Whether you’re an After Effects newbie or a hardened veteran, plugins and extensions can make life easier. From speeding up your workflow to providing ultra-specific features, the tools below will help lighten your After Effects load. 

How do you install an After Effects plugin?

First things first—it's important to understand that when I use the word plugin I'm actually referencing a wide variety of possible tools, including scripts and extensions. Be aware that not all of the product types have the same installation instructions.

But don't worry, because each developer will have a document included, showing you how to install and use the plugin. The aescripts and aeplugins website allows you to download trial versions of all plugins, and they even have an installer to help get you up and running. Now let's have a look at the list.

Motion v3

from Mt. Mograph

If you work with motion graphics on a daily basis, you'll definitely want to get Motion. This powerhouse of a plugin has 45+ tools and hundreds of controls. These include tools for controlling anchor points, comps, color, curves for easing animations, and a load of other features. With all of these properties packed together in one compact and customizable UI, you'll be saving time in no time. 


from Markus Bergelt

With GEOlayers, AE users can design and animate maps directly inside of After Effects. It renders custom maps from different online sources, providing direct access to extensive databases of geospatial features of the world. You can easily draw buildings to After Effects shape layers, highlight country borders, streets, lakes, rivers, places, regions, animate driving routes, and even extruding buildings. Anything in the world that has geodata can be integrated as an editable asset in After Effects. 

Users can quickly and easily style maps, create data-driven animations, and import large datasets and other elements via TSV, CSV, GEOJSON and KML formats. If you have Trapcode Mir 3, Mettle FreeFormPro, or Rowbyte Plexus 3 installed you can create gorgeous 3D landscapes setups in one click based on real elevation data.

Pins & Boxes

from Mamoworld
Pins & Boxes allows users to create dynamic and responsive layouts easily. Instead of writing complex layout expressions, this lovely tool will take care of all the technical details. Create even the most complex layouts with just two very simple concepts: pins and boxes. Align and attach elements to any point of the bounding box of texts and create boxes that grow and shrink with their content. If you create motion graphics templates for Premiere Pro users, this plugin is a must-have. 


from UkraMedia
The smartREKT script takes the Adobe After Effect's Rectangle Tool and sends it into beast mode. The default Rectangle Tool in Adobe AE creates a shape layer that only sizes from the center of the shape, which as you may already know can be extremely frustrating. smartREKT gives more size options by sizing the rectangular shape layer from different pivot points. You can quickly reposition the anchor point to anywhere on the layer, control margins, and much more. Apply to multiple layers at a time (and not just text elements). It also creates a responsive/modular rectangular shape layer based on the size and the anchor point position of the selected layers. 


from Mamoworld
If you have a love/hate relationship with expressions in Adobe After Effects, then this is the plugin for you. With iExpressions, you’ll be able to create complex expression-driven templates, character rigs, shape animations and more without writing any code. It comes with over 100 iExpressions, each with an intuitive, easy to use interface. Your projects will still work on machines where iExpressions is not installed (as well as in Premiere Pro Motion Graphics Templates). Uhhh, that is COOL.


from Danim
If you happen to love expressions, then you’ll want to check out MoCode. This tool brings an entire development environment and a toolbar in After Effects for both beginners and experts alike. It's not just a code editor, but an all-new way to write quickly and easily your expressions and scripts, save, classify and reuse them. 

With MoCode, you can explore a project and navigate between multiple properties, build a code library to reuse your work and share it with your team, create graphic interfaces for your expressions and scripts with a simple syntax, use snippets and autocompletion, and much, much more.


from foxScripts
The Trim Paths animator is one of my favorite tools inside of Adobe After Effects. foxReveal takes trimming paths to the next level. It allows users to create complex path reveals without adding and moving hundreds of keyframes. With foxReveal you can reveal complex path structures from any point with one click. And you can control the reveal with two simple keyframes and its curve. Not too shabby. 


from DaveyStudio
A very versatile extension which allows users to drive animations via specific audio frequencies. Use the integrated FreqView to switch between frequency presets and heights to find the range you’re looking for. Create new ideas by slapping a controller on any property that can be animated. Turn on the Additive Mod to make your reacting effects increase over time. Create infinite rotations, shapes growing beyond the bounds of the screen, or starships flying through space. My favorite aspect of this tool is the clean and intuitive interface. 


from Mamoworld
Another audio-related tool, BeatEdit will change the way you work with music in After Effects. With BeatEdit you can auto-detect beats in a music track, wiggle to the beat, write markers, repeat keyframes, stagger layers, and more. It automatically detects beats in the music track and represents them as markers. This can be the basis of a new edit, or be used to automate cuts that are synced to the music. Oh yeah, it’s also available for Adobe Premiere Pro. Buy as a bundle to save a few bucks. 


from Knights of the Editing Table
Watchtower is an After Effects extension that syncs project bins with system folders. This is very useful if you’re working on a team where assets are constantly being added to drives. One time I found myself in this situation, and I actually got in trouble for accidentally leaving out an asset that was added halfway through the project. With Watchtower, I can set it up to automatically sync to media drives and search for new assets at specific times. 


from Chris Varnos
Lockdown is a revolutionary new plug-in that allows users to track warping surfaces inside After Effects. It’s especially useful for beauty retouching and other previously difficult cleanup jobs. In fact, the most recent update includes support for the built-in Face Tracker inside of After Effects. In other words—GAME. CHANGER. 


from Plugin Everything
HandyCam simplifies every aspect of animated cameras in AE. Taking inspiration from 3D apps like Maya, it was crafted to make animated AE cameras as painless as possible. With HandyCam, users can target layers whilst moving in world-space, create a dolly zoom with one click, and easily emulate handheld movement with DoF wiggles. Use the bake feature to send your project to another animator and open it on a computer that doesn’t have HandyCam. 


from Battle Axe
If you’ve ever worked with vector files between Adobe Illustrator and After Effects, you know that it’s not entirely straight forward. That’s why Adam from Battle Axe created Overlord, a set of two panels that, when both open, create a portal between Illustrator and After Effects. Adam describes this as a “mystical Stargate that allows the transfer of shapes as you need them, while animating, without the need for file organization, importing, converting to shape layers or redrawing.” 

AE shape layers can also be sent back to Illustrator via this “mystical Stargate” for further editing. It’s essentially like using Illustrator as a plugin for After Effects. It allows you to work with shapes, not files. If you work with these programs together and you don’t get this, you’re a dumble-doofus. 

Ray Dynamic Color 2

from Sander van Dijk
Working with colors in Adobe After Effects has never been very easy. With a compact and intuitive interface, Ray Dynamic Color has a solution for this color management problem. It allows you to color your scene with one click using color swatches, extract colors from your scene into a palette, color with or without “expression links,” color shape layer strokes and fills individually, and much, much more. 

What are some of your favorite After Effects plugins and extensions? Let us know in the comment section.

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