The Best Free Visual Effects Software on the Web

Posted November 28th, 2013 by Gnomon School — Category: Tools & Techniques — 0 Comments

A video of Earth in Jahshaka — Image source:

A video of Earth in Jahshaka — Image source:

The phrase “There's no such thing as a free lunch" was obviously invented long before the Internet. Nowadays, there are millions of free resources available to anybody with an Internet connection. And since everybody loves free stuff (especially since you're going to need to save money for the holidays), we're going to take a look at some of the best free programs for visual effects artists. And be sure to check out our first article that covered the same topic!


Don't mind its funky name. Jahshaka is a handy video composting and editing software designed specifically with visual effects artists in mind. The program is also open source, so the technically minded artists out there can tweak the code as much as they want to create a program that suits their specifications.


Sometimes artists have to build a model from scratch, and other times they simply want to add a few fancy visual effects (blur, glow, lens flare, etc) to a live-action shot. Sapphire is a streamline plug-in that allows artists to apply preset visual effects to existing images. You may not be able to build a whole 3D model from scratch using Sapphire, but it's sure to cut some time and effort out of simple video editing jobs. Genarts, the company behind Sapphire, offers free trials for all four versions of their star program.


Autodesk is a titan in the visual effects industry, and for good reason. Autodesk-made art shows up everywhere — movies, television, commercials, video games, you name it!

Quality like that comes with a steep price tag. Autodesk programs can cost well over one grand, which is far beyond what some artists can afford. Luckily, the company offers free trials of Autodesk Smoke (video editing on the Mac), Softimage (animation software), 3DS Max (toolset for modeling, animating, rendering, and compositing), Mudbox (sculpting and painting software), 123D (3D modeling software), and MotionBuilder (3D animation software).


Like Autodesk, Photoshop is an extremely well-established visual effects program that costs big bucks. The free trial will give you 30 days of access and 2 GB of storage, but once that month is over you're going to start getting pesky popup messages begging you to fork over $20, $30, or $50 a month for membership. That cost adds up quickly, but unfortunately Photoshop is a must-have for a lot of artists out there.

Photoshop: Ubiquitous, invaluable, expensive — Image source:

And last but certainly not least… Happy Thanksgiving!

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