Computer animation has come a long way since inception in the year 1960. The fundamentals of animation software or animation tool can be traced back to the time when William Fetter, a computer graphics designer made a diagram of a human body inside an airplane cockpit. Although the intention was to maximize the efficiency of Boeing’s cockpits, it paved the way towards more sophisticated process flows and thus, towards animation generated by computers. The credit for the first animation software, however, goes to Ivan Sutherland, an MIT graduate. His program Sketchpad (developed in 1963) drew lines that looked like recognizable figures. Little did he know that his idea would become a multibillion-dollar industry in the years to come.
Slowly and steadily, more progress was made in the field. The movie Tron which was released in the year 1982, was one of the first movies to use computer-generated graphics. Movies like the Terminator, Jurassic Park, Toy Story, the Matrix, and Avatar further refined the process, adding more details and sophistication to computer animation. The animation software industry grew to great heights within this period.
Fast forward to 2021, we have a plethora of examples to celebrate the genius of CGI or computer-generated imagery. There are a variety of animation software available in the market, widely used by professionals at animation studios. Depending on the medium you choose —hand-drawn or 2D, 3D, or stop-motion and the price range, there are plenty of options to get started. A well-built animation software provides intuitive controls and flexibility that can be easily understood by a beginner but also has vastly superior tools for an experienced user.
Browse through this list of quality animation software, and select the one that best suits your requirement. We hope it will help you hone your foundation skills, practice animation styles, and help you get professional results.
This animation software comes from one of the biggest development companies in the world and serves up to the hyped expectations. One of the recent additions to the Adobe family, this simple animation software uses facial recognition, gesture recognition, etc to animate cartoon characters. The Character Animator is a real-time animator that uses your facial expressions, hand movements, full-body motion capture, and various other inputs to animate characters. It is extremely smooth and fast and you can live stream your development process to share work with team members or your audience. Just plug in your microphone, web camera and start animating! You can also create a character from your artworks in a few mouse clicks using the built-in Adobe Sensei.
Adobe Character Animator is one of the best animation software and is used by many Hollywood film houses. The software offers a huge variety of options for animating. You can also use the built-in puppets to begin animating as soon as you open the software. Animation options include breathing, walking, blinking, behaviors, etc. It is a great animation software for beginners as well as experienced professionals.
The free trial lasts for 7 days after which you can buy the paid versions of this simple software for animation. You can buy all the Adobe applications (creative cloud) for around 52 USD per month, billed annually. Adobe has created different packages for individuals, businesses, schools, and professionals. You can check this link out for more information on pricing.
Toon Boom by Harmony is a cartoon animation software for beginners as well as for professionals. The software allows the user the flexibility, fluidity, and the smoothness of traditional animation. The learning curve is moderate since the software is meant for newbies as well as for professionals. The software has been used by leading animation studios for more than 25 years.
GitHub illustrator and animator, Tony Jaramillo writes in his testimonial, “Harmony makes it possible to level up our animation productivity without sacrificing quality...we're big fans”. Some of the most famous users of Toon Boom are Universal Studios, Fox Studios, Cartoon Network, Ubisoft, and Lucas Film.
New features that came with the latest update include a stabilizer for lines, stylus pressure responsiveness, and tilt and angle responsiveness. Standard features include a brush engine, traditional paperless animation, deformers, cut-out animation, 2D/3D integration, export to game engines, and pipeline integration. It is also easily integrable with software such as Adobe Illustrator, and extensions such as PSD, PSB, PDF, and Bitmaps.
Pricing options come in different packages that include this animation software. Harmony Essentials cost 16 Euros per month, billed annually. You can also choose to purchase the package for a one-time cost of 400 Euros. Similarly, Harmony Advanced is a 1,030 Euros one-time purchase (41 Euros per month if not purchased) and the Harmony Premium is a 2,085 Euros one-time purchase (78 Euros per month if not purchased). You can use the software for free for 21 days; a duration that is good enough to understand and explore this amazing animation software.
This 2D animation software is easy-to-use but don’t let the simplicity fool you. You can do a lot of things with this animation software although it is intended for beginners. Developed by DigiCel, FlipBook runs on both Windows and macOS. You can also call this a frame by frame animation software since the method it employs deals with designing one frame at a time. Since the learning curve is smooth, you can directly dive into animating. The software lets you easily scan your artworks from paper directly onto the software. You can also make stop motion videos if you want.
Some of the features of FlipBook include a multiple-frame work desk, lip-sync support, pan, zoom, rotate, blur options, import and export capabilities, and scanning options. The software is efficient and super-smooth. The speed is amazing as well. You can make changes while the animation is running and the changes are visible the next time the loop runs! As aforementioned, the animation software is simple to use. However, some big names have complimented the software and recommended it to their followers. Disney’s Animation Director, Eric Goldberg calls it a great program and praises the draw tool provided by the software.
DigiCel’s Flipbook is priced according to four different packages that are Lite, Studio, Pro, and ProHD. If you use the free version of this animation software, all published exports are watermarked. The Lite version is listed at 98 USD but is currently at a sale price of 19 USD! The package offers 2 columns, 300 frames, and 800x600 screen capabilities. As the packages advance, so do their features. A complete pricing list can be seen here.
The Moho Debut is an animation software suitable for beginners interested in learning the art of animation. The interface is easy to understand and allows you to animate real fast. The simplicity does not, however, undermine the strength and the robustness of this software. The tools offered by Moho Debut are powerful and can be used to convert your strangest imaginations into an animated story. The software comes with multilingual support and has the capability to handle English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and Japanese.
The software runs on both macOS and Windows and offers advanced and sophisticated freehand tools. Features such as bone rigging, pen pressure support for tablets, animated effects for shapes and layers, brushes that can be used to easily edit and animate, PSD support, and keyframe options are available. Advanced masking options and an auto freeze tool are also available. The software is priced at 69.99 USD. The free trial can be availed for 30 days.
The Moho Pro is the advanced version of its lighter version, the Moho Debut. The user base is more professional and advanced. The software is costlier but has more features that can be used to create better animations. This 2D animation software includes all the features of Moho Debut. The latest version Moho Pro 13 integrates the best animation technology with the most sophisticated tools. The software runs on both macOS and Windows and requires a minimum RAM of 4GB and 2.0 GHz Intel i3 processor.
Moho Pro offers a bone rigging system, physics engine, dynamic bones, and smart bones to control complex movements, frame by frame capabilities, vector tools with Bezier handles, accurate SVG, AI, and EPS import, 4K video export, vector export, motion blur, and multilayer and multi-channel control. The newest update adds bitmap frame by frame capabilities, bitmap freehand drawing tools, custom bitmap brush creation, 3D objects light manipulation, 3D objects material properties support.
You can also purchase add-ons to improve the experience. The 100 Brush Pack, for example, is priced at 39 USD. Other add-ons include the Retro Space Pack, School Days Pack, Content Pack, and the Puppets Pack. This animation software is priced at 399.9 USD with a free trial that lasts for 30 days.
This is a great free animation software for people who are into traditional hand-drawn animation. The software allows you to work with both raster as well as with vector graphics. The minimal design of the interface makes it easy and smooth to work with. The clutter-free UI/UX experience is one of the selling points of this free software. Pencil2D is a cross-platform software that runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux. The software is open-source which has allowed a great and helpful community to develop around this product.
The software has a variety of handy animation tools and options. You can also upload your Pencil 2D project to aid in the development of the software; one of the plus points of being open-source. You can import GIFs and export them as well. The latest version, v0.6.4 released last year with several new tweaks and adjustments. Bug fixes and patches were also part of the update. Upcoming features may include a new undo/redo system, x-sheet support, new layer manipulation operations, etc.
The biggest disadvantage of using Pencil2D is that the software requires you to fill in your preferences every time you open it.
Another open-source 2D animation software that comes free of cost. If you are not comfortable with a frame by frame animation software, this is the perfect tool for you. You can run this free animation software on Windows, Linux, and macOS. Since the software is open-source, you can make changes to the source code and submit enhancements and upgrades.
One of the main features of Synfig Studio is vector tweening; you can convert any vector graphic into another form easily. The software offers powerful tools to help you achieve that. Synfig also provides more than 50 layers to make artworks and animations. Some of the layer types are geometric, transformations, gradients, filters, distortions, fractals, etc. The bone system is also full of options and is a powerful tool on its own. The software also provides an additional skeleton distortion layer. Finally, you can connect different layers via mathematical expressions. With the help of this, you can make characters, puppets, and complex dynamic structures. The software has a steeper learning curve for beginners.
Cartoon Animator 4 is a 2D animation software intended for both beginners as well as for professionals. You can design characters and digitally animate them via expressions and lip-sync capabilities. The Cartoon Animator 4 community is a strong one and materials for learning the software are easily available. Much like Adobe’s Character Animator, you can use your facial expressions and your voice to make animations. A few examples of videos made using this animation software are given here; The Curious Child, a TV series by Eon De Bruin, and an Animated comic by Fransesco.
Key features of this amazing animation software include webcam and iPhone facial mocap, hand tracking and digital puppets, full-body motion capture, sprite-based facial system, audio lip-syncing, precise FK/IK system, smart motion retargeting, stretch animation, and so much more. If you want to explore all the features of this superb software, head to this link for a detailed view. The software also lets you integrate your work with Adobe Photoshop and allows you to use PSD templates for designing. Pipeline features include capabilities to import 3D motions into 2D artworks and to create custom and unique elastic motion libraries. Finally, you can work with a huge number of file extensions without any trouble. It supports up to 4K resolution monitors.
The free trial is for 30 days after which you can buy the pro edition for 99 USD, the pipeline edition for 199 USD, or avail special bundle discounts.
An animation software for beginners, Stop Motion Studio helps to create high-quality stop motion videos. Adopting the frame by frame animation technique, this software can help you make 4k stop motion videos with ease. The software is cross-platform and cross-device and can run on Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. Your projects are accessible from all the devices where you have your account.
You can use your phone camera to click the single frames or you can even hook up your digital camera to your device. You also have the option to use a second phone to add more perspective to your videos. Editing these images is also easy and just requires a few touches or clicks. You can add audio clips, titles, credits, and filter effects to your videos as you click the frames. There is also the option to add looping to your videos using in and out set points. The software has built-in sound clips that you can use in your videos and you can directly record our voice and apply it on the video as you work your way through the project. Other features include grid and onion skinning options, paint tools, magic eraser, and import of images, audio, video files, etc.
This animation software costs just a dollar and 99 cents on Windows. The mobile application costs 4.99 USD and the macOS version costs 9.99 USD.
Probably the best free animation software on this list and one of the most recommended software for animation by professionals, Blender is an open-source software that runs on different platforms with ease. It is one of the few 3D modeling and animation software that is free of cost, yet it does not lack any power or robustness of its paid counterparts. In fact, it might just have a slight edge over them. This animation software is suitable for beginners as well as for professionals. With the help of Blender, you can develop animations, games, animated models, renders, and other types of 3D projects. It is available on macOS, Linux, and Windows.
Blender is a pretty good animation software when it comes to the features it offers. Blender provides real-time viewport review as well as CPU and GPU rendering. With Blender, you have PBR shaders and HDR lighting support. Other features include VR rendering support, advanced modeling, sculpting, and UV tools, advanced rigging and animation tools, powerful visual effects, auto-tracking, manual tracking, camera reconstruction, drawing in 2D mode Ð¾nto the 3D viewport, onion skinning, etc.
Blender is one of the best free animation software that you can use at all levels. Blender has some amazing open projects where you can contribute. Ever since the year 2005, the Blender Foundation has tried to invite developers and animators to contribute to open projects to promote creativity and innovation in Blender. The first such project was called ‘Elephants Dream’, which won the best short film award. Here is the official link to all open projects started by the Blender Foundation. If you are an advanced animator, make sure to check these out.
Some of the drawbacks are that the learning curve is very steep and it would take beginners a lot of time to learn to use this software. It is also not easy to make image animations since the software aims more at 3D animation.
Animaker is a browser-based animation software that can be used by beginners, professionals, and animation enthusiasts. It is a great tool for making handcraft videos, whiteboard videos, short marketing bits, animated infographic videos, and educational videos. Used by huge brands such as Amazon, Nokia, Siemens, and Dell, Animaker’s buffed-up client base speaks for itself. With Animaker, you can make 2D and 2.5D videos via a variety of tools and features. You can choose from different plans based on your needs.
Animaker supports full HD and both horizontal and vertical layouts. Animaker provides great features for animation such as record, curve, camera in/out, multimove, transition effects, and enter/exit effects. Along with these, the animation software also has a deck feature that allows users to use animations as videos or presentations. The software also has some amazing audio features such as text-to-speech, preloaded background tracks, sound effects, voice recording, etc. You can also use libraries for pre-defined templates.
With the free package, you can download your animations with a watermark. The free package also lets you work with HD support. The starter pack is priced at 19 USD per month and is intended for individuals and startups. The starter pack supports full HD and you can download 6 premium animations without the watermarks. The business pack is priced at 39 USD per month and has all the features that this great animation software has to offer.
OpenToonz is a free animation software that you can use to make cartoon animations. It runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux. OpenToonz was customized by Studio Ghibli and is in use by the same for many years. It was first used in the making of the famous film, ‘Princess Mononoke’ by Studio Ghibli. Since it is open-source, you can contribute to its source code as well.
OpenToonz has all the features required to make a great animated film. Its unique features have been specifically customised to meet those requirements of the production staff. The scanning tool or 'GTS’ for instance, that specializes in animation. OpenToonz also comes with an effects development kit developed by Dwango. The SDK is a plug-in effect for image processing. Other features include digital drawing tools such as vector and bitmap drawing tools, indexed color palettes, animated special effects, and composite scene, scripting, motion tracking, frame-by-frame animation, motion tweening, bones character animation, particle systems for dust, rain, and similar effects, etc.
It can be used free of charge for both commercial and non-commercial videos. In case you face any issues, you can post your query in the developers’ forum or any community blog. The plug-in effects of this animation software are, however, very limited.
Another browser animation software that is free to use, Powtoon is intended for beginners but can also be used by more advanced animators. It can be used to make dynamic video presentations. Used by brands such as Microsoft, IBM, Google, Adobe, Coca Cola, eBay, Cisco, and Starbucks, Powtoon is a trusted software that can be used to develop engaging infographic videos and marketing bits. The official website describes Powtoon as a platform for visual communication. Hopping on the visual communication description, the animation software is a great means to talent acquisition, change management, internal communications, and marketing. Schools and universities can also use Powtoon to make infographic videos and educational tutorials to teach their students. In fact, during times such as these when the world is fighting against COVID-19, such a tool can come in handy to reach out to colleagues and team members.
With Powtoon’s free version, you can export YouTube videos, Facebook videos, Vimeo videos, and PDFs, and Powerpoints. The version also offers customs styles and you can change the aspect ratio as well as sizes. You can implement image files and animate and make GIFs. Once you get past the beginner level, you can choose from the various packages based on your requirements. Powtoon is one of the best animation software that you can use to learn about animation. You can import themes from Microsoft Powerpoint as well in case you don’t want to start working from scratch.
The three paid packages that come with this animation software are Pro, Pro +, and Agency. At 19 USD per month, you can buy the Pro package which gives you access to free content and 2 GB of storage. The Pro + is priced at 29 USD per month and gives you access to all the content and 10 GB of storage. With Agency, the cream package, you get all the features of Powtoon and 100 GB of storage at 99 USD per month.
Here’s a treat for Mac users; a free animation software with amazing features and lots of content. The software was developed by animators who wanted to allow people to make and edit videos without having to pay for them. The learning curve of this software is moderate and you can create quality 2D videos once you get the hang of it. You can contribute to the Tupi source code as well and tweak it in case you require specific customizations or would like to help the community.
Features of Tupi include support for vector illustrations, adding shapes, filling areas, import raster images, export all your finished images into different file formats, support for tweeting positions, etc. You can also make lip-sync animations using Tupi. The software also supports vector illustrations and different file formats. The official website contains lots of resources for animators of all levels. It features an extensive resource base of examples and tutorials. One of the drawbacks of Tupi is that it cannot be used to make 3D videos.
Terragen is a free animation software for Windows. You can use it to make CG animation. It is meant for moderate level users but can be used by beginners who are interested in learning animation. The learning curve is moderate and it requires some time to get the hang of it. The newest feature, the ray-traced preview is great for animation. It can be installed on all Windows devices and is an amazing animation software for 3D animation. Developed by Planetside Software, Terragen 4.4, the latest update is feature-rich.
Besides ray-traced preview, some of the other features include photo-real clouds, ozone simulation, faster rendering (almost double), lens effects, and new shaders and enhancements, etc. Terragen Pro comes with FBX, render layers and AOVs, spherical cameras, full 3D motion blur, and stereo cameras. The price list of Terragen can be found here. The drawback of this animation software is that its interface looks very complicated. However, with use and understanding, you can work on it effortlessly.
Although the list of animation software is exhaustive, we have tried to put together the best intuitive software programs, and we hope it'll give you a good start. You might want to check out our list of the best graphic design software. Tech-savvy creatives would also like our feature on the best drawing and art apps.
As you get creative with your animation portfolios, do remember to create your portfolio website to showcase your work. Here’s a great article on how to create a portfolio website. Your design portfolio represents a window for the world to view your work and judge your talent, skills, and experience. So, if you haven’t built a website to showcase your design portfolio, start today with Pixpa. Here are some great examples of graphic design portfolios created on Pixpa for your inspiration. Explore all features that make Pixpa the perfect choice for creative professionals. Get ready to express yourself in stunning new ways and create awesome animation clips with ease and efficiency!
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