10 Free Adobe After Effects Alternatives and Similar VFX/Motion Graphics Tools

By Cecilia Hwung | Last Update:

Adobe After Effects sits at the pinnacle of 2D-based animation compositing tools with great motion graphics tools and well-supported communities with a plethora of scripting, plugins, templates, and tutorials for creating spectacular text/VFX/visual effects and animations. In Adobe After Effects, it's a breeze to create particle effects like explosions, realistic lightning, atmospheric smoke, hand-drawn animations, spotlight, stroke, etc. Nevertheless, the demand for Adobe After Effects alternatives is growing, why?

  • A Big Investment: "They recently increased the cost of their creative cloud subscriptions from £90.00 to £140.00 to me that's a huge leap for what they described as fluctuating exchange rates post Brexit."
  • Buggy & Crashes: "I've reached my saturation point today with Adobe software. I work with their products for 7 years now and they gave me nothing but headaches. Missed a deadline because of bugs without fix."
  • Steep Learning Curve: "I'm fairly new to motion design and hence and looking for a program to learn and create on. I've tried after effects numerous times but I seem to have some issues with the learning curve."

Above I list 3 common reasons why people are looking for Adobe After Effects alternative found on Reddit. It tallies with the result of a survey we made last month: 80% of the participants think the high price tag is the major cause for them moving from After Effects to alternatives, 20% of them actually don't mind to cost high price for good products, however, crashes and compatible issues throw doubt on their choice.

After Effects Price Quick View

Adobe After Effects offers you with different subscription plans.

  • The subscription fee of Adobe After Effects for individual users is $20.99/month under an annual plan. It costs you $31.49/month if under a monthly plan.
  • Teachers and students over the age of 13 can purchase the annual membership to Adobe After Effects at a lower price: $19.9/month for the first year, and $29.99/month for next year.
  • For the keen Adobe user, the most cost-efficient way is spending $52.99/month to purchase Adobe Creative Clouds to acquire all Adobe series products, and you can prepay $599.88 for the fee of the whole year.
  • There are also business and schools & university plans, see more information from Adobe.

Is There a Cheaper or Free Alternative to Adobe After Effect?

In the field of motion graphics and visual animations, it's difficult to find another multi-purpose software superiors to Adobe After Effects. However, the application itself is neither the best motion graphics program nor the robust 2D animation creators. It is perhaps safe to say After Effects is the best tool to create a 2D animation video, but its layer-based workflow is less flexible and efficient when compared to many node-based commercial programs and freeware.

Some open-source products even prevail over After Effects in 3D-animation graphics processing performance. Thus, I pick up 10 best Adobe After Effects alternatives, range from free open-source software to comparatively expensive programs, fitting your various demand and budgets. Quick navigations:

Free alternative to After Effects
#1. Natron - Node based compositing software
#2. Blender - 3D animation movie maker
#3. Fusion - Compositor, VFX and video editing program
#4. Cavalry - Online After Effect alternative for 2D animation

After Effects Online Alternative
#5. Clara.io - Online animation and rendering tool ($10/month)

Cheap Software that Can Replace Adobe After Effects
#6. Motion 5 - Powerful motion graphics software on mac ($49.9)

Easy Alternative to Adobe After Effects
#7. Hitfilm Pro - VFX film and 3D compositing solution ($299)
#8. Vegas Post - The easiest visual effects and compositing software ($999)

Advanced Alternatives to After Effects
#9. Cinema 4D - All about 3D animation ($60/month)
#10. Nuke - Better than After Effects as a compositor ($9298)

After Effects Alternative Free

#1. Natron

Natron is a free and open-source compositor which is capable of generating unlimited layers of masks, matters, and shapes. It can also be utilized to create simple 2D/2.5D animation VFX, but you won't get particle effects to create smoke flow, clouds, and some special visual effects directly. It supports countless open-source plugins as well as commercial add on. Thanks to the support of the 2D planar tracker, you can quickly and accurately accomplish your tracking jobs.

The nitty interface, as well as the node-based compositing workflow of Natron, is nearly the same with the expensive Nuke (an advanced After Effects alternative that we'll talk about later) which enables you to set expressions on animation curves to create animation move objects.

Natron Demo Video

Natron VS After Effects

  • Natron wins in: Node-based Compositing, Ease-of-Use, Customizable, Cross-platform.
  • After Effects wins in: Title Creation/Generation, Motion Graphics, 3D Compositing, Color Grading, 3D Models Importing, Particle Generators, Simulations, 2D/3D Animation, Render Speed, Rotoscoping, Third-Party Plugins, Audio Editing.

"Well this is undoubtedly the best and probably the only (with the exception of blender) node based Open Source compositing software out there which is also free for commercial usage."
- Users review from g2.com

#2. Blender - 3D animation movie maker

  • Price: Free
  • OS: Linux, macOS, FreeBSD, Windows
  • Ease of Use: ⭐⭐
  • Films that used Fusion for production: Cosmos Laundromat, Agent 327
  • Download Link: https://www.blender.org/download/

Blender is an open-source 3D animation and modeling program with integrated compositors. That's being said the killer feature of Blender is its capability in creating stunning 3D animation graphics. If your work requires lots of 3D effects, Blender can deliver further more possibilities than After Effects does. And Better yet, everything you can do about 2D-based VFX and composition with After Effects can get accomplished in Blender, though very possibly in a more time-consuming and cumbersome way.

Produced by Blender Animation Studio

Blender VS After Effects

  • Blender wins in: 3D compositing, 3D modeling, Editing Capabilities, Cross Platforms.
  • After Effects wins in: 2D animation, Render Speed, 2D Motion Graphic and VFX work, Templates Creation, Title Generation, Rotoscoping, Third-Party Plugins, Text Motion Tracking.

"I am an avid user of Blender. I have utilized this program to create 3D animations for clients and to craft animated characters for game design projects. Since 2013 I have used this program for all of my 3D modeling needs."
- Users review from Capterra.com

#3. Blackmagic Fusion – DaVinci Resolve

Fusion is developed by Blackmagic Design as a standalone application-Fusion 16, and also an integrated utility in Davinci Resolve 16. As a professional compositing software, it's widely used by broadcast companies, TV-series producers, and commercials to create special visual effects, motion graphics, virtual reality video, camera/planar tracking, animate titles, etc. With the advanced stereoscopic 3D tools, it's capable of loading and rendering 3D models and scenes.

What's more? You can add interactive physical effects like wind and gravity with 2D/3D objects in the scene. Suppose you are using the Fusion tab integrated with the free DaVinci Resolve, you can get access to the advanced audio/video editing toolsets, and the strong color-correction utility as well.

Fusion Compositing

Fusion VS After Effects

  • Fusion wins in: Node-based Compositing, Color Grading, Video Editing, Audio Editing, VFX work, Cross-Platform.
  • After Effects wins in Stable, 2D/3D animation, Render Speed, 2D Motion Graphic, Templates Creation, Title Generation, Third-Party Plugins, Simulations.

"The Fusion inside Resolve, is not really ready for productions with a large amount of huge VFX scenes. So this product fits right into my pipeline nicely. Works well with 3D tracking software like SynthEyes, plus has nice trackers that come with it as well."
- Users review from Adorama.com.

#4. Cavalry (in Public Beta)

Cavalry, first released in 2019, focuses on 2D motion graphics, is also good at data visualization, character animations, FUI, and much more. As a nova in animation software, Cavalry is friendly for armature with a nitty interface and straightforward workflow. For instance, you can simply double click on the keyframe node to adjust the properties. With features like deformation, voxelising shapes, data-driven animation, and image-based distributions, this procedural-based tool takes a huge step forward in the significant improvements of the 2D animation feature.

If your project doesn't involve many 3D animations, Cavalry is absolutely a handy alternative of After Effects. Incidentally, you are even enabled to import .csv files or collaborate in Google Sheets and drive your content with external data to visualize the information.

Cavalry Beta on Windows
Cavalry Beta on Windows

Cavalry VS After Effects

  • Cavalry wins in: Procedural Creation, Data Visualization, Ease of Use, Team Work.
  • After Effects wins in: Visual effects, Third-Party Plugins, 2D/3D/VFX Compositing Work, Stability, Video Editing, Audio Editing, Motion Tracking, Title Generation.

"The thing I love about Cavalry is the influence of Cinema4D. You have deformers and behaviors (effectors) and can use falloffs to control the animation. Something that is impossible unless you have like the Cloners & Effectors script for AE."
- Users review from Reddit.

After Effects Online Alternative

#5. Clara.io

  • Price: Free (The paid version costs $10/month)
  • OS: Web-Based
  • Ease of Use: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Official Site: https://clara.io/scenes

Clara.io is a full-blown 3D modeling, animation, and rendering program. The paid account charges you $20 per month, but the free account already packs all features required by daily needs. As an online animation maker, Clara.io is easy to use but still offers 3D artists and newbies superb results. It is highly compatible with a wide range of supported 3D formats including OBJ, FBX, STL, 3DS, and many more. Also, it responses extremely fast even on a less powerful machine thanks to the application of the V-Ray cloud engine. Moreover, it is supported by +100,000 free 3D models which give beginners lots of possibilities to quickly create 3D animation and modeling.

Clara.io Interface
Clara.io Interface

Clara.io VS After Effects

  • Clara.io wins in: Ease of Use, Low Requirement in Computer, 3D Modeling Rendering, and Creating.
  • After Effects wins in: 2D Animation Compositing, Motion Graphics, Rich Plugins, Title Generation, Rotoscoping, Motion Tracking, Simulation, VFX/Visual animation effects creation.

"Clara.io is easy to use, powerful 3D modeling and review tool, with comprehensive set of animation functions that does not require any additional on-site software installation."
- Users review from g2.com

Cheap Alternative to Adobe After Effects

#6. Motion 5 on Mac

  • Price: $49.9/permanently usage
  • OS: macOS
  • Ease of Use: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Download Link: Apple official site

Motion 5, developed by Apple Inc, is a motion graphic application runs on macOS. It has everything you need for creating 2D/3D animations, smooth transitions, 360° effects/titles, and realistic effects. Besides, the build-in real-time design engine offers you a live view without lagging. Motion is easy to learn and more efficient compared to AE. However, it lacks the support of the raft of plugins and templates that AE has. However, this isn't a deal-breaker for average users as you can use either Apple Motion or After Effects to create or edit simple motion graphics and animation titles as well as composite 2D/3D FOR visual effects.

Apple Motion Screen Title
Apple Motion Screen Title

Motion 5 VS After Effects

  • Motion 5 wins in: Ease of Use, Color Grading.
  • Adobe After Effects wins in: Third-Party Plugins, 2D Animation Compositing.

"I switched from AE CS6 after Adobe went subscription so I use Motion 5 now and I find it a lot easier to use and the integration with FCP X templates makes it a far better choice for video editors that also do motion graphics."
- User review from creativecow.net.

Easy Alternative to Adobe After Effects

#7. Hitfilm Pro

FXhome Hitfilm is an all-in-one app with great features on 3D facilities modeling, motion graphics, and complex procedural animations, graphics compositing, color correction, and advanced video editing. The many quick 3D presets offered by Hitfilm may limit you your creatively but it enables you to create bonfires, falling debris, Fire Explosion, and other amazing 3D effects with a few clicks of a mouse. In addition, it's fast composition workflow allows you to watch the video without rendering. So, basically, you can use Hitfilm Pro as a quicker and easier replacement of After Effects.

Video Created with FXhome Hitfilm Pro

Hitfilm Pro VS After Effects

  • After Effects wins in: Multi-Cam Editor, Shape Layers, Respond and Render Speed, 2.5D animation creation and Composition, Title Generation.
  • Hitfilm Pro: Simulations, Lens Flares, Color Grading, VFX works, 3D composition, Ease of Use, Customization, Thrid Party Plugins, Video Editing.

"3d object import and compositing. PBR materials are pretty good and get better with each new Hitfilm Pro"
- Users review from g2.com.

#8. Vegas Post

VEGAS POST is a collection of software including VEGAS PRO 17 (editing videos), Vegas Effects (creating and compositing animations and VFX), and VEGAS Image (processing image). A beginner or hobbyist can purchase Vegas Effects separately at the price of $399. You can get most things that are needed in visual effects and compositing, to name a few, 3D model rendering and effects, environment maps, versatile color-grading kits.

Vegas Effects gives you 800 staggering effects, filters, and presets that help you create eye-catching outcomes without having to install extra plugins. Other than that, you can enjoy a smooth playback even when copping with plenty of VFX works own a good deal to the support of threaded rendering.

Vegas Effect Fire Generator
Vegas Effect Fire Generator

Vegas Post VS After Effects

  • Vegas Post Wins in: Color Correction, Video Editing, Quick Visual Effects Creation.
  • After Effects Wins in: Ease of Use, Motion Tracking, 2D/2.5D animations, Title Generation, Third-Party Plugins.

"Most effects on Vegas 16 are very simple ones used to give some more level of detail to the video. If you are looking for real complex effects, maybe Vegas isn't the software for you and After Effects is the one you're looking for for stuff like editing in enhanced reality, coloring and masking."
- User review from Reddit.

Advanced Alternatives to After Effects

#9. Cinema 4D

Cinema 4D, developed by Maxon, is all about creating 3D graphics for Motion and Visual Graphics. It usually collaborates with Adobe After Effects to build breathtaking 3D animations and models for Hollywood films. Certainly, it can be used stand-alone as an industry-level 3D modeling, painting, rendering, and animation program. Cinema 4D responds extremely fast and boasts robust rendering plugins. If all you need is about 3D-based things, Cinema 4D is more desirable than Adobe After Effects.

3D Animation Created by Cinema 4D

Cinema 4D VS After Effects

  • After Effects wins in almost everything but 3D modeling.

"This is an amazing tool for an imaginary person, if you can't think good enough for a scene this application gives you zero help. But on the other hand with Cinema 4D you can make the most good looking scenes for any use you want."
- User review from g2.com.

#10. Nuke

Nuke is an industry-standard composition program before anything else. Being one of the most advanced node-based compositing tools, it can cope with 1023 channels in a single stream. Therefore, it is widely regarded as an advanced substitution of After Effects for the compositing jobs required by high-end films or TV shows. It is considerably more expensive and has a steeper learning curve, higher requirements on the PC built.

Rotoscoping is easier made and more adjustable in Nuke. The support of third-party plugins allows you to realize endless possibilities when creating VFX effects. Be that as it may, After Effects is still unreplaceable if you are working with multiple cameras, and videos with different durations, resolutions, and formats.

Nuke Visual Effects Compositing

Nuke VS After Effects

  • Nuke wins in: Node-based Compositing, 4K Video Compositing, 3D/VFX Compositing, Team Work, Effeciency.
  • After Effects wins in: Motion Graphics, Animation, Templates Creation, Title Generation, Ease of Use.

"Nuke is a solid piece of software, it is reliable, stable (on Linux I rarely if ever experience a crash for example), and more importantly, it is production proven at the highest level."
- User review from reddit.

FAQ

1. Is After Effects free or there a free version?

The answer to both questions is no. After Effects is a paid-for motion graphics, visual effects, and compositing software that offers no free version, however, you can get a free trial for 7 days with the capability to use all features. To use After Effect for free, come cover to its official site, click on Free trial to download the .exe file, and have it installed on your pc or mac.

2. Can you buy After Effects permanently?

There is no access to buy Adobe After Effects permanently from Adobe since 2013. Though you can still purchase some older versions of AE from eBay and many commercial sites without having to pay the subscription fee every month ($19.9/month for the first year, and $29.99/month for next years), more bugs and crashes you would experience. And as such, it's worth going to dip your toes in some cheaper alternative before subscribing After Effects.

3. What is better than Adobe After Effects?

It's up to your target, personal preferences, machines, source files, skill level, and many other factors. For instance, Node-based visual effects and compositing programs like Fusion, Nuke, and Natron are far more efficient than layer-based Adobe After Effects to process complex composites entailing a vast number of layers. Hitfilm Pro and Vegas Effects have numerous ready-made options for creating spectacular VFX effects, they are better substitutes for After Effects if the project you are working on is time-sensitive. As for 3D rendering or modeling, even the free Blender can easily rival AE.

4. Which version of After Effects is the best?

Adobe After Effect 17.1 released on May 2020 is currently the best version with lots of bug fixed and new/improvement features including Tapered shape strokes, concentric shape repeaters, support of ProRes RAW files, etc.

About The Author

Cecilia Hwung is the marketing manager of Digiarty Software and the editor-in-chief of VideoProc team. She pursues common progress with her team and expects to share more creative content and useful information to readers. She has strong interest in copywriting and rich experience in video editing tips.

Home > Video Editor > Adobe After Effects Alternative