If you want to try out some free animation software before splurging on paid plans, you’re in luck. Free animation software is a viable choice for professional animators, beginners, hobbyists, and indie studios who work on tighter budgets. Beloved animation studios like Studio Ghibli use free animation tools to produce their major works, so why can’t you?
Below, we’ll highlight 12 of the best free animation software. These tools are not just glorified video editors or gif-makers, but software that will actually allow you to create animations from the ground up. They can also be used completely for free, and not just as part of a limited-time free trial.
Animaker is a video-making platform that allows users to make both live-action videos and animated videos. Some of its key features include specialized tools for creating video infographics, 2D animations, and collaborative animated shorts.
This is a drag-and-drop video maker for personal, educational, and professional use. The character animation is extremely simple, but will be poorly suited to more advanced original creative projects. Users can use an impressive array of stock footage, pre-built characters, and a host of quality of life tools.
The latter includes easy resizing for popular social media platforms, and 4k support. This cloud-based tool to spice up marketing campaigns from small businesses, presentations for students, and other basic use-cases.
Users new to animation or for whom animation is only a small part of their job description. Animaker is designed to be easy-to-use for both seasoned animators and those just looking to make exciting content for their business.
#2 Autodesk Maya
Autodesk products are considered the industry standard for animation. For students, educators, and educational institutions, Autodesk Maya, a 3D animation, motion graphics, and VFX software, is available for free. Autodesk Maya is great for computer animation, character modeling, and 3D renders.
This is professional quality software, you have almost certainly seen work created using it. This 2015 article details how many of the most popular movies of the late 90s and 2000s were made with this tool. Everything from Star Wars to Marvel movies, even Planet of the Apes. The software has versions for Windows and MacOS.
The high-quality animation program comes with a steep learning curve and nearly endless skill ceilings. Part of the reason for Autodesk making this and 3DS Max free to students is to help them learn the tools that will hopefully end up in their professional lives. The user interface will be familiar to Autodesk fans, and is similar to many comparable products of this tier.
Animation students, art school educators, and educational institutions looking to arm their students with the skills to prepare them for the professional world of animation. Obviously well suited to the professionals in the animation industry as well.
#3 Autodesk 3DS Max
Autodesk 3DS Max puts a stronger focus on 3D modeling and rendering than Autodesk Maya. It’s also available for free to students, educators, and educational institutions. It is designed to expedite 3D content creation.
Animation students who are particularly interested in working on video games. Autodesk 3DS Max features great support of 3D modeling and rendering compared to other tools on this list.
Blender is a completely free-to-use, open-source 3D animation platform. It can be used for 3D modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, motion tracking, and video editing. Users can even create 2D animations using this software.
This list of what Blender can do is inspiring. Often paired with Unity, users can make everything from hyper-realistic simulations and special effects to video game environments, and much more. Both sculpting and dimensional creation methods are supported in this program. The community is expansive and fantastic, and you will find hundreds of hours of tutorials for everything this tool offers. This is community-driven, open-source software at its best
Professional animators working at indie studios, or starting their own studio. Good for those looking to be a part of something bigger in regards to animation software as Blender allows for community-driven and community-designed updates.
If you really aren’t looking to commit to downloading free animation software, check out Clara.io—a browser-based 3D modeling tool. With Clara.io you can access a library of 3D models to use in your own animations, as well as create your own. Clara.io also supports 3D rendering within its browser-based app.
Where Blender and the Autodesk products offer a seemingly never-ending wealth of features, Clara.io is far more accessible. This does not mean this is a bare-bone system. This is a cross-platform, intuitive way to get user-friendly modeling without sacrificing access to more advanced file formats. In summary, if you want to work with the best, but do not have the hardware or money for expensive software, this is an alternative.
Animators looking to try their hand at 3D animation, but don’t want to commit to downloading due to hardware constraints.
#6 Daz Studio
Daz Studio is 3D modeling software that also allows users to create 3D scenes and renders. It can be used to create still images as well as videos. It comes with built-in 3D figure content for users to use as-is or customize to their liking. These ready-made assets are a huge selling point.
The educational materials are strong, though not free. These can serve as an introduction to topics such as the history of vector graphics and frame animation to more software-specific needs.
Character artists focusing on 3D modeling. Video game character artists will particularly enjoy Daz Studio’s 3D character modeling and motion capture capabilities.
K-3D is an open-source animation platform that supports 3D modeling. It allows users to create procedural modeling and animations and provides users with interactive tutorials to help you quickly understand its features. It also supports scripting using Python or its proprietary K3DScript engine, but can integrate with other scripting languages.
Animators looking for more flexibility with their free animation software. K-3D offers standout adaptability with different coding languages, and is a great option for animators looking to experiment or test ideas within computer animation.
OpenToonz and Toonz are the animation software choice of Studio Ghibli, one of the world’s most beloved animation studios, and is, therefore, a big draw for those interested in 2D animation. OpenToonz can be used for all steps of the animation process, and given that this tool is open-source, it can be modified to suit your team’s specific needs.
Indie animation studios focused on 2D animation. Animators looking to grow and expand upon their free animation software’s features and capabilities with community support will also find OpenToonz’ active help forum useful.
As its name suggests, Pencil2D is animation software geared towards 2D animations, specifically those that are hand-drawn. It allows hand-drawn artists to streamline their animation process by providing tools that allow them to switch between raster and vector workflows.
Cartoonists with unique art styles, and traditional artists looking to get into animation. Pencil2D focuses on cartooning specifically, and it was designed to work well with hand-drawn sketches versus stricter 3D modeling.
Powtoon allows users to create animated presentations and animated videos using its software. Its key features is its WYSIWYG animation editor, which allows you to utilize its database of images and vectors to create animations. Users can also bring in their own images and animations to use within its platform. It comes with several templates depending on users needs such as educational videos or informative marketing plans.
Professionals with no experience in animation. Great for anyone looking to experiment with their presentation styles, or trying to make more engaging content for their brand.
Rive is a 3D animation software platform that is part of the Open Design movement, so it is available completely for free. What makes Rive unique is that its tools are interactive in design, allowing artists to make changes to their animations and 3D models in real-time.
Character artists and 3D modelers who are not interested in dealing with code. Rive is also a great option for animators looking to speed up their animation processes.
#12 Synfig Studio
Our final tool is another 2D animation platform called Synfig Studio. It is one of the more traditional open-source 2D animation software tools on the market, given that it puts emphasis on vectors and bitmap images. However, it provides animators with a front-end and back-end tool for creating animations first, and then rendering later.
Indie animation studios that will need to do both front-end and back-end work on their projects. Good for 2D animators looking to save time in regards to tweening.
Looking beyond free animation software
While the free animation software listed above are commonly used professionally, you may still want to branch out into paid alternatives once you feel you’ve outgrown them. This will definitely be applicable to users who start as students using Autodesk products and want to continue to use them in their professional careers.
Animation software listings on TrustRadius are a great starting point for professional animators looking to take their team to the next level. If you have used any of the tools featured on the site, leave a review to help other animators find what will work best for them and their teams.
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