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Download After Effects: Get Adobe After Effects free or with Creative Cloud

Download After Effects
(Image credit: Adobe)

If you want to download After Effects for your PC or Mac, you're about to learn everything you need to know to do so. Luckily, it is a relatively simple process, but you do have some decisions to make. In this guide, we'll explain how to download Adobe After Effects for free (as a trial) or as part of Adobe's Creative Cloud as a paid subscription, either as a standalone app or as part of Adobe's All Apps subscription.

What is Adobe After Effects? It's the industry-standard motion graphics and compositing software used by graphic and motion designers, animators and 3D artists. After Effects is used to create all kinds of visual media from simple explainer animations to TV title sequences and full-blown Hollywood VFX. You can learn more about the software in our complete Adobe After Effects CC 2021 review.

If After Effects isn't the right Adobe software for your design needs, see our guides on how to download InDesign and how to download Adobe Illustrator. Plus, make sure you've got access to the best cloud storage for saving your work.

Can I download After Effects for free?

Yes, you can download Adobe After Effects free in that you can get a free trial. This gives you seven days to try the software out and discover if it’s right for you. A free trial is the only legitimate way to download After Effects for free. You might find a pirated version on the web, but downloading that would mean breaking the law and putting your devices and data at risk from viruses and malware. On top of that, the version you download will probably be out of date, corrupted and full of glitches. Basically, it's just a very bad idea to use any other than a legit version of the software from Adobe itself.

To take out a free trial to After Effects, you’ll first need an Adobe ID. This is easy, and free, to set up. If you don't have one already, go to the Adobe Account Page, click 'Create Account' and follow the instructions. Once you have an Adobe ID, head to this page, click on 'Free trial' (next to the blue 'Buy now' button at the top) and follow the instructions. 

You'll be asked to enter your credit card details, but don’t worry. As long as you cancel in good time, you won’t get charged. However, if you decide to keep subscribing after the trial ends, payments will be deducted from your card.

How much does After Effects cost?

The cheapest option for buying After Effects is through the Single App plan, which at time of writing costs $20.99 / £19.97 / AU$29.99 per month on an annual plan, It includes 100GB of cloud storage, Adobe Portfolio, Adobe Fonts, and Adobe Spark. 

The alternative is to buy After Effects through the Creative Cloud All Apps option, which gives you access to Adobe’s entire collection of creative desktop and mobile apps. This normally costs costs $52.99 / £49.84 / AU$76.99 per month on an annual plan, making it the best option if you need to use several different apps from Adobe (If you’re not sure which Creative Cloud apps might prove useful, see our Adobe software list).

Where do you buy After Effects?

Download Adobe After Effects: Neon outline of car

A splash screen designed in After Effects by Michael Rigley (Image credit: Adobe/Michael Rigly)

The only way to buy After Effects is as part of a Creative Cloud subscription direct from Adobe, for which you pay monthly or annually. As we explain above, there are two broad options. The first, and cheapest, is to subscribe to After Effects only. The second is take out an All Apps subscription. The latter option will cost you more, but gives you access to all of the Creative Cloud apps, along with a range of other benefits.

If the cost seems too high, bear in mind that Adobe often runs special promotions. We keep track of these in our constantly updated guide to the best Adobe Creative Cloud discounts. Beyond that, there are always discounts for students and teachers (see below), as well as separate pricing for businesses, schools and universities. So it’s worth having a look to see what deals are available at any given time.

After Effects discounts for teachers and students

If you’re a student or teacher, you can buy After Effects as part of a discounted All Apps plan with a saving of around 60 per cent off for your first year. Right now, you get the entire Creative Cloud suite of apps, along with 100GB cloud storage, Adobe Portfolio, Adobe Fonts, and Adobe Spark, for just $19.99 / £16.24 / AU$21.99 per month for the first year, and then $29.99 / £25.28 / AU$43.99 the following year. Note that the student and teacher discount is only available on an All Apps plan.

Get started with After Effects

Download Adobe After Effects: The word play, written out in a repeating animated loop

Kinetic type is one of the many use of After Effects (Image credit: Adobe)

Once you've downloaded After Effects, check out our roundup of the best After Effects tutorials to get started with the software and boost your skills and knowledge, whatever your current level of expertise. Whether you want to get to know the interface and basic features, get to grips with techniques such as custom transitions, text write-on and warp stabilisation, or move on to advanced projects such as rotoscoping nature footage and mocking up AR effects, these tutorials have you covered.

Also, if you want to save yourself time and effort using After Effects, check out our roundup of the best After Effects plugins. These plugins will help enhance your workflow, add features that simply don’t exist in the core After Effects application, and simply make stuff look cool. Once you've got your head around the basics of the software, check out our articles on the best After Effects transitions and the best After Effects templates.

Download After Effects: What you need to know

Adobe After Effects is a visual effects, motion graphics, and compositing software used for animation and post-production process in the digital design, film, games and TV industries. With capabilities ranging from keying and tracking to full 3D stereo compositing, this industry-standard tool is at the core of the workflows of many professional motion graphics, VFX and 3D artists and animators.

After Effects can be used in conjunction with many other Creative Cloud apps. For example, you can import media from Photoshop, Illustrator, Character Animator, Adobe XD and Animate; integrate 3D elements directly inside your compositions using C4D Lite (free with an After Effects subscription) and use Team Projects to collaborate with editors remotely.

After Effects is continually being updated, and all subscribers to the software can access new features automatically through Adobe Creative Cloud. After Effects is now in version 18.4.1, which was released in August 2021. The most recent major update was to version 18 in March 2021. That added multi-frame rendering (in beta; see the video below), 3D ground plane view, real-time 3D draft preview, and an improved composition toolbar.

Free alternatives to After Effects

It's very hard to find a viable alternative to After Effects right now, whether free or paid-for. Quite simply, there isn't really a tool that does all the things that After Effect does. However, you can see our list of the best possible alternatives to cover some of the different aspects of After Effects in our After Effects alternatives post. 

One of the free options is Blender, a long-running and popular tool for Mac, Windows and Linux. Constantly being updated by its open source community, Blender offers some surprisingly powerful capabilities in the areas of 3D modelling, animation, rendering and composition, and is nowadays even being used in some professional projects. It won't do everything After Effects does, but it will get you some of the way there. Check out our list of Blender tutorials to see what it's capable of.

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Tom May

Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design, photography and tech. He is author of Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books. He has previously been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine.