Are you looking for the best animation software to help you on your journey to be a master animator? There are lots of animation programs out there for beginners that let you do just about all kinds of animation. In fact, the pool of options is so large that it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the best animation software on the market for beginners that can be used both with and without an animation drawing tablet.
What software is used for 3D animation?
Autodesk Maya has quite a reputation. It has been used to make both small projects and very large projects, ranging from games to presentations, to video effects in movies. Multiple users can use it to work on 3D projects as part of a team.
The program is very extensive and is loaded with a ton of features and interactive tools that make it easy for users to create 3D projects. You can use it for just about everything involved in the 3D animation workflow, including modeling 3D characters and objects, rigging characters, animating characters and scenes, texturing, lighting, and even the final rendering.
Autodesk Maya’s editor is video-based and is non-linear and on-destructive in nature. It helps the user to create very high quality and realistic looking animations.
Another area that Autodesk Maya shines is in its cloth simulation, which is something a lot of animation software struggles to do well, where here they are highly accurate and realistic.
There are periodic updates to Autodesk Maya, with loads of new tools to work with coming out in every update. Over time, the workflow of the software has improved, with many of the most useful features and tools being easy to find and use on the app.
One of our personal favorite features of Autodesk Maya are its ability to import and export SVG files.
Autodesk Maya is paid software. However, given how much it offers, it’s definitely worth a try.
Blender is an open source 3D modeling and animating software. Not only can anyone use it without having to pay, but you can also contribute features, code, UI designs, and even help to translate it to your language and be a part of the computer.
Blender supports the entire workflow involved in the 3D pipeline, including modeling, rigging, animating, simulating, rendering, compositing, motion tracking, and video editing. Blender is also a massive help for video game creators.
Since Blender is open source, it can be used by just about anyone, including beginners, students, individuals, teams, amateurs, professionals, game developers, and everyone in-between. Despite the fact that it’s free software, Blender’s toolset is extremely powerful, and supports a wide range of complex functionality.
Blender’s default engine for path tracing is known as Cycles, which helps to give realistic rendering, including VR rendering. It also has HDR support for lighting. That said, it’s possible to install your own path tracing engine and hack it into the software if you have other preferences.
Blender is pretty dynamic, with an intuitive and friendly user interface. It has all sorts of tools that you might need for your animation work, including sculpting, 3D painting, and scripting. The scripting language is Python, which means that if you’re good at Python programming you should be able to create your own effects and libraries.
Basically, with Blender, you not only have a piece of software that you can use to animate, but if you’re a DIY person, you can customize it and extend it as you wish. That’s near-infinite power in your hands!
Cinema 4D is pretty popular when it comes to animation and special effects tools. It is a fairly simple but powerful program that has almost all the 3D and animation tools you might need. It is mostly used by animators and artists who are looking to build 3D projects and gives very fast results.
The look and feel of Cinema 4D is very easy and intuitive, and just about anyone can use it, from beginner to advanced. There is also a huge and supportive community with lots of illustrations and tutorials to help beginners find their way around the software so they can master it easily. The rendering engine on the program is also pretty advanced and helps to produce realistic looking images.
With Cinema 4D you’ll also get MoGraph, a set of tools that help with motion graphics, animation, and procedural modeling. With the toolset in MoGraph you’ll be able to do complex things like simulate hair with ease, allowing you to animate them with efficiency and accuracy.
ZBrush is highly focused toward modeling work, as well as texturing. You can, however, use it for some of your animation work. This software helps you to create 2.5D models and has been loaded with a range of brushes to make that possible.
With ZBrush, you should be able to create some pretty great looking sculptures. You can then import them into another software and do the animation work on them.
ZBrush comes with its own rendering engine that provides a complete 360-degree map of the scene via HDRI images. Other powerful tools you’ll find in the software include ZRemesher and Fibermesh, which help with creating polygon fibers. These are very useful for modeling trees and other plants.
ZBrush particularly shines when it comes to its Polypaint feature. Polypaint allows you to pain any object without having to first assign it a texture map. This helps you to get a sense of what the final object should look like while saving your CPU some computing power.
What software is used for 2D animation?
Adobe Animate CC (Formerly Flash)
Animate CC is (for those that don’t know) a rehash of Flash. By virtue of that, Animate CC has been used since the early days of publishing on the internet. The interface is very intuitive and the software is quite cheap.
Adobe Animate CC does vector animation for high quality animations. In fact, a particular side effect of the great qualities of Adobe Animate is that it has often been used for making television cartoons. For some strange reason, Adobe never supported this unique use case, and so studios had to build their own custom tools or use plugins to adapt the software to their production pipelines. That said, you can use it to make your own amazing animations.
Toon Boom Harmony
Toon Boom Harmony is professional software that’s simply enough to be used by both beginners and very experienced animators. Toon Boom Harmony helps you create just about any kind of 2D animation, whether flashy and cut out, or particle effects, or traditionally drawn animation. Anything you can do on your animating tablet you can animate with Toon Boom.
Toon Boom has a ton of powerful features, including advanced vector drawing, frame by frame animation, tools to help with the integration of 3D and 2D characters, and also different camera angles to help with scene composition. You can even easily export the characters you build to various game engines.
Adobe Character Animator
Adobe Character animator is one of the newer softwares in the Adobe creative suite. It’s quite powerful and allows you to animate cartoon characters with a very simple and intuitive workflow.
All you have to do for the software to work is plug in your camera and microphone. You then import a character that was prepared in Adobe Character Animator, which the software calls a ‘puppet’. The software will use the camera to detect your facial expressions and the microphone to detect your voice. The puppets will be animated to mimic your facial expressions while using your exact voice.
You can use predefined functions and triggers with this application, allowing your puppet to make gestures, hold objects, walk, and so on.
The software features automatic lip syncing and also animates various facial features, including your eyes, eyebrows, and mouth. It’s an excellent app for game streaming, online education, live chat and so much more!
Adobe After Effects is quite an interesting choice if you want to do 2D animation. With Adobe After Effects, you get cool stuff like a puppet tool to create rigs for your characters. Adobe After Effects isn’t mainly used for animation, but rather to add special effects to videos. However, with some of its simpler tools, you should be able to do lots of great animation. It’s also a great piece of software to have if you’re already comfortable working in the Adobe environment.
Moho (Anime Studio)
Moho has the Debut and Pro versions. The Debut version is aimed at beginners. However, it has lots of powerful features that you can use to build cool animations. The tools, despite being powerful, are coupled with a very simple and intuitive user interface. The learning curve isn’t too difficult, and once you understand it, you can try and migrate to the Pro version which, while pricier, is even more powerful.
Moho has versions available for MacOS and Windows with both offline and online activations. It also includes support for multiple languages, including Spanish, French, Japanese, simplified Chinese, and German. There are highly advanced freehand tools, bone rigging, support for animating tablets with pen pressure support, and even support for Photoshop files.
Free animation software for beginners
Synfig is very easy to use if you’ve used Flash before. In fact, if you’re coming from Flash and want to try something that is similar, then Synfig is the software for you. It is a vector-based animation software that gives you full control on how the vector artwork gets edited. You can also control your characters by creating character puppets.
The good news about Synfig is that it is completely free and can be run on MacOS, Windows, and Linux. It’s also open source software, so you can get the source code and tweak it like you wish.
Some of its incredible features include a whole range of layers, including gradients, geometric layers, distortions, filters, and transformations, among others.
Plastic Animation Paper
Plastic Animation Paper is yet another great free animation software. It works on MacOS, Windows, and Linux. To be honest, the user interface does look a little outdated, but seeing as the software is free, we do think it’s better than nothing.
Plastic Animation Paper allows you to create animations of your hand-drawn drawings. You can even see the edits you make in real time. While editing can feel a little clunky, it’s definitely easy for beginners to get the hang of this software, and it’s more than enough for making simple animations.
Pencil2D is a free and simple animation software, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t powerful. This open source software is incredibly powerful yet very easy to use with an intuitive user interface. There are also lots of tutorials on the websites and supportive forums where you can learn how to use the software.
This wonderful software includes support for audio and image import, frame rate adjustment, onion skinning, and even pressure sensitivity for your drawing tablet.
OpenToonz is one of the best free animation software tools out there. It’s an excellent choice for making 2D animations. It is open source and is free for both commercial and non-commercial use. You can use it to create cool animations whether you’re a beginner or an experienced animator.
OpenToonz has digital drawing tools, motion tracking, frame by frame animation, and even motion tweening, which allows you to use motion paths to execute highly complex motion movements.
Stykz is one of the easiest and most intuitive animations softwares out there. It allows you to make simple but entertaining 2D stick figure animations. It might seem basic, but if you’re in stick figure animations, it’s hard to do much better than Stykz.
Stykz is a frame by frame animation software, and it works by letting you animate a single frame at a time. It works with onionskins, allowing you to see how the current frame and the previous frame blend well together. Another great thing about this software is that the changes are made in the “Stage” area. That means you get to see your changes in the same window where you make them. You don’t need to switch views.
What is the best software for hand drawn animation?
That would have to be Moho Debut. This is among the best software out there for hand-drawn animation. In fact, according to the developer of the software, it’s been used in many films that went on to be nominated for an Oscar.
What 3D animation software is easiest?
The truth is that it doesn’t matter. Just pick one that appeals to you and run with it. You’ll go through the learning curve and learn a lot in the process. As you get better, you’ll start to get a good sense of what you like and don’t like, and you’ll be better able to choose which new animation software to learn as you go forward.
What software does Pixar use?
Pixar uses proprietary software to do their animations. It used to be called PhotoRealistic RenderMan but now it is called Pixar RenderMan. All their in-house animated productions are done on this software. If you’re interested in learning and using it, then you’ll be glad to hear that Pixar released a non-commercial version for a free download.
Which software is used for animation by Disney?
Disney uses quite a few programs for their workflow. For modeling and rigging, they use Autodesk Maya. For sculpting, Pixologic Zbrush does the job. For visual effects, both Disney and Pixar use Side Effects Houdini. For animation, they use Presto, a proprietary animation program. For final rendering, they use Hyperion, yet another proprietary software. And for the final compositions, they use Foundry Nuke.
And with that, we come to the end of our review on the best animation software for beginners. As you can see, there is a whole universe of options out there. Just pick one up and start. Once you gain momentum, only the sky can be the limit.