13 Best Animation Software For 2022

Keelan Balderson Image
Keelan Balderson

Updated: October 09,2022

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It has never been easier for people to make great-looking animations thanks to the plethora of powerful programs out there. We put 13 of the best through their paces to find the best animation software for 2022 and beyond. Our experts looked at:

  • Pricing
  • Types of animation supported
  • Features and capabilities
  • Ease of use
  • Computing requirements

Our reviews and guides have something for everyone’s needs. Let’s take a closer look:

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Top 13 Animation Software for 2022

Best for: Overall for 3D animation
Autodesk Maya

1. Autodesk Maya

  • Motion capture
  • Advanced 3D modeling
  • Suitable for game developers
Visit Website Full review
Best for: Professionals and beginners
Maxon's Cinema 4D

2. Maxon's Cinema 4D

  • HDR support
  • AR, VR, and Game-ready
  • Automatic UV unwrapping
Visit Website Full review
Best for: Short animations and GIFs
Adobe Animate

3. Adobe Animate

  • Easy to use
  • Great for animated shorts
  • Integrates with Adobe Cloud
Visit Website Full review
Best for: Beginners

4. Vyond

  • Affordable
  • Great for beginners
  • No software to download
Visit Website Full review
Best for: Stop motion

5. Dragonframe

  • Lip-syncing support
  • Camera controls via computer
  • Great ‘Onion Skinning’ feature
Visit Website Full review
Best for: Marketers and YouTubers

6. Renderforest

  • Free option
  • Easy browser-based process
  • Commercial music available
Visit Website Full review
Best for: Educators and businesses

7. Animaker

  • Good support
  • Use your own assets
  • Very easy web platform
Visit Website Full review
Best for: Learning about computer animation software

8. CartoonSmart

  • Learn as you animate
  • Extensive asset library
  • Choose only what’s needed
Visit Website Full review
Best for: Free 3D animation software

9. Blender

  • Great interface
  • 3D modeling and texturing
  • Supports video game development
Visit Website Full review
Best for: 2D animation software

10. Harmony

  • Industry grade quality
  • Excellent rigging feature
  • Supports cutout animations
Visit Website Full review
Best for: Computer animations software
Anime Studio Pro 11

11. Anime Studio Pro 11

  • Very affordable
  • Bone rigging technology
  • Great for cartoon software
Visit Website Full review
Best for: 2D drawings

12. Pencil2D

  • Great audio syncing
  • Tablet drawing support
  • Ideal for hand drawings
Visit Website Full review
Best for: Drawing animation software still in development
Animation Paper

13. Animation Paper

  • Intuitive interface
  • Easy keyframes and layering
  • Excellent for drawn animations
Visit Website Full review
  • Autodesk Maya  – Overall best 3D animation maker
  • Maxon’s Cinema 4D – Best premium 3D animation programs for beginners
  • Adobe Animate – Best simple animation software for short videos and GIFs
  • Vyond – Best animating programs online for beginners
  • Dragonframe – Best animation softwares for stop motion
  • Renderforest – Best 2D animation software online for marketers and YouTubers
  • Animaker – Best online animation software for kids, educators, and businesses
  • CartoonSmart – Best place to learn how to use good programs for animation
  • Blender – Best 3D animation software free of charge
  • Harmony – Overall best 2D animation software
  • Anime Studio Pro 11 – Best 2D cheap animation software with premium performance
  • Pencil2D – Best 2D animating programs free of charge
  • Animation Paper – Best drawing animation software still in development

Detailed Reviews

Best for: Overall for 3D animation

1. Autodesk Maya

Motion capture

Accurate viewport

Advanced 3D modeling

Maya by Autodesk is an all-in-one 3D animation suite that allows for modeling, simulation, and rendering. It can be resources intensive, so be sure to check the minimum requirements before committing to a subscription. You can find them below. 

You can flip between using your CPU or GPU for rendering, making the load lighter in certain circumstances. With this software, you can create a whole short or even feature-length animation. You can make anything from a traditional cartoon to a proof-of-concept video for your latest product. 

The Maya animation software works for Mac and PC. 

At this point, you’re probably wondering about the price.


Autodesk Maya uses a subscription model that entitles you to the latest updates throughout your subscription. The best price is to commit to 3 years at $4,357 upfront, followed by the annual $1,620. You can always pay monthly at $205, but in the long run, this will cost more.

You get full and fast support if you’re a paying customer and there are endless help pages, guides, and third-party tutorials you can easily find online to get to grips with the powerful software.

Main Features

Some of the most useful features include:

Cached Playback: Users can quickly play their animation in real-time without having it render or completely bog down their system. The processor and memory will handle the meshing, while your graphics card keeps things looking smooth during this process. This is a huge improvement over just a few years.

Full GPU Rendering: Nvidia users can make use of the Arnold 6 rendering feature, which allows for much faster rendering than in the past. It also allows you to view model and shader changes in the viewport without having to render first. It’s perfect for faces, complex characters, and overall scenery.

Special Effects: Good animator software isn’t complete without special effects, and loads more have been added to the latest program. From realistic explosions to snow, desert, and storms - these are ready to go. Simply apply the graph where you want the effects to appear in your animation.

Import: You can import from a range of popular programs, turning images from Photoshop into 3D animation.

Re-mesh: Modeling is about as advanced as it gets, especially with the Retopology and re-mesh features. You can take high-resolution scans and models and quickly reduce and re-mesh them for models suitable for animation projects. 

Wrap Tool: This feature calculates how the surface of two models and their geometry responds and manipulates each other, making for smooth interactions that look realistic. This is particularly effective with model faces and muscle systems. 

Rigging: Its fast and efficient rigging process is as good as it gets. You can add bones or internal structures to your models before they are complete. This allows you to manipulate them like a puppet before you fully finish the surface and texture. I.e. their walk cycle.

2D: It’s not all 3D, Maya 2D users also have excellent results by just using flat polygons and you can import your flat characters from the likes of Photoshop easily. There are many tutorials for 2D animation in Maya.

Ease of Use

For professionals, Maya animation software is fairly easy to use. The average hobbyist, however, is going to face a steep learning curve. There are a lot of options and features. While small explanations are given, you will have to start with some tutorials to get to grips with how things work. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be blown away by how powerful it can be.

Note: The minimum requirements are Windows 7 or macOS 11.x, Nvidia GPU, 64-bit Intel® or AMD® multi-core processor, 8 to 16GB of RAM, and 4GB of free space.


Maya is fast and always improving, making it the perfect solution for an animation studio or an individual freelancer. It can be used in everything from gaming 3D computer graphics to feature-length animated movies. It’s also one of the best Macintosh animation software suites out there.

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Best for: Professionals and beginners

2. Maxon's Cinema 4D

HDR support

AR, VR, and Game-ready

Automatic UV unwrapping

The latest edition of Maxon’s Cinema 4D is the R23 and it continues to be a top choice for 3D artists, whether professional or on their way up. This thanks to its variety of tools and features, beginner-friendly interface, and surprising speed and efficiency in everything it does. It puts everything under one roof, including 3D modeling, motion graphics, texturing, special effects, and rendering. 


Pricing for Cinema 4D varies if you are an individual or intendant animation house and want a team license. For single users, you can pay annually to make savings or monthly to easier spread the cost.

  • Max One (full bundle): $1,199 per year / $149 per month
  • C4D + Redshift: $983 per year / $116 per month (includes CPU renderer)
  • Cinema 4D: $719 per year / $94 per month (lacks CPU renderer)

Main Features

Modeling: The software supports a range of modeling methods, including polygon, parametric, volume, and sculpting. Each has its own purposes depending on your needs. Polygon and parametric modeling are better for video games, while volume modeling is more common with animations. It’s simply great motion graphics software.

Texturing: Cinema 4D is great at 3D character animation. It provides high-quality surface textures to your model - shaders, photorealistic materials, reflections with multiple layers and lighted sources, and all sorts of other effects. A basic example can turn a simple circle into a shiny reflective globe with images within its reflection, contrast, and shadows surrounding it. It’s one of the best 3D animation software options on the market.

Animation: Animation is made easy - almost any object animation to be key-framed at the click of a mouse. For beginners, there is even an element of automation that works well. An animation’s progression is shown in a timeline window. Everything can be layered and focused on from a single object to a larger scene. You can also animate without a keyframe using their effectors, tags, and expressions. These have presets or if you’re experienced, you can create them yourself.

There are also settings for characters, objects, and using abstract effects from flying logos to dancing teapots.

Rendering: Cinema 4D has multiple rendering options, the best though most intense is Multi-Pass rendering. You can render shadows, reflections, colors, and special effect features. Photorealism makes it perfect for professionals, studios, and animation departments alike. It provides a high dynamic range (HDR), giving more detail in a really dark or really bright atmospheres. Rendering can be done in 16bit or 32bit color. You can easily export to the likes of Adobe After Effects and Final Cut Pro for further refining and editing.

Ease of Use

The latest edition R23 requires Windows 10 at 64-bit, with a powerful (preferably OpenGL supported) graphics card, and at least 8GB of RAM.

Mac users will need at least macOS 10.14.6 or higher with 64-bit CPU.

In terms of useability, it’s very well designed. Everything logically laid out, but there will always be a steep learning curve for newcomers. Nonetheless, the site itself has ample help and guide pagers, and the active community is full of help and tutorials. 


With an endless number of tools, fast and efficient processing, and some more affordable price plans than some, Maxon's Cinema 4D is definitely worth a look for individuals and businesses. Its seamless integration with other relevant programs makes things easier. It’s not as advanced as Maya, but it’s also easier to use and one of the few that supports HDR. Easily one of the best animation software programs today.

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Best for: Short animations and GIFs

3. Adobe Animate

Easy to use

Great for animated shorts

Good compression options

When it comes to Adobe you probably think of the Acrobat PDF Reader, Premiere video editor, and Photoshop. Still, it has been in the animation business under various names for many years. The current incarnation, Adobe Animate, gives any leading software a run for its money. And when it comes to Creative Cloud, you’re going to make huge savings.

The Adobe animation software lets you make animated cartoons, movies, Flash games (though Flash itself is dying out), text, and GIFs. 


If you already subscribe to Adobe Cloud, then pricing is going to be much cheaper overall. On its own, however, it’s still one of the more budget professional animation programs. A prepaid annual plan will set you back $239.88 per year, or you can commit to a year of monthly billing at $20.99.

A regular monthly plan without the savings is $31.49 and you can cancel at any time.

Main Features

Integration: Animate easily integrates with other Adobe software. You can get all your assets from your Adobe Cloud library and send things over in workable formats to After Effects and Photoshop.

Animations: The animations you can make are not quite advanced as some of the other programs on our list and are a bit of a hangover from the flash animation cartoon days. You can still make full-blown cartoons and movies, Flash games, clips, and virtually any other animated sequence. This is all 2D animation software, so if you need 3D modeling, you’ll have to go elsewhere.

Gifs and Small Videos: People mostly use Adobe Animate to create short videos and GIFs for viral social media posts or funny videos. While a feature-length cartoon or movie is totally possible, it seems creators and professionals are already adept at and prefer other software. Within the industry, they tend not to use Adobe Animate on a mass scale.

Ease of Use

Abode animation software is one of these programs that can be as simple or complex as you require. The good thing is it has built-in tutorials and the makers actively foster a community of users, prompting them to show off their work on Twitter. Overall, there are over 500 pages of guides and instructional animation tips.  

We were particularly fond of the dozens of free assets and other resources. You do not have to create things from scratch or fork out for premium licensing if you’re just a beginner. 

Once you have your assets, most of your progress is managed from the timeline, much like a video editor. Each aspect of the animation, e.g. the right leg, left arm, etc. of your character has its own timeline which when brought together creates the overall animation.


Adobe Animate is affordable and accessible for beginners, even if the most advanced features take some time to learn. The company also offers stellar customer support, and the software is extremely reliable, even on mediocre modern PCs. If you’re an individual, this may be the best 2D animation software.

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Best for: Beginners

4. Vyond


Active community

Great for beginners

Vyond is one of the most beginner-friendly services we have reviewed so far. We say services because unlike most animation software this runs entirely online via your browser and does not hog your computer’s resources, which is perfect for those with old PCs and beginners that don’t yet want to commit to a full-blown industry-standard software suite. It also makes it one of the easiest animation softwares for kids.

Vyond is not the most advanced and is most popular among ‘whiteboard’ animators who share how-to videos and story narrations. However, you can also quite easily create 2D and 3D videos, all of which are exported and downloaded as MP4


Pricing itself is quite steep, but that’s the trade-off for having an accessible, modern, and beginner-friendly browser-based solution. The Essential Annual plan is $299 a year and you will still have their watermark on the videos. Monthly this $49, which is more than the likes of Adobe Animate.

To do away with watermarks you can get an individual license for $649 a year or $89 per month. Teams and smaller businesses must pay $999 a year (or $159 a month) along with priority support, while Enterprise solutions require a custom quote.

Main Features

Presets: Simple animation software for the beginner, but not necessarily viable for a creative professional. Vyond uses a variety of preset characters and animations that you can apply in ways to make it your own. But ultimately, they all have a similar feel. 

There is also a wide variety of props and objects, but after a while, you can begin to spot who has been using the software. Not a good idea, if you’re going to use it for a larger business.

Assets: Fortunately, you can upload your own assets in JPG and PNG to give your project some uniqueness. It does not, however, accept pre-made GIFs or videos, limiting its use as professional animation software

Titles and Text: Vyond is more designed for educational or commercial type animations. That means a lot of cool text and titles, as well as the much-hyped (though perhaps overused) whiteboard style of a character or hand drawing the main bits of text.

Ease of Use

Vyond is one of the easiest and simplest animation tools to use, partly because it is limited in its features but also because it is well made. It will give you a video introduction and from there everything is pretty much self-explanatory. If you do need help, there’s a lot of guidance on the site. You can easily contact support via email or live web chat, which we found fast and responsive.


Vyond is great for beginners to create basic but professional-looking animations. However, it’s not really for professionals or studios. The price tag is also a bit too high for our liking, even if all you have to use is a web browser.

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Best for: Stop motion

5. Dragonframe

Lip-syncing support

Comes with keypad

Camera controls via computer

If you love old-school animation, Dragonframe is the software for you. The stop motion animation software also makes the traditional process much easier thanks to the things you can do post-filming within the software.

The main difference you have to remember is that stop motion animation already requires skill and equipment. It’s not something you can just pick up. The software is an adjunct to this, not a replacement.


Currently, in its 4th generation, Dragonframe can be picked up for one-off $305 with a Bluetooth USB control pad or $295 just by itself with controls on your PC or laptop.

Main Features

Capturing: The main purpose of Dragonframe is to connect your PC or laptop to your camera and act as the hub for your stop motion project. It captures the stills and/or footage and displays it in a familiar-looking timeline. You can go back and edit frame by frame. It also shows you everything on screen in real-time, so you get an actual sense of what you are doing.

If you pay for the keypad controller, you can even more easily take your shots, skip between sequences, and even do on-the-fly editing away from your computer and laptop.

Camera Support: As stop motion animation software, Dragonframe supports a wide variety of cameras. Options include Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Fuji, Panasonic, Blackmagic, and even smartphones and webcams. With the full kit, you can control the cameras from your computer, and we found the best setup was a laptop just in front of where you are shooting.

Editing: Thanks to digitization, stop motion and camera work do not have to always be a physical process. You can artificially improve the lighting and color, zoom in and out, speed up or slow down, etc. from within the software. If you export and use other programs like aftereffects or video editing software, then you can really make something special and unique.

Ease of Use

The underlying art of stop motion is not necessarily easy, but the software certainly is. The timeline works like a charm, and the extra tools take things to the next level. Frame by frame, you can change everything from the object's color to its background. Depending on how you took the shot, you can even change the angle and position of the image. It can be captured in 360 degrees or you can choose to take multiple shots and apply them to a single frame in the software.

You can also digitally zoom in on aspects of the image, add shadows, blur or sharpen, completely delete things, etc. You can even overlay similar shots to see differences and edit them accordingly. It’s one of the best animation software choices in its class.


When it comes to stop motion animation, Dragonframe is the absolute best option out there and is roundly used in the industry. Gone are the days of the flip book. It is also much more affordable when compared to other traditional animation software. If stop motion is your thing, then we highly recommend this software.

We wouldn’t call it beginner-friendly because stop motion is in and of itself a skilled art, but the software couldn’t be easier to use if you’re already in the field. 

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Best for: Marketers and YouTubers

6. Renderforest

Free option

Lots of affordable plans

Easy browser-based process

Renderforest is one of the few software programs we’ve reviewed that offers a free animation software plan alongside its premium options. The browser-based and ‘cloud’ software is not the most advanced and is not used by animation studios. It is, however, popular among advertisers and YouTubers. And just because you don’t need to download the software doesn’t mean it’s not capable of performing well.

It has been officially endorsed by the likes of the BBC, Cambridge University Press, Vodafone, and BOSE – all mainly for promotional material.


Pricing is billed either monthly or yearly – the latter gives you overall savings if you plan to use the 2D or 3D animation software for an extended period of time. 

The free version provides 300MB of space and only 360p quality, so those videos really need to be short to make use of the service. In fact, they won’t let you go for over 3 minutes. You get access to 200,000 or more stock video assets and some limited music tracks, but the main downside is everything is watermarked.

Here’s how the rest of the plans shape up:

  • Yearly Lite: $83.88 for 7 HD 720p videos per month, 5-minute length limit, over 50 commercially licensed music tracks, no watermarks. 
  • Yearly Amateur: $119.88 for 18 HD 720p and 6 1080p videos per month, 15-minute length limit, 500k stock video assets, 100+ licensed music tracks, and 1 font upload.
  • Yearly Pro: $239.88 for 60 HD 720p and 30 1080p videos per month, 30-minute length limit, 200+ licensed music tracks, and 5 fonts can be uploaded.
  • Yearly Agency: $599.88 for Unlimited 1080p HD videos, up to 60-minutes in length, add your own watermark, upload 10 fonts, and resell your resources to make money.

All plans also come with logos and hundreds of graphics.

Main Features

When it comes to the best animation software, the main feature you need to be looking at is the 3D Explainer Toolkit. As the name suggests this is intended for creating ‘explainer’ videos, but you do not necessarily have to limit yourself to that.

This option comes with a large selection of premade animated scenes, styles, and 4 transition types between scenes. You choose a character and/or their animation, choose a backdrop/scene, and are prompted to add text alongside. 

Although options are limited, there’s enough to choose from that you can mix and match things into something unique. You can export your finished animation and add your own music and/or narration to make it more unique. 

It’s easy to see why it's popular in the marketing scene. We don’t recommend it for cartoon software or full-blown animated feature films, however. 

Ease of Use

Because it’s so simple and utilizes pre-made assets and animations, it’s also one of the easiest to use. It suits both individuals and big businesses. Your online dashboard is easy to navigate and initiative, and the toolkit is also a breeze to use. You can then alter the color palette and add music. The higher the plan, the more there is to choose from, but the simplicity never goes away.

It all runs directly in your web browser and works perfectly on mediocre computers. 


Ultimately, RenderForest provides a service that appeals to a certain range of users and makes things easy in the process. It’s certainly not the best program for animation, but it does provide a quick and professional way to make short explainers, commercials, and promo content. 

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Best for: Educators and businesses

7. Animaker

Good support

Affordable plans

Use your own assets

Ran as a Software as a Service company, Animaker supports both live and professional-looking animated videos. As far as computer animations software goes, it’s beginner-friendly too. It allows for output in 4K and runs entirely online so that 4K rendering doesn’t have to impact your less than optimum PC. 

It is mostly aimed at brands, YouTubers, marketers, and anyone that needs to make professional-looking animated videos. However, it’s not quite advanced enough to make proper animated cartoons or films and is not used by studios.


Animaker uses the yearly upfront discount model or you can opt to pay monthly without committing to a contract. That, however, is more expensive. Here’s what you get:

  • Yearly Basic: $120 for 5 videos per month, 720p quality, 5 custom characters a month, 10 premium assets.
  • Yearly Starter: $228 for 10 videos per month, 1080p quality, 15 custom characters, 20 premium assets.
  • Yearly Pro: $468 for 20 videos, 2K quality, 30 custom characters, 45 premium assets.
  • Yearly Enterprise: Custom quoted price, up to unlimited videos, 4K quality, upload 20GB of your own assets, build unlimited characters.

Animaker is also one of the few tools that offer a limited free animation software plan. It gives you 5 videos per month with their watermark and outro.

Main Features

Customizable Templates: Otherwise known as scenes or backdrops, you choose a suitable template and can customize it with various elements and colors.

Asset Library: There are more than enough pre-made characters, backgrounds, icons, and images to choose from.

Character Builder: Build your own character for character animation by choosing from 15 facial features and 10 accessory slots, along with a full-color spectrum. There are also 20 facial expressions from angry to happy, to get across your message.

Voice Overs: You can easily add text and music, but adding a voice-over creates a unique vibe. The auto lip-syncing technology means you do not have to animate anything yourself.

Smart Move: Based on the object you have chosen using smart move, animates it automatically based on what it is, with a few customizations. For example, if you choose a ball, it will bounce. You don’t have to do anything other than click to make the animation. 

Color: Every aspect of color can be changed across the full spectrum, including solid color, gradients, and more.

Ease of Use

Animaker is a very simple animation software because it mostly uses presets that are customized at the click of a button. This is ideal for beginners or those who don’t have the time to use a full suite. 

The knowledge base is vast and if you’re a paying customer, support is an email or live chat away. During our test, we found them quick, knowledgeable, and helpful overall. 


Ultimately, Animaker is a straightforward and powerful web-based video editor with a dedicated animation toolkit. While it does not compare to the major software suites in terms of features and complexity, what it lacks is made up in ease of use. With just an idea and a few clicks, you can create professional-looking animated content at a reasonable price. 

For those making commercials, promo content, educational animation, YouTube explainers, etc. – it’s an easy animation software program to pick up. 

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Best for: Learning about computer animation software

8. CartoonSmart

Learn as you animate

Extensive asset library

From cartoons to gaming

The odd one out on our list, CartoonSmart does not provide any animating programs itself. But if you want to get into that and have no idea where to start then this is the place. Essentially, it offers free and paid tutorials to teach you animation, illustration, and vector art. It points you to programs like Adobe Animate and Flash, Illustrator, and Photoshop.

It also has a library of assets and templates that is constantly updated to help you along the way.

If animated videos are not your thing, you may be interested in the game design courses on offer.


Pricing varies greatly depending on what it is you’re purchasing. For example, lifetime access gives you 50 hours of animation tutorials for $99.99. Alternatively, you can pay monthly at $9.98, or buy a lifetime subscription giving you access to everything on the site for $199. If you want more than just animation, the latter is the most cost-effective option. Of course, you also have to factor in the price of computer animation software that you will buy separately.

Main Features

Head Animations: Teaching you head movements, turns, facial reactions, and lip-syncing. 

Body Mechanics: Teaching you realistic human joint movements, jumping, sitting and standing, walking and running, and lots of advanced movements.

Fight Scenes: Teaching you punching, running, and fighting, as well as suspense and setting the scene to get the viewer invested.

Special Effects: From explosions and smoke to water, splashes, and smoke, learn how to animate special effects.

Rigging: The process of creating the bone structure or mesh of your character for easy manipulation, depending on your animation software. You can create movement without worrying about the character’s outer design, making it one of the best animation software.

Art, Assets, and Kits: To help you along with your animation project, the site also has free and premium art, assets, and entire kits you can download and use in your own projects. This varies from roleplaying and platform gaming to character models and sound effects. 

There are also free assets, which right now include:

  • an animated flying bird 
  • arcade-style army characters
  • an explosion animation 
  • a medieval weapon set.

Ease of Use

CartoonSmart’s website is very easy to use. The tutorials are mainly in video format and can be accessed on any smart device once you’ve paid and created your account. You will also be given links to download any special course templates and tutorials that feed into various animation programs.


CartoonSmart is an invaluable resource site for budding animators offering both legitimate and in-depth courses at reasonable prices. It also has a library of assets to aid in your learning process. The only downside is you will have to purchase separate software that the site recommends - some quite dated.

Nonetheless, it’s a great service and perfect for newcomers to learn the ropes at their own pace

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Best for: Free 3D animation software

9. Blender

Great interface

3D modeling and texturing

Free video animation software

Blender is a versatile animation suite that allows users to: 

  • design from scratch 
  • use 3D modeling 
  • add virtual effects 
  • edit their animations 
  • render the finished product. 

It also handles rigging and motion tracking. Blender requires a lot of PC resources from your CPU and GPU and is used extensively by professionals.

It is an entirely free animation program with a buzzing online community that extends its features via the open-source principle. So, if you were looking for free animation software for Windows or a Mac animation program for that matter, this is for you.


As open-source animation software, all aspects of Blender are free. The community is encouraged to use the code to better the program and release their own tweaks, versions, and Blender created assets for others to use.

If you’ve tried the software and want to support the original developers, you can go to their online shop and buy merch.

Main Features

Animation and Rigging: Blender supports advanced animation features. You can take your 3D model, carry out key framing, advanced walk-cycles, numerous poses, and fast kinematics. You can also synchronize it all to sound. Despite the complexity, many still find it an easy 3D animation software.

Its intuitive rigging system supports automatic skinning, weight painting, and color-coded bone layering.

Modeling: Before you animate in 3D, you need a good model. Blender supports full model creation, transformation, and sculpting. You can also fill grids and gaps and even unwrap your existing file’s mesh to apply new textures and images.

Sculpting: The sculpting tools and polygonal modeling help you develop organic objects. You later turn them into full-blown models ready for animation or placing in a scene.

Simulation: Simulate your own animation or those already available that you can apply to your project. For example, you can check out how flowing water looks, smoke and fire, hair, materials, the weather, and more.

Rendering: Rendering, or essentially, exporting your project, can be done by your graphics card or processor depending on the status of your computer. In the end, you’ll get a finished animation, sequence, or entire video.

Video Editing: Blender is also video animation software allowing you to turn your animations into actual videos, shorts, or full-blown films. It’s not the most advanced feature, but it helps with transitioning, audio mixing and syncing, speed, etc. You can add extras like filters for added atmosphere.   

Ease of Use

Despite having so many features, Blender is beginner-friendly, and you can easily pick the more advanced features up as you go. The software is laid out well, has small explainers along with each feature, and the online community is helpful. The official Blender site also has a wealth of helpful information, including a PDF manual, multiple tutorials, and FAQ. You can also report bugs. Blender offers demo files you can use to test the software and get to grips with it.

If you still need to contact them, you can find the developers on social media or drop them an email.


It’s suitable for animated videos, modeling for secondary purposes, creating environments and characters for games. It’s also one of the top free animation software choices for beginners.

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Best for: 2D animation software

10. Harmony

Three pricing plans

Industry grade quality

Excellent rigging feature

Harmony by Toon Boom is professional animation software that supports a variety of traditional styles and focuses on 2D animation and storyboarding. It has been around since 1994 and picked up two Emmy Awards along the way. Its current headquarters is in Montreal, Canada. It’s been used by such animated powerhouses as The Simpsons and SpongeBob.

The software puts emphasis on the story artist, allowing them to express themselves rather than locking them into a certain way of doing things. You can do cut-out, paperless, and combinations of different 2D projects easily. Now, in its 20th edition, it is the industry leader in 2D animation and is at the forefront of digital drawing.


You can try the main Harmony professional animation software and any of the associated plans for free for 21 days. Pricing and features include:

  • Harmony Essentials: Aimed at students and beginners, you get the core drawing, painting, and animation tools for $25 per month. This is suitable for 2D games, cut-outs, and basic paperless animation. It also supports 2K camera resolution.
  • Harmony Advanced: At $63 per month, this plan is suitable for freelancers and teams. It adds the ability to scan and paint for TV shows and films, while the resolution is upped to 4K. You also get more advanced tools for paperless animation and online storage.
  • Harmony Premium: For studios and professionals, this $115 a month plan adds more visual effects, up to 8K resolution, and effects compositing.

Main Features

Cutouts: Basic stop motion animation software using cutout paper, canvas, fabric, photos, and other materials.

Paperless: Scanning in drawn frame-by-frame pieces, turning traditional animation paperless, which you can then further tweak with software.

Tools: Harmony features an endless number of tools to aid your animations, including: 

  • brushes and pencils 
  • textures 
  • advanced color palettes 
  • kinematics 
  • combining 2D and 3D camera footage
  • hand drawing using a drawing tablet.

Special Effects: Harmony has a wide variety of customizable special effects that you can add to your project.

Storyboard: All the tools you need to create storyboards before production, including vector and bitmap drawing tools, camera support, and audio tools.

Ease of Use

While there is certainly a learning curve and this software is mostly professional animation software, we couldn’t fault its interface or approach. Everything you need is there, there’s just a lot of it. You’ll need some tutorials (which they provide). The fact that you can try any of the packages for free goes a long way to help you learn how it works without losing money in the process.

If you do have any trouble, you can easily hop over to the official technical forum, join their Discord chat room, or go directly to support via their online email form.


If you need the best 2D animation software and have the skills or patience to learn, then Toon Boom Harmony is an excellent choice. There’s a reason why production houses like Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Dreamworks have used it for their animated cartoon shows and films. It’s high quality, powerful, and lets your creativity and talent shine through. 

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Best for: Computer animations software

11. Anime Studio Pro 11

Very affordable

Bone rigging technology

Great for cartoon software

Anime Studio Pro 11 is a formidable professional animation software that supports 2D and what can best be described as 2.5D animations. Don’t let the Anime name through you off - it’s good for all styles of animation.

Furthermore, it supports bone rigging for realistic movements, lip-syncing for professional-looking dialogue, and runs on an easy-to-use timeline layout

The software is most suitable for those with a bit of experience.


What particularly sets this cartoon animation software apart is that it doesn’t run on a subscription model. Rather, you pay a one-off fee for the software and its license, and you get to digitally download the program. All subsequent updates come free of charge.

Currently, the price hovers around $140, which is great.

Main Features

Frame-By-Frame: Like all good animation software, Anime Studio does things frame by frame so you can get everything just right on your timeline.

Bitmap and Vector: Easily handle your drawings in bitmap and vector or convert them accordingly.

Rigging: You can combine your own drawing animation with a new powerful bone rigging tool. It allows you to easily create realistic movement based on the perceived bone structure of your characters. You can target specific ‘bones’, unlink bones, and reset everything at any time, giving you full control.

Layer Referencing: This simple feature allows you to create clones of the same layer while labeling them together. This allows for testing multiple versions of a frame or for easier collaboration.

Photoshop Support: If you like to use photoshop to create or edit your drawings, Anime Studio now has support for the importation of PSD files and their layers.

Timeline Channels: The program’s main window is a timeline, and with the latest edition you can hide channels to remove the clutter and focus on something specific before bringing it all back to the viewport.

2.5D: The software also supports 3D modeling and camera controls like 3D character animation software. While this doesn’t mean you get 3D animation as the end result, it does mean you get realistic 3D-style animation in the 2D space (often called 2.5D). 

Ease of Use

For anyone that has used animation software before, Anime Studio Pro 11 is familiar and easy to pick up. Its frame-by-frame timeline interface is easy to understand, and even if you don’t appreciate all of the tools right away, the supporting guidance will help you along. You can easily search for the tutorials you need, and there’s also a large community of helpful users.


Now, in its 11th phase, Anime Studio Pro has proven that it is here to stay and for good reason. It now has most of the features of the most premium animation software and implements them in such a way that is still good for beginners. Its one-off price is also a big plus.

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Best for: 2D drawings

12. Pencil2D

Free but functional

Great audio syncing

Tablet drawing support

If you’re looking for free 2D animation software, then Pencil2D gets the job done. It also won’t bog down your PC, offering one of the most lightweight software suites we’ve reviewed. It’s open-source, works on all major computer operating systems, and supports raster, bitmap, and vector graphics. It’s simply a great choice for traditional hand-drawn animators.


Anyone can download Pencil2D for free and even develop the program in different directions themselves. There are no premium subscription versions either, so it automatically gets a star from us. The software thrives on its community for an ever-growing library of templates, assets, filters, images, and digital effects. For the individual artist, there isn’t a better solution to getting your 2D artwork out there.

Main Features

Style Switching: Easily switch between vector and raster styles, allowing you to use pencil sketches one minute and seamlessly switch to paint or ink as you go.

Key-frames: Develop smooth transitions by easily selecting the start and endpoint using key-frames, resulting in a great animation maker.

Layers: Allows you to stack your drawings and effects on top of each other on a single frame, and working on each layer independently. You can then bring it all together to give pop and life to your characters. 

Sound Syncing: Synchronize dialogue and other sounds so your animation doesn’t look like a badly dubbed Japanese cartoon thanks to Pencil 2D.

Digital Effects: Add numerous digital effects and text that you typically wouldn’t be able to accomplish by drawing alone.

Templates and Assets: Make use of an existing library of templates and assets to help set the scene or add objects.

Frame-by-frame Timeline: The main window shows your current frame, where you can import drawings or make your own using pencil and brush tools on the left. Below are your overall timeline and layer selection tabs. It’s easy to copy frames for easier and more uniform animation as you move across the timeline.

Ease of Use

Pencil 2D is not the most advanced animation software, but all of the main features are there. The overall user interface is straightforward, especially if you have used animation software before. YouTube is full of tutorials, and the site itself has a step-by-step teaching series from the basics to the advanced.

There is also a forum where mods and users are happy to help. You can reach the developers on social media.


As far as software for 2D animation, Pencil2D is one of the best. It's ideal if you have been searching for free animation software for PC or Mac. Furthermore, it’s a lot easier to pick up than some advanced programs, yet you can still make some pretty cool animations. We’d definitely recommend this to newcomers because you’ve got nothing to lose.

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Best for: Drawing animation software still in development

13. Animation Paper

Intuitive interface

Free in Alpha stage

Easy keyframes and layering

If you have an affinity for sketches and drawing and want to turn them into animations, then Animation Paper is a great choice. While the developer is working on a new version, the old version is free to download. You’ve therefore got one of the best 2D animation software programs free of charge too.


Animation Paper Pro 4 is currently free to download while the creator, Niels Krogh Mortensen, works on a more advanced version. As of March 2021, it will be a $79 one-off fee for Animation Paper when it’s released. Take advantage of the free version because it’s one of the good animation programs out there. Likewise, there is an Alpha preview of the new version, which is also free and available on Windows and Mac. You can test it now to see if you think it’s worth what is a very reasonable price tag. We’ll be reviewing this Alpha version today and looking ahead to what is planned in the final release. 

Main Features

Hand-drawn Animation: This is where Animation Paper really excels.

Users will need a tablet and pressure-sensitive stylus pen to get the most out of the software. However, you can also import existing video and frame stacks. This suggests you may be able to get away with drawing on legitimate paper and going through a few steps to get it into the program.

Viewport and Timeline: Like most easy-to-use animation software, the main window displays your current frame. There is a timeline of frames to navigate through at the bottom. To the left are the various tools, audio, and a section to doodle notes. Up top, you can switch between draw and erase mode, add back light, zoom, add, clear, and undo/redo.

One particularly useful feature for two-screen users is the ability to show the frame in full on the second screen while working with all the other tools on the first

Key-frames: Clearly mark the beginning and end of each animation using key-frames. These can also be cloned.

Layering: Easily create and control layers to add depth and detail to your drawings. You can easily change their order by dragging, and two or more can be linked for efficient editing. Each layer is also color-coded.

Ease of Use

Mortensen set out to make an intuitive and powerful animation program, and so far, he has done just that. Everything about the software is self-explanatory, and you should easily pick things up.


If you’re a traditional paper-based hand-drawn animator that’s moving with the digital times, Animation Paper provides an easy-to-use solution. It will only get better as it develops out of the Alpha phase and on to the market. Get in now, as it’s the best animation software for free, before it moves into its final development stage.

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What Is Animation Software?

Simply put, computer animation software is any computer program that helps users create 3D or 2D moving graphics, often from existing files and assets. Assets are pre-drawn characters, objects, scenery, etc which may be pre-loaded or added to the software’s library of assets. Good animation programs also let you draw and model within them from scratch.

Depending on the software, you may also be able to add music and special effects and do most of the video editing within the single program. 

While every animation program is different and varies in how advanced the features get, most allow everything from quick clips or GIFs to longer cartoons, or full filmmaking. A smaller range allows flat cutouts and full-blown stop motion. Dragonframe is a good stop motion animation software.

While hobbyists and amateur artists make up a big portion of animation software users, the top programs are mostly used by professionals.

Animation software is not always the only program that needs to be utilized for an animation-based project. An artist may use a digital drawing or 3D modeling program first to create their own unique assets. Towards the end of the process, special effects software and video editing might be used to turn the product into a finely tuned video. Studious usually have teams working in all areas and it’s rarer for one person to do all these aspects.

There’s lots of overlap in the animation software field, but generally, to be considered an animation program it must allow for the creation of moving 2D or 3D images and visuals, import assets from other programs, have some form of built-in drawing mechanism and integrate and export well, so related software can add their own touches. 

Basic animation software, some even browser-based, is becoming more popular for YouTubers, influencers, and online marketers. It’s good for those who need to create engaging and professional-looking content that isn’t always just someone being filmed.

For example, there has been a big rise in animated clips from originally shot podcasts. There’s also a popular ‘whiteboard’ animation technique that shows text and ideas being doodled on a video while the narrator talks to the viewer. This is all done with animating programs.

While some people still create fully hand-drawn animation, a lot of the big studios and animation houses have moved on to 3D animation. It’s cheaper to create but hotly debated, especially in the world of cartoons, whether it has the same quality and vibe as the old-school methods. 

Even in 2022, animation is a painstaking and long process even for simple projects. Assets are usually sorted with great care along a timeline of frames to create the overall movement of the project. A user may spend several hours on just one frame.

Fortunately, animation software usually allows for a technique called onion skinning or ghosting. You can look at one or more objects at different points in the timeline to help you visualize how it should all come together smoothly.

Longer videos and films require all sorts of expert knowledge and skill. Have you ever wondered how animators know how to make the body of a human or animal move realistically? This is called kinematics. Although there are some preset movement animations to create unique content, animators have to create this themselves. Software can also generate the interlope/transition between frames, but some sticklers still like to do this manually. 

In some cases, animation software is combined with motion capture to produce realistic movement animations, especially in video games. 

How To Choose The Best Animation Software For You?

The absolute best animation software is one thing, but what’s good for you? A lot depends on your budget, whether you’re a hobbyist or professional, and what you intend to use it for. 

Let’s take a closer look at how to choose the best animation software.


Your budget will be a major factor. You will need a product that is affordable, especially if you are an individual rather than representing a business or studio. Anime Studio Pro is good for those on a budget, as it is a one-off fee rather than a subscription. Blender is the one if you’re looking for good free animation software for 3D animation, while Pencil2D is a 2D animation software free of charge.

3D or 2D

If you are an artist that likes to draw with pencil, pen, or paint, then you will want to choose the best 2D animation software. You will at least need a suite that offers both. Likewise, if you’re not a traditional artist and want a fully animated 3-dimensional world in the vein of Pixar, you’ll want the best 3D animation software.

Stop Motion and Cut-Outs

A lesser-used form of animation is stop motion. It uses physical materials that are altered and captured frame by frame to create the video. Dragonframe is good for full-blown stop motion animation, while many programs support basic cutout (flat material) stop motion.


The best animation software can be extremely complex for hobbyists or beginners to work with. Software used by the likes of The Simpsons has a lot more features than the average software used by budding animators that upload to YouTube. You’ll need to assess your experience as an animator, your affinity for learning how to use complex software, and where you see yourself in the future.

Asset Libraries

Do you want to create everything yourself (very time-consuming) or will you be using third-party assets to help you along the way? If the latter, you need to check whether the software has a good quality and large enough asset library to accommodate your needs. Or, you need to see if there is an active community sharing objects, backdrops, and character models for you to work with. Remember though, not every asset you find is royalty-free or copyright free and you might have to credit the creator and or buy the asset.


Not only do you need to be wary that the software works on your operating system and you have a good enough CPU and GPU, but also that it works with any secondary software you will be using. Can you import and work with Photoshop PSD files? Can you export in the right video file format or render your animation in a format that can be used by your chosen video editor?

Wrap Up

Whether you have been Googling cartoons-making software out of curiosity or are an experienced user, our reviews have featured some of the best 2D and 3D animation software on the market. Whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed.

Ready to take on the animation world by storm?

Still not sure what 2D or the best 3D animation software is for you? We’ve answered some of your commonly asked questions below:


Which animation software is best?

If you’re looking for the absolute best animation software available to the public regardless of budget or the skill set needed, then we would go with Autodesk Maya. It starts at $1,630 for an annual subscription. It’s used by professional studios and is 3D animation software

If you’re on a budget, then what’s better than free 3D animation software? That’s what you get from the popular Blender program, and its performance and features are not that far behind the likes of Maya.

If you prefer 2D animation Harmony by Toon Boom is the best 2D animation software, we’ve had the pleasure to review so far. Pencil 2D the best free animation software 2D artists can use.

Which is the best animation software for beginners?

Our top pick for 2D beginners who can afford it is Harmony by Toon Boom. Meanwhile, Blender is good free 3D animation software for beginners. If you don’t want to make advanced animations, Vyond is a great browser-based animation tool for beginners.

Which software is used for animation?

Options are mainly split between 2D and 3D. With most 2D animation programs you can import your real-life drawings or paintings and edit them. This is a more traditional animation method. You can also draw from scratch within the software using the various pencil, pen and brush tools or a connected tablet with stylus drawing.

3D animation is a little more involved and might require capturing 3D objects and people using 3D scanning, to then be fine-tuned using 3D modeling software. It may or may not be included in the software suite. 

Some software handles both 3D and 2D animation, while others are much more scaled back.

To create a full-blown animated film, you may have to use multiple types of software beyond just the animator. I.e. Photoshop for superior image editing, and a video editor and special effects program for the final production. 

What software do Disney animators use?

Disney animators use a range of good animation software to create their stunning animated movies and TV shows. The Pixar sub-company uses its own dedicated Presto program that is not available to the general public. However, other animated Disney movies have been known to use commercial software like Autodesk Maya and their in-house software is compatible with it. There are rumors they often use both of them when required.

For rendering, which comes after the actual animation part, they use RenderMan, which is a publicly available program. 

Disney’s staff have non-disclosure agreements so nobody can be sure exactly what they use.

What animation program does Pixar use?

Being one of the biggest and most successful animation houses, Disney’s Pixar uses its own proprietary and advanced animation software that isn’t available to the general public. This is called Presto. Before this, they used popular animating programs like Marionette. 

Pixar employees go through training seminars, but it is said to be fairly easy to pick up by those that have previous experience using traditional cel-shading animation. 

In a bit of trivia, Pixar first used the Presto software in a short-animated film, itself called Presto, to test out its capabilities and to gauge public perception. 

The software is believed to be so advanced that it can capture geometric models during a scene in hi-res, in real-time. In other words, actors can run through a scene and essentially become animated on the fly. 

The software has a dedicated staff of coders and is always changing based on Pixar’s needs and the speed at which the industry is changing. It’s probably the best animation software there is.


Keelan Balderson

Keelan Balderson

A qualified journalist and longtime web content writer, Keelan has a passion for exploring information and learning new things. If he's not writing or pushing his own brands, you'll find him watching pro wrestling or trying not to rant about politics online.

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