When looking for the best animation software, the number of software choices out there can feel overwhelming.
Especially for up-and-coming animators who want the best tools.
So, where do you even start?
For the most part, the best animation software is based entirely on the features it comes with and the type of animation you hope to work on, i.e. 2D animation or 3D.
Other than that, other factors come into play, like budget, the preferred scope, and even your general art style.
If you’re relatively experienced, you’ll likely have a fair idea of what you’re looking for, but regardless, in this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to pick the best animation software for you.
The Best Animation Software in 2023 (Free and Paid)
- Adobe Animate — Best animation software overall (Editor’s Choice) – Get a 65% discount or a Free 7 Day Trial
- Canva Animator — The best free, easy-to-use web-based animation software, perfect for the basics & beginners! (Editor’s Choice)
- Mango Animate — Best digital animation software provider
- Autodesk Maya — Best 3D animation software
- Adobe Character Animator — Best animation software for character animation – Get 65% discount or a Free 7 Day Trial
- Blender — Best free animation software (great for 3D)
- Moho Pro — Best 2D animation software for productions
- Houdini — Best industry-standard animation software
- Cinema 4D — One of the best all-around animation tools
- Pencil 2D — Best frame-by-frame software for 2D animation
- CelAction 2D — A powerful software for 2D animation
- Cartoon Animator 4 — One of the best software for cartoon animation
- Visme — The best animation software for basic infographics
- Crello — The best animator for social media graphics
You may also be interested in our features on the:
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- The best software for AR & VR design
- Best video editing software
What is the Best Animation Software overall?
When it comes to the best software for animation, we’ve chosen Adobe Animate as our top pick.
This impressive animation program allows users to create animation for websites, tv shows, and video games and is great for cross-platform work as well.
And although there is a lot more high-end 3D animation software on the market, we’ve picked Adobe Animate for its affordable price point. If interested in trying it out for free, you should check out our ‘Download Adobe Animate for free‘ guide.
However, for those that are curious, we have a comparison table of some other great software listed below.
Animation Software Comparison Guide
|Adobe Animate||Windows, macOS||YES||Free 7-Day Trial / US $19.99/mo|
|Canva||Windows, macOS, Linux||YES||Free 30 Day Trial / US $119/year(Pro) / US $149(for teams)|
|Mango Animate||Windows 11/10/8/7/Vista/XP||NO||Free Trial / US $49/lifetime (Professional) / US $199/lifetime (Enterprise)|
|Maya||Windows, macOS, Linux||YES||Free 30-Day Trial / US $215/mo|
|Adobe Character Animator||Windows, macOS||YES||Free 7-Day Trial / US $52.999/mo
(comes with 20+ other adobe applications)
|Blender||Windows, macOS, Linux||YES||Free|
|Moho Pro||Windows, macOS||YES||US $399|
|Houdini||Windows, macOS, Linux||YES||Free 30-Day Trial / US $1,995 annually|
|Cinema 4D||Windows, macOS, Linux||YES||CAD $79.91|
|Pencil 2D||Windows, macOS, Linux||NO||Free|
|CelAction 2D||Windows||NO||US $71|
|Cartoon Animator 4||Windows||YES||US $159|
|Visme||Windows, Linus, macOS (Operates Online)||YES||US $29.00 per user/year|
|Crello||Windows, macOS||NO||US $10/month|
Best Animation Software Buying Guide
Quite an important factor while choosing animation software, the specification of your system plays a vital role in indicating what kind of software would suit you best. This depends entirely on your graphics card, RAM, processor, and hard disk space.
For most users, a RAM of 16GB is what we would recommend for smooth functioning along with a 4GB graphics card. Other than this, it’s important to pick one that’s compatible with your operating system.
When it comes to features, it depends entirely on the type of animation you’re opting for. For the most part, 3D animation relies more on sculpting, lighting, textures, and the type of material you’re using.
2D animation, however, is a lot less demanding and can make use of a skeleton or bone rig. In some cases, they still use the more old-fashioned frame-by-frame animation.
Generally speaking, though, you’ll know what your specific niche is over time. That said, a good feature to look for would be a component library.
When it comes to 2D animation software, a lot of it comes down to how much you are willing to spend. For more of the higher-end, film industry-standard software, you’ll likely have to spend more than 500 dollars a year, but for students, a lot of these come with educational versions, which are free or more affordable.
If you’re not willing to spend a lot, however, there are still quite a few solid options out there that are capable of powerful 2D and 3D animation systems.
14 Best Animation Software in 2023
1. Adobe Animate (Editor’s Choice)
Best animation software overall
Platform: Windows, macOS
Pricing: Free 7-Day Trial / US $19.99/mo
When it comes to vector-based animation software that is great for beginners yet convenient for cross-platform projects, Adobe Animate is the best animation software to pick. This program has raster support, audio-video embedding, rich text, and even action 3.0 scripting.
Preceded by Adobe Flash, which is an application no longer available, Animate is capable of creating animations for video games, television shows, websites, applications, and several other animation platforms.
Animate has a wide range of export formats, like SVG, HTML5, SWF, Adobe Air, and WEBGL, and can also be extended to Android, Windows, macOS, and iOS operating systems.
Adobe Animate is quite affordable at only $20.99 a month, but it can also be purchased along with the Adobe CC ‘All Apps’ pack, which has 20+ applications (including Photoshop and Illustrator) at only $52.99.
Overall, given the price range and functionality, we’ve picked Adobe Animate as the best animation software overall.
|➕ Animate is robust and comes with a number of tools||➖ Not created for 3D animation|
|➕ Included in the Adobe All Apps plan||➖ Exporting animated SVG files can be an issue at times|
|➕ Convenient to use on cross-platform projects|
|➕ Available at a reasonable price|
|➕ Works well along with other Adobe Apps|
2. Canva Animator (Editor’s Choice)
Best free, easy-to-use web-based animation software
Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux
Pricing: Free 30-Day Trial / US $119/year(Pro) / US $149(for teams)
If you are a beginner looking for easy-to-use animation software, then you can choose to work on Canva. This animation tool is free to download and easy to use on phones, PC, tablets, and laptops. You can create any type of video, export, schedule, and publish it anywhere.
Features of Canva Animator:
- Magic Resize: With Canva, you can magically animate your designs with just one click. You can instantly add animation to social media posts, presentations, or anywhere else you need to make a stunning visual impression. All you have to do is click once to automate and then download it as a GIF or video.
- Add Text, Transitions, Graphic Elements, and More: Get creative by adding more graphic elements and colorful texts to your movie or video as add-ons.
- Music and Sound Effects: Music and voiceovers look more impressive when it comes to making videos so you can top them off with some sound effects to finish them.
Canva is 100% free however they do offer a Pro plan which gives you access to premium content & features. Get 30 Days Free of Canva Pro.
|➕ Great animation tools for beginners and pros.||➖ Quality can become low while downloading the video.|
|➕ Creating designs for social media.|
|➕ Variety of templates, graphics, and image options.|
Best digital animation software provider
Platform: Windows 11/10/8/7/Vista/XP
Pricing: Free Trial / US $49/lifetime (Professional) / US $199/lifetime (Enterprise)
Mango Animate is well-known for providing digital animation software for global users to make explainer videos, promo videos, training videos, whiteboard videos, character videos, presentation videos, etc.
Features of Mango AM Animation Software:
- Various & High-level Assets: Mango AM provides users with libraries of animation templates, scenes, and characters to make stunning animation videos. You can not only use hundreds of professionally-designed images, SVGs, animation widgets, effects, SWFs, symbols, shapes, and charts offered but also upload your own assets to enrich your animation videos.
- Professionally-made Dynamic Roles: To meet the multiple needs of diverse industries, Mango AM’s built-in over 60 types of roles cover various industries, including teachers, businessmen, doctors, waiters, students, police, tour guides, workers, customers, etc.
- Customizable Characters: Mango AM empowers users to upload an image to the role list as a new customized role, click it to add motions, and customize motion, emotion, body, etc., of it to match animation video ideas, crafting engaging, unique animation videos.
- Text to Speech: Mango AM users will enjoy high-quality text-to-speech support for up to 200,000 characters. Use this feature to vividly explain key points, type subtitles or subtitles for emphasis, and leave a lasting impression on your audience.
- High-definition Video Sharing & Export: Easily publish your animation videos online or share videos with a global audience via popular social platforms using Mango AM. Also, it’s simple to export animation videos offline in video or GIF format as Mango AM supports 4K video export.
Mango AM is currently available for PCs and is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10, and 11, and it offers two paid options Professional and Enterprise which give you access to Pro & Ent features.
|➕ Powerful multi-track timeline to customize animation effects and duration with ease.||➖ The free version has limited features.|
|➕ Intuitive scene transition effects help transfer scenes from one to another naturally.|
|➕ Infinite canvas for animation video creation.|
Best 3D animation software
Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux
Pricing: Free 30-Day Trial / US $215/mo
Used to create video games, movies, television shows, and visual effects, Maya is a professional animation and 3D rendition software that meets the industry’s highest standards.
We observed that Maya uses Node graph architecture that can be used to customize individual elements on objects and in scenes, which ensures versatility in animation.
Used in several popular films, like Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, and Ice Age, Maya is capable of powerful and detail-oriented animation.
Although, in our experience, Maya comes with a bit of a learning curve, this Autodesk animation software is best for anyone looking to get started on animation and VFX design.
Maya is expensive when compared to the alternatives in the industry, but Maya is the best high-end software in the industry.
|➕ Outstanding for 3D animation and modeling||➖ Quite expensive|
|➕ Used by the best animation studios||➖ Has a learning curve|
|➕ Convenient for adding scripts and plugins|
|➕ Easy to work and collaborate with other designers|
Best animation software for character animation
Platform: Windows, macOS
Pricing: Free 7-Day Trial / US $52.999/mo
When it comes to character design and animation, Adobe Character Animator is one of the best animation software in terms of features. To operate Character Animator you import layered files onto puppets, which are used for animation through applied behavior or virtual cues.
Adobe Character Animator has also been updated to make use of body tracking software and transcript-based lip-sync to make the animation process easier and in sync with the voice actor.
With Adobe Animator you can also rig the characters by using the puppet panel, which lets users animate the characters with behavior using prompts and use your webcam for face tracking.
Adobe Character Animator is available with the Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps package, which costs users around $52.99.
That said, the pack will also include Adobe Animate, Photoshop, and Illustrator along with 20+ other applications. That said, Adobe Character Animator is likely the most suitable software for animating characters.
|➕ An impressive software for character animation||➖ Can only be used on layered files and templates imported|
|➕ Makes use of body and face tracking features||➖ Does not allow for custom resolution|
|➕ Comes with free character templates — making things easier|
Best free animation software
Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux
When it comes to animation for beginners, Blender is an impressive 3D modeling and animation software to work with.
Most likely the best free animation software out there, Blender is capable of impressive 3D modeling, texturing, raster graphics editing, animating, soft body simulation, composting, and even motion graphics.
Blender is a powerful open-source tool capable of delivering impressive results to users familiar with it.
When it comes to animation, Blender makes use of tools like shape animations, vertex weighting, armature, and inverse kinematics, along with so many others to allow intricate, detail-oriented animation.
Blender is also a great software for beginners to start with due to it being available free of charge and has an easy-to-navigate user interface.
That said, if you’re looking to get started on 3D rendering or animation on a limited budget, Blender is a great animation software to work with.
|➕ Available free of cost||➖ Has a complex user interface|
|➕ Capable of robust and impressive animation and design||➖ Comes with a learning curve|
|➕ Has a wide range of features for an open-source software|
7. Moho Pro
Best 2D animation software for productions
Platform: Windows, macOS
Pricing: US $399
In our expert opinion, Moho Pro is one of the few animation software with a great combination of art tools and animation technology. With a fast and intuitive rigging system, Moho Pro is likely the best 2D animation software.
This powerful animation tool has helped create animation in productions that have gone on to win golden globes. Although it does have a confusing UI, in our experience, this software can help create smooth and complex animation.
This software’s rigging system, along with the smart bones feature, ensures that characters have natural facial expressions and actions. Other than this, Moho Pro comes with an extensive library that can be used for animation assets.
So if you’re looking into animation software, we’d strongly recommend Moho Pro for appealing 2D animation.
|➕ Outstanding for 2D animation||➖ Has a confusing user interface|
|➕ Rigging and smart bones feature is one of the best in the industry for animation|
|➕ Comes with an extensive library of assets|
Best industry-standard animation software
Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux
Pricing: Free 30-Day Trial / US $1,995 annually
Created by a Toronto-based company, SideFX, Houdini is a 3D animation software that’s famous for being used in animation productions like Zootopia, Frozen, and Rio, along with many others.
Houdini allows users to model and render 3D animation, as well as create particles, dynamics, and lighting in their visual projects.
Well-known in the industry, Houdini has been used by major Hollywood animation studios, like Walt Disney Animation Studios, Dreamworks, and Pixar.
This impressive motion graphics software is remarkably well known for its ability to render intrinsic details, like complex reflections and particles.
That said, this software is recommended for only those who are serious — as Houdini costs $1995 annually for commercial purposes. Although it does come with a heavy price tag, Houdini is undoubtedly the best premium animation software on the market now, besides Maya.
|➕ Oustanding for 3D animation — used by major animation studios like Disney and Pixar||➖ Quite expensive|
|➕ An impressive and advanced shader system||➖ Comes with a learning curve|
|➕ Great for creating particles, dynamics, and lighting in visual projects|
9. Cinema 4D
Best all-around animation tools
Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux
Pricing: CAD $79.91
Cinema 4D is a versatile 3D modeling and animation software created by Maxon, a German company.
Cinema 4D is capable of managing workflow in one location, meaning if you’re creating a video that requires motion graphics, animation, and any VFX Cinema 4D is a one-stop shop for promotional videos, movies, and games development.
This remarkable software comes with Mograph, which ensures designers can make complex sequences and animations a whole lot easier than with traditional animation software.
For newbies, Cinema 4D is surprisingly easy to pick up and does not have as much of a learning curve when compared to some of the various animation software out there.
The software costs around $99.91 per month and is powerful and practical as it allows users many features in one single multi-purpose software.
|➕ Amazing for complex animation sequences||➖ Render windows are difficult to navigate|
|➕ Great for using hotkeys||➖ Modeling workflow can be improved on|
|➕ An easier learning curve when compared to most animation software|
10. Pencil 2D
Best frame-by-frame software for 2D animation
Platform: Windows, macOS, Linux
When it comes to the best free-to-use 2D animation software, Pencil 2D could be the one.
Originally created by Patrick Corrieri and Pascal Naidon in 2005, this software can be used for making drawings, using the more old-fashioned and traditional medium of drawings.
This GNU software is practical and best suited for beginners looking to get acquainted with the world of animation. However, this software does come with versatile file export formats, including AVI, MP4, WebM, GIF, or APNG.
Capable of running on all operating systems (Windows, Linux, and Mac OS), this software is light and easy to run on most systems.
That said, the main drawback of pencil2d animation software is the fact that frame-by-frame animation takes a while. Other than this, this animation software is good for all things 2D.
|➕ Available free of cost||➖ Creating separate layers needs to be done regularly to ensure fluid motion|
|➕ Easy for newbies to pick up||➖ Has limited funcionality|
|➕ Can run on all major operating systems|
11. CelAction 2D
A powerful software for 2D animation
Pricing: US $71
A powerful 2D animation software, CelAction 2D, has been used by several commercially successful and award-winning productions. In our experience, the software bitmaps and vectors are rigged onto a skeleton frame so the animation can be altered and reused without much effort.
We’ve found that CelAnimation gives users the quality of hand-drawn animation without difficulty. You can also design textures and models for your animation and import assets from other third-party applications.
What makes CelAction great is that, in the case of bigger projects, work can be divided so that designers who are skilled in drawing can handle the modeling process while those with more animation-centric can work on the stop motion and movement.
This software costs around $759 for a perpetual professional license.
|➕ Great for hand-drawn 2D animation||➖ A bit pricey|
|➕ Suitable for collaboration with other designers||➖ Does not have cross-platform functionality|
|➕ Animation can be altered and reused easily|
Best software for cartoon animation
Pricing: US $159
Great for creating anything animated in 2D, be it a full movie or a short ad, Cartoon Animator is one of the best 2D animation software in its price range. Created by Realallusion, Cartoon Animator has an outstanding user interface and allows easily customizable animation.
Cartoon Animator 4 comes with a variety of different features like 3D Head creation, motion retargeting, keyframe animation, smart inverse kinematics, and bone rigging systems for more natural and fluid animation.
This software comes with a library of pre-designed free animated characters and animations to choose from, but it can also create customized designs and animations within a reasonable amount of time.
Cartoon Animator comes with a learning curve, which isn’t much of a hassle considering the software’s features. This software comes priced at $159 but this does not include add-ons.
|➕ Comes with an extensive library of pre-designed characters||➖ Has a bit of a learning curve|
|➕ Rigging is relatively easy|
|➕ Has a wide range of features for fluid animation|
Best animation software for basic infographics
Platform: Windows, Linus, macOS (Operates Online)
Pricing: US $29.00 per user/year
Although not the most conventional software for animation software, Visme is a program that helps users create visual content, like infographics, edit images, make data visualizations, stream presentations, and, yes, even create animations.
Although positioned as an animation software at times, Visme is only capable of minimalistic animation to visuals. What does this mean? It means you can create more engaging data visualization, animated icons, and graphics to include on your video presentations, slideshows, and websites.
Visme is not the best go-to software for longer, more traditional forms of animation, so if you’re looking for a versatile yet easy-to-learn program to create custom animations and graphics for your video presentations or website, Visme is a great option to pick.
|➕ Easy and straightforward to use||➖ Very limited for any non-corporate animation|
|➕ Great for infographics||➖ Animation is limited to icon and presentation graphics|
|➕ Covers most corporate and website visual design requirements|
Best animator for social media graphics
Platform: Windows, macOS
Pricing: US $10/month
Are you searching for software that helps you create motion graphics and eye-catching posts, and stories for social media? Crello is the best suitable animation software for your requirements. It comes with 8,000+ predesigned animations, templates, objects, elements, and backgrounds.
This software helps you create animations that include moving objects, ads, logos, and banners.
These preloaded design elements help you create sharable animations.
This platform is beginner-friendly and possesses a platform that makes it easy to resize, trim, and edit videos which lets you not worry about any additional extra work. It also includes effects like zoom-in, fly-in, and fade-in.
This animation software is best for freelancers and marketers who focus more on social media. The software is free to start with and allows you to download up to five designs. The pro plan costs $7.99/month and allows for unlimited projects and royalty-free downloads.
|➕ It comes with 8,000+ resources||➖ The free version is limited|
|➕ It is beginner-friendly|
|➕ It contains a mobile app to create designs|
What Makes Animation Software Significant for Use?
The essential features of top-quality animation software to consider are as follows:
The best software has preloaded templates that include libraries of characters, templates, backgrounds, graphics, and many more to speed up the creative and designing process. It will also help you if you are new to animation.
Animation software should possess all the necessary tools for the drawing and designing process. These tools include paintbrushes and blending tools, which help give life to your creations. You must also use these tools to optimize, import, and export brushes which are helpful for creating ultra-specific designs
The software includes audio and video editing platforms that enable you to edit directly from the software, which decreases your load of exporting it to other platforms for editing.
The software should have import and export features to help import files in a specific format. It also helps you export in whichever format you want, depending on your saving and sharing requirements.
This animation software is compatible with almost all devices. Among the many options available, there are some that have mobile apps for on-the-go editing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best animation software for Hollywood standard 3D animation?
When it comes to 3D modeling software that meets Hollywood’s standards, Houdini and Maya are likely the best software on the list for animation.
What is the best 2D animation software?
When it comes to budget and features, the best 3D software on the list is easily Adobe Animate. That said, for higher functionality and more advanced features, Moho Pro is a great 2D animation software to work with.
What is skeleton or bone rigging in animation?
In animation, skeleton, or bone rigging, refers to a feature that allows animators to draft a humanoid skeleton which they can use to animate 3D actions, which can be customized or even come pre-made with the software. Bone rigging in animation can save a lot of time in the creation process.
Best Animation Software Summary
Animation can be tricky, especially if you are a newbie looking to get into it. However, it is relatively simple once you know what to look for based on your style and budget.
While there are several animation software, a select few can completely cater to your requirements. Hence, we created a list comprising various choices for different kinds of artists’ needs. Now that we’ve gone through them, you may now have a better idea of which animation software will fit you best.
Do you agree with this list? Which software do you feel was left out? Let us know below!
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