Looking for the best After Effects alternatives? Then we're here to help. But first we need to make one thing clear. After Effects does a lot of different things, and there’s no single app that provides the exact same feature set. So it's more about finding an alternative app that does the things in AE you're most keen to do. None, though, will do it all.
Also, you probably won't find it very easy to jump from After Effects to another app. Compositing, editing and VFX tools generally have very different ways of doing things, and so you’ll probably have to learn to use an unfamiliar interface.
That said, there are still good reasons to check out After Effects alternatives. Perhaps you don’t like the way After Effects handles things, or you want more powerful features. Maybe you just want to pay less than a monthly Creative Cloud subscription. Or you might have no money at all, and simply want the best free alternatives to After Effects. (Note, though, that you can get free access to After Effects for a limited period through a trial: see our article on how to download After Effects for details.)
Also, while there’s no exact like-for-like alternative to After Effects, maybe you don’t need the full feature set; perhaps you’re just interested in compositing, for example. With all that in mind, below we list the best After Effects alternatives available today.
These include free and paid-for options (jump to the free options here). And we’ll provide the details of what they cost, what hardware you need, and what they’re capable of, to help you decide which one is the best fit for your workflow.
The best paid-for After Effects alternatives
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If you’re a pro video editor looking for After Effects alternatives, we’d recommend HitFilm 2022. This video editor, compositor and VFX suite is non-linear, as opposed to After Effects’ layer based system. But it does offer a feature set that’s very similar to AE.
Highlights include advanced 2D and 3D motion tracking, screen simulation capabilities and sky replacement. Its excellent Chroma Key tool gives you fine control over edge detail, colour correction and spill suppression. Note, though, that unlike past versions of Hitfilm, there's no support for After Effects plugins.
Makers FX Home have recently shifted HitFilm to a subscription model, and there are two plans: Creator which is $7.99 / £7.99 a month and Pro for $12.99 / £12.99. Both are cheaper than After Effects, which at time of writing costs $20.99 / £19.97 per month. There's also a limited free version, which allows unlimited exports up to HD resoltion. For more details, read our Hitfilm 2022 review.
Apple Motion is a macOS-only tool used for motion graphics, titling for video and film production, 2D and 3D compositing, and visual effects. It’s a good choice for Final Cut Pro users, as it’s closely intertwined with it, and has a similar interface. Most importantly, you can use Apple Motion to create templates and themes (ie. titles, transitions and effects) for use in Final Cut Pro.
This tool is, as you’d expect, beautifully optimised for Apple equipment, making playback of your clips smooth and seamless. Plus, thrillingly, you can see realtime previews of animations, rather than waiting for them to be rendered.
Overall, though, Apple Motion is certainly not as fully featured as After Effects, especially when it comes to motion graphics or creating advanced effects. And indeed, it’s quite limited generally; for example, you’re restricted to only one timeline per project. However, there’s a lot you can do with Apple Motion, from crafting a title sequence to creating 360° projects, and there’s a wonderfully extensive library of prepared animation elements.
All this for the cheap price of $49.99 represents excellent value. A great choice for either existing Final Cut Pro users or beginners/amateurs wishing to get started with composting and motion graphics.
Wondershare’s Filmora is a non-linear editing tool that offers a cheap alternative to After Effects, starting at $59.99 per year. It's a good choice for intermediate-level video editors wishing to create professional looking titles, filters, overlays, transitions, and motion graphics.
Filmora's drag-and-drop, timeline-based interface is easy to pick up and use, and it offers useful features such as audio noise reduction, automatic audio sync, and auto colour correction, as well as over 300 special effects, objects, overlays, transitions, music, and audio effects for use in your project. Useful tools include motion tracking, colour matching, keyframing and split screen. Plus AI tools such as AI Smart Cutout have recently been introduced to help speed up your workflow further.
This After Effects alternative isn’t quite Hollywood-ready, but it does have a lot of appeal for YouTube creators, short film-makers and low-budget productions wishing to add a layer of professional polish to their footage. There’s also a free version, although be aware that your videos will be watermarked, and there’s no tech support, so it’s best to think of that as a free trial that's not time-limited.
The best free After Effects alternatives
If you’re looking for a professional grade alternative to After Effects, then Blackmagic's Da Vinci Resolve 18 has a lot to offer. It's the free version of Da Vinci Resolve Studio, a respected tool often used to create visual effects and digital compositing for commercials, TV shows and movies.
With a friendly user interface, you'll get tools for visual effects, motion graphics, colour correction and audio post production, support for 3D and a 360º workspace that allows you to edit VR scenes in real time.
That software is available for a one-off price of $295, but amazingly most of the features are available in the free version. The main things that are missing are pretty advanced, pro tools such as the Neural Engine, ResolveFX, stereoscopic 3D tools, HDR grading, blur effects, mist effects and collaboration features. Best of all, with the free version your videos won't be watermarked.
You can argue whether DaVinci Resolve 18 (above) should primarily be described as ‘free’ or ‘freemium’... but there’s no such issue with Natron. Because this open-source, cross-platform compositing tool for VFX and motion graphics designers won’t cost you a penny, period. And it’s very suitable for professional-grade workflows too.
Taking a node-based approach to organisation, Natron offers flexible Roto and Rotopaint tools for generating unlimited layers of masks, mattes and shapes; a powerful 2D and Planar tracker for faster rotoscoping ; strong keying and matte generation tools; and GPU and network rendering capability. There’s also a lively community behind it, with 250+ plugins available at time of writing.
On the downside, Natron isn’t so great for motion graphics. It’s not as stable as most commercial tools. And as open source software, its development is relatively slow. But for zero pennies, this is a surprisingly powerful tool, which is easy to pick up for anyone with experience of a node-based editor such as Fusion or Nuke.
Founded in 2002, Blender is open source 3D software that was once considered strictly for amateurs and students. But like the proverbial tortoise racing the hare, Blender has emerged in recent years to become quite an impressive powerhouse, despite being free. It’s even been used to create feature-length animated movies.
Blender's feature set covers pretty much anything an animator or filmmaker could desire, from rigging and skinning to fluid and smoke simulations. It even offers a (basic) node-based compositing feature which you can use, for example, for keying and blurring effects.
Remember, though, that Blender is primarily a 3D tool: it would be pretty challenging to use for, say, 2D editing. None of its features rival After Effects in terms of sophistication. And for newbies, there’s a big learning curve.
But on the plus side, the community surrounding Blender couldn't be more supportive and friendly. And the fact remains that most of what you can do in AE, you can do in Blender, without spending any money at all. For more on what’s possible, check out our selection of the best Blender tutorials.