How to download After Effects for free or as part of Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe After Effects
(Image credit: Future/Adobe)

Want to download After Effects? You've come to the right place. In this handy guide, we'll show you how to download a trial of the industry-standard Adobe video and motion graphics tool for free, or how to purchase it as part of a Creative Cloud package. With so many subscription options available, we'll help you find the right one for your creative needs.

If After Effects isn't quite the right Adobe tool for your creative needs, Be sure to take a look at our guides on how to download InDesign and download Adobe Illustrator. And if you're looking for all the best Creative Cloud discounts in one place, check out our guide to finding the best Adobe deals.

What is After Effects?

From simple videos to full-blown special effects extravaganzas, Adobe After Effects is the ultimate VFX tool, and with every update it gets more and more powerful. Among other things, After Effects can be used for keying, tracking, compositing, and animation. Find out more about  the latest version in our complete Adobe After Effects CC 2021 review.

Can I download After Effects for free?

Download a 7-day free trial of After Effects for PC or Mac

Download a 7-day free trial of After Effects for PC or Mac
Try the latest release of After Effects free with a seven-day trial from Adobe. If you like it, you can convert to a paid subscription during or after the trial. There’s no obligation to buy the software, but the onus is on you to cancel before the end of the trial.

Yes, you can download Adobe After Effects free – in that you can get a free trial. This gives you seven days to try it 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.

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 fear not – 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?

Buy After Effects as a standalone app from $20.99 / £19.97 / AU$29.99 per month

Buy After Effects as a standalone app from $20.99 / £19.97 / AU$29.99 per month
If you only need After Effects, a single app subscription to the leading visual effects, motion graphics and compositing software will allow you to download After Effects to your PC or Mac, from $20.99 / £19.97 / AU$29.99 a month.

Buy After Effects as part of an All Apps subscription from $52.99 / £49.94 / AU$76.99 per month

Buy After Effects as part of an All Apps subscription from $52.99 / £49.94 / AU$76.99 per month
An All Apps subscription will allow you to download not just Adobe After Effects but all of Adobe's Creative Cloud apps, including Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, along with a range of other benefits.

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

Student and teacher plan:  Get Adobe CC All Apps plan for just $19.99 / £16.24 / AU$21.99 per month

Student and teacher plan: Get Adobe CC All Apps plan for just $19.99 / £16.24 / AU$21.99 per month
If you're studying or working in education, Adobe's Student and Teacher plan gives you around 60 per cent off an All Apps Creative Cloud subscription, including After Effects. Click the link above or 'View deal'.

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 uses 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.

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 Effects 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 an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects. 

With contributions from