Featured image of 20 Best 3D Animation Software Tools (Some are Free)
Strike a Pose!

20 Best 3D Animation Software Tools (Some are Free)

Picture of Max von Übel
by Max von Übel
Sep 4, 2017

Learn how to get started with 3D animation software and bring your 3D models to life in animated movies and games!

3D animation is one of the supreme disciplines in contemporary art. Not only does it require knowledge about the 3D models used in its creation. The 3D animator also needs substantial understanding about shot composition, the specifics of the game engine used or the renderer. Most importantly, you need to have talent as a storyteller to get your message across.

In this article, we aim to give you a basic overview of the 3D animation software available. In case you aim for a more traditional style, we have added 2D animation software packages and stop motion software.

We have tried to showcase both commercial and free options for each application in 3D animation software, 2D animation software, and stop motion software.

Have we forgotten your favorite 3D animation software? Drop us a line and we may add it in a future update.

20 Best 3D Animation Software Tools (Some are Free)

Software Application OS Price
3ds Max Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation Windows 2,141.70 € / year
Motionbuilder Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation Windows $1,680 / year
Blender Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation Windows, Mac, Linux Free
Clara.io Keyframe Animation Browser Free
Faceshift Motion Capture Windows, Mac $495 / year
Houdini Apprentice Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation Windows, Mac, Linux Free (with limitations)
iClone Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation Windows $199
iPi Soft Motion Capture Windows $95 / year
MakeHuman Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation Windows, Mac, Linux Free
Maya Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation Windows, Mac, Linux $1,470 / year
mixamo Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation Browser Varies
Poser Motion Capture, Keyframe Animation Windows, Mac $129.99 (Standard), $349.99 (Pro)
Terragen Keyframe Animation Windows, Mac, Linux $349
SmartBody Motion Capture Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, iOS Free
Boats Animator Stop Motion Windows, Mac, Linux Free
Dragonframe Stop Motion Windows, Mac, Linux $295 (USB), $325 (Wireless)
Animation Paper 2D Animation Windows, Mac $79
Moho 2D Animation Windows, Mac $399.99
Pencil2D 2D Animation Windows, Mac, Linux Free
Synfig Studio 2D Animation Windows, Mac, Linux Free

3D Animation Software

1

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software 3ds Max

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: 3ds Max
Source: 3ds Max

What is it? 3ds Max it is one the major commercial 3D animation software suites on the market. Its comprehensive feature set makes it a popular choice for game development, visual effects production, and architectural visualization. It features particle and light simulation, a cloth-simulation engine and even brings its own scripting language to the table (MAXScript). In terms of 3D modeling, it is capable of creating parametric and organic objects with polygon, subdivision surface, and spline-based modeling features. Among the other techniques is the ability to create models from point cloud data.

The 3D animation capabilities of 3ds Max are comprehensive. It features two character animation tools. “character studio” that is designed to work best for bipedal characters. “CAT” that is able to rig and animate non-humanoid characters. This 3D animation software also comes with a tool that allows setting up and controlling scenes with large crowds of people, dubbed “Populate”. Take full control over your 3D animation with “Motion Mixer”, a tool that takes its cue from audio editing. It displays separate tracks for motion data from each body part that can be edited for speed, transitioned, looped, and more. Among the other tools in this 3D animation software are motion paths, that let you modify animations directly in the trajectory as splines, giving you instant feedback in the viewport.

What file formats does it support? stl, 3ds, ai, abc, ase, asm, catproduct, catpart, dem, dwg, dxf, dwf, flt, iges, ipt, jt, nx, obj, prj, prt, rvt, sat, skp, sldprt, sldasm, stp, vrml, w3d xml

Operating System? Windows

Price? 2,141,70 € / year

Where can I get it? On the 3ds Max Website.

2

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Motionbuilder

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Motionbuilder

What is it? Motionbuilder is the professional grade 3D animation software by Autodesk. This program combines keyframe animation with motion capture and virtual production. With this tool, you are able to animate 3D characters in real-time that are especially suitable for game development and animated movies. Motion capture data can be retargeted with a large array of tools that allow for finetuning the minutest of details in the character’s movements quickly and consistently. Similar to movie editing software Motionbuilder allows you to cut and stitch together different movements – the key difference is though that instead of hard cuts, the 3D animation software assists in creating smooth and natural transitions between the files. The whole process is non-destructively, so the original files are not affected in any way.

Motion capture and keyframe animations can be supplemented with animation layers to achieve distinctive effects and clean animations. Motionbuilder comes with an assortment of physics engines to dynamically animate interactions, such as falls using rag doll solvers. Published by Autodesk, this 3D animation software integrates well with other Autodesk products like 3ds Max, Mudbox, and Maya to speed up the overall workflow.

What file formats does it support? asf, amc, bvh, c3d, fbx, htr, tr3

Operating System? Windows

Price? $1,680 / year

Where can I get it? On the Motionbuilder Website.

3

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Blender

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Blender

What is it? Blender is a free professional open-source 3D animation and modeling software. It is used in a host of application ranging from animated feature films, visual effects, art, interactive applications, video games, and architectural visualizations. This free 3D animation software’s dizzying features set includes 3D modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, raster graphics editing, rigging, and skinning, fluid and smoke simulation, particle simulation, soft body simulation, sculpting, rendering, video editing, and compositing. If that is not enough for you, how about an integrated game engine?

In terms of 3D animation, this software offers a broad range of tools that build upon keyframe animation. Such as lattice modifiers, i.e. deforming a mesh non-destructively. A more sophisticated tool for 3D animation is to create an armature for your 3D character. That means you design a skeleton to define the location and mobility of limbs, and their relationship amongst each other. Then you specify how much influence each of the bones has on the limbs in its vicinity. This process is called “rigging”. In case you don’t want to do this manually, there are commercial plugins available that can do it automatically.

This free 3D animation software also supports input from motion capturing software. Even facial motion capture possible using markers painted onto the actor’s face. Cloth your 3D characters with the excellent clothing simulation within Blender that can be manipulated by the armature and add to the realism of your 3D animation. If you want to combine live action footage with computer generated imagery, this free 3d animation software has you covered. It can track the camera movement to allow you the seamless integration of both worlds.

What file formats does it support? 3ds, dae, fbx, dxf, obj, x, lwo, svg, ply, stl, vrml, vrml97, x3d

Operating System? Windows, Mac, Linux

Price? Free

Where can I get it? On the Blender Website.

4

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Clara.io

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Clara.io

What is it? Clara.io a free 3D animation software that runs in your browser. In terms of 3D modeling, it caters to most needs, as it is capable of basic modeling techniques like extrusion, beveling, slicing, cutting, and looping. Clara.io also features subdiving modeling. Since this free 3d animation software runs in the cloud, it is the perfect tool for collaboration on complex 3D animation projects. Its collaborative mode comes with a fully fledged user’s right management system. Featuring basic keyframe animation, it is even the right choice for creating animated movies. For each keyframe different states can be defined, the frames in between are calculated automatically using interpolation. This way there is no need to animate everything by hand.

The publisher prides itself that Clara.io is being used as a tool for pre-visualization of major feature films. And indeed its 3D animation and rendering features exceed expectations for a browser based suite. Its rendering capabilities are supplied by V-Ray, a rendering engine that is part of many sophisticated desktop 3D programs. This free 3D animation software allows you to embed your 3D models and 3D animations into websites. This feature includes the possibility that visitors interact with predefined properties of the 3D model to change its scale or thickness.

What file formats does it support? 3dm, 3ds, cd, dae, dgn, gf, gdf, gts, igs, kmz, lwo, rws, obj, off, ply, pm, sat, scn, skp, slc, sldprt, stp, stl, x3dv, xaml, vda, vrml, x_t, x, xgl, zpr

Operating System? Browser

Price? Free, Premium features from $100/year

Where can I get it? On the Clara.io Website.

5

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Faceshift

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Faceshift

What is it? Faceshift is a motion capture software that specializes facial animation. It tracks the facial movements of an actor down to the direction of his gaze. This data that can then be used to animate the facial expressions of 3D characters in games and movies. This 3D animation software uses depth cameras (Kinect) as input and thus works without any markers on the actor’s face. Thanks to this easy setup, you don’t need a motion capture stage or bulky equipment. Faceshift can turn any computer with decent hardware into a motion capture station. Before any 3D animation can be created, a representation of the actor’s face is trained to accurately capture and translate input data. This generates blend-shapes that define the range of expressions that can be triggered by the actor’s facial movements.

The motion capture data can be fed into other programs like Unity, Maya for processing. The most exciting feature of this 3D animation software is the real-time-tracking, giving instant results of the facial expression on the targeted 3D character. Recorded tracking sessions can be edited and refined in the 3D animation software to achieve a more smooth and accurate performance.

What file formats does it support? bvh, c3d, fbx, fs

Operating System? Windows, Mac

Price? $495/year

Where can I get it? On the Faceshift Website.

6

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Houdini Apprentice

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Houdini Apprentice

What is it? Houdini is a popular tool for game development and 3D animation. This 3D animation software that is designed around a node based workflow. The procedural modeling approach of Houdini allows you to alter the entire model and to quickly generate complex geometries at a constant level of quality by changing individual parameters (nodes). From carefully sculpted terrain maps to varied spaceship corridors – almost everything can be generated procedurally.

All the procedural tools in Houdini can be animated in 3D from the shelf. This 3D animation software has a solution for about every challenge in the book: For instance, you can do complex crowd simulations that encompass controls for the crowd’s layout, collision avoidance, terrain adaption, and more. Another specialty of Houdini are the procedurally generated fluids and particles that lend further realism to your 3D animations. Both biped and quadruped 3D characters can be setup for 3D animation easily and quickly with the auto-rig tool thus eliminating the need to perform this critical task manually. Create anatomically convincing 3D animations with the muscle simulation pipeline built into this 3D animation software.

What file formats does it support? bgeo, clip, fbx, geo, hip

Operating System? Windows, Mac, Linux

Price? Free (with limitations)

Where can I get it? On the Houdini Website.

7

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software iClone

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: iClone

What is it? iClone is both a character generation tool and a 3D animation software. Creating realistic 3D models of humanoid characters is an effortless task with iClone: 3D characters are based on a morphable base mesh. That is customized using a comprehensive toolset to display diverse body shapes and sizes down to the finest features. The user interface adapts to the user’s workflow. You are not confined to creating characters in this 3D animation software, it includes speed tree generator and editing tools you also found in general purpose 3D modeling software. Also, you get access to Allegorithmic’s vast library of materials that enable complex surface effects on your 3D models.

All 3D characters are automatically rigged and ready for animation and posing. iClone supports a host of animation inputs. You can choose from a library of motion capture files, you can animate using keyframe animation or plug your Kinect into your computer and record motion capture data. Speed up your workflow using the preset scene layouts to help set up entire rendered clips quickly and at a high quality. The program does not limit your artistic expression, as the animation tools support both bipedal and quadrupedal characters. Blend shapes facilitate the creating of convincing facial animations. Like other comparable 3D animation software, iClone includes a motion editor that enables you to retarget motion capture files, to stitch files seamlessly together and manually correct them. In addition, iClone includes a complete light system and a physics engine. The simulated fabrics in this 3D animation software can be baked and reused in other scenes. iClone is a self-sufficient 3D animation software, since the animations made can be rendered in high quality in the program itself. Among the many camera options are 360° panorama lenses.

What file formats does it support? 3ds, bvh, fbx, obj, vns, skp

Operating System? Windows

Price? $199

Where can I get it? On the iClone Website.

8

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software iPi Soft

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: iPi Soft

What is it? iPi Soft has made a name for itself with its consumer friendly markerless motion capture solution: This 3D animation software is capable to track up to five actors and does not require them to wear motion capture suits. Instead, users plug 1 or 2 depth sensors (such as the Kinect) or 3 to 6 Sony PS Eye cameras into their computers to generate 3D animations. It covers full body movements in a space as large 7 x 7 meters. This approach has the advantage that you don’t need to maintain a dedicated motion capture stage, with special lighting requirements and tracking suits. The iPi Soft solution is easily transportable and can be set up within half an hour.

What is more, using the software you can clean up and edit the data. So, there is no need to spend extra money on third party 3D animation software for this stage in the pipeline. It supports common file motion capture formats like FBX, BVH, Collada. The 3D animation created with this software can be used in 3D software tools like Maya or Blender for further processing or in common game development environments (Valve Source Engine, Unreal Engine, Unity). The price of the software depends on the kind of cameras you want to use. Take note that iPi Soft offers 30% educational discounts on its subscriptions.

What file formats does it support? bvh, fbx

Operating System? Windows

Price? $95 / year

Where can I get it? On the iPi Soft Website.

9

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software MakeHuman

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: MakeHuman

What is it? MakeHuman is a free character creation tool that grew out of a Blender plugin. Users generate realistic 3D models of humanoid characters using sliders that control general properties like age, gender and weight, down to the finest features like the shape of the face or the length of limbs. The developers of this free 3D animation software pride themselves on 12 years of research in body topology resulting in a robust and variable base mesh that is optimized for processing in other tools like Mudbox or ZBrush. Cloth your 3D character with a variety of garments that will lend it additional realism.

In addition to character generation, this free 3D animation software features a character rigging menu that makes your creation easy to adapt to a variety of applications. You can export the fully rigged character for use in other 3D animation software or game development environments. However, you can also animate and render the 3D character directly within the program using series of pre-recorded motion capture files available from the shelf or importing additional files. This 3D animation software comes with a series of useful tools that allow editing and adapting motion capture files for the desired target character. Just like in commercial 3D animation software such as Autodesk Motionbuilder, it is possible to stitch together separate motion capture files into one seamless movement.

What file formats does it support? dae, fbx, obj, STL

Operating System? Windows, Mac, Linux

Price? Free

Where can I get it? On the MakeHuman Website.

10

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Maya

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Maya

What is it? Maya is a favorite among 3D animators due to its highly customizable user interface. It was used in many feature films like Transformers, and Harry Potter, in the TV series South Park, and Game of Thrones and video games like the Halo series. 3D models in Maya are represented by nodes that specify its relationships and attributes. This powerful tool allows for complex tweaks with only a couple of keystrokes. A sign of professional 3D animation software, Maya come with a sophisticated CG compositing program (“MatchMover”) that allows users to combine 3D rendered elements with motion data from film sequences recorded on set by tracking the camera’s movement. In addition, it features a comprehensive tool to model complex objects like fur, hair, clothing, fluids, and particles.

In case you want some credentials before you subscribe to the admittedly expensive 3D animation software, it may interest you that the developers of Maya were honored three times with Academy Awards: In 2003 for Maya itself, in 2005 for the invention of subdivision surfaces, and in 2008 for the fluid effects system.

This 3D animation software includes a very easy to use an auto-rig tool, that can even process quadrupeds and winged models. Setting up a character rig manually is often a painful process, as the weights for each bone have to be painted piecemeal. Maya relieves from this task and creates a sophisticated skinned and weighted rig that is ready for 3D animation. This 3D animation software also features various automation tools for animation along curves or paths making 3D animation almost child’s play.

What file formats does it support? ai, aiff, dae, dxf, dwg, eps, fbx, maya, mel, obj, stl

Operating System? Windows, Mac, Linux

Price? $1,470 /year

Where can I get it? On the Maya Website.

11

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software mixamo

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: mixamo

What is it? Mixamo is an online platform that has the potential to speed up the 3D animation workflow by creating rigs for bipedal characters automatically. Setting up a skeleton manually can be a painful process, as the weights for each bone have to be painted piecemeal. In this 3D animation software, users upload their 3D file and mark some key elements like knees and elbows. Then, Mixamo does its magic and creates a sophisticated skinned and weighted rig that is ready for 3D animation.

But, Mixamo can do even more than auto-rigging. You can choose from a large library of animation files to assign to your rigged model. The files are arranged according to genres and can be customized to the needs your project. 3D animation doesn’t much easier. It is possible to download a ready animated model to your home computer and render it in your favorite 3D animation software. Mixamo’s auto-rigged 3D models are compatible with the major 3D animation software tools. The files can be exported with scripts to Fuse, 3ds Max biped Skeleton and CAT Skeleton, and Maya format. If you love the concept of Mixamo but shy away from the cost, there are a handful of free alternatives: SmartBody, Riggify

What file formats does it support? bhv, fbx, obj

Operating System? Browser

Price? Varies

Where can I get it? On the Mixamo Website.

12

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Poser

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Poser

What is it? First and foremost, Poser is a 3D character creation tool, second, it is also a 3D animation software that is popular for graphic design, game development, architectural visualization, and industrial design. Unlike traditional programs, you create 3D models of humanoid characters quickly in a live preview by editing a base mesh – an ageless, genderless humanoid 3D file. Users flesh out distinctive and convincing characters by sliding bars that control the features of the face, the torso, the arms, and legs down to the tips of the hair. With some practice and a keen eye, it is possible to create photorealistic 3D models.

It is easy to equip and arrange complex scenes from within this 3D animation software. Since it allows you to place assets from a large library of countless scenes, props, vehicles and creatures, animals and props. But not only that, Poser even has decent rendering capabilities like subsurface scattering that enhances the realism of skin rendering. That means when you buy Poser you don’t need any other programs to create rendered 3D animations. However, export to 3ds Max or other general purpose 3D animation software is also possible.

As in similar programs, the 3D character is pre-rigged and ready for animation in movies and games. The muscles in Poser created characters bend realistically. In addition, the pro version of this 3D animation software even allows you to animate it using a Microsoft Kinect. However, you also can import and edit motion capture files. In case you want to animate using keyframe animation, this 3D animation software comes with a walk designer that automates the walk cycles of your characters.

What file formats does it support? bvh, cr2, obj, pz2

Operating System? Windows, Mac

Price? $129.99 (Standard), $349.99 (Pro)

Where can I get it? On the Poser Website.

13

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Terragen

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Terragen

What is it? Terragen is a program developed for one thing only, designing and rendering photorealistic landscapes. Using a powerful procedural nodes system, the user has full control of his creation. The terrain is generated using a powerful shader system that enables sophisticated texturing and surface manipulation. Comprehensive controls of volumetric clouds, fog, sky, the sun, and stars, make your landscape come to life. In addition, this free 3D animation software allows you to populate the scene with a wide array of preset trees, rocks, and other props to enhance the overall realism.

Terragen is not only a powerful 3D modeling software, it can also be used to animate and render complex scenes directly. Apart from basic features like motion blur and camera motion, almost any parameter can be animated. Parameters for everything from the sun, planets, clouds, and other atmospheric phenomena can be set in keyframes. In addition, the terrain displacement can be modified along the timeline, allowing for spectacular time lapse effects that show mountains growing and eroding, rivers forming and drying etc. over unimaginable stretches of time. Fly-throughs can be previewed in real-time.

The camera system in this 3D animation software is physical camera attributes, like aperture and focal length, creating realistic effects in all your renders. Also, the many alternate camera modes make possible use in VR environments and stereo 3D movies. If you prefer another software to render, Terragen lets export in various common formats.

What file formats does it support? chan, clip, exr, fbx, geo, lwo, mov, obj, ter

Operating System? Windows, Mac, Linux

Price? $349

Where can I get it? On the Terragen Website.

14

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software SmartBody

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: SmartBody

What is it? Developed at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, SmartBody is a free 3D animation software for 3D characters. Both keyframe animation and motion capture are accepted as input sources. At its core, SmartBody features a set of comprehensive 3D animation tools that work in real time. Among them are locomotion, steering, object manipulation, lip syncing, gazing, nonverbal behavior and retargeting. This allows your characters to pick up, touch, or place objects in the environment, automatic facial animation based on audio input and much more. A feature set like this is usually found in commercial products costing hundreds of dollars.

In addition, this 3D animation software is also a fully functional 3D scanning tool. Using a Kinect, users are able to create 3D characters in a matter of minutes. However, the true standout feature of this free 3D animation software is its auto-rigging tool. Similar to the commercial 3D animation platform Mixamo, this tool allows you to automatically rig 3D scans in order to use them in 3D animation. The reshaping tool has been developed to manipulate the 3D character to look fatter, skinnier, taller, shorter and other parameters. It uses a database of body shapes that give the morphs a natural appearance. SmartBody can even be incorporated into game engines to harness its extraordinary features that would be excruciatingly difficult to program on your own. Out of the box, it supports Unity, GameBryo, Ogre, Panda3D and Unreal engines.

What file formats does it support? af, bvh, dae, fbx, sk, xml

Operating System? Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, iOS

Price? Free

Where can I get it? On the SmartBody Website.

Stop-Motion Animation

15

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Boats Animator

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Boats Animator

What is it? Boats Animator is a free stop motion animation software that is published open source. It stands out by its clear and uncluttered user interface that lowers the entry barrier to animation to accomodate even beginners. But is comprehensive enough to appeal to experienced animators. Most importantly, this 3D animation software features onion skinning – the program displays the last image captured on top of the live feed from your camera. This assists you in creating smooth animations since you can accurately move your model in position for the next frame.

The workflow is extremely quick, as frames captured with this animation software can be played instantly without the need to wait for processing. The secret to Boats Animator’s interoperatability is the use of web technologies like CHTML5, JavaScript, and WebRTC at the base of the program. Please note that this 3D animation software is being actively developed and that many new features are planned for future releases.

What file formats does it support? avi, mov, mpg

Operating System? Windows, Mac, Linux

Price? Free

Where can I get it? On the Boats Animator Website.

16

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Dragonframe

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Dragonframe

What is it? Dragonframe is an industrial grade stop motion animation software. If you have seen recent stop motion movies like Coraline, then you have witnessed a product of Dragonframe’s power. Plan your animation with drawing tools that outline motion paths. And keep track of your progress using the X-sheet in the side panel, viewing reminders, notes and adjusting timing. Add reference videos to the screen and use them as a guide in your animation by either adjusting the opacity, using chromakey, or selecting elements of interest. What is more, this 3D animation software puts you in charge of over camera by comprehensive settings such as shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, as well as support for motion controlled camera movements. You also get full control over the environment by controlling the lights on up to 512 channels, allowing you to focus on the hands-on animation. A key feature of this 3D animation software is onion skinning, the frame recorded last is shining through the live feed displayed on the monitor. This allows you to move your characters and props in the increments.

The viewport can be overlayed with various grids to aid you in compositing balanced shots. This animation software supports a host of cameras from known manufacturers like Canon, Nikon, Sony and more. For production purposes, the animation software features multi audio track editing. To help with the challenges of animating facial movement, you can import face sets as multi-layered Photoshop file as reference material into Dragonframe. Another tell-tale sign of a professional tool is the support for recording and adjusting stereoscopic 3D movies. For those who want to use Dragonframe regularly, the publisher offers its own wireless control device that will clear your stage from cluttered cables.

What file formats does it support? avi, mov, mpg

Operating System? Windows, Mac, Linux

Price? $295 (USB), $325 (Wireless)

Where can I get it? On the Dragonframe Website.

2D Animation Software

17

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Animation Paper

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Animation Paper

What is it? Animation Paper is a powerful software developed for creating hand drawn animations. Niels Krogh Mortensen, the creator the of this program wears a lot of hats – he is himself an animator, a graphic artist, a developer, and a director. Animation Paper is the second incarnation of the software he published some two decades ago. The software is designed to outperform traditional paper animation from the golden age of Disney: Animation Paper supports state of the art tablets to give you the highest quality lines. Drawings can be rotated, zoomed in real time – using convenient gesture controls. Speed up your workflow with the automated line clean up. Load reference videos or frame-stacks into the 2D animation software for rotoscoping.

If you want to reuse parts of your drawings you can cut them out, rotate them and scale them. To enhance the usefulness of onion skinning, the virtual light table is fully customizable. As can be expected from a commercial product, this 2D animation software features a comprehensive X-sheet that gives you powerful control over the timing of your animation. You can display the sound wave and add hand written notes. Unfortunately, this amazing piece of software will only be published towards the end of this year. Until then, Windows users can download the old version, called Plastic Animation Paper, for free from the company website.

What file formats does it support? custom

Operating System? Windows, Mac

Price? $79

Where can I get it? On the Animation Paper Website.

18

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Moho

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Moho

What is it? Moho is a professional 2D animation software tailored to the needs of game developers, and artistsIn contrast to the free 2D animation software Synfig Studio, Moho uses a bone rig similar to 3D animation software to create the neccessary keyframes. This leads to another look and feel of 2D animation than tradition handdrawn animation. The bone rig system is optimized so as to reduce an often recurring nuissance, distortion around the joints of characters. What is more, the bone system supports both inverse and forward kinematics making it easy to animate characters. Another 2D animation style supported by Moho is using vector shapes – the tweening from keyframe to keyframe is automated. Moho even includes a physics engine to simulate gravity and other phenomena realistically.

Among the many tools that facilitate 2D animation there is automated lip synching. You add an audio file and assign it to a mouth object and based on this Moho will generate the appropriate lip-movements. Moho lets you create spectacular particle effect directly inside the program, with no need for post-production work. To get you started, the publisher supplies a host of 2D characters and props for use in your own projects for download on the website. Also, this 2D animation software features functionality interesting for game developers. Instead of using sprites in 2D games, you can now export rigged 2D assets using FBX to the Unity engine. This way you don’t have to compromise the 2D animation flexibility that you get in Moho itself.

What file formats does it support? ai, avi, bmp, eps, gif, jpeg, mov, obj, png, targa

Operating System? Windows, Mac

Price? $399.99

Where can I get it? On the Moho Website.

19

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Pencil2D

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Pencil2D

What is it? Pencil2D is a free and open source 2D animation software for use in traditional handdrawn animation. Users can choose between two basic styles of 2D animation: bitmap and vector graphics. While bitmaps can be drawn quicker and according to many artists appear to look more natural, vector graphics have the advantage that mistakes can be fixed easily by pulling the vector line into the desired shape. Both approaches can be combined in the same scene, as they are assigned separate layers. The sketching tools work in harmony with tablets and pens. However, don’t be alarmed that not every tool works on both kinds of layers.

Pencil2D does not support tweening – that means it is mandatory to draw each and every frame. Luckily, Pencil2D aides your workflow with onion-skinning – two frames are displayed simultaneously, allowing the artist to draw the frame in between. In spite of some shortcomings, Pencil2D is a great 2D animation software that continues to improve with every release. Using this program you can create 2D animation movies or gifs. Another possible use case scenario for Pencil2D is creating looped 2D animations for classic 2D video games.

What file formats does it support? gif, png, pcl, pclx, xml, avi, mov, mpg, mp4

Operating System? Windows, Mac, Linux

Price? Free

Where can I get it? On the Pencil2D Website.

20

3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software Synfig Studio

Image of 3D Animation Software/2D Animation Software/ Stop-Motion Software: Synfig Studio

What is it? Originally conceived of as a commercial product, Synfig Studio was published under the GNU General Public License. Although it is a free 2D animation software, the developers aspire to reach an overall production value that is comparable to other, commercial solutions. (See the featured works section on the website to judge for yourself.) The basic idea of Synfig is to free 2D animators from the arduous task of “tweening”. In traditional hand-drawn animation, senior animators create keyframes of the the major character movements for each shot. Then, junior animators then use these keyframes as a reference for drawing the frames in between. This process is automated in Synfig Studio by interpolation between the keyframes, giving 2D animators greater freedom to concentrate on the creative part of their work rather than the mechanical.

Like the commercial software Moho, Synfig offers a second 2D animation technique that uses a bone rig similar to 3D animation software to create the neccessary keyframes. This leads to a subtly different look and feel. 2D bone animation characters can follow splines, thus speeding up the process considerably. In addition, Synfig comes with a powerful HDR compositing system allowing users to add various special effects directly in the 2D animation software. You can modify your animation using gradients, filters, distortions, transformations, and even fractal layers. Synfig Studio lets you sync the animation with soundtrack using Sound Layer.

What file formats does it support? avi, bmp, gif, mng, mpeg, png, ppm, sif, sifz, sfg, svg

Operating System? Windows, Mac, Linux

Price? Free

Where can I get it? On the Synfig Studio Website.

Recommended for you