10 Best VFX Software: How to Choose What’s Best For You?

10 Best VFX Software: How to Choose What’s Best For You?

June 20, 2023
Cody Vineyard

We've compiled the best VFX software of 2023, including the free ones, into one place. Decide which VFX software is best for you!

VFX software is an incredibly powerful tool for creating artificial environments, objects, and visual effects. It allows you to combine computer-generated effects with real footage, resulting in scenes that look incredibly realistic. 

Even experienced VFX software users often turn to third-party plug-ins or develop their own tools to tackle specific tasks, giving them more control over their projects. However, this process can be demanding, both in time and in money. Creating and incorporating visual effects is truly an art form that requires skill and dedication.

If you are looking to save time and money on creating effects and avoiding endless rendering, ActionVFX's ever-expanding library offers over thousands of visual effect assets that are:
  • Delivered in 2K, 4K, and 6K resolution and 10-12 bit ProRes
  • Shot from multiple angles
  • Available in RAW format
  • With a Royalty-free worldwide lifetime license
  • Integrated seamlessly with all the major software 
Being creators of visual effects stock footage, we have a vast experience with VFX software. In this article, we will list the 10 best VFX software to help you find a great match for your skill level, needs, operating systems, and budget.

The Best VFX Software in 2023

  • The Foundry's Nuke
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Blackmagic Design: Fusion
  • Apple Final Cut Pro Motion
  • HitFilm Pro
  • Filmora Pro
  • Blender
  • Autodesk Maya
  • Autodesk 3Ds Max
  • ZBrush

The Foundry's Nuke
- Best VFX Software for Professionals (Digital Compositing and VFX integration)

Nuke is customizable and versatile compositing software. It comes with advanced plug-ins for 3D camera tracking, cleanup, and corrections. It is node-based, with over 200 nodes and a scalable node graph for high-end compositing without the need to re-render CG elements.

The modernized USD-based 3D system, which is still a beta feature, is introducing a dedicated scene graph. You can use it to view, navigate and manage complex 3D scenes. This will give a better visual overview of a scene and add drag-and-drop functionality to new path masks in nodes. 

New color management features make it possible to have consistent color across multiple platforms. With the support of OpenColorIO and ACES, color management gives you consistent color from capture through to delivery.

Nuke offers support for the leading industry standards including OpenEXR and rising technologies like Hydra and USD. 

You can adjust your pipeline integration and automate tasks and procedures with Nuke’s Python API and Pyside, or write your own image processing operations with Nuke’s C++ SDK, or using Nuke’s BlinkScript node.

Walt Disney Animation Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, and Sony Pictures Animation are all users of Nuke.

Here is an Introduction to Nuke, a tutorial made by ActionVFX.


  • Multi-shot management
  • Creative 3D modeling, texturing, and rendering
  • High-resolution, digital 3D painting, and texturing
  • Look development and lighting
  • VR plug-in toolset for Nuke
  • Story development hub for film, TV, and games
  • Stereoscopic plug-ins for Nuke
  • Compatible with Mac, Linux, and Windows 
  • Free trial


Nuke features different subscription packages, but they are all based on a yearly subscription.

Nuke package pricing

Nuke - $3,299/yearly
  • Industry-standard compositing
  • Over 200 creative nodes
  • Integrated 3D environment
  • Robust Python API and C++ SDK
  • Access to technical support
Nuke X -  $4,499/yearly
  • Advanced industry-standard compositing
  • Full Nuke toolset
  • Advanced plug-ins for 3D camera tracking, cleanup, and corrections
  • Cara VR plug-ins for 360 video
  • 2x free Nuke Assist licenses
  • 2x free Nuke Render licenses
  • Access to technical support
Nuke Studio - $5,499/yearly
  • Multi-shot management, editorial, compositing, and review
  • Full NukeX compositing toolset
  • Customizable multi-track editorial timeline
  • Conform and Ingest AAF, XML, and EDLs
  • 2x free Nuke Assist licenses
  • 2x free Nuke Render licenses
  • Access to technical support
Nuke Render - $399/yearly
  • Render license: floating or node-locked
  • A headless version of Nuke (no GUI)
  • Rendering on an external render farm
  • Render files from Nuke, NukeX, Nuke Studio & Hiero
  • Available as permanent with maintenance

Adobe After Effects
- Best VFX Software for Intermediate/Professionals

After Effects is a video compositing software used for filmmaking, video games, and all sorts of post-production. It can also be used for keying, tracking, and animation. It features high-quality templates with interchangeable elements that can save you a lot of time.

After Effects comes with a large bundle of plug-ins that allow you to color-correct, create complex paths, or generate visual effects like fire, water, smoke, etc.

It also integrates third-party plugins for more advanced operations. The latest features include support for Maxon Cinema 4D 2023. 

It’s a layer-based software that integrates perfectly with other Adobe creative apps, meaning you can import native files from other Adobe programs. Simple compositing allows you to overlay and adjust various elements, and to hand animate and position your layers. The previewing of your edits is fast, and you can lock layers to preview separate elements of your composite.

This is a tool with a slight learning curve. You can watch one of ActionVFX's most popular After Effects tutorials below.


  • Broad array of tools
  • Industry-standard quality of effects
  • Native H.264 Encoding
  • Composition Presets
  • OpenColorIO and ACES color management
  • Keyframe Color Labels
  • Native Apple silicon support
  • Frame.io integration
  • Cinema 4D integration
  • 3D Extended Viewer
  • Universal text engine
  • Video collaboration tool 
  • Compatible with Mac OS, and Windows 
  • Free trial


There are different options for subscriptions. You can choose to go for After Effects separately. In that case, the prices are:
  • Monthly - $31.49 /month
  • Annual paid monthly - $20.99 /month
  • Annual prepaid - $239.88 /year

And you can opt for the entire Creative Cloud bundle, which goes for $54.99 /monthly
If you change your mind about the subscription you can cancel within 14 days with no extra charges.

Adobe After Effects and Creative Cloud pricing 

Blackmagic Design Fusion
- Best VFX Software for Professionals

Blackmagic Fusion is one of the best VFX software tools for pro projects that demand industry-grade renders, used in Avatar, Matrix, X-Men, and Game of Thrones

It comes built into the video editing tool DaVinci Resolve and gives you the options to catalog, organize, edit, alter, and composite multiple video projects. 

The node-based system makes creating and editing complex scenes easier and faster. Instances allow you to duplicate nodes and apply the same corrections to all of them.

Several keyers make compositing seamless, especially when there is a need to remove the background. You can quickly track and animate custom shapes. Tracking data can be used on shapes to avoid manually animating motion, scale, or perspective.

Blackmagic’s all-in-one post-production program lets you edit your video, then switch to the Fusion tab to add effects. 

The community-built plug-in manager for Fusion is called Reactor. Here you can find a lot of useful plug-ins that add significant value to Fusion's toolset.

Here are 5 Fusion tips you need to know, a great tutorial created by ActionVFX.


  • Integrated 2D and 3D compositing in an animation environment
  • Responsive UI with interactive, real-time rendering 
  • Support for images over 32K x 32K
  • Unlimited network rendering
  • Possibility of rendering to multiple formats and resolutions in a single pass
  • Avid Connect Plug-in for using Fusion from the Media Composer timeline
  • Real-time collaboration tools  
  • Compatible with Mac, Linux, and Windows 
  • Free version


Fusion Standard visual effects software is free. The Premium will cost you $295 as a one-time purchase.
Fusion pricing

Apple Final Cut Pro Motion
- Best VFX Software for Mac

Pro Motion Workflow

Apple Motion offers some of the best VFX software for Mac. It is user-friendly and seamlessly integrates with Final Cut Pro. This makes it easy to work on visual effects and send projects between the two apps.  

The user interface looks similar to Adobe After Effects, the tool is layer-based but is completely different when it comes to actions. 

Apple Motion allows you to create motion graphics in real-time via built-in generators for textures, objects, and backgrounds. The content and composition tools can build 2D and 3D 360-degree compositions. 

The key-frame editor is simple and flexible. It allows you to edit templates, scale, and rotate objects. A real-time engine lets you view your modifications before rendering, which saves a lot of time.


  • An Instant transition from 2D to 3D space, preserving your 2D groups
  • Option to set up point lights and spotlights to cast shadows across objects
  • Machine learning lets you track faces and objects in your scene
  • Depth-of-field effects with footage shot in Cinematic mode on iPhone
  • Possibility to create and play back titles, transitions, and effects in real-time
  • Advanced color correction
  • Features a FxPlug-in 
  • Compatible with Mac OS
  • Optimized for Apple silicon and the Apple Neural Engine
  • Free trial


Apple Motion is available for a one-off fee of $49.99, this includes access to any future updates.
Apple Motion price

HitFilm Pro - Best Free VFX Software for Beginners/Intermediate

FXhome HitFilm Pro is a comprehensive video processing software that integrates video editing, visual effects, and 3D image synthesis. It implements color grading, footage stabilization, video denoise, particle simulations, and chroma key in the basic toolset. You can create professional motion graphics in true 3D space.

The software is layer based, with a built-in editor and compositor. It has advanced keyframing and animation, 3D model import, and a 3D environment. It combines two layouts, one for editing and one for compositing. You can switch between different workspaces quickly. 

The media library has built-in creative assets with professional stock footage, music sound effects, and templates.

Plug-ins like Mocha Hitfilm, Boris 3D objects, and Foundry's 3D camera trackers are free in the Pro version. 

Users with a basic understanding of video editing software will be able to achieve professional-quality video effects. However, HitFilm Pro requires a powerful computer to run properly.

We've teamed up with HitFilm many times. Including this tutorial!


  • Built-in visual effects
  • Built-in rigging and animation tools
  • All-in-One color grading tools
  • Built-in distortion and noise tools
  • Advanced skin retouching tool
  • Simplified 3D object importing
  • Creating in true 3D space
  • 360- Degree video filters
  • Compatible with Mac and Windows
  • Free version


There is a free version called HitFilm Express that covers all the basic tools you need for creating simple edits.
There are two options for the paid plans:
  • Creator - Perfect for social media and content creators - $7.99/month - Billed yearly or - $12.99/month - Billed monthly
  • Pro - Perfect for advanced video creators - $12.99 /month - Billed yearly or $19.99/month - Billed monthly

Filmora Pro
- Best VFX Software for Beginners/Hobbyists

FilmoraPro is a timeline-based video editor that is easy to use, and you can have unlimited video tracks in a single project. There’s also full support for 4K 100FPS editing, with the ability to set custom frame rates and resolutions. 

The user interface is simple and intuitive, and you can adjust your workspace to display the tools you are using on a specific project.

The color match and AI matting tools are a big time-saver. You have presets for color matching that are easy to access. From the same menu, you can adjust speed and do basic compositing. The AI tool has a Chroma Key and AI portrait options for removing backgrounds. There are a few mask presets, but you can make your custom masks and also import them.

FilmoraPro offers over 900 free effects, including drag-and-drop transitions, titles, filters, and motion elements, and it integrates with Boris FX & NewBlue FX.


  • User-friendly interface
  • Non-linear video editor
  • Supports 4K 100FPS
  • Unlimited video tracks
  • Built-in video templates
  • Over 900 free effects
  • Smart Render - renders the video preview in real-time
  • Available presets for ratio aspects
  • Basic color grading features
  • Compatible with Mac and Windows


Filmora offers monthly and yearly subscription plans. It also offers a perpetual one-time payment plan for Filmora 12, where you get an official license forever. Newer Filmora versions are not available through this plan.

There is also a free trial with no time limit, but your exported videos will be marked with a watermark.

- Best Free 3D Modeling Software for Beginners

Stylized character workflow Blender

Blender is a free, open-source, and cross-platform 3D creation suite most suitable for beginners. It comes with a built-in compositor, so you can post-produce render without leaving the program.

In addition, camera and object tracking allow you to import and track Raw footage, mask areas, and reconstruct the camera movements live in your 3D scene.

For creating visual effects, Blender uses particle systems, rigid and soft body simulation, cloth simulation, fluid simulation, motion tracking, and compositing. The node-based compositor allows the compositing of your materials with multiple inputs and outputs.

You can use Blender’s API for Python scripting to modify the application and write tools that will be built-in in Blender’s future releases.

Because of its open-source nature, many high-quality plug-ins are unavailable for Blender. This can be a disadvantage when working on larger projects. However, the software itself doesn't have high hardware requirements.


  • Impressive library of nodes for creating camera FX
  • Real-time viewport preview
  • CPU & GPU rendering, VR rendering support
  • PBR shaders & HDR lighting support
  • 3D painting with textured brushes and masking
  • Multi-resolution and Dynamic subdivision
  • Rich library of modifiers you can use to apply non-destructive operations
  • Features different Workspaces optimized for specific tasks
  • Compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems
  • Open-source software will allow you to customize your needs


Blender Free Forever

Blender is free, however, you can sign up to Blender Studio and gain access to Blender support and materials created by a team of artists and developers for $11.50/month. All the materials are under an open and free license.

Autodesk Maya
- Best VFX Software for Creating Movement with 3D Models

Workflow Maya 

Maya is the 3D software used in Avatar, Matrix, and Harry Potter. Big studios use it to create realistic characters and visual effects. It features a palette of animation, simulation, and 3D modeling tools. 

You can use two types of modeling: Polygon, to create 3D models using geometry, and NURBS, to construct characters from geometric primitives and drawn curves.

With Bifrost, you can create effects like smoke, fire, explosions, sand, and snow. Effects can be previewed directly and rendered with Arnold, the built-in renderer for Maya.

Maya also features Bonus Tools, a free collection of useful scripts and plug-ins. It works with plug-ins like Carbon Scatter, VUE, HDR Light Studio, Phoenix FD, RealFlow, etc. 

Maya has higher technical requirements. This makes Maya best for machines that can properly run it.


  • Extensive sculpting and modeling toolkit 
  • Interactive grooming for realistic hair and fur for characters
  • Possibility of creating effects with Ready-to-use graphs
  • Possibility of creating detailed simulations with Bifrost for Maya
  • Built-in Arnold for CPU and GPU rendering
  • Compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems
  • Provides customization via Python 3
  • Free trial


There is an option to subscribe, and this would make sense for frequent users. You can subscribe to various Autodesk products, Maya included, and use them as often as you like. Each subscription is assigned to a specific user, which can be changed as needed. 
The options are
  • $5,355/3 years
  • $1,785/annually
  • $225/monthly
Maya subscription pricing

For occasional users, there is a Flex option. Here you can buy tokens to access Autodesk products. These tokens will allow you to access any product available with Flex for 24 hours at a time. You can assign different users and manage the products that are available to them.
  • The minimum pack costs $300, and you get 100 tokens that can be used for 16 days over 1 year
  • The popular pack costs $1.500, and you get 500 tokens that can be used for 83 days over 1 year
Maya Flex pricing

Autodesk 3ds Max - Best VFX Software for 3D Architecture and Game Design

Workflow 3ds Max

3ds Max, just like Maya is a part of the Autodesk platform and was used in The Blade Trinity, Avatar, The Day After Tomorrow, Harry Potter, and Iron Man. Studios can use it as standalone 3D software or alongside Maya. It allows you to create life-like environments and landscapes because it can use billions of polygons in one scene.

With 3ds Max Fluids you can create realistic liquid behaviors or replicate gravity and collision effects. Particle flow effects create effects such as water, fire, spray, and snow.

It also features hundreds of third-party plug-ins for animation, modeling, or creating effects. This will help speed up your production process. 
Max script language and Python allow you to create custom tools for any special needs you might have.

3ds Max has significant system requirements and is RAM-hungry, especially when rendering visual effects.


  • Creates realistic 3D designs with powerful modeling tools
  • A rich poly editing toolset
  • Intuitive texturing and shading tools
  • Mash and Surface modeling
  • Large library of modifiers
  • Produces high-quality renders
  • Improved Data Channel modifiers
  • Automates repetitive tasks
  • Artist-friendly UI
  • Easy layer management 
  • Built-in Arnold for CPU and GPU rendering
  • Compatible with Windows
  • Free trial


Features the same pricing model as Maya with the subscription and Flex possibilities. 
  • $5,355/3 years
  • $1,785/annually
  • $225/monthly
  • The minimum pack costs $300, and you get 100 tokens that can be used for 16 days over 1 year
  • The popular pack costs $1.500, and you get 500 tokens that can be used for 83 days over 1 year

ZBrush - Best VFX Software for Texturing and Digital Sculpting 

ZBrush Workflow

ZBrush is a sculpting software that combines 3D/2.5D modeling, texturing, painting, and visual effects. As a part of the Maxon company, it works well with all its tools, and with the latest updated Redshift integration, it offers improved rendering. It can be used in all stages of production, from concept art to the end of your production pipeline to add finishing details.

It provides a lot of flexibility and allows sculpting on almost every surface and object you want to work on. No other software will give you the same amount of fine-tuning when it comes to textures and character design. 

The ability to sculpt in 2.5D means working on a flat 2D plane, mostly used in the Gaming Industry, where there is no need for heavy 3D objects but where you can still achieve realistic results.

A sculpting tablet is a primary tool for using ZBrush, giving you higher fidelity and better control than using a mouse.

If you are just starting out, you can opt for ZBrushCoreMini, a free option with fewer features but great for beginners.


  • Simple User Interface
  • Integrates with Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, Blender, and Photoshop
  • A goZ communication system allows you to send models to other programs
  • Default brushes can be used for sculpting, painting, and adding details
  • Customizable brushes available 
  • Option for creating your brushes
  • Compatible with Mac and Windows 
  • Free trial and free option for beginners with fewer features


Different pricing plans are available for individuals, and teams. As an individual, you can opt for a monthly or a yearly subscription. For teams, the only option is a yearly subscription.
  • Individual user yearly plan - $29.91 /month - $359.00 - Billed annually
  • Individual user monthly plan - $39.00 /month 
  • Team subscription yearly plan - $419.00/annually
ZBrush pricing plans

How to choose the best VFX Software for you?

There are a few factors you should consider when choosing the best VFX software:
  • The cost should always be a consideration, especially if you are a beginner. Many of the programs offer free trials and versions to get you started. Here you can check out the Top 5 Free Programs For VFX.
  • System requirements are another important factor. Consider the device you will be using to edit, since some software has higher requirements. Similarly, some only work with specific operating systems. 
  • Complexity of the tools and user interface. Depending on your skill level, you should choose the software you will be able to understand and use effortlessly.
  • Time will ultimately decide how your projects develop. Creating visual effects and working with VFX software takes practice. This can be time-consuming, and you should plan accordingly before starting your projects.

The most important thing to consider when choosing the best video effects software is what you want to achieve. Consider your goals as a VFX artist and make sure you’re investing in software that will help you achieve them.

Getting Started with ActionVFX

ActionVFX creates the best visual effects stock footage in the industry, designed to give your shots unmatched realism. But wait, what is VFX stock footage?

Our mission is to build the undisputed best and largest library of VFX assets in the world, and you can see how we are doing right here. Surf the library, we guarantee we have something you need for your project! Additionally, by becoming a member of our AVFX+ subscription, you get access to more than $19,000 worth of assets, and a 40% discount on all purchases.

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