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Best Animation Software in 2022 (Free Included): 14 Apps

Best Animation Software in 2022...

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Best Animation Software in 2022 (Free Included): 14 Apps

Want to kick-start your animation efforts or find an alternative to your current tool? Here’s an overview of the best animation software for 2022 including free options.

Dominika Krukowska

Dominika Krukowska

Content Specialist

Apr 28, 2022

 

 

person working with animation tools

 

Do you remember your favorite childhood cartoon? Sure you do! Now—

 

Do you remember the plot? Obviously!

 

That’s because animation is one of the most powerful mediums to tell a story. And it can frame any story—

from personal projects to marketing narratives.

 

But you know that already. That’s what brought you here. The problem?

 

Picking the best animation software for your use case can be daunting.. Especially if you’re an up-and-coming animator who’s looking to tap into the world of motion graphics. 

 

That’s why I did all the research for you!

 

No matter if you’re looking for the best animation software for beginners or an alternative to the program you’re using at the moment, I’ve got you covered. In this article, I’ll walk you through the best animation software available—both free and paid options. 


 

The best animation software in 2022:

 

 

Best free animation software

 

1. Blender

 

The best free 3D animation software currently available. Impressive toolset for animating personal projects and designing video games. May be hard to grasp for beginners.

 

Available for: Windows, macOS, and Linux

 

blender ui example

Image credit: Blender

 

If you just came here for the bottom line, let me save you all the scrolling—

 

Blender is the best free 3D animation software available. There, I said it. Blender comes highly recommended by professionals. It’s an impressive open-source 3D animation software with a variety of tools for modeling, rigging, simulation, rendering, composition, motion tracking, and video editing. Thanks to an integrated game engine, you can even use it to develop video games!

 

Even though it’s free, Blender does not lack any functionality or power of its paid counterparts. Its robust animation toolset and customization features make it the perfect animation software for beginners, hobbyists, and professionals alike. First-time users may find its interface a little overwhelming, though. It can take some time to get the hang of it, but once you do, it’ll be worth it. 

 

Pros:

  • Free and open-source animation software.

  • Wide range of features and customization options.

 

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve.

  • Complicated user interface.
     

2. Powtoon

 

Cloud-based animation app for those with little to no technical skills. Perfect for creating video guides, online ads, or educational materials for students.

 

Available for: any Internet user

 

powtoon interface

Image credit: Powtoon

 

Powtoon is a cloud-based visual communication platform. Are you worried that you don’t have any technical or design skills? Not an issue! This tool will allow you to create engaging videos and presentations in minutes. While it’s aimed at beginners, it’s used by more advanced animators and global businesses too.

 

Powtoon is perfect for creating online advertisements, tutorials, or video guides. Teachers can also use it to put together infographic videos for their students. The free version allows you to use video editing templates, and add visual effects and audio tracks. You can also import image files, and create animations and GIFs. 

 

With the free version, you can create unlimited presentations and video projects up to 3 minutes long. Then, you can export them directly to YouTube, Facebook, or Vimeo. If you need more features, Powtoon has three paid packages starting from $19/month. 

 

Pros:

  • Easy to use.

  • Doesn’t require technical knowledge.

  • Professional-looking videos. 

  • Lots of features available.

 

Cons:

  • The free version has limitations.
     

3. Synfig Studio

 

Powerful open-source software for both simple and advanced animations. More suitable for experienced hobbyists or beginners who don’t mind the steep learning curve.

 

Available for: Windows, macOS, Linux

 

Synfig Studio interface

Image credit: Synfig Studio

 

Synfig Studio is the best 2D animation software available free of charge. If you’re looking for an alternative to frame-by-frame animation software, it might just be the tool for you. 

 

Synfig Studio is a vector-based software that allows you to create timeline-based animations. One of its key features is transforming vector graphics into other forms. There are also more than 50 layers for simple and advanced animation, including geometric, filters, gradients, and distortions. This allows users to build character puppets and advanced dynamic structures. As the tool is open-source, you can also submit your enhancements or upgrade suggestions.  

 

It’s got a steeper learning curve than other animation software for beginners. If you’re looking for a challenge or you’re a more experienced hobbyist, you will enjoy what it has to offer.

 

Pros:

  • Completely free to use.

  • Advanced animation features.

  • Multiple layers to choose from.

 

Cons:

  • Not easy to use for beginners.

 

4. Animaker

 

Free web-based animation software for universal use. The most beginner-friendly tool on the list with the option to pay for more advanced features.

 

Available for: any Internet user
 

Animaker UI

Image credit: Animaker

 

Animaker is a browser-based animation software solution intended for a variety of users—from beginner-level individuals to enterprise clients. It’s the most user-friendly free animation software on this list, mostly thanks to its drag-and-drop functionality and intuitive interface. Animaker has features for making videos in a variety of styles: 2D, 2.5D, infographics, handcraft, whiteboard, and typography.

 

There’s an extensive library of pre-designed templates and full HD support, so you can create professional-looking videos in no time. And if the free version is not enough for you, you can pay to access extra features.

 

Pros:

  • Drag-and-drop interface.

  • Easy to navigate.

  • Large template library.

  • Wide variety of infographics.

 

Cons:

  • The free version has limitations.

  • There are problems with video lagging, sometimes videos take long to export.
     

5. Pencil2D

 

Free open-source tool ideal for hand-drawn 2D animations. Suitable for beginner animators, as well as small businesses.

 

Available for: Windows, macOS, and Linux 

 

Pencil2D interface

Image credit: Pencil2D

 

If you’re into more traditional, hand-drawn animation, then Pencil2D is a great free animation software for you. It’s free for personal and commercial use, making it a perfect choice for beginners, hobbyists, and smaller businesses looking to promote their products. 

 

The software allows users to switch between raster and vector graphics. That, combined with its minimal UI design, makes Pencil2D easy to learn and straightforward to use. The tool has many handy animation options: a customizable toolbar, layer panel, distortion and light effects, various drawing tools, and export formats. Pencil2D is an open-source platform, so anyone can contribute to its capabilities. 

 

Pros:

  • Simplified interface.

  • Easy to learn for beginners.

  • Support for raster and vector graphics.

 

Cons:

  • Requires you to enter your preferences every time.

  • Not suitable for advanced animators.
     

6. OpenToonz 

 

Free animation software that delivers professional-level results. It has unique features that can be applied to commercial and non-commercial projects. Perfect for educators across all academic levels.

 

Available for: Windows, macOS
 

OpenToonz interface

Image credit: OpenToonz

 

The final free animation software is OpenToonz, customized and used in almost all of the works by Studio Ghibli. 

 

Whether you want to create simple cartoon animations or a professional animated film, it has all the features you need. These include: 

  • GTS, a scanning tool used in animation 

  • SDK, a plug-in effect for image processing

  • vector and bitmap drawing tools

  • frame-by-frame animation

  • animated special effect

  • motion tracking

…and many more!

 

It’s another open-source program that can be used free of charge both for commercial and non-commercial projects. Due to its powerful features and professional-level output, it’s also a great tool for educators. 

 

Pros:

  • Free for commercial and non-commercial use.

  • Robust features.

  • Includes a unique effects development kit.

  • Great for achieving professional results.

 

Cons:

  • Not as beginner-friendly as other options.

  • Users report a lot of bugs.


 

Best paid animation software

Okay, now that you’ve seen the freebies, it’s time to bring out the big guns. If you’re willing to spend some money, here are the tools that will give you the most bang for your buck.
 

1. Adobe Animate

 

The best paid animation tool for beginners that will help you take your graphics online in no time. Perfect for cartoon makers, game designers, or content creators.

 

Available for: Windows, macOS

 

Adobe Animate UI

Image credit: Adobe

 

If you’re looking for a lightweight tool to create interactive graphics and 2D animations for videos, TV shows, games, and the web, it doesn’t get much better than Adobe Animate

 

If you’re already familiar with other Adobe products, you’ll find the user interface extremely easy to navigate. It offers the ability to animate using various techniques, such as hand-drawn, frame-by-frame, or puppet animation. To make the animation process smoother, you can use pre-made characters, backgrounds, and motion assets. The software also comes with intuitive timeline controls, a virtual camera feature, vector brushes, and access to premium web fonts. 

 

If you’d like to take your graphics online, you can easily post them to sites like YouTube and Twitter. You can also export them to different platforms, such as HTML5 Canvas, Flash/Adobe AIR, or WebGL. Adobe Animate is best suited for beginners and hobbyists—especially those looking to make cartoons, design games, or YouTubers.

 

Pricing: It’s available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, starting from $20.99/month. 

 

Pros:

  • User-friendly.

  • Great for interactive animations.

  • Extensive export options.

 

Cons:

  • Only available as part of a subscription.

  • No mobile version.


 

2. Procreate

 

The best tool for those who create on the go. Advanced features and resources will help you transform any idea into the perfect artwork each time. Great for freelancers and professionals. 

 

Available for: iPad

 

Procreate UI

Image credit: Procreate

 

If you’re into animating on the go, you may want to consider Procreate for your projects. This iPad tool brings you back to the old pen-and-paper ways while delivering powerful animation results. 

 

Thanks to its Animation Assist functionality, you can quickly edit both individual frames and the animation as a whole. It comes with a range of basic features, such as instant playback, onion-skinning, and a visual timeline. There are a bunch of other options to help you perfect your artwork in no time. With QuickShape, you can turn shapes into perfect forms, while ColorDrop allows you to choose any color you want. You also get complete font control and the ability to paint with filters. 

 

Once you’re ready, you can share your project with the world in a variety of formats. No wonder Procreate is loved by all kinds of users, from beginners to hobbyists, freelancers, and professionals. 

 

Pricing: One-time payment of $9.99 from the Apple Store.

 

Pros:

  • Easy-to-use interface.

  • One-time payment, no subscription.

  • The ability to create on the go.

  • Powerful animation features.

 

Cons:

  • Only available on iPad.

  • No vector support.


 

3. Adobe Character Animator

 

The best tool for real-time animation, even for those with little to no animation experience. You can bring an animated version of yourself to life and swiftly share your projects with your co-workers, students, or fans!

 

Available for: Windows, macOS

 

Adobe Character Animator UI

Image credit: Adobe

 

Adobe Character Animator is the best software for those with little animation experience. It gives you all the tools to bring your 2D animations to life, so if you’ve ever wanted to turn yourself into an animated cartoon, look no further!

 

You can upload your character (or, as they call it, puppet) and use facial recognition, full-body motion capture, and your voice to animate it. Essentially, whatever you do or say, your character will mirror! If you use other Adobe software, such as Photoshop or Illustrator, you can create your character there and breathe life into it in Adobe Character Animator. You can even live-stream your animation process and share it with your followers or team members!

 

All this makes Adobe Character Animator a great animation software for those looking to grasp animation basics. Bloggers, educators, and more experienced professionals will find it useful too.

 

Pricing: Adobe Character Animator is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for $52.99/month.

 

Pros:

  • Integration with Photoshop and Illustrator.

  • Facial recognition and full-body motion capture.

  • You can animate in real-time.

 

Cons:

  • Limited action and physical movement functionality.

  • Rather pricey for a beginner.

  • Not available as a standalone product.

 

4. Autodesk Maya

 

Powerful software for creating realistic 3D characters and top-quality visual effects. The driving force behind some of your favorite Disney movies. 

 

Available for: Windows, macOS, Linux

 

Autodesk Maya UI

Image credit: Autodesk

 

Have you ever watched a Disney movie, wishing you could create similar-looking animations? Well, now you can! From Finding Nemo to Frozen, Autodesk Maya was used to create some of the movies we all know and love. 

 

If you’re a professional looking for a powerful 3D animation tool, Autodesk Maya has become the industry standard. From character creation to modeling, simulation, motion graphics, and applying visual effects, it can do it all. 

 

Its USP is one of the best rendering systems and physics engines available on the market. You can create highly realistic environments and apply impressive visual effects. Another unique feature of Autodesk Maya is XGen interactive grooming, which helps users create different styles of hair and fur. If you’re an advanced creator, you can also add your own scripts and plugins for a customized experience.

 

Pricing: If you’re an occasional user, you can buy tokens starting from $1,500 for 500 tokens (6 tokens/day). In the subscription model, the software costs $1,785 when billed annually.

 

Pros:

  • Perfect for professional animations.

  • One of the best rendering systems and physics engines.

  • Customization options.

 

Cons:

  • High annual cost.

  • More suited for professionals.
     

5. Toon Boom Harmony

 

The best tool for cartoon animation loved by leading animation studios. Provides support for different kinds of animation and seamless integration options.

 

Available for: Windows, macOS, Linux

 

Toon Boom Harmony interface

Image credit: Toon Boom

 

If you like watching cartoons, chances are Toon Boom Harmony is behind some of your favorites. This 2D animation software was used to create household names like SpongeBob Squarepants, Rick and Morty, or The Simpsons! 

 

You can create any kind of animation with this tool, from frame-by-frame to rig animation. And if you’re into more traditional hand-drawn animations, Toon Boom Harmony has got you covered! It also gives you the option to scan and edit your drawings. 

 

Even though Toon Boom Harmony is beginner-friendly, it doesn’t come with any pre-designed characters. So, you need to create all your animations from scratch. Once you get past the beginner level, you can play with the onion-skinning feature and various advanced lighting and shading tools. There are also multiple import and export features, so you can share your artworks with the world!

 

Pricing: There are three pricing levels starting from $25.50/month.

 

Pros:

  • Advanced drawing and animation toolset.

  • Seamless integration with other software.

  • Multiple import and export options.


Cons:

  • No pre-designed characters.

  • Moderate learning curve.
     

6. Cinema 4D

 

Great software for high-quality motion graphics that you can adjust to your needs. Good for beginners who don’t mind spending a bit more money.

 

Available for: Windows, macOS

 

Cinema4D interface

Image credit: Maxon

 

Cinema 4D is a versatile tool that can be used for animation, as well as modeling, simulation, rendering, and more. With this software, you can animate objects with a single click—literally! All it takes is a click next to any object to bring it to life. There’s also a timeline window that allows you to stay on top of your workflow and control all parameters.

 

Cinema 4D has an intuitive interface and customizable layout, so you can easily adjust the software to fit your animation needs—not the other way around. That, coupled with an extensive collection of animation tools and presets, makes this software suitable for anyone from beginners to professionals. 

 

Pricing: The annual plan starts at around $60 per month.

 

Pros:

  • Wide range of features and presets.

  • Easily customizable.

  • Straightforward to learn the basics.

 

Cons:

  • The pricing is not beginner-friendly.

  • The render engine needs improvement.
     

7. KeyShot

 

The best tool for creating photorealistic animations in a matter of seconds. More suited for designers and engineers, as it comes with a hefty price tag.

 

Available for: Windows, macOS

 

KeyShot UI

Image credit: KeyShot

 

If you’re looking to create photorealistic animations, you’ll like this next tool. KeyShot is an easy-to-use 3D rendering and animation software. The best part about it is that it allows you to create stunning visuals without a high-end graphics card. It comes with texture mapping, interactive labeling, material, drag-and-drop presets, and much more. This means you can produce high-quality results in seconds! It’s best suited for industrial designers, mechanical engineers, and marketing professionals. If you’re a beginner, you may find it hard to wrap your head around the interface. 

 

Pricing: $99/month with the possibility to buy add-ons.

 

Pros:

  • Unmatched realism.

  • Multiple import and export options.

  • Can be used to create VR experiences.

 

Cons:

  • Hard to grasp for beginners.

  • Steep pricing.
     

8. Cartoon Animator 4

 

Great 2D animation software for universal use. Includes various tools for real-time animation, but you need time and patience to get a grasp on it.

 

Available for: Windows, macOS
 

Cartoon Animator 4 interface

Image credit: Reallusion

 

Cartoon Animator 4 is a great animation software for all kinds of content creators. From newbies to professionals wanting to create high-quality animations, it has it all.

 

You can create 2D characters from scratch, use pre-designed characters, or import your own PSD character templates. Then, you can easily set any design into motion using one of the templates. Like Adobe’s Character Animator, it allows you to use your facial expressions and voice to animate characters. Other features include a bone rigging tool to create multi-angled 2D characters and a sprite-based facial system to transform 2D faces into 3D talking heads. 

 

This software gives you full control over your animations, but it’s got a steep learning curve. If you have some time to spare, I would certainly recommend it!

 

Pricing: After a free trial, the Pro edition costs $99 and the Pipeline edition costs $199. There are also special bundle discounts available.

 

Pros:

  • Supports many image and video formats.

  • A lot of advanced animation features.

  • Extensive library of character and motion templates.

  • Facial recognition and full-body motion capture.

 

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve.

  • No drawing tools available.
     

And that’s a wrap!

 

There you have it—an overview of the best animation software available! Whether you’re just getting started or looking to experiment with new techniques, I hope you found something valuable. Have fun playing around with different tools!
 

Dominika Krukowska

Hi, I'm Dominika, Content Specialist at Storydoc. As a creative professional with experience in fashion, I'm here to show you how to amplify your brand message through the power of storytelling and eye-catching visuals.