A Guide khổng lồ Getting Started with After Effects Plugins.

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As you’ve probably found out by now, After Effects is an incredibly powerful piece of software. While you can bởi vì amazing things with the base màn chơi software, khổng lồ really unlock its full potential developers have created amazing tools called plugins. For my day lớn day work in After Effects I use a wide number of plugins. Some vị simple things such as smooth out keyframes, while others allow me lớn generate amazing particle effects with minimum effort.

You’ll find that as you work with After Effects plugins will save you a lot of time và energy, thus making your job a little easier. A few seconds here or there really add up.

However, I bởi vì want to áp lực that while plugins are essential in your day khổng lồ day workflow, you really need khổng lồ make sure you understand what the plugin is doing. Which reminds me...

(Stand on soapbox)

If you just start using a plugin without understanding what task it is automating for you, then you're not truly expanding your MoGraph knowledge. Learn the concepts before shortcuts.

(Step down from soapbox)

Let’s dive right in!

What is an After Effects Plugin?

A plugin is a component that adds a specific function or feature khổng lồ an already existing software. Plugins are almost universally developed by third-party developers, & not the developers of the original software itself (Adobe).

For us, our original software is After Effects. So, when we địa chỉ cửa hàng plugins we’re giving After Effects additional components that help us customize it, which in-turn enhances our workflow. Plugins can vì chưng a lot of things, such as customize certain tasks, which means they can make complex functions simple khổng lồ execute. This again, all works to lớn your benefit.


Is Duik the world's best không tính phí plugin? Probably.

How bởi you Create a Plugin, Can I Create One?

I’ll never say khổng lồ you that you can’t vì chưng something, because I believe in the old cliche, “You can bởi vì anything you mix your mind to.” But in regards lớn developing và creating a plugin, you’re going lớn need some substantial knowledge. & since plugins are essentially small pieces of software that fit within a broader piece of software your going to lớn need to understand how to utilize the C++ programming language.

Note that C++ is in fact a language, & just like any other language it will take time khổng lồ learn. But, if you already have a grasp of C++ then your next step would pick up the AE SDK (After Effects Software Development Kit). This SDK will give you the tools necessary to develop a plugin specifically for After Effects.


Not quite as sexy as an After Effects composition... Image courtesy of fxphd.

What's the Difference Between a Plugin and a Script in After Effects?

Now that we know what a plugin actually is, và what it does, we need khổng lồ understand how it differs from a script. Just like plugins, scripts are essential tools for you as you expand your After Effects abilities. So let’s take a quick second to understand what a script really is.

Scripts are just like plugins in the sense that they are created with a programming language. However instead of customizing the software lượt thích a plugin does, a script automates a process or execution within the software. In short, if you have khổng lồ click it in After Effects there's probably a script that can help you automate a process. So if you find yourself doing something over & over again there's probably a script for that. As you get more comfortable with After Effects you’ll find that utilizing scripts can help you just as much as plugins. I personally use scripts more than plugins, but both are useful in their own way.


Scripting example courtesy of LesterBanks.

Where can I get After Effects plugins?

Okay, so getting back lớn plugins. The most common question I get from up và coming AE users is, “Where can I get plugins?” This is an easy question, but also a complex question. There is no true one stop cửa hàng when it comes to getting plugins for After Effects, but let’s explore three crucial sites.


It's all in the name... Aescritps + aeplugins reighns supreme as the best place lớn find tools for Motion Design. You’ll find everything from 'simple' extensions such as Flow khổng lồ more complex plugins like Stardust. This site is the closest thing we have to lớn a one stop shop. Plus, aescripts + aeplugins connects developers with artists which is an amazing business model.


The folks over at RED Giant have been putting together great plugins for After Effects for sometime now. Their Trapcode Suite is a must-have for most motion graphic artists. I personally use Trapcode Particular all the time. They also have a subscription service called Universe, which has some great plugins for After Effects.

3. đoạn phim COPILOT

Created by one of the champions of After Effects, Andrew Kramer, đoạn clip Copilot has been a great resource for đứng top end AE plugins. The Optical Flares plugin is used in Hollywood all the time, & Element 3d is the fastest way to create 3d text in After Effects. Plus, they have a whole host of 3D và stock motion packs to lớn get you going quickly.

Please remember that this danh mục isn’t comprehensive. There are a ton of sites, companies, & individuals that offer great plugin options. Just search around. You'll find 'em.

What are the most popular After Effects plugins?

Okay, so now that we know some of the best places to get plugins for After Effects, the question now becomes what are the most popular plugins? While I’ll give you a few of the most widely used plugins around, you’ll want to kiểm tra out our article on The Best After Effects Tools.

4. TRAPCODE SUITEPrice: $999

The Trapcode Suite from RED Giant is a multifaceted plugin set that allows AE users to lớn create complex particle effects, geometric shapes, 3d motion graphic designs, and much more. The vast majority of high cấp độ AE users và motion designers utilize Trapcode in their work. The workflow isn’t incredibly difficult khổng lồ grasp, & the result are stunning. Just be aware that the suite will cost you, but like most things in life, you get what you pay for.

5. FLOWPrice: $30

As you’ll come to find out, when animating layers in After Effects you’ll over up using the graph editor quite a bit. That’s where Flow comes in. Essentially Flow simplifies the graph editor lớn a basic interface that isn’t overly complicated. For those that use the graph editor lớn apply curves lớn your animations, Flow is going to be your best friend.

6. OVERLORDPrice: $45

As many motion designers can tell you, the connection between Illustrator & After Effects is great, và allows for you khổng lồ generate amazing work. However, the workflow can be a little clunky. Overlord helps with that clunkiness by providing a workflow system that you’ll absolutely love. If you use Illustrator for a lot of your motion animation work, Overlord is a must.

7. RIFTPrice: $29.99 (Name Your Price)

When you begin khổng lồ create more complex animations you’ll end up working with multiple layers and multiple properties. These layers và properties will most often need to lớn be shifted, staggered, or randomized to lớn make your animation smoother. Rift will allow you to make those adjustments in a panel, which can help greatly.

8. DUIKPrice: không lấy phí (I kid you not)

If you’ve had to lớn animate characters in your work, chances are you’ve needed to bởi some rigging and have probably have used the puppet tool to vày so. With Duik you can bởi vì all of this at an extremely high level by using features such as autorig, dynamics, và inverse kinematics. While Duik is extremely robust it does have a little bit of a learning curve, but if you've ever dreamed of getting into character animation there's no better tool for After Effects.

As you can see above, the price points for plugins vary greatly, from miễn phí to expensive. If you can’t afford something like Trapcode Suite right now don’t fret, there are usually alternative solutions. For example, if you just want lớn generate some great particles but you can’t fork over $400 for Trapcode Particular 3, you might want lớn take a look at Stardust, which generates high kết thúc particles & does so for around $150 less. There are always alternatives out there for you. Plugins are just tools.

How vị You Install Plugins? 

Once you’ve grabbed a plugin you’ll need khổng lồ install it. Luckily for all of us this process is extremely simple. The details for installing a plugin can vary depending on the developer, so always be sure to check the documentation on how khổng lồ properly install the plugin you’ve purchased.

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But for basic installations here is a very quick guide… After Effects will in fact load plugins from multiple folders, but it contains a mặc định plugin folder within its chip core software directory. This is where you can drop your purchased & downloaded plugins as long as they don’t come with a specific installer. Default locations for Windows and Mac are as follows:

(Windows): Program FilesAdobeAdobe After Effects Support Files(Mac): Applications/Adobe After Effects /Plug-ins

Should I use Plugins in my Workflow?

Now that you have the knowledge và a few starting points to begin your journey with After Effects plugins you should begin to add them to lớn your workflow. Again, while After Effects is an extremely powerful software all on its own, plugins allow you to lớn unlock that power to a màn chơi beyond what you thought capable.

You are by no means required khổng lồ utilize plugins in your workflow, but as someone who wants to be a Motion Designer for a living you really should be taking advantage of everything plugins have to lớn offer. By expanding your capabilities allows you to lớn work more efficiently và take your MoGraph game to the next level!