With all this in mind, we’ve rounded up 10 essential plugins for After Effects below. We’ve got everything from advanced particle systems to complex physics modellers, colour grading tools and everything in between. Check out our list, and let us know in the comments if we’ve missed any of your favourites!

3D Invigorator Pro
3D Invigorator PRO is the program that brings big-time 3D motion graphics to your After Effects work. 3D Invigorator PRO renders quickly and can create beautifully sculpted 3D models quickly and easily without extensive training.

Boris FX Continuum Complete
Boris Continuum Complete 9 AE delivers the most comprehensive VFX plug-in suite ever created for MAC and Windows versions of Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro CC and CS6. A whopping 230+ filters include 3D particle effects, image restoration and touchup tools, true 3D lens flares and volumetric lighting effects, keys and mattes, extrusions, color grading tools, time-based effects, blurs, glows, and cinematic effects such as film glow, film grain, and film process looks. All filters take advantage of either multi-processing or OpenGL hardware acceleration for an interactive effects design experience.

Delirium is a popular set of plugins that offers a wide range of effects split across five core areas: nature, colour, distortion, mood and composite. Effects include the likes of fire, smoke, specular lighting, lightwrap, alpha generation and many more. Although many of the effects are achievable with alternative products, or the core set of plugins that ship with After Effects, Delirium offers a time-saving option, and is very reasonably priced compared to some competitor products.

Element 3D
Element is designed to be used whenever it will save you time or make your job easier. By working natively inside After Effects, you can make serious changes to your scene like change materials, add lights and even animate the camera without the intense re-rendering of traditional 3D.

Knoll Light Factory 3
Knoll Light Factory has long been Hollywood's favorite way to add color, depth and excitement to a scene. Now ILM Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll has created an all-new light effects tool by adding his lens flare technology from recent feature films. With Knoll Light Factory 3, you get new features like realistic flare elements, time-saving animation behaviors, a redesigned interface, and over 100 beautifully designed presets. John Knoll’s new technology delivers the sexiness of lens flares while creating believable, accurate results.

Magic Bullet Colorista II
Colorista is principally a 3-way colour correction tool, but it offers much more than the standard 3-way tool found in After Effects. As well as the main colour wheels, you also get a powerful keyer that allows you to target and correct specific colours in a plate, a pop-slider which is used to add life to dull scenes and advanced masking options.

Magic Bullet Looks 2
Whether you’re matching existing footage or adding that warm Hollywood glow, Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 works with your favorite editor to transform the look of your footage in seconds. Use the hundreds of professionally designed presets as is, or use the Looks tools to powerfully manipulate color and light. Skin scopes make your talent look good. A new S-curve tool gives you fine contrast control, letting you “shoot flat” and apply punch in post. A new LUT tool adds BulletProof compatibility, allowing you to bring color settings from the set to your edit suite. Version 2.5 boasts major speed improvements, faster previews, and improved integration with host applications.

Newton 2
Newton interprets 2D composition layers as rigid bodies interacting in a real environment. Newton provides many simulation controllers such as body properties (type, density, friction, bounciness, velocity, etc), global properties (gravity, solver), and allows the creation of joints between bodies. Once simulation is completed, animation is recreated in After Effects with standard keyframes.

Trapcode Lux
Need a realistic headlight or beautiful spotlight? Trapcode Lux simulates the 'visible light' phenomenon in a dark or foggy environment. After Effects' built-in lighting creates pools of light in 3D space, but you can't see the light itself or the cone it produces. Enter Lux: A speedy plug-in that adds volumetric lighting effects to projects that require believable spotlights, point lights or stage lighting of any kind.

Trapcode Particular
Particular 2.2 goes way, way beyond the basics, with realistic natural effects, lighting control for shaded particles, 3D camera integration, custom shapes, depth of field, and physics controls such as air resistance, gravity and turbulence. Particular is used in motion pictures like Spider Man 3 and Angels & Demons. Watch the video