Best 3D Animation Software 2019

The list of the best 3D animation software available in 2019 (some programs are free, the others cost money). There are also examples of 2D and stop-motion animation software. Everything that’s needed to bring your 3D models to life.

3D animation is a large discipline and a complex art, which requires a wide variety of skills, from understanding of 3D models to knowledge of framing, shot composition, and sometimes even anatomy. And that is not the whole list of things you need to know. Some people spend decades perfecting their abilities in animation, there are long educational courses and there are big industries based around it. 3D animation is extensively used in video games, movies, TV shows, music videos, engineering and small hobbyists projects. But obviously without software, 3D animation as we know it would not exist.

In this article we will talk about best 3D animation software that money can buy in 2019 (but some of the programs free). We will review their features and provide the tutorials needed to get you started. For those interested in different techniques and styles, there are also some 2D animation software and programs for stop motion animation added at the end of the article.

 

3D animation software

3ds Max

Application: Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation

OS: Windows

Formats: stl, 3ds, ai, abc, ase, asm, catproduct, catpart, dem, dwg, dxf, dwf, flt, iges, ipt, jt, nx, obj, prj, prt, rvt, sat, skp, sldprt, sldasm, stp, vrml, w3d xml

 

3ds Max developed by Autodesk is probably the most popular 3D animation software on the market. It’s available for Windows and is a paid software (and at $1545 a year, a rather expensive one) but the free trial is available. It’s used across the whole industry for various purposes: designing video games’ assets and creating animation, VFX in movies and TV shows, architecture, engineering, interior and landscape design and construction.

The feature set is extensive: for 3D rendering there are the ability to design parametric and polygonal models, ability create models from point cloud data, various ways to simulate particles, clothing and lighting. There’s even an its own scripting language called MAXscript.

But this article is geared towards 3D animation, so we are going to talk about the wide range of animating features that 3ds Max has to offer. There’s a CAT (Character Animation Toolkit) that allows to design, rig and animate non-bipedal characters. For humanoids and other bipeds there is a toolkit named “Character Studio”. Both can use the impressive “Motion Mixer” tool that looks quite similar to video and audio editing solutions: It displays separate tracks that can be edited, granting you the full control over speed and order of animated movements. Those moves can be transitioned, looped, played backwards. For controlling scenes with large crowds there’s a tool called “Populate” that makes things easier – for example, it can automatically fill the scene with many people.

Another useful feature is “Motion Paths” which provides demonstrative viewpoints and editing capabilities for the trajectory of motion of your models using splines, which can be quite handy and can help saving some time planning the paths of the objects.

The V-Ray rendering is also available via a plugin.

Watch the official animation tutorial here:

 

Blender

Application: Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation

OS: Windows, macOS, Linux

Formats: 3ds, dae, fbx, dxf, obj, x, lwo, svg, ply, stl, vrml, vrml97, x3d

 

Blender is a cross-platform free and open-source 3D animation and modeling software. It's popular and has a great community support. It's used for VFX, animations, video games and engineering, it can even function as a CAD software for 3D printing enthusiasts. Not only professionals use it, it's also quite popular among the hobbyists thanks to being completely free. The complete set of features might fill a few paragraphs, but the main points are its own rendering engine called Cycles, that allows a complex path tracing used in lightning, hair simulation, soft body simulation, smoke and fluid simulation, physically based rendering. There are interesting camera effects: depth of field support and stereoscopic rendering. Other than that, Blender can be used for sculpting, compositing, video editing and even used to have an integrated video game engine that supported Python scripts (it was removed ahead of the launch of 2.8 version).

Regarding 3D animation tools, there are impressive features and abilites as well. There is rigging – the ability to design layers of bones and the whole skeleton of the character, which allows you to define the mobility of body parts and simplifies making the character posable. Non-linear animation is also supported. Other features include lattice modifiers, support or input from motion capturing programs, camera and object tracking, inverse kinematics. Motion Paths are available as well and help to get a clear view of the path that your objects are gonna follow.

If all of the above not enough, Blender’s abilities can be extended via plugins and scripting.

Watch this animation tutorial aimed for beginners and covering the last version:

 

Cheetah3D

Application: Keyframe Animation

OS: macOS

Formats: 3ds, dae, dxf, fbx, obj, sia, stl, jas

 

Cheetah3D is a paid (rather inexpensive at $99) 3D editing and animation software available only for macOS. The free version (without saving and exporting features) is available as well. It’s aimed towards beginners and those who want a simple task done with ease and without spending days doing simple editing, rendering and animation. Gladly, clean interface and really simple layout with several automatic features make all of the above possible. Speaking of interface, the program praises itself as being developed natively (and only) for macOS, so everything is designed with macOS’ UI guidelines in mind. Everything developed under the surface is obviously optimized for ‘Macs’ as well.

But being easy to use, recommended for beginners and nice looking does not make the program in any way limited functionality-wise. The feature set is impressive: for rendering there’s an OpenGl preview and multi-threaded rendering (up to 18 CPU cores). Ray-tracing is fully integrated in the rendering engine, and all of the important polygonal modeling features and tools are included in the software. The models can be rigged (Cheetah 3D is no match for serious rigging software but it’s more than enough for many enthusiasts) and prepared for animation.

The keyframe animation is supported and almost everything can be animated. Rigging will be handy to help moving the body parts of your characters. There are several of interpolations types that will be useful for filling up the missing frames. Heat weighting and both forward and inverse kinematics are supported. Anchors can connect soft and rigid bodies. Mesh vertices and spline control-points can be animated as well.

Here’s a good and illustrative (even though a bit dated) tutorial covering the basics of the animation process in Cheetah3D:

 

Cinema 4D

Application: Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation

OS: Windows, macOS

Formats: 3ds, dae, dem, dxf, dwg, x, fbx, iges, lwf, rib, skp, stl, wrl, obj

 

Cinema 4D is a paid 3D modeling, rendering and animation software available for macOS and Windows. It’s a powerful tool actively used in movie and television industries among VFX professionals and motion graphics artists. Despite that, the interface is clean and intuitive. It’s really simple to pick up the program and start working, the learning curve is not steep, especially for those already experienced with 3D animation.

Features include ability to preview renders, various camera and visual effects and deep integration with Adobe After Effects. Interesting 3D modeling features include the BodyPaint tool that allow you to easily edit textures of your models and the Character Object tool simplifies rigging the characters. Real time-time viewport is based on OpenGL and various rendering engines are support via the plugin system. The rendering speed can be increased with the LOD tool that changes the detail of the objects based on their proximity to the camera.

The animation abilities are extensive, there are several tools that help to make your characters move. The Cmotion system, for example, allows you to set up cyclical movements (walking, running) with a parametric solution. There are forward and inverse kinematics. You can set up and control facial expressions with sliders, the muscle and skeletal and joint systems make motions much more natural. There are ways that help controlling interactions between the models, and you can precisely control the weight painting overflow. Various features simplify integration of live footage with 3D animation objects. The Scene Reconstruction tool creates colored point clouds from tracked features.

Watch this animation tutorial, covering the rigging process::

 

Clara.io

Application: Keyframe Animation

OS: Browser

Formats: 3dm, 3ds, cd, dae, dgn, gf, gdf, gts, igs, kmz, lwo, rws, obj, off, ply, pm, sat, scn, skp, slc, sldprt, stp, stl, x3dv, xaml, vda, vrml, x_t, x, xgl, zpr

 

Clara.io a free (but there are two relatively inexpensive premium versions costing $10 and $100 a month) web-based 3D design and animation software. It supports a large variety of file formats, runs completely in the browser, so its cloud capabilities are impressive. Regarding technical features, there are a lot of basic tools and techniques used in polygon modeling that are supported: beveling, cutting, extrusion, looping, slicing. The rendering engine is V-ray. Being cloud-based, the collaborative abilities of the software are not to be ignored. It might be one of the best tools for working on animation projects as a team. The experience is similar to the one provided by Google Docs: users can change the file or a scene (if they are allowed to) and everything is synced between the accounts.

Its 3D animation capabilities are quite functional: there is a keyframe animation and the software is recommended for pre-visualization. The program uses interpolation to create missing frames which automates and simplifies the process. The timeline feature allows you to have a deeper control over the process. 3D animations can be embedded into websites, which can be quite useful and is a rather rare feature.

Clara.io might not be a serious competitor to an enterprise-grade software but it’s simple, free, easy to use and has more than enough features to satisfy the needs of the hobbyists and professionals alike.

You can get the understanding of the basics of 3D animation in Clara.io in this short (and slightly dated) tutorial:

 

Daz Studio (Daz3D)

Application: Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation

OS: Windows, macOS

Formats: obj, fbx, dae, daz

 

Daz Studio is a free 3D animation software available for Windows and macOS. Due to being aimed at the hobbyists, it tries to simplify the process and ease the workflow whenever possible. There’s a marketplace of the models that you can buy (it’s the main source of financial support for the developers) or you can modify a preset 3D model from the library. But 3D designing isn’t the main point of this software, its focus lies in the animation and working with the motion capture data.

The Puppeteer feature allows you to quickly work with different poses for your model using only a mouse. The program can even interpolate the motions between the poses automatically which significantly simplifies the animation process.

The aniMate 2 tool (can be downloaded as a paid plugin) designed for human movement also makes the animation much easier.

The software uses a keyframe animation and supports HDR lighting among other advanced features.

It’s a good choice for a beginner and the 3D Content Marketplace provides a lot of models and poses for those willing to simplify their work even more. Paid and free plugins are also available.

Watch this animation tutorial to understand the basics:

 

Houdini

Application: Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation

OS: Windows, macOS, Linux

Formats: bgeo, clip, fbx, geo, hip

 

Houdini is a paid (but there is a free version called Houdini Apprentice geared towards those who want to learn the software without paying for it) 3D design and animation tool. Widely used in VFX, it has enough reputation for some to predict that it will soon become an industry standard in movie productions. It uses procedural modeling workflow based on nodes (individual parameters of models) – that means that after several parameters have been set, the program semi-automatically generates objects based on a certain algorithm. The approach allows you to quickly alter entire models and create complex geometries. Almost everything can be procedurally generated in Houdini, and it also simplifies reusing the models (a few tweaks can alter the object significantly).

Animation features are extensive: everything can be easily animated using various tools and solutions that the software offers. Big crowd simulations can be precisely controlled with the ability to set the collision avoidance and crowd’s layout. There’s a built-in muscle simulation pipeline that can be used for characters animation (both bipeds and quadrupeds can be animated) and there’s an automatic rigging tool provided by the software.

But the most important and ‘killer feature’ of Houdini is the use of simulations. It makes it the choice for VFX artists in a wide range of industries. Fluid, fire and smoke and particle simulations are impressive, outshine most of the solutions offered by the competition, and can as well be procedurally simulated.

There are different versions of Houdini and their prices vary. There is a free version called Houdini Apprentice (mentioned in the beginning) that is good for learning and has all the tools available albeit somewhat limited. There is an educational license which usually costs around $75 per year, aimed at school students and teachers. For the small studios that make less than $100,000 a year, there’s a Houdini Indie available at $269 (it’s ‘node locked’, meaning one instance can only be ran at one computer). For big studios, professionals and other enterprises there is a variety of different licenses running from $1,995. Different options are available, some licenses are free and only allow working with core functions or exporting the assets into the other apps. So far the most recommended for beginners version is Houdini Apprentice due to being free and having enough features that help to use some of the software’s powerful tools and master the skills.

Here’s an illustrative tutorial that shows how to disintegrate the geometry into particles:

 

iClone

Application: Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation

OS: Windows

Formats: 3ds, bvh, fbx, obj, vns, skp

 

iClone is a paid ($199 and sometimes goes on sale) character generation, motion capture and 3D animation software. It’s pretty easy for beginners, the interface is intuitive, the learning curve is short, and generating the characters has never been easier – they are based on a base mesh that is morphable. Using a toolset that allows you to edit their bodies in a large variety of ways makes the process even easier. There’s a library and a marketplace that can help with the characters’ features. Your bipeds are automatically rigged as well.

Speaking of animation, there’s an option to use a keyframe animation or get a motion capture data using Microsoft Kinect. Everything is intuitive and effortless. Preset layouts also help significantly. Combine that with a powerful motion editor, abilities to precisely control facial animations, extensive lighting options and a built-in physics engine – and you get a pretty impressive package.

The program is inexpensive, has several interesting features, is easy to use even for complete beginners and is a good way to speed up the animation process even for the professionals.

You can watch an official scene creation tutorial here:

 

iPi soft

Application: Motion Capture

OS: Windows

Formats: bvh, fbx

 

iPi Soft is a paid Windows-only motion capture and 3D animation software. It doesn’t requires wearing markers and suits and can track up to five motion capture actors. Using depth sensors such as the Kinect or Sony PS Eye cameras it can track movements in the spaces up to 7 to 7 meters. No special lighting equipment required either.

The data can be edited and popular motion capture file formats such as BVH, FBX and Collada are supported. The results can also be exported to other 3D software such as Maya for further editing.

The cheapest license costs $195 and supports only one depth sensors, using multiple ones require more expensive subscriptions. The educational discount is available, and the free trial also exists.

You can check the useful tutorial regarding iPi Soft’s abilities here: 

 

LightWave 3D

Application: Keyframe Animation

OS: Windows, macOS

Formats: obj, dxf, 3ds, dae, fbx, stl, ply

 

Lightwave 3D is a paid 3D editing and animation software package available for Windows and macOS. It consists of several different programs – mainly Modeler (used for designing and editing models) and Layout (it covers everything related to animation and rendering). There’s a third program called Hub that allows syncing the date between the two. Lightwave 3D is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) solutions in the world of 3D, it predates Autodesk’s programs such as Maya and 3ds Max, and it has quite a serious reputation and is widely used across the industries: movie and anime production, television, video games. Several blockbusters and classic video games (such as the first ‘Diablo’ game) used the software in one way or another.The functionality is as powerful as it would be expected from a program like that. Polygonal modeling and subdivision surfaces are supported. The shader’s features are very good: there are subsurface scattering and total reflection algorithms. There are also a powerful Node Editor and an auto-rigging system.

The animation features include inverse and forward kinematics, there is particle simulation: liquids, smoke and fire are supported among other things. There are procedural, nodal and keyframe animation tools. Facial animations are covered by the Endomorphs sub-system. You can also make the content ready for VR and stereoscopic 3D movies.

The data can be easily exported and imported, and as a bonus there’s a deep integration with the Unreal Engine.

The package costs $995 (which is still cheaper than many competitors’ solutions at the same level of functionality and popularity) but there’s a free trial available.

You can watch a tutorial covering the character animation process here:

 

MakeHuman

Application: Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation

OS: Windows, macOS, Linux

Formats: dae, fbx, obj, STL

 

MakeHuman is a free and open-source cross-platform character creation program. Originally starting as a Blender plugin, the community around MakeHuman has quickly grown, as has the program, becoming a quite useful tool in 3D animation. More than a decade of researching human topology by developers paid off – humanoid characters can be generated using several sliders that control various properties and attributes. Everything can be precisely modified, starting from age and weight and ending with the features such as facial shape.

Apart from extensive character customization features, there are rigging abilities and a series of pre-recorded motion capture files that allow you to test the models in action. File formats such as dae, fbx, obj, STL are supported and the base mesh can be refined further in the other 3D editing software, and the rigged models can be animated in the other programs. Separate motion tracking files can be stitched together into a longer sequence.

If you’re interested in this software, check out the tutorial below:

 

Maya

Application: Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation

OS: Windows, macOS, Linux

Formats: ai, aiff, dae, dxf, dwg, eps, fbx, maya, mel, obj, stl

 

Maya is a paid (although a free trial and a free educational license exist) cross-platform 3D editing and animation software developed by Autodesk. Extremely powerful, very popular, quite expensive and significantly flexible – these words perfectly describe Maya. It has been an industry standard in movie making, video games and television for years. VFX for your favorite blockbusters have likely been created using Maya. Everyone who wants to get a serious job in the industry usually has to master this program. In other words, Maya is a behemoth of application. Not only it has a special place in the industries where it’s extensively used, its functionality is powerful as well. The interface is highly customizable, a few shortcuts can allow you to make complex changes to your models in a few seconds. Not unlike Houdini, Maya use a node-based workflow, but is not focused on a procedural generation (but is capable of that). The compositing tool called ‘MatchMover’ allows you to composite 3D elements with the motion data of filmed sequences. There are also particle, hair, fluid and clothing simulations and sophisticated toolsets that allow you to work with those.

As you can already guess, you can write quite several books regarding Maya’s features, so let’s focus on the 3D animation tools. Maya is capable of auto-rigging and is quite good at it. The rigging toolset can even work with winged models and quadrupeds apart from bipeds and humanoid characters. You can control skin behavior by using the Paint Skin Weights tool (yes, auto-rigged models in Maya are skinned and weighted). The Parallel rig evaluation and Geodesic Voxel binding are also supported. The latest version comes with a new deformer named Delta Mush that's useful for smoothing effects. Many 3D animated features can be automated, and Maya helps the users to make the process easier, even when they work with really complex scenes.

Watch this animation tutorial covering poses that can help you to understand how the things work in Maya: 

 

Mixamo

Application: Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation

OS: Browser

Formats: bhv, fbx, obj

 

Mixamo a free to use web-based 3D animation software with paid content. More than that, it’s even a full-fledged online platform with its own marketplace. The program is focused on automating rigging. You just upload your 3D file and mark the important points of the skeleton that needed to be rigged (usually this means joints), then the program automatically rigs the model, doing all the skinning and weighing itself.

Regarding the animation, the platform lets you use a large library of animation files that you can download (usually at a cost). Some models come with animation available too. After downloading you can export the models with their animation scripts to the other 3D editing and animation software.

If you don't want to pay, there are similar free programs with the same concept: SmartBody and Riggify, that work essentially the same, so we will not cover them in this article.

You can watch a very illustrative tutorial here:

 

Modo

Application: Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation

OS: Windows, macOS, Linux

Formats: lwo, abc, obj, pdb, 3dm, dae, fbx, dxf, x3d, geo, stl

 

Modo is a paid cross-platform 3D animation software with a free trial available.. It is considered relatively easy to learn and rather beginner friendly, but it was developed for and widely used by the professional in the VFX and 3D design industries.

It supports polygon and subdivision surface modeling. It has really impressive selection abilities compared to other programs. You can use different selection modes for almost everything: paint selection, pattern selection, only selecting of vertices of certain edges. You can also record macros, and there are good sculpting tools available. Hair, fur and fiber simulation is also pretty useful.

Animation tools draw inspiration from 2D animation workflows. There is a spacing chart and onion skinning. Working with audio files is as direct as it gets – they can be displayed in a separate window, which significantly simplifies lip syncing your models.

Additive layers, channel modifiers and constraints are available, as well as various deformers and an inverse kinematics solver.

The software is recommended for both hobbyists and professionals alike, but the price might be considered too high (currently the perpetual license costs $1,799 a year). Gladly there is a free trial and free educational license available.

There’s a good tutorial you can watch to get an understanding of the basics of rigging and animation in Modo:

 

Poser

Application: Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation

OS: Windows, macOS

Formats: bvh, cr2, obj, pz2

 

Poser is a paid (the Pro license costs $349 but there are cheaper versions) character creation and 3D animation software available for Windows and macOS. Character creation is the main point of this program, and you start generating your bipeds by working with a base mesh – a genderless humanoid figure that lacks any distinctive features. Using sliders, you start adding these features to the figure and editing the existing shapes – from hair to legs. After mastering program you can generate quite convincing and realistic 3D models. The rendered is relatively powerful – for example, it supports subsurface scattering.

Rendering animation is easy as well, there’s a huge library of assets, characters, creatures and scripted scenes. The models are pre-rigged and are ready to be used. The pro version of the software also allows you to tinker with motion capture using a Microsoft Kinect device. You can edit the data as well. There’s also a walk designer that helps automating walk cycles of your bipeds and quadrupeds. The export to other 3D editing and animation programs is also available.

You can watch a tutorial here:

 

SmartBody

Application: Motion Capture

OS: Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, iOS

Formats: af, bvh, dae, fbx, sk, xml

 

SmartBody is a free cross-platform (even Android and iOS are supported) 3D generation and animation software developed at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. You can use 3D scanning using a Kinect, and create a 3D character in no time. There are character editing tools that can change the way the models look. Then there is also an auto-rigging tool that works wonders and an impressive amount of 3D animation tools. Among the features there are lip syncing, object manipulation and retargeting. Keyframe animation is also supported.

SmartBody can be used with game engines natively – for example, it supports GameBryo, Ogre, Unity and Unreal engines out of the box.

Here’s a video that shows how auto-rigging works in SmartBody:

 

Terragen

Application: Keyframe Animation

OS: Windows, macOS, Linux

Formats: chan, clip, exr, fbx, geo, lwo, mov, obj, ter

 

Terragen is a paid (inexpensive and the free version is also available) cross-platform 3D design and animation software. The main focus of the program is creating and rendering extremely photorealistic landscapes. It’s often used for video game design and architectural visualization.The workflow is based on a procedural nodes system and every little detail in the landscape can be configured. A sophisticated shader system gives an impressive control over texturing and surface manipulation. Using a powerful procedural nodes system, the user has full control of his creation. Volumetric clouds, fog, sky, the sun, and the stars can be rendered as well. There are also preset landscape elements such as trees that can be added to your creation. Digital Elevation Model (DEM) files of the real world landscapes can be imported into Terragen as well.

You can also animate quite complex scenes: the parameters for almost everything (including atmospheric effects) can be animated and set in keyframes. You can control terrain displacement and sync it within the timeline, which will give you jaw-dropping time lapse effects of landscape changes happening over time. Everything can be previewed in real-time.

There are also many features available for the camera: motion blur, aperture, focal length. Some modes allow you to use the renders in VR and movies with stereoscopic 3D effects.

Various file formats are supported and your works can be exported to other programs.

Terragen is powerful and doesn’t cost a lot: the Creative perpetual license starts at $349, the Professional one – at $699. There’s a free version but it’s rather limited – no animated and the renders are low-res, and it must not be used for commercial projects (well, it can be, but only up to 30 days after downloading). The educational license also exists.

You can watch a quick tutorial on animating the camera in Terragen 4 here:

 

Stop motion animation software

Boats Animator

Application: Stop Motion

OS: Windows, macOS, Linux

Formats: avi, mov, mpg

 

Boats Animator is a free and open-source cross-platform stop motion animation software. Its user interface is clean and intuitive, so the program is good even for complete beginners. But there are powerful features that makes Boats Animator suited for the professionals as well. For example, it supports onion skinning that makes positioning your models much easier.

The frames can be played instantly, which makes the workflow quicker. The reason for it is an extensive use of web technologies such as HTML, JavaScript and WebRTC.

You can watch an example of a motion animation made using Boats Animator here:

 

Dragonframe

Application: Stop Motion

OS: Windows, macOS, Linux

Formats: avi, mov, mpg

 

Dragonframe is a paid cross-platform industrial grade stop motion animation software. It’s widely used in the large projects within the industries, the majority of expensive movies using the technique are made with Dragonframe. For example, ‘Coraline’. The functionality is extensive: drawing tools allow you to outline motion paths, the X-sheet helps tracking the progress, reference videos can be added to the program’s screen. There is a deep control over your camera’s manual functions: ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and the program supports motion controls. The lights can be controlled in up to 512 channels and the onion skinning feature is supported.

The software supports different cameras from Canon, Nikon, Sony and others.

The viewport can be overlayed with various grids to aid you in compositing balanced shots. This animation software supports a host of cameras from known manufacturers like Canon, Nikon, Sony and more. You can import face sets as Photoshop files for references and also work with multiple audio tracks.

The software costs $295 for a version with USB controller and $305 for a version with a useful Bluetooth controller. A free trial that lasts 30 days is also available.

Here’s a tutorial:

 

2D animation software

Animate CC

Application: 2D Animation

OS: Windows, macOS

Formats: fla, xfl, swf, as, apr, psd, eps, jpg, png, tiff

 

Animate CC is a paid (part of Adobe subscription, costs $20 a month) 2D animation software developed by Adobe. It’s suitable for both Flash and HTML5 animations and used frequently for animating TV and web series.

The canvas can be rotated in any direction, drawing tools are impressive and there are vector art brushes that can nicely freshen up your techniques. Changing animation colors for your whole work is also easily done with a couple of clicks. Onion skinning can be color coded, there is an advanced layers mode that adds the third dimension to the camera and you can publish your work in a really high resolution (even 4K and higher).

Obviously, everything is synced to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, that make your assets available anywhere and is useful for collaborative works and sharing.

There are various tutorials available online, you can watch one here:

 

Animation Paper

Application: 2D Animation

OS: Windows, macOS

Formats: custom

 

Animation Paper is a paid software for hand drawn animation to be soon available for macOS and Windows. It’s currently under active development and the beta testing process is active. The expected price is $79 but the program’s predecessor called Plastic Animation Paper is available for free.

The expected functionality is impressive: automated line clean up, real time rotation and zooming, X-sheet for monitoring timing of the animation and the ability to load reference videos. Rotoscoping is also supported.

 

Moho

Application: 2D Animation

OS: Windows, macOS

Formats: ai, avi, bmp, eps, gif, jpeg, mov, obj, png, targa

 

Moho is a paid 2D animation software geared towards video game developers and available for Windows and macOS. There’s an optimized bone rig system that is similar to the ones used in 3D animation programs. It supports inverse and forwards kinematics. There’s also a physics engine that realistically simulates various visual effects and gravity. An automated lip syncing and the ability to add audio tracks is worth mentioning as well. Native toolkits allow you to simulate particle effects and other VFX, sometimes eliminating the need for post-production. Using vector shapes automates the tweening process (it’s essentially the same thing that’s known as an interpolation in 3D animation – creating missing frames, both are sometimes called ‘inbetweening’).

Being a professional software focused on video game development, it includes some features that simplify working with game engines. For example, you can export your rigged 2D objects into Unity.

Enjoy this tutorial covering the process of setting up walking cycles:

 

Pencil2D

Application: 2D Animation

OS: Windows, macOS, Linux

Formats: gif, png, pcl, pclx, xml, avi, mov, mpg, mp4

 

Pencil2D is a free and open-source cross-platform hand drawn animation software. There are two basic 2D animation styles available: bitmap and vector graphics. 2D animation software for use in traditional hand drawn animation. Users can choose between two basic styles of 2D animation: bitmap and vector graphics. Bitmaps can be drawn quicker and some consider the results more natural looking, but the vector graphics allow to fix the mistakes easily. And nothing prevents you from combining both.

Unfortunately, tweening (or inbetweening) is not supported, each frame has to be drawn, but onion skinning still makes the process easier. You can also create looped animations for video games.

Here’s a tutorial showing how to animate using Pencil2D:

 

Synfig Studio

Application: 2D Animation

OS: Windows, macOS, Linux

Formats: avi, bmp, gif, mng, mpeg, png, ppm, sif, sifz, sfg, svg

 

Synfig Studio is free and open-source cross-platform 2D animation software, although was originally planned to be a commercial product.

The main selling point of the software is a great automated tweening, which simplifies the drawing process and makes everything quicker. There’s a bone-rig tool similar to the ones used in 3D animation, that can also significantly speed up the process, although it leads to a slightly more realistic and different look (which some might dislike). Special effects and HDR compositing are also available. You can use various gradients, filters and fractal layers and also sync the music with the animation.

The functionality is comparable to Moho, but the software is completely free. It might be a good choice for those not willing to pay but still wanting powerful features.

Here’s an official tutorial:

  

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