best software for VFX

Visual effects have seen an exciting rise in popularity over the past decades, and they’ve given film directors more room for creativity to showcase their ideas in a mesmerizing fashion.

We can draw a neat line to divide movies into eras before and after visual effects, and the difference shows how immersive films have become recently.

Those of you who are about 30-35 or older (like me!) will remember that visual effects were previously mainly reserved for blockbuster movies or other high-budget hits.

But nowadays, even those seem outdated when compared to not-so-big titles. And as the need for ultra-realistic visual effects increased, VFX tools became powerful.

But out of all the software options available today, what is the best software for VFX in 2023? That’s what we’ll discuss in this post, so let’s dig in!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.

Best VFX Overall

Adobe After Effects

Adobe logo

Adobe After Effects is a powerhouse VFX software program.

It’s constantly updated, includes templates, and is affordable for the quality of effects that you get!

Best For Beginners

Wondershare Filmora

Filmora Logo

Filmora is reliable, intuitive, and great for beginners to VFX.

It’s affordable and also can help you edit your videos.

Best Premium Version

AutoDesk Maya

AutoDesk Maya logo

AutoDesk Maya is expensive to use, but it offers extremely high-quality VFX editing.

It’s especially great for animation!

Best Budget Option


HitFilm Logo

HitFilm is affordable and offers many VFX capabilities.

It’s not the most powerful option on the list, but it will get the job done for many indie filmmakers!

Best Free Version


blender logo

Blender is a free, open-source VFX software option.

It’s great for indie filmmakers who are not afraid to learn something new!

What is the Best Software for VFX?

We went through some of the most popular VFX software and came up with this list. Keep reading for more details about each product, including the top features and pricing plans!

1. Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects


Adobe is one of the most popular software companies, and its After Effects program is a beast of a VFX editor that puts little to no restrictions on what you can do.

After Effects was released way back in 1993 and was acquired by Adobe shortly after in 1994. Since that time, it’s been nearly three decades of consistent updates and upgrades to improve its functionality and increase the upper cap on what you can achieve.

And although Adobe After Effects is quite challenging to master, it’s one of the most powerful tools in the VFX software industry.

Top Features

  • Layer-based animation with advanced compositing capabilities.
  • Access to hundreds of plugins and scripts for a customized effect.
  • 3D camera tracking and 3D motion graphics.
  • Animation presets, templates, masks, and effects.
  • Advanced rotoscoping tools to isolate moving objects from your footage.


Adobe After Effects Pricing

Adobe After Effects is available as a standalone program from the Adobe website at $31.49 when billed monthly. Alternatively, you can choose the annual plan to cut costs to $20.99 (when billed monthly) or $19.99 (when billed annually).

You can try out After Effects for free for seven days, thanks to the handy trial that Adobe offers.

Adobe After Effects Pros

  • Virtually limitless in terms of what it allows you to do.
  • Relatively affordable compared to other huge VFX editors.
  • Supports visual effects in virtual reality.
  • Motion graphics templates are available.
  • You can add or delete moving objects in your film easily!

Adobe After Effects Cons

  • Requires a powerful computer.
  • Subscription model only, no perpetuity plan.
  • Can be overwhelming to non-advanced visual effects artists.

2. Wondershare Filmora

Wondershare Filmora


Although Wondershare Filmora may not be as much of a powerhouse as other VFX software, it’s a reliable editor with an intuitive interface that allows you to create stunning visual effects.

Currently, Filmora is an excellent video editing software with VFX capabilities suitable for beginner to mid-level VFX artists. But as Wondershare keeps updating the app, we expect more advanced features to keep rolling out.

Filmora also contains some AI-backed video editing tools, such as auto normalization, highlighting, and the AI Portrait, that can remove backgrounds in video, even without a green screen.

Top Features

  • Drag and drop editing.
  • Adjustable speed controls for slow motion and time-lapse effects.
  • Creative animations, titles, transitions, and overlays.
  • Support for 4K video editing.
  • Rich library of royalty-free video clips, music, and sound effects.
  • Advanced layer-based color grading tools.


Wondershare Filmora is available for $19.99 per month, discounted from the regular $29.99. You can also save massively if you choose the annual plan, which costs $49.99 per year, or the perpetual plan, which is $79.99 for lifetime usage, and there are discounts on these latter two for students.

However, all these plans only allow you to use Filmora on one device: a Windows or Mac computer. If you want compatibility across different devices, you can go for the cross-platform plan, which is only available at a billing rate of $69.99 per year.

If you need Filmora for your team, you can buy it for up to 5 users for $701.4 per year. And if you need to accommodate an even larger group, you can contact the sales team for a custom quote.

Filmora Wondershare Pros

  • A fast and efficient program that doesn’t require the most powerful PC.
  • Intuitive interface that doesn’t overwhelm VFX artists.
  • Very affordable annual and monthly plans.

Filmora Wondershare Cons

  • Doesn’t have as many features as its competitors.
  • No virtual reality support.

3. AutoDesk Maya

AutoDesk Maya


Another monolith in the industry is the powerful and extensive AutoDesk Maya. And while you can use it to create magic out of raw footage, animation is where this VFX software shines the most. This doesn’t come as a surprise to people who’ve been in the industry for a while, as AutoDesk carries a commendable name, thanks to Maya and other popular tools like 3ds Max.

Some of the works on AutoDesk Maya’s portfolio include Ice Age, Spider-Man, and Attack of the Clones.

Top Features

  • High-quality 3D modeling capabilities.
  • Comprehensive AI animation tools.
  • Powerful shader library and node editor.
  • Photorealistic rendering capabilities.
  • Support for powerful plug-ins and extensions.
  • Integration with AutoDesk MotionBuilder.

AutoDesk Maya Pros

  • One of the best VFX software to produce animated films.
  • Has an excellent approach to 3D modeling, motion graphics, UV mapping, and more.
  • Plenty of video editing tools.

AutoDesk Maya Cons

  • Steep learning curve.
  • Can be pricey.


AutoDesk Maya Pricing

AutoDesk Maya is available for purchase at $225 per month. But you can save 34% if you choose annual billing for $1,785 or a 3-year billing cycle at $5,355.

AutoDesk also offers an interesting system that allows you to use Maya more flexibly by buying tokens, with each day of use costing 6 tokens. Tokens last for one year, and you can buy them at these prices:

  • Minimum: $300 for 100 tokens; 16 days of use per year
  • Popular: $1,500 for 500 tokens; 83 of use per year
  • Custom quote if you need more

4. Houdini



The needs of enterprises are often overwhelming for most software, but not the giant that is , which can accommodate large teams and their most demanding work.

SideFX founded Houdini in 1996, and it immediately stood out to us as one of the not-so-many VFX powerhouses that support Linux operating systems, which might be all you need for your team.

Many big hitters relied on Houdini and weren’t disappointed. Even Walt Disney Animation Studios has used it for some of its films, such as the 2016 comedy animation Zootopia.

Top Features

  • Powerful node-based procedural workflow.
  • Support for a wide range of 3D formats and rendering capabilities.
  • Compatible with major compositing applications.
  • Node-based interface for creating complex procedural effects.
  • Set-based workflows and timeline tools for animation purposes.
  • Support for Python scripting and Houdini Engine plugins.

Houdini Pros

  • Very comprehensive VFX software designed for the utmost capability.
  • Procedural workflow.
  • Plenty of learning tools are available.

Houdini Cons

  • Quite pricey for anyone who isn’t a very large enterprise.
  • There is a steep learning curve as the interface can be confusing.


Houdini Pricing

Houdini has a brilliant pricing model to accommodate everybody’s needs, depending on their situation. The plans are broken down into:

  • Apprentice: Free version for students, amateurs, and learners to create non-commercial projects
  • Indie: $269 per year or $399 per two years. Available for creators with annual revenue under $100,000
  • Artists: $4,495 for the perpetual plan, limited to five licenses per studio
  • Studios: $875 per month, $4,995 per year, and $6,995 perpetual for a floating license
  • Education: $75 per year for accredited schools and students

5. HitFilm



Video editing and visual effects can be very difficult to get into, but when you have software like HitFilm, previously known as HitFilm Express, you can pave your way into the field much more smoothly.

HitFilm offers a reasonably powerful free plan that can help you get your needs done as an amateur. And professional artists aren’t left out, thanks to the two other paid plans that include more features with fewer limitations. But all features considered, the Pro plan is the only one that offers extensive VFX features.

When you open the HitFilm interface, you’ll find a “Learn” button on the top that helps you learn video editing skills, and it’s something every beginner will appreciate when picking up this program.

Top Features

  • Non-linear video editing and compositing.
  • Advanced masking and layering tools.
  • 3D particle simulator.
  • Professional color correction tools.
  • Powerful keying and rotoscoping capabilities.
  • Support for numerous film formats.

HitFilm Pros

  • Very affordable.
  • Decent selection of digital tools, including keying and motion tracking.
  • Supports up to 8K resolution.
  • Free plan available.

HitFilm Cons

  • Doesn’t offer much for high-level VFX artists.
  • Relatively high system requirements for a tool of its caliber.


You can acquire HitFilm through any of these three plans:

  • Free plan for beginners and amateurs
  • Creator: $12.99 per month (monthly billing) or $7.99 per month (annual billing)
  • Pro: $19.99 per month (monthly billing) or $12.99 per month (annual billing)

6. Cinema 4D

Cinema 4D


Despite the name, Cinema 4D is one of the most renowned programs for VFX and 3D modeling, and its contributions to film over the years are undeniable.

Cinema 4D is a big player in a field where many avid learners drop out due to sheer difficulty, but it actually does something about it through its impressive interface that makes animation relatively straightforward.

As for creating the 3D graphics, there’s very little that you can’t do with Cinema 4D, as each feature is so well-crafted to ensure the best result.

Top Features

  • Powerful camera tracking
  • Advanced texturing tools
  • Real-time rendering capabilities
  • Extensive 3rd party plugin library
  • Comprehensive animation toolset
  • Variety of lighting options

Cinema 4D Pros

  • Excellent for all your 3D modeling needs.
  • Fast while running.
  • The sleek interface doesn’t confuse the user and lets you organize your work.
  • Can be integrated with Adobe After Effects.

Cinema 4D Cons

  • Can be pricey for indie creators.
  • Sub-optimal modeling workflow.


Cinema 4D Pricing

You can buy Cinema 4D as a standalone program for $94 per month. If you opt for annual billing, it’s $719 per year, which evens out to about $60 per month.

You can also buy the Maxon One bundle, which gets you all their products (including Cinema 4D) for $149 per month or $1,199 per year (which evens out to about $100 per month).

7. Blender



We’ll finish off our list with one of the best VFX software for learning the ropes with zero risk: the free and open-source Blender!

Blender has built a positive reputation for itself over the years as an all-encompassing VFX tool that’s accessible to anyone.

And although you might not find yourself working in studios with Blender, it’s still worth a shot if you’re looking for a way to fuel your passion for VFX.

Top Features

  • Powerful 3D modeling.
  • Animation capabilities.
  • Extensive render options.
  • Node-based shaders.
  • Comprehensive rigging system.
  • Has a variety of sculpting tools.

Blender Pros

  • The best free VFX software — no license required to commercialize your work.
  • Support for Linux OS.
  • A robust collection of features.
  • Tons of learning materials are available.

Blender Cons

  • The interface can be confusing and hard to learn.
  • Not the best to edit videos.


Blender pricing

Blender is completely free VFX software. All the features are available in the free app, and you don’t need a license to sell the work you do on Blender.

What is Visual Effects Software?

The short answer is that visual effects software is like the Photoshop of video.

In more specific terms, visual effects (VFX) refers to the fancy visuals you see in movies that weren’t actually present in the filming studio because they’re impractical or outright impossible to capture, whether it’s due to cost, danger to the actors, fantasy elements like magic, or otherwise.

Visual effects can be as obvious as explosions, gunshot wounds, or even aliens, or they can be subtle, such as animals (like the lion in Wolf of Wall Street) or even water.

And if you thought it was all about films, you’d be wrong. VFX can also be used plentifully in computer games to create a more immersive experience for the player.

software for VFX

Common Questions About VFX Software

Which Is the Best Software for VFX?

The best VFX software comes down to your needs. Adobe After Effects is usually high up on the list as it’s a very robust program, while other similar apps in terms of capability include Houdini FX and AutoDesk Maya.

If you’re looking for something more beginner to medium-level, then you have the likes of Filmora and HitFilm.

Does VFX Need Coding?

Coding isn’t strictly required in the video editing and visual effects field, but it can give you a valuable edge. That’s not to say that you need to be an expert programmer, as most professional VFX video editors aren’t. Still, a basic knowledge of code and programming logic is almost standard in the industry.

What VFX or Video Editing Software Is Free?

While there are many options on the market, the best free VFX software, in our opinion, is Blender. It’s also open-source and doesn’t require you to buy a license to sell your work.

Best Software for VFX

Wrap-Up: The Best Software for VFX

That’s everything for our round-up of the best VFX software! In our opinion, Adobe After Effects has taken the first spot on our list thanks to its wide scope of features that cover virtually everything you might ever want to do as a VFX artist.

As for less advanced visual effects artists, you should check out Wondershare Filmora and HitFilm, the latter of which even includes a plan for smaller content creators.

And if you want completely free and open-source software, we couldn’t recommend Blender enough!

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