Laser Beam Effect--No After Effects Required
If you subscribe to Knoptop on YouTube (and you should) then you've already seen this video, but it bears repeating. Here he instructs us on how to create a simple beam effect using Photoshop and his editor, Premiere Pro. Even if you use another video editor (I use Sony Vegas) and another photo editor (I use the cost-free Gimp) all his ideas are solid. It's a great and fast way to create simple effects without vomiting up a load of cash for After Effects.
Also in the video is a link to his video about painting a squirt gun to make a ray gun prop. Make sure you watch that one also. The "distressed metal" technique is amazing (and easy!) and is something you'll want to know for future reference.