Leading Industry 2D and 3D paid and open source Animation Software
There are a lot of different options when it comes to choosing which animation software to use, and many of us are not sure which one to pick . There is really no correct answer to that question and it depends on your own personal preferences. You could consider using a few different programs for each stage of the animating process and you will probably have to use 3 or 4 different ones to get the best final product. We’ve assembled an infographic explaining what are the best choices for which process. It’s really important to underline that those are our picks, and not necessarily the best software out there objectively. The best way to go might be trying out some cheaper or free options at start, and moving up as you get better. You should also consider browsing through some of the basic literature on animation software and animation books in general, because authors will often point out the benefits of different programs they’ve used.
2D Animation Software
This is an amazing versatile software for traditional 2d animation, storyboarding and drawing (including sound and soundtrack management) created in 1991. It offers numerous features that enable you to mimic lifelike traditional renderings such as pencil, watercolor, charcoal etc. You can also create custom drawing tools for unique results, which is a great feature. It works on windows, Mac and Linux, and the license can be installed as many times as you want. TvPaint offers free tech support which can come in handy when it comes to any software, especially if you are unfamiliar with it. Once bought, the license lasts forever and requires no additional fees. There is an option to download a trial version of the software which is great because you can get to know the features and decide whether this is the best 2d animation software for you personally. The trial version is not time limited, but anything you do in it cannot be exported and will have a watermark. If you decide to purchase TvPaint, you can get training from the company and their technical staff, during which you will go through some basics such as creating brushes and custom panels, managing sounds or using timeline and layers. The price of the standard license is €500 (approximately $500) for studios and professionals, and €250 for students. In my opinion, this is a great 2d software which offers all features you could need to create professional 2d, it doesn’t require too much learning, it’s simple to use, and the price is reasonable considering what you get for it. You can get more information on TvPaint official website.
A great option when it comes to 2d animation software. It contains tools required to create traditional 2d animation, puppet-animation, or paperless frame-by-frame from scanning to compositing and integration. You can use it to draw, sketch and animate professionally without too much hard learning, and get to know it well in short time. There is a lot of special effects you can use to add detail and appeal to your work, as well as the option to combine 3d imported models with 2d animation to create a unique hybrid product. There is numerous other features to explore, and you can find out more about them at Toonboom’s website. There you can also get free instructional videos and tech support. The only downside, in my opinion, is the price. You can either get a fixed, one time license that costs €400 for the basic package, and €2085 for the premium, or get a monthly subscription which costs from €16-78, depending on the package you get, which is a bit too expensive in my opinion. In conclusion, ToonBoom Harmony is a great, but too expensive 2d software.
3D Animation and Modeling Software
ZBrush is the most popular, and objectively the best 3d modeling software at the moment. Simply put, it’s a digital sculpting toolkit that combines 3D/2.5D modeling, texturing and painting. It’s most widely used for the creation of high resolution models. ZBrush allows you to make global or local changes to your models, and you can sculpt medium to high frequency details that were traditionally painted using bump maps (a technique that lets you simulate bumps and wrinkles on the surface of an object). The details can be exported as normal maps or be used on a low poly version of the model. The software has numerous features such as various 3D brushes, Polypaint (paint without assigning a texture map by adding color directly to the polygons), Transpose, ZSpheres, GoZ, Fibermesh, Dynamesh etc. You can find out more about each feature and get a more detailed knowledge on their official website. The single user license for ZBrush costs $795, and there is a discount for individual students and faculties. All in all, the best 3D modeling tool at the moment. It requires some time to get to know all the features, and to be able to create something even remotely good, but by the time you do, you will have become a pro 3D modeler already.
Maya is owned by Autodesk as well as its main competitor when it comes to 3D animation, 3DSMax. That might seem odd, and you might wonder why a company would be its own competitor, but both programs have their own different strengths and weaknesses, which justifies the concept. Maya is probably the most popular animation software in the TV and movie industry, and it was used to create features such as Toy Story 2, Lilo and Stitch, Ice Age and many more. Maya has amazing motion capture handling capabilities, it’s the best character rigging tool, and it’s great for animation layering. The software also lets you hand draw and utilize 3D paint effects, as well as some special effects. It runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. The basic monthly subscription costs $185, the one year subscription is $1470, and the three year is $3970. A great, well rounded 3d animation software, and the biggest downside is the cost.
One of the best solutions when it comes to architectural animation and visuals. It offers amazing conceptual modeling tools, and large scale environment creation. The biggest downside of 3DSMax is that it’s limited to Windows, and doesn’t run on other operating systems. There is an option for students to use it for free for three years, otherwise the basic monthly subscription costs $185, the one year subscription is $1470, and the three year subscription costs $3970.
The best thing about Blender, and this cannot be overstated – it’s free! Everyone can download it and use it without paying, which makes it the most popular 3D software out there. Whether it’s the best one too could be left for debate, but it certainly can get the job done adequately enough. It’s an amazing 3d modeling tool which offers photorealistic rendering, it has a comprehensive array of modeling tools, fast rigging tools which are easy to understand and use. It’s great for sculpting, animation, and it comes with a fully fledged built in compositor, which means that you can do exporting without a 3rd party software. There are tons of other useful features which you can see on their website. The other great thing about Blender is that it has a huge online community to turn to for help, which makes it the easiest software to master. On the other hand, there are a few problems too. It’s rather hard to get to know the complicated user interface and all the features, most of which you won’t be using anyway. All in all, Blender is an amazing modeling tool, and a well rounded animation software which can be used almost on its own to get the end result, and once again, it’s free!
Cinema4D is easy to learn and it has a very user friendly interface when compared to most other animation software. It’s the best tool for modeling, texturing, 3d and rendering, and it’s the “all in one” software with which you can do anything you can imagine when it comes to 3d animation. It runs on Windows and Mac. The license (probably depending on the reseller) costs $3295. There is endless features which come with Cinema4D, and the best way to get to know them and understand them (because a lot of them are specific to Cinema4D) is to browse through their website and read and watch videos.
For those of you who are just starting in animation, it might be good to start with some free software options which might not be as good as the paid professional ones, but mastering them will certainly improve your skills and prepare you for the more advanced stuff. Among the free animation software listed below there is some that might, in my opinion, even be charged for, considering how good it is (OpenToonz and Blender for example). If you would like to download some of the software and try it out, you can visit their official websites that are listed below. Once again, while most of these will not offer you as many features, or have great customer support, you can still practice and create quality animation. Here is some of the best free 2d and 3d animation software:
Free 2d animation software
Synfig – A good free option for flash animation with lots of free online tutorials and a big community. Visit Website
Tupí: 2D Magic – A traditional, frame-by-frame animation software that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. Visit Website
Plastic Animation Paper (PAP) – A Windows only software which used to be paid. It has a nice tool set and it’s ok for traditional 2d. Visit Website
Pencil – Software for traditional animation with good user experience and an easy to understand interface. Visit Website
OpenToonz – Great software for 2d animation used by Studio Ghibli (among others). It offers functions such as GTS, a scanning tool developed by Studio Ghibli, great digital painting tools, and much more. Visit Website
Free 3D animation software
DAZ Studio – A great modeling and animation software which used to be paid. It offers amazing features and a user friendly interface. It runs on Mac and Windows. Visit Website
Clara.io – Web based software with a huge online community and a lot of free tutorials. Great for poly modeling and key frame animation. Visit Website
Bryce – This is an amazing 3D landscape modeling software designed for creating and rendering 3D environments. It runs on Mac (although not with versions 10.7 and above) and Windows. Visit Website
Use Software Tutorials and Manuals
Once you get better with a few programs, you will be able to decide what’s best for you yourself. Most of them seem really complicated at first, but there is a lot of manuals on how to use them, as well as online tutorials and videos that will help you become an expert in no time. We will try to update the website with free tutorials we find online as often as possible. The important thing to remember is that the software you use is just a tool, and that the quality of your animations will depend mostly on you talent and hard work. Reality is that even seasoned animators use tutorials often. You have to use them as encyclopedias or lexicons and always have them at hand. Most of the best tutorials cost money, and if you really want to master a particular software you plan on using you should definitely not save money on them. If you are, however, looking for a few quick tip or are just beginning you should browse the web for tons of free manuals and videos.