers the AI portion for free.

12. Ordinary Folk gridRig V1

Ordinary Folk offers a selection of fun, minimal plugins like the gridRig V1. This plugin quickly creates and animates grid lines. While animated grid lines might have a niche use case, it can still be fun to play around with this plugin. The plugin, though simple, has various settings and sliders that can change the number of grid lines and offset the animation of the grid lines to give you a delayed effect. If you like this one, check out their site for other effects.

13. TimeOffset

TimeOffset makes it possible to retime compositions easily. With this script, you can offset keyframe timing with the click of a button, making it possible to adjust keyframes before and after the timeline cursor. If retiming keyframes is getting too tedious, this simple, free plugin can tighten up your workflow. TimeOffset is free to download and use, but there is a suggested price of $17.

14. TextEvo2

Similar to DecomposeText, TextEvo2 allows you to animate text. However, this plugin takes it a step further by providing animation templates that can animate the text in various directions, such as outwards and inwards. If you need a quick and easy way to make your text pop, this plugin can help you do that in a few seconds. While there is a suggested price of $29.99, you can download and use this plugin free of charge.

15. Animation Composer

With how much you can do with this plugin, it’s almost a miracle that Animation Composer 3 is free. You can choose from various animated presets, create jaw-dropping transitions, choose from a library of sound effects, create animated text boxes, and a lot more. Whether you need to get this plugin for the transitions for the animated presets, you’ll get a lot of use. Many VFX artists swear by Animation Composer 3, so it’s worth giving it a shot. The free version of Animation Composer 3 is generous, but if you want to unlock the full potential of this plugin, you’ll have to subscribe for $16.50 monthly/$198 annually.

Cover image via Freepik.

This post was updated on January 15, 2024 to reflect changes in the industry.

Looking for filmmaking tips and tricks? Check out our YouTube channel for tutorials like this . . .

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Alejandro Medellin

Alejandro is a freelance writer who covers the intersection between consumer technology and fields such as content creation, video production, and video games. He has bylines in Input, Crunchyroll/Funimation, The Inventory, UploadVR, and more. Cooking and spending too much money on books/manga/graphics novels are his passions.

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