Top 10 Paid and Free Scripts and Plugins for After Effects
Utilizing the functionality of After Effects scripts and plugins is one of the best ways to improve your motion graphics skills. Here are our top ten.
If you’re just getting into After Effects, I’ll be the first to tell you — it’s great. Except when it isn’t. Sometimes it just kind of sucks. For every menu or function that’s over-simplified, there’s two more that are overly complicated. Luckily, there are plenty of really talented, passionate people developing tools that address these issues.
Of course, with hundreds (if not thousands) of these custom plugins and scripts flooding the internet, it can be a challenge to find the really good ones.
Don’t worry, I’m here to help. I’ve sifted through the pile and put together a list of my top ten paid and free scripts and plugins for After Effects. Enjoy.
1. FX Console
I’ll preach this over and over again — FX Console should come standard in After Effects. Once you use FX Console, there is absolutely zero chance you’ll use AE’s effects and presets panel ever again.
With FX Console, you can quickly pull up a search menu wherever your mouse is, giving you instant access to all of the content in the effects and presets panel. Even when I was making the example above, it killed me to search for everything manually. FX Console didn’t just speed up my workflow, it also helped me remember the functions and names of many of the effects offered. This plugin is a 100% must-have, even if you’re just starting out.
2. Butt Capper
I have to be honest — I didn’t use Butt Capper much until I started doing research for this post. Frankly, I don’t know how I’ve managed to use After Effects without it.
There have been plenty of times when I had twenty to thirty (and occasionally even fifty) layers of strokes. Imagine the pain of opening all of those shape layers just to change how the strokes look.
With Butt Capper, you’re only one or two clicks away from changing all of the selected strokes in your composition. It’s free to download — why not try it out? Seriously, go try it out.
3. Ease Copy
I really wish I’d downloaded this plugin sooner — it would’ve spared me a couple of complete meltdowns. Ease Copy allows you to copy motion curves or values from one layer to another. This is really cool because, without it, there’s no way to copy a motion curve natively in After Effects.
Trying to match curves can be frustrating and take a lot of time, especially if you’re doing it for several layers. Having Ease Copy and the previous two plugins native in After Effects would fix many of the issues users encounter every day.
Need some borders around your text? Well, have I got a plugin for you. In the words of TextBorder‘s creator Plugin Everything, “TextBorder creates a perfectly sized and customizable border around your text that updates automatically.” Pretty slick.
You can customize the stroke in the easy-to-navigate control options found in the effects control panel. Doing it the old way can be frustrating — some edges will not be evenly spaced around the word. Even worse? If you have to retype the text, then you’ll have to restart the whole process. This is a great plugin if you’re working on a bigger project or an explainer video.
Hands down, gridRig is the most fun-to-use script I’ve ever encountered. There are plenty of reasons why it’s one of my favorite scripts, but the main reason is the amount of work gridRig does for you.
It forces you to practice overlapping animations and learn how to work inside of the graph editor — I like using gridRig to see just how smooth of an animation I can get. If you do the same and keep at it, you’ll definitely notice your motion gradually becoming smoother and more lifelike.
6. Deep Glow
If you’re a glow-effect lover like me, then you know how lacking the default version is in After Effects. Sure, it does the job sometimes, but throwing it on a layer usually just leads to disappointing results.
Admittedly, I was a bit hesitant when I stumbled upon Deep Glow. However, once I loaded it up, it was obvious that it was substantially better than the default option.
It lets you change the glow spread, aspect ratio, chromatic aberration, and blur quality. Plus, many of Deep Glow’s effects don’t even exist in AE’s default version. Simply put, this is what a glow effect should look like. Highly recommended for all of your glow needs.
The days of manually animating each and every stroke in your composition are behind you. foxReveal detects paths with a special branching algorithm, and, no matter the complexity of the paths, you can easily control how they reveal with only two keyframes. Just like Text Borders, this script is exceptionally handy when working on big projects.
When you’re building out a project, sometimes you already know the way you want things to move. Flow gives you access to a predefined library of motion-curve presets, keeping you out of the messy graph editor so you can focus more on your composition.
Another awesome feature of Flow — you can download motion presets from other designers (and Google) and combine the libraries with your own in order to create a stockpile of motion presets.
If you’re up against a strict deadline, and you need to quickly pump out an animation, this script will definitely help. I will say that, before you download this script, make sure you understand how the speed/value graph works. If you don’t, then everything you make will have the same feel since you’ll be repeating motion curves across projects.
9. Newton 3
Here’s how Motion Boutique, the outfit responsible for the great Newton 3 physics engine, describes their plugin: “Newton 3 brings realistic physics to After Effects, making your 2D composition layers act like solid objects that interact with each other – just like in the real world.”
Newton 3 lets you dial in the properties of your object as well as the properties of the world in which your object exists. The object types run from dynamic to dead, with six types in all, and density, collisions, friction, bounciness, velocity, gravity, and more are all under your control. Plus, six types of joints allow for greater complexity of motion.
Frankly, I feel like the work Newton 3 pulls off with only keyframes would be impossible for most motion designers to replicate. The info above is just scratching the surface of what the plugin is capable of, so head over to the Newton 3 landing page to dive in deeper.
10. Ray Dynamic Texture
I’ve been texturing a lot of my layers recently. Texturing can make your animations feel and look a lot more realistic.
The downside is that you usually need to have three total layers for each object being textured. Setting this up in bigger projects can quickly turn tedious and can result in a confusion-building number of layers. Ray Dynamic Texture simplifies the process.
When you highlight your selected layer, your desired texture is only a single click away. If you change the texture, the script automatically updates every layer using it. The script also remembers your most-used effects, shapes, and expressions and keeps them at hand.
When you use this script alongside FX Console, you have one of the smoothest workflows possible in After Effects.
We all need to remember that plugins and scripts are small pieces of software that require time to learn — time that could be spent learning the animation fundamentals of After Effects. Push yourself to master the basics — that knowledge is way more powerful than any script or plugin.
Want to expand your After Effects knowledge and motion graphics skills? These resources can help.
- Hardware Accelerated Encoding Coming to Premiere and After Effects
- 10 After Effects Plugins Every Motion Designer Should Have
- 9 FREE After Effects Templates
- 5 Time-Saving After Effects Tips for Motion Designers
Cover image via Plugin Everything.