Let me start by saying this...
Plugins and scripts will not save your animations. Don’t rely on the tools to make your stuff “cool”. See them for what they are, tools.
OK. Let’s begin.
1. Motion 2 ($35)
I always start this one off with a BUT. Motion 2 is great, BUT, you should not use this until you have a firm grasp of the graph editor.
The reason I use Motion 2 instead of the graph editor most of the time is it is much faster… especially for things like overshoots and bounces. BUT I know what I’m doing to the curves. I’m not guessing by sliding things around till it sorta feels right.
I know I’m not even using this tool to it’s fullest potential. My focus, though, is to use it well. Every once in a while, I try out another feature and learn how to use it well. I just want to emphasize that you don’t have to dive into a new tool and use every button and slider every time. Take it easy, junior. Go at your own pace :)
2. ButtCapper (Free)
Like Schlotzsky’s… funny name, great sandwich plugin.
ButtCapper makes it a ton easier to turn the butt cap of a path into a round cap (ie. make your line art look not dumb). And the same for miter joins to round joins.
3. Explode Shape Layers ($30)
This is another time saver that everyone should use. If you’re like me, and I think you are, you’re using Illustrator files a lot. ESL helps you convert those layers to shape layers (which gives you a lot more control). You can even merge multiple shape layers into one layer. I don’t use this one every day, but when I do, I’m often using it all day.
There are so many more plugins and scripts, how do I decide which to use?
I believe that there is more noise than signal out there. I’ve seen some motion designers that go crazy with plugins and scripts and their work just looks like they used… well… a bunch of plugins. On the other side of the argument, there is no point in doing things “the original way” if it’s way slower.
So my biggest suggestion is to avoid seeing these extra tools as a way to make cooler animations. Instead, keep an eye out for new tools coming out… especially on AEscripts, but evaluate them for the value they’ll bring to you.
Focus on creating great motion to tell a story. This is a better use of your time than trying every new tool that comes out.
See what other motion designers are using
AE Workspaces is a collection of After Effects workspaces from a growing list of motion designers. The AE Workspaces Tumblr has screenshots and explanations of the layouts and tools the designers use. You should go check it out. The layout shown above is from Ryan Summers. He gives the full list of the many tools he uses. I found a few I may test out soon ☺️ Lots of good stuff to dig through over there!