One of the most common yet important questions that every new Animator first asks before starting their animation journey is, “Which is the best Animation software out there.” or more so, ” Which animation software is the best one for me?”
And this question has left many young aspiring animators stifled on online forums and, more so, stuck on YouTube top 10 animation software videos.
And rightfully so, because, with the plethora of animation options available, you can easily get confused about which professional animation software to use.
So, to ease your concerns, we have compiled some of the best animation software programs here in one place that you can use in 2020. And to go into more detail, we will be working through each of the specific animation programs’ use cases.
Like, stop motion animation techniques like Claymation, which was even used to make Coraline, or just Cel animation, which, although old, is still extensively used in the Japanese anime industry.
Or, if you are into more realistic 3D special effects animations like Alita: Battle Angel, feature films animation like BIG Hero 6, or just want to create cool animation videos on YouTube.
3D+2D Animation Software
It was starting off the 3D+2D section with Unity, one of the most well-known examples in the video game development industry that is now making itself known in the animated film department.
Unity is an extraordinarily powerful tool that you can easily use to animate and produce visually appealing cinematics, more specifically, CGI animation.
Unity is basically like a one-stop tool for professional video game animation and, more so, professional animated film making.
Unity, as an animation software, is primarily targeted towards adding in unique animation effects on game objects, enhancing the surface textures of a certain scene, or just making animated cinematics to go along with the game’s overall style.
But now, with the updates in the last few years, Unity has more added features like Real-Time Filmmaking, where each scene gets completely animated and ready for use as soon as you are done with it. And to add, now Unity also allows the animators to use script variables.
To animate in Unity, you must learn languages like C# and figure out a whole lot of other features. And just that can easily scare off any beginner animator. But the good thing about Unity here is that, once you learn how to animate in Unity.
If you can get through all the tutorials and become sufficiently good at it, the skill that Unity teaches you are easily transferable to any other mainstream animation software on the market.
1. Real-Time Animation Film Making.
2. Can Set Animation Script Variables.
3 Adaptive Interface
1. Unity for personal use is free.
2. The community support for Unity is huge and very helpful when you are just starting out.
3. Unity is widely used in the animation and game industry alike.
1. Not Beginner friendly.
2. Animator needs to learn how to Program.
3. The Interface can be confusing for newbies.
2. 399$ per year for Plus plan.
3.1800$ Per Year for Pro Plan.
3D Animation Software
Auto Desk’s Maya is one of the most well-known VFX animation software that has become an industry standard used to make blockbuster films like Alita The Battle Angle, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, etc.
Maya is known worldwide for its technical achievement, and now with Maya’s new updates, the UI interface of this animating software is considered one of the most beginner-friendly interfaces within the animation industry.
But even so, using Maya is not that easy; it is quite challenging, and just getting used to the animation tools takes some time.
Maya is basically divided into many different subsections, which, although it makes all the tools quite a bit organized, that actually makes it hard for beginners to navigate its animation toolsets.
So, it is difficult for a beginner to figure out where each tool is, and most of the time, in Maya, amateurs just spend 100’s hours figuring out where everything is and what each tool in Maya actually does.
And even then, like a Maya Animator, you need to go to third-party software like Z brush for sculpting and such.
Although Maya has a native sculptor, it is not that good, so to become a good 3D animator or just a VFX artist, you also need to go for other 3rd party software to have more professional models and objects in your animation.
Maya allows you to add plugins for different tasks like Tracking, Face shift, and such, which makes the animation process a bit easier, but only and a much-advanced level.
However, despite its caveats and well somewhat hard to find tutorials, Maya is an industry-proven animation program that many professional animation houses use as their primary driver for the in-house professional animation work.
1. Industry-proven standard for creating breathtaking animations.
2. Plugin Support for a whole lot of add-on features.
3. Beginner-Friendly UI Interface.
1. Maya is used everywhere, so finding a Job as an animator in Maya is quite easy.
2. Maya’s base version for Teachers, Students, Veterans is free.
3. The best software for advanced character animation and VFX effects.
1. There are not a whole lot of Tutorials available for Maya.
2. Not a one-stop software for animation.
1. 205$ Monthly.
2. 1620$ Yearly.
3. 4375$ for a 3-year plan.
Another animation software like Unity with Real-Time rendering, KeyShot is a 3D rendering software that allows users to create photorealistic shots and life-like animations that just look stunning.
KeyShot is an excellent animation program that is used to create 3D models of different objects, machine parts, scenic environments, etc.
Companies often use this animation software to create realistic 3D product designs, which are then used by the engineering firms to conceptualize 3D engine models or by special designers to showcase how a certain setup would look or work, in a 3D, visualized, animated example.
Now, KeyShot is not, per se, an animating tool that you will use to make a feature film.
But instead, it is used for creating life-like 3D models that can then be exported to other 3D animation programs to make an animated sequence. Or just 3D product designs for on-screen visualizations.
And suppose you like these types of animations, where you visualize each and every aspect of a concept 3D design but do not want to use the complicated layout of the Unity engine, spending hours learning C# and deal with other caveats. In that case, KeyShot will suit you well.
KeyShot comes with important built-in features like Global Illumination, accurate material texture representation, native physics-based animation rendering support, etc.
It is a useful tool that is also used in scientific research to understand technical concepts through visual models and is also used to realize a product in a variety of different settings and designs.
1. Photorealistic renders.
2. Has plenty of different material textures readily available to be used in the software.
3. Beginner-Friendly User Interface
1. Quick Renders for Industrial Design.
2. After just a few tutorials, anyone can start breathtaking animations.
3. It makes making scientific design a whole lot easier
1. It is not designed for full animation sequences.
2. Lacks some final touching tools to make your models look ultra-realistic.
1. 995$ for HD annually.
2. 1995 for Pro annually.
3. 2995$ for Pro Floating annually.
One of the new software that takes advantage of cloud computing, Renderforest, is web-based editing software that allows hassle-free web-based animation and editing in a matter of minutes. They offer a library of different templates, editing tools, and even cloud storage that any user can use to make a video on their platform online.
Renderforest is based on a vision of the future that everything going forward will happen on the cloud.
And staying true to their vision, all the editing on their platform is done on the cloud remotely, and as long as you have a good internet connection, editing on Renderforest should be a breeze.
But there is a catch; the on-platform editing tools available on Renderforest are quite extensive and moderately go into the fine details of animation and video editing.
But it does lack more of the innovative and artistic design capability that most of the people who want to learn animation wish to express.
Renderforest’s animating tools generally are for those who just want to make a video but don’t want to get technical or pay a professional to make a short cinematic for their business.
But Renderforest does provide a great, beginner-friendly platform that allows even beginners to use drag and drop features on the platform to create simple and easy animations.
The users can even make some complex cinematics using the onsite tools, even if they have never used any animation software. All in a free, easily accessible website that anyone can use and start editing and animating in a hassle-free experience.
1. Drag and Drop Animation.
2. Web-based cloud animation can be used on almost any device that supports a browser.
3. Hassle-free, Quick animation.
1. Easy to use, the UI is excellent and intuitive.
2. There is a free version available.
3. Anyone using Renderforest can make a good animation sequence on their first try.
1. Not as powerful as a native animation software.
2. Limited tools available, which may limit creative expression.
3. Does not allow Teamwork in collaborative projects.
2. 59$ per month for Amateurs.
3. 89$ per month for Pros.
Cinema 4D, contrary to its name, is a 3D animation program that is one of the most well-known and best motion graphics software that you can get your hands on.
It has outstanding performance in the film industry, such as Iron Man 3, Fast & Furious 7, War of the Worlds.
Although learning Cinema 4D can be a bit challenging for newbies, their clean Interface and global use make Cinema 4D stand out as one of the best animation software that you can learn to this day.
Although new animators see Cinema 4D as a more traditional animation software, especially when compared to modern options, like Maya or Blender, but what they don’t realize that most of the high-end motion graphics, and even junior level jobs require Cinema 4D skills.
And if you master this software, most of the time you are, guaranteed a good job in a reputable animation studio. Now, Cinema 4D is not that hard to learn, particularly because of its clean UI interface, but after the basics, for the harder stuff, Cinema 4D can be quite challenging.
If you don’t have any prior experience using any animation software, the sheer volume of information that you are required to study for Cinema 4D can easily scare away new, aspiring animators. Even some seasoned veterans’ animators steer clear of Cinema 4D.
Because either there are other options available where you can pretty much do the same work as the mentioned software, and those options are much easier to use than a Cinema 4D.
But those other options do not have all the tools you need to make a good animation natively when compared to Cinema 4D, and many are just not as good as a Cinema 4D.
While Cinema is not used in large projects, it is an excellent choice for a single artist or a small team.
1. Clean UI design.
2. Graphical view for motion tracker.
3. Enhanced Animation workflow
1. There are plenty of documentations and even tutorials available for beginners.
2. The best Motion Graphics Software out there.
3. Global integration with almost any other animation.
1. Modeling is not that good.
2. Bodypainting could be better.
1.59.99$ per month for Cinema 4D with access to Cinema 4D R21.
2. 81.99$ per month for Cinema 4D with Redshift with access to Cinema 4D R21.
3. 3495, Cinema 4D R21, the full version of Cinema 4D Software, and all its features.
Blender is quite popular and then somewhat despised animation software that has been specifically designed with ease of use in mind. It is an open-source 3D animation software that does a little bit of every animation software-related niche thing that you would ever need as an animation professional.
It is excellent at sculpting, has motion tracking, video composition, video editing, rendering all in one place. But where Blender suffers is that it is fairly new in that it did not actually make major improvements in animation and tools design till 2017.
And not many animation studios actually use Blender, particularly because it has a very old reputation to be just not on the same level as other animation programs.
But that all changed when some of the core features of video editing were added to the software.
And then it actually brought a whole lot of animating tools that were then only available in some of the most expensive software out there in a more accessible free package.
However, Blender is mostly still not used in any professional setting most of the time, so there are fewer jobs available for Blender as compared to other animation software.
But despite that, Blender is by far the best 3D animation software that any novice can start out, and for the cherry on top, Blender is free. Furthermore, because of its accessibility, there are plenty of Blender animation tutorials available.
Also, its community support is quite remarkable, and in that, you can find a solution to any Blender related problem that you will ever come across in the Blender community forums.
1. 3D modeling
2. UV unwrapping
3. Raster graphics editing and much more.
1. Beginner-friendly UI Design.
2. Very active community support is available for Blender.
3. It is free.
1. Not many professionals use Blender.
2. Is lacking in proper motion capture support.
- 11.50$ a month for Blender Cloud with automatic renewal.
- 17$ a month for Blender Cloud with manual renewal.
Daz 3D is a free source poser software that allows you to design, animate, arrange cinematics, and more. It is an animation software that is more focused on the 3D Model design and provides a library with a ton of premade community models and objects that anyone can use and modify to their heart’s content.
The software allows users to create their own unique characters in an easy and accessible manner.
But where Daze 3D truly shines is that you don’t actually need to buy any models; you have the option to choose from a variety of custom designs in their library that is published there free of cost by other artists and the Daz 3D team.
It is a mighty Scene creator that, although you cannot use to build proper cinematic animations, you can easily create any human model with the tools readily available in the software.
Daz 3D is a popular choice for anyone looking for an easy way to model a character and create eye-catching displays.
Although the animation software is not used professionally, you can be sure to learn the basics about character creation, scene creation, texture designing, lighting, and much more in Daz 3D.
The software is more so designed for beginners and veterans alike, and although its UI requires some getting used to, Daz 3D is an animation scene creator software that is just easy to use.
Even if you have no prior experience in animation Daz 3D makes pose designing easy for you.
1. Automatically Converts to V-Ray
2.Built-In Flexing of Muscle Groups
3. Props can easily be integrated with Maya.
1. Easy to use animating Tool kits.
2. A library filled with community made models.
3. Life-like skin texturing.
1. Creating your own models can be quite hard.
2. Not a one-stop software for realistic model creation.
3. Lacks more powerful pose creation tools
2D Animation Software
Toon Boom’s Harmony is apparently the best 2D animation software on the market right now. According to their website, Early Futurama episodes were made on the software, and even Ghibli, yes, that Ghibli Studio licensed Harmony out for some time.
Now, Toon Boom’s Harmony as an animating tool was created to duplicate the animation process and allow animators to create 2D art traditionally while enabling them to streamline the process for a more integrated and better workflow environment.
Now that is not to say that individual animators should not work on Harmony, quite on the opposite, the animation software is more suited to small teams and is being professionally used in numerous animation studios.
Harmony is quite a handy animation tool that allows for more cinematic, hand-drawn 2D animations and stop motion animation like puppet animation.
It is a vector-based animating software and has its advantages when doing 2D animation by hand. But, being an industrial standard that is has become over the years, Toon Boom’s Harmony has a bad learning curve.
The first thing anyone launching Harmony for the first time will notice is that there are plenty of icons on the software UI, but all the options are jumbled and somewhat confusing.
Especially if one has never used any 2D animation software before, and it’s not just limited to newbies; even professional animators would have difficulty navigating through all the different options in Harmony.
But to counter that, Toon Boom’s Harmony comes with a ton of tutorials that are excellent for learning the ins and out of the software and start animating just days after getting the 2d animation software.
1. Diverse Functionality.
2. Allows Puppet and hand-drawn animation.
3. Has native integration support for importing your projects in Illustrator.
1. Industry-wide use.
2. Harmony Supports a diverse set of animating tools for creating cinematic 2D animation.
3. Streamlines animation across the team for faster workflow.
1. Complicated to use.
2. The software may glitch if not updated frequently.
3. There is no native support for sound or music integration in the app.
1. 25$ a month for Essentials.
2. 63$ a month for Advanced.
3. 115$ a month for Premium.
Pencil 2D, just like Blender, is open-source animation software. It first started as a pencil testing software and since has evolved into a full-on 2D animation software with a lot of community support and, most of all, a great UI design.
The program allows you to create 2D drawings, animate them, and all that free of charge.
Considering the free nature of Pencil 2D, it is quite the accessible software that is comparably easy to use.
But where Pencil 2D falls short is that the app is not that well maintained. It is open source so, some contributors update it from time to time, but other than that, if there are any bugs in the app, it will take some time before the next update, and till then, you are just stuck on a waiting game.
However, Pencil 2D is by far one of the best free, open-source animation tools out there. It has almost all the basic animation features you would ever need as a beginner animator.
That is too for free, where some big-name animation software charge a premium, just to give their users access to these basic tools. And just like Harmony, Pencil 2D is also a vector-based software.
If you are stuck somewhere, you can easily get help and solve that impossible problem quickly on Pencil 2D’s own forums, either on their website or Reddit.
1. Free Open-source software.
2. Based on a vector Design.
3. Has support for a variety of essential animation tools natively.
1. Easy to use user interface.
2. The community forums are surprisingly quite active.
3. Makes the process of 2D animating easier with added tools sets.
1. As open-source software, the app is not that well maintained.
2. Not used in any professional setting.
3. Animation software is a bit buggy.
OpenToonz, just like the previous entry here, is also open-source software, but unlike Pencil 2D, OpenToonz has many advanced features that are necessary to create more complex 2D animated designs.
But, these more advanced features have made OpenToonz quite complicated and not so user friendly, to say the least. There is a learning curve waiting for you if you want to choose
OpenToonz, but once you get used to the Interface and get an idea of your way around the animation software, OpenToonz gets relatively easy to use and has almost everything that you might ever need to make 2D animations, even complex ones at that.
And did I mention that it is custom-designed by Studio Ghibli.
The 2D software supports hand-drawn animation in any style you want and is an excellent 2D program for creating fluid, breathtaking animations.
1. Compatible with both raster and vector images.
2. Has a smart selection of professional animation tools.
3. Free, open-source software.
1. Active community support.
2. One-stop software for most 2D animations.
3. Customized by Studio Ghibli.
1. The software can get somewhat buggy at times.
2. Complex user interface.
3. It is hard to learn.
Cartoon Animator 4
Cartoon Animator 4 or previously known as Crazy Talk Animator, is a 2D animation tool. It allows animators to animate still images, control characters’ facial impressions in real-time, and automatically lip-sync animation from just the audio, design 2D visual effects, and do much more.
It is a powerful 2D animation software that provides for real-time cartoon making in an easy and accessible package.
The software allows for live avatar tracking where you can make a 2D avatar to follow your movements around and has a ton of other features that make 2D or others might add in 2.5D animation seem like a breeze.
But Cartoon Animate 4 doesn’t stop just there; it further adds in many other animation tools in the mix to make anyone and everyone who wants to Animator into a full-fledged cartoonist in a matter of just a few weeks.
The UI design of Cartoon Animator 4 is quite intuitive and fun to use while taking advantage of 3D parallax imaging to make the software a joy to play around with and experiment with without any hassle.
Cartoon Animator 4 makes the whole 2D animation process a fun experience.
The software is also natively integrated with photoshop and allows for easy edits and content creation like none other.
1. Exceptionally powerful 2D animation tool.
2. Has native support for importing projects directly into Adobe Photoshop.
3. Can Animate still images, among other things.
1. Easy to use, intuitive UI design.
2. It streamlines the video animation process.
3. It has a vast library filled with Royalty-free content.
1. It can easily get expensive.
2. Not a one-stop software for 2D animations.
3. It can get a bit buggy, especially with real-time lip tracking.
1. 99$ for Pro.
2. 199$ for Pipeline.
3. 458$ for Cartoon Animator 4 Pipeline with Facial Mocap Bundle with G3 content.
Stop-Motion Animation Software
One of the best Stop Motion Animation software on the market by Microsoft, Corel Video Studio, is one of the most reliable, intuitively designed pieces of editing programs that you can buy right now.
Although a bit expensive, Video Studio has everything and anything you might ever need in a video editing software. And what more is that, it is perfect for Stop Motion animation.
It provides various tools like Multipoint Motion tracking, Stop Motion specific toolsets with AI Assistance, and much more, making the package all the more worth it.
Microsoft Corel Studio is excellent for any kind of such editing, and to add; you can add a cinematic filter and take advantage of other features like this in an easy to use intuitive, clean UI design.
Although the software still has its caveats, it is the most compact, easy to use software that anyone can get started in one day and just start making stop motion pictures for YouTube or just for personal amusement.
1. A wide selection of fun video-creation tools
2. Multipoint Motion tracking
3. Fast rendering times.
1. Clean and simple, intuitive user interface.
2. AI support for editing using advanced features.
3. One-Stop software for Stop-Motion Animation.
1. No Keyword Tagging available for media.
2. Sometimes, the application crashes randomly.
1. 79.99$ for Pro Edition.
2. 99.99$ for Ultimate Edition.
Animation as a career is one of the most sought-after courses these days. From lucrative salaries to other Job benefits and creative freedom, animation is the new hot career path that many youngsters and even more aged spirits want to get started with going forward in this new digital age.
And for someone interested in creating video games, movies, and animated feature films, animation is the right career path that not only provides creative expression and but also a feeling of gratification that is like none other.
The best animation software for any beginner after the more so mainstream animating tools in Blender.
It provides all the toolsets that any animation would ever need in animation software, and with its current updates, Blender is on par and better than a lot of mainstream options.
There is also plenty of community support and free animation courses on Blender available online. And this backing that Blender has in the animation community makes it an excellent choice for new, amateur animators worldwide.
According to what we have seen so far, the second-best animation software is Cinema 4D. If you grind through and become good at it, Cinema 4D opens up many job opportunities and makes learning about more advanced animation techniques easier and even more fun.