The best animation software will make your work stand out and help bring your creations to life. With the wide array of applications and animation types out there, it can be hard to choose one that's fit for what you need. That's why our handy below list will help you choose the best software whether you're a newbie or an experienced animator looking to transform your workflow.
It's important to note when picking the best animation software that you need to consider the multitude of tools, exporting types and ease-of-use with other programmes if you're going to be working between multiple apps. With every software having such a different interface and tool suite, it's important to do your research before downloading to make sure you will be comfortable learning it. That's why our below list details elements like platform compatability, price and specifying who we think each software is a good fit for.
If you already have a software you're happy with, why not check out some new animation tools? We have a list of the top animation tools for all kinds of digital arts. If you're looking to branch out and model your own assets for animations, you can check out our guide to the best 3D modelling software.
The best animation software available now
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Moho Pro is an award-winning animation software for Mac that has everything you need to create professional-quality 2D animations. Its powerful rigging system will have your creations jumping off the screen, whilst the Smart Bones feature will enhance your character's facial expressions and body turns.
Moho has been utilised by Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon on their Oscar nominated films The Breadwinner, Song of the Sea, Secret of the Kells, and Wolfwalkers, and is widely considered to be an industry standard for professional 2D animation.
With four Editions of CelAction2D available – Studio, Professional, Animator, and Educational – this 2D animation software for Windows has something for every level. The Studio edition is an excellent choice if you're working with a large team, producing feature films, animating television series, or creating animated shorts. This edition also includes upgrades and support and is always the first to receive new features.
If you're working alone or as part of a smaller team, the Professional edition might be best for you. But if you don’t need all of its rigging tools, there’s always the Animator edition; however, you won't be able to build assets in this – to do that, you'll need the Studio edition.
The Educational edition is identical to the Professional edition but only recognised educational institutions can purchase it. You also can't use this edition for commercial productions.
Have you ever wanted a deceptively powerful animation tool in the palm of your hands? Well, now you can with Procreate for iPad. With Procreate's Animation Assist, you can sketch out animatics, make looping GIFs, and create beautiful animations without ever having to touch your computer. As we found when we tested it in our Procreate review, you can sketch, illustrate, and animate your next masterpiece on the go. And the latest version has some pretty dreamy 3D tools, too. Embraced by everyone from beginners to hobbyists, and even professionals, this software is the top pick if you're looking to create on the move.
Don't have an iPad yet? Take a look at our guide to all the different iPad generations and find the right one for you.
Maya is undoubtedly one of the best apps on the market if you're a professional animator looking for a powerful 3D animation tool. With Maya, you can do it all: modelling, animation, visual effects. As if that isn't enough, Maya comes equipped with one of the best physics engines and rendering systems available today. Our most recent Maya review found that Autodesk has supercharged the software, with a range of new quality-of-life features, and the newest version has added even more to be excited about.
Maya also ships with a unique feature known as XGen interactive grooming. XGen interactive grooming includes tools like sculpting brushes, modifiers, and sculpting layers which you can use to create different styles of hair and fur.
Cartoon Animator 4.5 (formerly known as CrazyTalk Animator) is the latest release from the team at Reallusion, and golly if it's not jam-packed with useful features for creatives. While it may not be considered an industry standard, Cartoon Animator is perfectly capable of creating professional-quality animations.
From smart IK motion editing to full-body motion capture, Cartoon Animator has the tools to do it all. For example, with its sprite-based facial system, you can quickly transform a 2D face into a 3D talking head. There's also a helpful rigging and bone tool that allows you to create believable multi-angled 2D characters.
It's not the easiest software to learn your way around, but if you have the time and patience to get to grips with it, Cartoon Animator is a fantastic animation software for all kinds of content creator.
Adobe Character Animator gives you all of the tools you need to quickly and efficiently animate your 2D characters, from lip-syncing to motion capture technology. With its seamless Photoshop and Illustrator file integration, you can create your characters using your favourite tools and then bring them to life in Character Animator. You can even live-stream your characters!
While Character Animator is still a useful app for hobbyists and professionals, this is a particularly great software if you're new to animation and want to wrap your head around the basics.
Clip Studio Paint is a powerhouse when it comes to an all-in-one drawing and animation solution. While it may not offer a powerful rigging system, Clip Studio Paint lets you combine frame-by-frame animation with camera effects so that you can create stunning full-length animations. In addition, with its simple timeline interface, you'll be able to easily tweak the speed of your animation and even rearrange the animation cels. Best of all: Clip Studio Paint runs on nearly every major platform.
If you can find your way around its slightly confusing user interface then Clip Studio Paint can be a great addition to the digital toolkit of beginner, hobbyist and professional animators.
Despite being relatively simple to use, Adobe Animate sure does have a lot to offer animators. The interface is clean and recognisable, especially if you're already familiar with other Adobe products. And the ability to quickly share and publish your work to social media sites like YouTube and Twitter makes it easy to get your animations online.
Adobe Animate isn't quite the powerhouse you'd need as a professional animator, but if you're looking to create interactive animations and simulations with ease then Adobe Animate could be the software for you.
The best free animation software available now
No list of the best 3D animation software would be complete without Blender. Blender's animation toolset features a character animation pose editor, forward/inverse kinematics, and sound synchronisation – all of which makes animating your next professional or hobby project that much easier.
What's extra nice about Blender is that you can use it for more than simple animation: you can sculpt, model, render, and more. You can even use the Grease Pencil feature to work on 2D creations and the helpful Python API for scripting and customisation through app extensions.
More robust than other free and open-source animation tools, Synfig Studio offers advanced controls that allow you to link the parameters of various layers, so that you can create advanced character puppets and other dynamic structures.
Speaking of layers, with Synfig Studio, you can use over 50 layers and choose from various layer types, like geometric, gradients, filters, distortions, transformations, and fractals. But that's not all: Synfig Studio also includes a full-featured bone system that you can use to rig your vector artwork or create cutout animation using bitmap images.
It's got a steep learning curve, but if you're up to the challenge then Synfig Studio is a great app for beginners and more experienced hobbyists alike.
If you're looking for a professional animation tool that won't break the bank, then OpenToonz is the software for you. This free and open-source program, customised by Studio Ghibli and based on the software Toonz (developed by Digital Video S.p.A. in Italy), is a powerhouse. You can use it to create simple animations or professional productions. It's also an excellent choice for the classroom as it's powerful (not to mention free of charge) and easy to learn.
If you're looking for a lightweight animation solution that's not only open-source and free but also easy to learn, then Pencil2D Animation is an excellent place to start. With its minimal UI design, you can focus on what's really important, your animations.
This cross-platform tool is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, and FreeBSD. With support for raster and vector graphics, this beginner-friendly software is free and open-source, and is an excellent choice for hobbyists and beginners.