5 Most Essential After Effects Plugins in 2013

5 Most Essential After Effects Plugins in 2013
August 12, 2013 Adrian Thompson

There’s a lot of After Effects plugins out there. Which ones should you care about? Below is a list of the five plugins that should be a part of any serious motion designer’s tool kit. You’ll notice these being used by professionals across the industry! Click on an image to see the best available pricing at Toolfarm.

1.) Trapcode Particular

One of the most versatile plug-ins After Effects has ever seen. Particular is a particle generator that gives you unparalleled control over particle dynamics, including: shading, turbulence, physics, z-space movement and much more. I’ve been able to use this for all sorts of things, such as creating dust, smoke, light trails and maneuvering a group of custom graphics.

2.) YY_Ramp+

Creating smooth gradients in After Effects can be a pain, especially when you’re trying to make a lot of them! If the built in ramp effect isn’t cutting it for you anymore, check out YY_Ramp+. It delivers intuitive functionality, such as: adding blend modes; smooth interpolations, ramp noise to avoid banding and a simple invert switch to swap color selections.

3.) Video Copilot Element 3D

This revolutionary plug-in adds efficient 3D functionality, right inside of After Effects! Element 3D allows you to extrude custom text, shapes and even import pre-built 3D models, with support for OBJ, FBX, C4D, 3DS Max and Vray. The real beauty of it all, is how simple and quick it is to use. You can extrude, texture and animate custom 3D models in just minutes.

4.) Trapcode 3D Stroke

Taking strokes and lines to a whole new level. 3D Stroke brings your mask paths to life with lines that can glow, taper and move through 3D space, as a built-in camera lets you capture the action from any angle. It allows for easy duplication of strokes, so you can create complex scenes in no time.

5.) Video Copilot Optical Flares

By far the best way to create flares within After Effects. Once you start using this plug-in you’ll quickly notice that these are the same flares used in popular Hollywood movies, such as Star Trek. Optical Flares gives you detailed control of it’s presets and the ability to create your own flares from scratch.

What are your favorite plug-ins for After Effects?


  1. Dennis Mckinney 11 years ago

    I’m using ProAnimator 7 and it seems pretty user friendly to me. Plus it does raytracing and shadows. Plus it models.

    • Adrian Thompson 11 years ago

      Fair enough. I actually haven’t used it much. Do you like it better than Element 3D?

    • Dennis Mckinney 11 years ago

      Element 3D is great IF you’re doing special effects, and someone gives you the models already texture mapped. Me, I do motion graphics, and with Element you hit a wall almost immediately. You either have to buy all your models, and settle for what you can find, or be an expert modeler in another 3D program. Element renders fast (until you turn on the controls to make things look good), but it takes so long to get to the point that you’re rendering that it makes the program unusable. Thank god it was so cheap, because it was just a waste of money.

      I understand that you like it. That’s cool. To each his own. I guess I was just bitten by Elements’ over promise, under deliver.

    • Adrian Thompson 11 years ago

      That’s understandable. We use it for motion graphics as well, but primarily for 3D text. Even when only using it for basic shapes and text, it’s well worth the money (in my opinion). However, I agree that there are some noteworthy limitations.

  2. Dennis Mckinney 11 years ago

    Element 3D is “the first real taste of 3D to After Effects”?


    • Adrian Thompson 11 years ago

      What would you consider to be the first real taste of 3D to After Effects? Zaxwerks? Maybe I should say, “the first efficient and user-friendly” taste.

  3. stranger 11 years ago

    Great plugins!
    I would add Beauty Box and Particulas to this list 🙂

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