Best Animation Software

Which Animation Software To Choose As A Beginner?

Animation is everywhere, right?

Well, have you wondered how do digital artists create all those magic using computers? 


What kind of software do digital artists use to make an animation video?

Well, computer animation is fairly a complex, and it requires a lot of human resources and skills to develop a quality video which entertains the mass. 

Renowned studios like Pixar and Disney have a whole team dedicated to one special task (for example – modeling). That might give you an idea of how complex an animation process can be, especially to make the animation for feature films like “Toystory” or “Incredibles”

Nevertheless, there’s always a place to start.

And, you may always choose to generalize and learn about all the aspects of animation (and be a concept artist or something) 

Next point is that, specialization does not mean you do not ever try the software out of your forte.

It helps (and pays) to learn as much software about the industry you’re in.

2D vs 3D Animation

Before listing out  the software, let’s know the basics about the 2D and 3D.

The kind of software that you choose to learn depends on the final kind of animation you want to build – 2D or 3D.

2D –  Everything lies in the same plane.

3D –  Almost resembles the real world – but shown on the 2D screen.

As a viewer, you can easily differentiate between a 2D creation and a 3D one. That does not mean, one is better over the others. Which one is better – is usually determined by the project goals and outcomes.

2D Animation Software (List)

Here is a list of few 2D animation software.

After Effects

Windows / Mac        Price: $20.99 per month (Subscription)  

After Effects is an industry standard software for 2D motion graphics videos. 

Mainly, it’s for digital composition (often used as a complementary to video editing software like Premiere pro)

Almost all the motion graphics video (2D) you see on youtube is made using this software.

After Effects is used for VFX (visual effects) purpose as well. Although the major VFX studios would opt to use software like Nuke, After Effects can be an option in case we want it.

The animation is made using the help of keyframes, which means you need to specify a point in timeline, when you want something to change or stop changing.

Cool, right?

After all, it’s not necessary to change everything frame by frame. 

Most professionals work frame by frame for very high quality work, though. Nonetheless, you can get up and running just playing with few keyframes.

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Toon Boom Harmony 

Windows / Mac         Price: Starting from $23 per month (subscription)

Most Studio’s preference – Toon Boom Harmony is the most popular tool to make cartoon style animation.

From 2D character creation to animation, Toon Boom is really a powerful 2D animation software. However, for character building, most professionals in the industry would recommend using software like Adobe Illustrator.

Toon Boom Harmony would be an ideal option to use for animation shows for television.

The software comes in 3 different versions – essentials, advanced and premium. All these offer similar workflow, with the premium version being fully feature-rich version.

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3D Animation Software (List)

3D work is really vast. And, animation is just a tip of the iceberg – there are other branches of 3D like modeling, rigging, texturing, and so on.

Most of the 3D animation tools offer functionalities for modeling, texturing, etc. Although, the professionals in the industry will be using 1 software specialized to do that particular task.

Here are few animation software for 3D related works:

Autodesk Maya 

Windows / Mac          Price: $1505 per year (subscription)

Autodesk Maya is an industry standard software for 3D Animation.

And, it’s a really powerful software. Almost everything about 3D can be done using this software 

Once you get to know how does the software work (it’s interface – how everything is organized), you’ll start to appreciate everything about Maya.

However, it does not have a beginner friendly user interface. And, it might take some time to learn about the interface and how to work in Maya specifically. But, that’s worth the investment.

Once you learn Maya, you can learn almost every other 3D software. the other advantage you have using Maya is that it is a reputed software in the industry.

In case you are applying for 3D job, you will have an edge when Maya is within your skillset. 

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Windows / Mac / Linux            Price: FREE

Blender is free and open source 3D computer graphics software.

Blender can do almost anything.

Quite surprising for a free tool, Blender can be used for modeling, rigging, or even video editing. Almost every 3D related works can be accomplished using blender.

Blender has come a long way to be a reputed software. Quite some years ago, Blender was regarded as a basic tool. Today, almost studios have adapted to use Blender as their main tool.

Currently, 2.79 is the stable version. 

A lot of expectations has been set for 2.8 version of blender, which is expected to be released later in 2018 (or early 2019)

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Rajit Chaulagain

Rajit Chaulagain (Chief Executive Officer @ Swopna Digital) writes about SEO, Website Development, Animation, VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality), and many other exciting fields.

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