15 best animation software apps for beginners in 2021


Animations can be excellent attention-grabbers on your website.

Animated videos give you more artistic freedom and ways to connect to your audience. They’ve become ubiquitous — it’s hard not to stumble upon them. But animation software packages present a challenge to developers because they force you to think outside of the box.

There’s no denying how powerful these animation apps are. That’s why they command higher prices, although there are free, open-source options as well. To choose the best animation software app for your project, start with the amount of time you want to devote to learning how it works.

The learning curve varies from user-friendly to time-consuming to pick up. You’ll have to learn how the software functions while also revving up your creative juices for a different type of work. Many users find that getting up to speed on a new program is the most challenging part — so animation software apps with intuitive interfaces may be worth the price.

A quick note about using animations on your website: Be sure to use the animation section of our accessibility checklist so everyone can have a great experience on your site.

1. Cinema 4D

Cinema 4D is a powerful, well-made 3D animation software that gives users a plethora of tools for creating a broad spectrum of professional projects. Beginners can get up and running quickly on this easy-to-use platform. Customer support is outstanding, with tutorials and weekly webinars to help users explore its many options.

Cinema 4D’s list of features is staggering, especially the built-in Adobe integration. You need a powerful machine to run this program, with the RAM and other hardware to match. You can create motion graphics, develop realistic artificial reality games, and do procedural modeling. As you may expect, this software isn’t cheap at $59.91 a month, billed annually.

Platforms: Windows, Mac

Pros:

  • Stellar customer support
  • Powerful tool set
  • Adobe product integration

Cons:

  • Advanced features unnecessary for simple projects
  • Pricey
  • Resource heavy

2. Adobe Animate

Adobe Animate focuses on the 2D end of things, making it easier to use than other software packages. Its feature set is more useful for marketers wanting to create compelling ads and infographics. You can create frame-by-frame animations to add some life to games or animated GIFs. Animate offers several export options, including SVG and HTML5 Canvas. It also supports TV and mobile applications.

Another great feature is being able to edit with or without using code, making it user-friendly for beginners. You can get Adobe Animate as part of the company’s Creative Cloud subscription or use it on its own. The free trial allows you to get started right away and see if the program is right for you and your skill set. It’s a worthwhile investment for business owners wanting to delve into animation.

Platforms: Windows, Mac

Pros:

  • Import options
  • Integration with Adobe Creative Cloud subscription
  • Useful for marketing
  • Excellent export options

Cons:

  • Not for advanced users
  • Dated technology

3. Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects is the company’s answer for creating 3D animation and video editing. There’s no doubt that it’s a powerful program. It can do simple things, such as rotating text, as well as full-blown post production editing. The interface is user-friendly, although it has a high learning curve to make full use of its features. You can also install plugins for specialized tasks, albeit at a cost.

Adobe After Effects integrates well with the company’s suite of software packages and some third-party programs, such as Cinema 4D. You can subscribe to just this software or all the Creative Cloud apps. Subscribing to Creative Cloud will give access to more robust features. Unfortunately, that may put it out of the budget for individuals and small businesses.

Platforms: Windows, Mac

Pros:

  • Excellent set of preloaded effects, Adobe Fonts, and presets
  • Tons of tutorials available
  • Plugin integration
  • Widely used in the industry
  • Animated text feature
  • Virtual reality capability

Cons:

  • Only a seven-day free trial
  • Steep learning curve
  • Resource hog

4. SideFX (Houdini)

SideFX (Houdini) is an excellent choice for advanced production, including virtual reality, motion graphics, and even film. In fact, professional animators used it during the production of Frozen. Like similar animation software programs, SideFX comes with a steep learning curve. Luckily, you’ll find plenty of tutorials to help you get over the hump. It has many automated functions that make it more user-friendly.

Houdini’s strength lies with its node-based workflow, which allows you to create actions that you can reuse and reorder easily. However, it is technical software. A coding background is helpful but not imperative. If you take the time to learn it, you’ll reap the rewards of creating film-quality visual effects and rendering capabilities. The company offers six subscription tiers, including a free option for hobbyists.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Pros:

  • Node-based workflow
  • Excellent real-time animation
  • Free for noncommercial use
  • Effect-specific tutorials available
  • Mantra inbuilt renderer
  • Texturing capability
  • Drag-and-drop editing

Cons:

  • High learning curve
  • Not for casual users wanting a graphic design program
  • Expensive subscription price

5. Blender

Despite the fact that Blender is a free animation software, you can do a lot with this 3D animation tool. Its features include visual effects, digital sculpting, video editing, and motion tracking. While tutorials are available, you may find them limited for some tasks. However, it has an active community, with frequent updates on the software, which are constantly improving its performance. The documentation is also well done.

Blender supports a wide range of graphic formats, making it user-friendly. It also has an integrated 3D game engine if you want to take your skills to the next level. And like Houdini, the film industry has used it, too. It does take some time to become proficient in the program, but at least it won’t cost you anything to try. It gives you everything you need for creation — including modeling, simulations, and postproduction.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Pros:

  • Free, open-source program
  • Excellent feature set
  • Outstanding community support
  • Audio capture capability
  • Portable USB version available
  • Keyboard shortcuts

Cons:

  • Confusing interface, especially for beginners
  • Resource hog
  • 3D videos more difficult to create

6. Pencil2D

Pencil2D is another free, open-source program for getting started with 2D animation. It works with both raster and vector workflows, giving you optimal flexibility. It has a decent feature set, especially when you consider that it doesn’t cost anything. Top features include pixel tracker, sound scrubbing, and movie import. Its community is also active, offering lots of support.

Pencil2D’s value lies with its user-friendly interface and intuitive design. That makes it an excellent choice for beginners who want a basic program for the job. The software has a dedicated group of contributors who continually improve the software and add new features. The one downside is ongoing security protocol issues with the operating systems themselves that they’ll hopefully solve soon.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Pros:

  • Free, open-source program
  • Community support
  • Powerful 2D animation tools
  • Drag-and-drop editing
  • Lightweight
  • User-friendly
  • Raster and vector graphic support

Cons:

  • Not robust enough for advanced users
  • Some permission issues with operating systems
  • Not widely used in the industry

7. ​Animaker

Animaker differs from the other animation software apps we’ve reviewed because it’s web-based with a subscription model. Its primary function is making videos and animated GIFs using an HTML5 engine. That’s an excellent option if you don’t want to — or can’t — download software on your computer. The app makes it easy for beginners with templates, auto lip-sync, and a library of facial expressions.

It doesn’t stop there. The site also has an extensive image library with music and sound effects to create high-quality videos. You can even do voiceovers with your choice of voice. Animaker offers five pricing tiers, including a free option with five free downloads. Unfortunately, the five-download limit includes watermarks. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent way to try out Animaker without fronting any cash or credit card info.

Platforms: Web-based

Pros:

  • Web-based
  • Audio capture
  • Extensive template and image library
  • Character builder interface with auto lip-sync
  • Sound effects and royalty-free music tracks
  • Collaboration tools
  • Social media integration

Cons:

  • Watermarks with free plan downloads
  • Internet connection required
  • Video upload unavailable

8. OpenToonz

OpenToonz is another free, open-source 2D animation software that is computer-based. It has a decent feature lineup that includes old-school integrations as well as newer bells and whistles. However, the interface is dated and not intuitive. That makes it tough to learn, considering the lack of support and tutorials. Fortunately, you can find help from fellow users on YouTube.

OpenToonz works well for basic tasks, although you may have some trouble finding the tools you need since it’s not obvious where they’re hidden. It’s a solid tool for brainstorming and drafting 2D animation before launching your work into 3D. While it may not be the best tool available due to its dated, unintuitive interface, you can’t beat the price.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Pros:

  • Free, open-source
  • Smooth operation
  • Raster and vector image support
  • Excellent for basic 2D animation
  • Scan capability

Cons:

  • Not intuitive 
  • Limited support
  • Limited drawing tools

9. Autodesk 3D Animation (Maya)

Many consider Autodesk 3D Animation (Maya) to be the industry standard. After all, what else can you say about a company that also created AutoCAD? It happens to be the software of choice for Disney. Enough said. Autodesk Maya is a complete 3D production package that you can customize with plugins and scripts to make it more user-friendly.

The development of Autodesk Maya is geared toward the professional sector. It’s expensive, putting it out of the range for small businesses. However, the company offers three-year licenses, which can save you some cash if you like using this software. There’s no doubt that it’s powerful and can create a broad spectrum of animations. However, it misses the mark on basic features like a better viewport.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Pros:

  • Decent integration with other software
  • Node-based workflow
  • Powerful rendering engine
  • Excellent for complex geometry
  • Free and paid plugins for customization
  • Free trial available

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No texture feature

10. Powtoon

Powtoon is another web-based solution offering free and premium plans for its video animation software. It’s an intuitive and user-friendly option for individuals and small businesses new to this type of software. The site has an extensive library to get you started, although the better stuff comes with the paid subscriptions. Powtoon is also easy to customize to make it even simpler to use.

Powtoon has four price tiers in its subscription model and offers competitive pricing for educational and business plans. The free version is generous with its storage capacity and recordings. However, the three-minute HD videos allowed per month are branded, which isn’t surprising. On the positive side, it’s easy to share your work through YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and PDF export functionality.

Platforms: Web-based

Pros:

  • Extensive library of music, characters, and templates
  • Decent features, even on the free plan
  • Easy to learn
  • Node-based editor
  • Export to social media
  • Collaboration tools

Cons:

  • Branding on the free plan
  • Lack of collaboration features
  • Limited library options with free plan

11. Stykz

Stykz stands out in several ways — for one, it’s free. It is a 2D animation program that makes it easy to bring stick figures to life. It’s a frame-based software to give you optimal control over your work using onion skins to make sure everything works seamlessly. Stykz is not a hard program to grasp once you get the hang of it. Plus, it has a decent knowledge base to use as a guide.

On the downside, Stykz has been discontinued by the developers. That makes its best use as a way to learn animation basics before moving on to active software. However, it does appear to still run well, even on Windows 10 machines. That said, it has an old-school user interface that is dated (but still user-friendly).

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Pros:

  • Simple to use
  • Freeware
  • Auto-save feature
  • Excellent help section

Cons:

  • Not robust enough for advanced users
  • Discontinued

12. Adobe Character Animator

Adobe Character Animator is an animation and motion capture tool that is beginner-friendly and so much fun to use. Like other Adobe products, you can integrate other program exports into this platform. The software uses your mic and camera to animate the image you import into the program using your voice and facial expressions. It even has auto lip-sync.

As you might guess, the value of this software is in how enjoyable it is to use for both personal and professional applications. Other aspects of fine-tuning are more difficult to learn, including moving the limbs and other actions in your animations. It works best with tasks where voice is the star element. You can get it as a standalone app or with the Adobe Creative Cloud plan.

Platforms: Windows, Mac

Pros:

  • No experience in animation necessary
  • Adobe software integration
  • Excellent performance and speed
  • Real-time animation

Cons:

  • Limited motion capture
  • A high learning curve for other tools

13. Cartoon Animator 4

Cartoon Animator 4 is a 2D animation software program that uses motion capture to bring your creations to life! It operates on the same principle as Adobe Character Animator. The program has several features that make fine-tuning easier, including smart 1K motion editing and prop dynamics. It is easy to use out of the box, making it an excellent choice for beginners.

Cartoon Animator 4 integrates with Adobe Photoshop, allowing you to import PSD templates. Another outstanding feature is its 3D motions for 2D animations. It’s an effective way to make your work stand out from the crowd. The online community is active so you can quickly find answers to your questions. The company offers a free 30-day trial with all the features, with paid pro and pipeline editions.

Platforms: Windows, Mac

Pros:

  • Adobe Photoshop integration
  • Excellent community support
  • Auto lip-sync
  • Free trial
  • Customizable templates

Cons:

  • Lacking robust social media integration
  • So-so documentation
  • No drawing tools

14. Synfig

Synfig is a free, open-source video animation program. It has an impressive set of animation tools, considering its cost. It’s well-designed software that is easy to use for vector images, layers, and short videos. Its interface differs from many programs out there. Once you get used to its quirks, you won’t have any issues using it. There is an active community to help.

However, Synfig is still a work in progress. It’s resource heavy and tends to crash more often than we’d like. Nevertheless, it’s a good way to get your feet wet with animation, especially if you’ve worked with graphic design before. Synfig’s best use is for small projects that don’t require a lot of detail or extensive work. That makes it an excellent choice for small business owners.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Pros:

  • Free, open-source
  • Online help available
  • Plugin support

Cons:

  • Resource heavy
  • No auto-save feature

15. Moho Animation Software

Moho Animation Software has been around since 1982. It produces 2D animation using copy-and-paste functionality with its complex bone system. That means smooth motion without distortions. It does a great job of rendering realistic-looking animals with its full line of optimized drawing tools. It also has decent customization features for settings and brushes that we liked.

The company changed hands with the Moho 13, adding a lot of new functionality. It added wind and other automated dynamics, brought a 3D space and camera onboard, and made a giant leap forward with FBX support for Unity game developers. There are two versions of the software, the debut and pro. The price difference between the two is considerable at $59.99 and $399.99 for one-time purchases, respectively.

Platforms: Windows, Mac

Pros:

  • Helpful documentation
  • Realistic-looking animations
  • Plays nice with Adobe Photoshop integration
  • Automated dynamic elements
  • Value-priced for what it is

Cons:

  • A steep learning curve, especially for the pro version
  • Best features in pro version only

How to choose animation software

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: price. Many of these programs are expensive, especially if you’re a one-person operation. The first place to begin is with what you want to create. You don’t need a fancy software package if all you want to do is create infographics. As you’ve seen, many free options are surprisingly powerful.

You should also think about how much time you want to spend learning a program. Many applications are notorious for their steep learning curves. However, that doesn’t mean you should write off more complex software. It’s a factor you should weigh with the cost to make sure you’re getting the most out of the program for the best ROI.

We suggest checking out your avenues for getting help, whether there’s an active community or provider tech support. Make sure to check when they are available. Too often, we’ve come across companies with the smallest window for talking to a live person. Personally, we prefer live chat since you can get a transcript of the conversation. Other things to consider include:

  • 2D versus 3D, or both
  • Social media integration
  • User interface and customization options
  • Media library

Animation software can help you reach and interact with visitors in new and exciting ways. It can explain complex concepts and reach new audiences in the ways they prefer to connect with websites. As you’ve seen, you can choose from a variety of options to match your skill set and time commitment to learning a new program.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *