Animation has come a long way since the days of "Steamboat Willie," developing into a precise and scientific art.
Just look at how Pixar has changed the animation game: With 1998’s “Toy Story,” the studio introduced the world to the first-ever computer-animated feature-length film. At the time, it was revolutionary. Before animation software, cartoons were created by hand, drawing or inking thousands of cells against various backgrounds in rapid sequence. Computer animation is cheaper, faster and allows animators for more flexibility.
However, watching “Toy Story” back more than 20 years later, its animation style looks rudimentary. Today, computer animation has become the norm and has vastly improved since the release of “Toy Story.” The improvement is thanks to animation software. Each hair on a character’s head is painstakingly animated. The correct shadowing is meticulously added in each scene to make it as realistic as possible. Animators study movement to ensure their characters are anatomically correct.
What’s more, with the advancement of animation software, those outside the entertainment industry can utilize the technology as well. Marketing teams, product teams and more leverage animation solutions to enhance their websites and content. An animated video is a great supplement for a blog or advertisement; the inclusion of animated content can bring a company’s brand to a whole new level.
Take Samsung, who used animation to promote their initiative for an increased use of their technology in schools. Or Johnson & Johnson, who used animation to demonstrate how to use their bubble baby bath and wash in an engaging format.
Whether you are an expert animator or looking for animation software for beginners, there are plenty of solutions available. Best of all is that you don’t necessarily have to pay to hone your animation skills. These free animation tools will help you improve your craft.
The list we’ve outlined here includes any animation solution with an available free offering. It should be noted that this does not include products that are only free on a temporary basis, such as limited trial versions for new users. They may only support one user or one project, but they’re truly free offerings. Scaling, however, will often require full investments.
These products alone have well over 246 validated user reviews on G2 Crowd as of June 13, 2019, and only represent a small portion of the 45-plus animation software offerings listed on our platform. Whenever possible, products are ranked by user satisfaction score.
Image courtesy of KeyShot
KeyShot is a fast and user-friendly 3D rendering software with animation capabilities. This tool allows users to go from a simple model to a stunning visual in minutes. KeyShot is a completely free animation software.
KeyShot has a number of features to support animation and 3D rendering, including but not limited to:
“It's fast and most of the results come [out] pretty good. And today they can do animation and VR in KeyShot, [which] makes the software even more powerful than ever.”
— Keyshot review by a user in higher education
“The animation configuration could be easier and also give more options of possible movements.”
— Keyshot review by Julia C.
“Try it, it is very easy. I do like the animation tool, which you can [use to] make an animation rendering very easy and quick.”
— Keyshot review by Chen W.
Image courtesy of K-3D
K-3D is an animation and 3D modeling software. It combines plugins with a visualization pipeline architecture to make it a powerful and flexible tool for artists. This free animation software allows users to create unique combinations in their work.
K-3D offers a number of features to make an artist’s work as easy as possible:
“This is the tool with the features, speed and stability for you.”
— K-3D review by a user in graphic design
The same K-3D reviewer said, “Great program all around, only complaint, just wish it had some sort of quick getting started guide, considering that's my only complaint, always have this installed on my comp.”
Image courtesy of PowToon
This free animation software is intended for making short videos and presentations. Users can upload their own content or choose from PowToon’s library of royalty-free content. Animators can customize the existing templates to ensure they fit their needs.
PowToon offers paid options, but its free plan offers the following features:
“I think that what I mostly like is that creating an animation with PowToon is ridiculously easy. First, I get to pick out one from many templates. After a template is selected, I like that it’s even easier to add moving characters to every slide I have for the animation.”
— PowToon review by Esmeralda D.
“I don’t really like that PowToon characters are really simplistic; if they were a bit more complex, this would also be a great tool for making quality animations.”
— PowToon review by Alicia Sarah V.
“This tool provides a lots of attractive templates, which helps users to design their slides and making their presentation better. So, this tool helps me a lot and I recommend this tool for people who usually deal with presentations.”
— PowToon review by Raj M.
Image courtesy of Pencil2D
This 2D animation software allows users to create more traditional, hand-drawn scenes. This is accomplished using bitmap and vector graphics. Not only is Pencil2D free, but it is an open-source animation software.
Pencil2D offers a number of features to make animation easy, including but not limited to:
“I enjoy how easy it is to understand this right off the bat. I was able to start animating immediately! Another extreme plus is the ability to use layers.”
— Pencil2D review by Sara C.
“You'll have to redo your setting preferences because the program resets to default whenever you open it up. This is especially true for if you want to use the pen tool, or if you want to use different colors to connote different parts of your animation.”
— Pencil2D review by Sabrina B.
“Recommended 100 percent for the general public and people who want an efficient app.”
— Pencil2D review by Grey P.
Image courtesy of Blender
Blender is a free and open-source animation software that also has capabilities for 3D modeling, game creation, motion tracking and more. This tool enables artists to turn stills into 3D animation. Blender also offers a fast rigging tool that allows users to turn 3D models into animated characters.
The following animation features are included in Blender:
“Blender is a free animation software, but do not let that deter you from trying it. It is a really powerful software that I use to make 3D designs. Another thing that I like about Blender is that you can easily import outside objects like textures and animations. The lighting and shadow functions also look really professional.”
— Blender review by Beth A.
“Image-based animation becomes difficult to perform. For me personally, I tried to get an image hand created and perform animation. It kept getting difficult to animate the image.”
— Blender review by Ankit A.
“Blender is so powerful and has so many features it's overwhelming. Approach with discipline. Decide what aspect you want to tackle first (modelling, animation, lighting, compositing, etc.), then work through a lot of Youtube tutorials.”
— Blender review by Michael M.
Image courtesy of Animaker
Animaker is a drag and drop, online animation and video making platform. This platform is free to register for, and is less technical than many other animation solutions. Animaker is targeted towards a content marketer persona, and includes templates for making different types of animations including infographics, motion typography, whiteboards, and 2D cartoons.
Some of the major benefits of Animaker are:
“I really like the drag and drop interface, it really helps building animations on the go and within no time. A very helpful tool when you are in hurry but need a effective and productive presentation. It takes presentations to another level by giving more visual effect.”
— Animaker review by Harsh P.
“There is free pack, but it won't allow you to create long presentations and also limits the number of such presentations you can create.”
— Animaker review by Purav A.
“Using the templates provided by Animaker would reduce most of your work. Only make some minor changes as per your requirement an you are all set.”
— Animaker review by Rayan V.
Image courtesy of Synfig
Synfig Studio is a free and open-source 2D animation software for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems. While it offers many technical and advanced features, the open-source community has created a large library of documentation and video courses in multiple languages to help novice animators become professionals. The platform is also always improving, and users have a choice between downloading the stable version or a new development version.
Synfig offers many technical animation features, including:
“I like it a lot because it is an open source software. It is accessible to all audiences. It is not necessary to be a mirror or have a step by step to perform all the activities that can be done with it. Your presentations in 2D are made using few resources and tools - since it has so many useful tools that with only one you can do many things. Your presentations are made in a way for metric. And the best thing is that if there is a change in resolution, this does not affect your results”
— Synfig Studio review by Genesis M
“I dislike a little the idea that has some imperfections the program, in question of the interface. Since it tends to close itself and tends to get a little slow to use it. In the same way it has a problem when installing it since it does not accept being installed in some 32-bit programs, as it was my case. I had many problems to install it.”
— Synfig Studio review by Victor M.
“I recommend this software to all those people who have small companies and are in charge of the design area - since even though it is not more innovative, it fulfills all the necessary functions to make a good animation and its tools give you the opportunity to do a lot and in a short time.”
— Synfig Studio review by Victor M.
Image courtesy of Plastic Animation Paper
Plastic Animation is the free and original version of Animation Paper. This option is a great animation software for beginners, as the product offers tutorials on how to use the software. The tutorials in this free 2D animation tool allow users to work at their own speed.
Plastic Animation Paper offers tutorials on many of its features, including but not limited to:
Image courtesy of OpenToonz
This free (and open-source) animation software enables users to produce 2D animation. Thanks to its open-source nature, developers can modify this free animation software to fit their needs.
Using OpenToonz, users have the ability to:
Decide which features are important to you in a product. For example, it is important to decide whether you need open-source animation software or animation software for beginners. The features in the product you pick should allow you to effectively reach your end goal, such as educating your audience or promoting your brand in an exciting new way. Once you have chosen, read through some more verified user reviews to allow you to make the best decision for your business.
Are you ready to for your animations to go viral? Learn how to make a YouTube channel to host your best creations.
* Please note: Reviews may have been edited for spelling and grammar.
Brynne is the Buyer Inquiry Team Lead at G2 Crowd. In addition to writing, she leads the research specialists in providing personalized software and services recommendations to buyers. She wishes she had interesting hobbies to include in this bio.
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