School of Motion

Our Favorite After Effects Tools

  • By Sara Wade
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Shut up and take my money! These are our 15 favorite paid tools for After Effects.

We motion designers love our plugins and tools. With so many choices, it can be tough to decide where to spend that hard earned cash. Don't worry! Here's our top 15 paid After Effects Tools. All of these tools were voted on by the team at School of Motion.
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Shut up and take my money!
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Ease Copy Image
Graph editor nerds love this tool. Ease copy does what it says. You can copy your own perfectly coiffed ease curves from one object to another without overwriting values. You can also copy values without overwriting eases.
It’s a pretty smart tool too. Ease Copy will copy your eases and scale them to fit the duration of the new movement. It will also flip the easing for objects going different directions. It’s compact and deserving of a spot in your workspace. OK technically you don’t have to pay for this one but if someone makes your day easier, don’t they deserve some dollars?  

This one is one of the more spendy tools on our list but it does a lot of cool stuff. It lets you create, import, and work with 3D objects inside After Effects. It isn’t quite as robust as something like Cinema 4D, but it’s cheaper and faster for a lot of basic 3D mograph tasks. It uses OpenGL which renders faster than CPU rendering. That’s all you say? Nope. You can also make particles and multi-object systems, render with ambient occlusion, and use presets to get you started in the right direction. It's like magic.
Element 3D Demo Reel

ESL is a major times saver if you work with a lot of shapes in After Effects. Next time you import a whole artboard from Illustrator, you can automatically explode it into a whole bunch of separate shape layers. You can merge them too, convert vectors to shapes, select fills, select strokes, and remove artboards. No more right clicking all those AI layers. Your mouse hand will thank you for this one.
Explode Shape Layers 3

Do you have a love/hate relationship with the graph editor? If you love the control it offers, but hate the interface, Flow is your new work buddy. It’s an easy-to-use curve editor that lets you make, save, and apply animation presets. It comes with 25 presets, you can create your own library of presets, and you can even download preset packs to get a head start.
Flow Promo

This is one of my most used tools. It’s so simple, yet such a major time saver. Gif Gun is a one button gif creation tool that lives inside After Effects. You can set it to resize, loop, compress, and render gifs in one click. Sure, you could render from After Effects and then use Photoshop to make a gif, but this is faster and it makes gifs with smaller file sizes than Photoshop. Fancy!
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Gif Gun
We actually created a tutorial all about how to compress GIFs using After Effects. This tutorial covers every method, from GIFGun to Photoshop.
Gif Gun

This is a character rigger’s best friend, but that’s not all it’s good for. You can use Joysticks 'n Sliders to rig anything to a fun little slider or joystick UI in your file. Joysticks 'n Sliders also plays nice with DUIK, puppet pins, and Rubber Hose.
Josh Alan created an entire article with ways you can use Joysticks 'n Sliders in After Effects.
Joysticks 'n Sliders

Did you ever do something in After Effects and think “dang I wish I could just have a button for this?” Now you can. KBar lets you optimize your workflow by making super tiny UI buttons for your most used tasks. There's also a great article here on School of Motion about how to use this handy tool from Patrick Butler.
KBar Promo

Magic Bullet is the most expensive tool on our list. But it’s actually a set of 7 tools used for cleaning up and stylizing footage.
You can use it to remove noise, refine actor appearance, stylize footage with presents, color correct and simulate lens filters and film stocks. If you work with a lot of live action footage, this tool is worth every penny.
Magic Bullet Suite 13

Motion 2 isn’t really just a tool. It’s actually a whole set of super useful tools. Some of our favorites are the anchor point button which centers the anchor point with one click, the create null object button, and some fun motion tools like excite, orbit, warp, jump, and burst, to name a few.
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Motion Speed
Another fun thing about this one is once you buy it, it’s a lifetime license. This means you get updated forever, for free. Motion 3 is scheduled to be released later this year. Matt said it's going to get a lot more advanced. Get hyped!
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Motion Warp

Time to make your inner neat freak jump for joy! It’s the layer trimming and cleanup tool of your dreams. You can trim the in and out points of layers by keyframes, markers, mattes, parents, selection, or visibility. No more excuse. Go clean up your timeline!
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Obsessive Layers Demo

If you don't know Overlord, you had better sit down for this one. Overlord creates that often wished for magical portal between After Effects and Illustrator. You can just pass shapes back and forth as you need them. It’s amazing. It’s what the integration between AI and AE should have been from the beginning. No more prepping, converting, or recreating vector shapes. I for one, welcome my robot Overlord.

Overlord Vector Animation Workflow

Trapcode Particular isn’t new but it has mega star and staying power. I’m willing to bet that 90% or more of the pretty particles you have seen in mograph were made with this tool.
Particular will help you to quickly impress your clients. Happy clients mean more money in your pocket to buy plugins. You can get it solo or as part of the 11 tool Trapcode Suite.
Trapcode Particular

It’s the little things in life that seem to make the most difference. Ray Dynamic Color is one of those life changing “can’t live without it” kind of tools. Create and manage color palettes for your entire project with it. When the clients comes in at final render time and changes a color that occurs in two hundred different spots in your comp, you can smile and do it in just a couple of clicks.
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Ray Dynamic Color

You know that feeling when you duplicate a whole bunch of animated layers and dread spending the next 5 minutes offsetting them each by a few frames one at a time? Kiss this problem goodbye!
Rift is a tool that let’s you automatically stagger, randomize, sequence or align layers and keys within multiple layers. It may not sound all that glamorous but once you try it, you’ll never want to do things the “old way” again. This is another “name your price” plugin, but if it saves you time, you owe it to our fearless plugin writers to support them. It’s like Patreon, for AE nerds.
Rift Timeline Tools

Last but not least, RubberHose 2 is rigging made easy. It basically lets you add a bendy line “bone” to deform any layer in After Effects, You can control the length of the line, radius of the bend, and direction of the bend. It’s an IK leg rig in two clicks. What more do you need?
RubberHose 2
We also put together a review of Rubberhose. I bet this will convince you to buy it...
If this article has left your wallet empty, check out our article on the top five free tools tutorial here on the site.

Download the Full List

Want to download the full list? We've put together a PDF with all of the tools mentioned in this article. Enjoy!
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Download a PDF List of 15 Paid Tools for After Effects

PDF List of 15 Paid Tools for After Effects