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What is Animation Software?
Animation sotware is a design tool that’s used to create moving graphics from static visual files. What can be done with the software really depends on the individual program. For instance, some can do 2D animation, while others are restricted to 3D animation only.
Generally, the best animation software is used by animators who work in film and TV or by graphic designers looking to create promotional material. Depending on the need, this software is also required to integrate with other software programs such as 3D modeling, drawing, or even video editing software and tools.
What Does Animation Software Do?
It is an incredibly useful tool for creating moving images from static ones. It can create both 2D and 3D visuals and be converted into a variety of different video file types. Here we will briefly outline the different things that the best animation software can do.
- Generate animated visuals — The software can help you make instant changes to pre-created visuals and to arrange them across frames to make a moving image.
- Integrate with other programs — It can, and must, integrate with other media software programs such as editing software, drawing software, and more.
- Import media — Following on from integration, it can also import media from other software programs allowing you to work on files in the same, or different, format.
How We Rank the Best Animation Software
We developed a detailed rating methodology to ensure reliable and unbiased rankings. Our experts combine research, user feedback, and real-world testing to evaluate software based on the most important factors. Each software receives a unique Genius Score, ranging from 0 to 100 and taking into account pricing, ease of use, features, and support. See our methodology page to learn more about how we determine the best value software in each category.
Main Features of Animation Software
The best 2D animation software and 3D animation software has a range of different functionalities. Essentially though, what this type of software does is help creators make moving images. It does this through a range of different ways including creating algorithms to ensure the images are moving correctly. Here are some of the other main features free animation software should have.
Good 3D animation software has this option to enable users to fully control their animated characters. Essentially, this is the bones on the model and allow animators to place points on this structure that they can then manipulate and move to get the character to do things. It’s like the strings of a puppet.
This is the time-consuming process that sees an image processed and generated to create a 2D image. This can take time and is the last step in an animation process as it is the way the final image will look.
Some of the very best free animation software will also enable users to make adjustments to their scenes. Not only can they animate, but they will be able to layer these animations over one another into a fully-fledged scene, all within the same program.
Benefits of Using Animation Software
Before jumping right into getting your software, it’s important to know what are the benefits of using such programs. Of course, which one is best does depend on whether the software is for a large company, a professional individual, or if you are looking for free animation software for beginners. Choosing the right software for animating will improve the final output and product too.
There are many different features and benefits to using animation software. Below are some of the different use-cases of this tool regardless of whether it’s paid or free animation software. No matter whether you’re a professional or just starting out in the world of animation, here are some of the benefits you’ll find the most helpful when using this software.
Animate in Real-Time
One of the best things about this type of program is that it offers real-time animation. This means that you can see the work progressing as you go along. Additionally, the best 2D animation software will also let you go back and forth to make constant changes and tweaks. Similarly, 3D animation software also enables you to make instant changes to frames and see where the animation works and where it doesn’t right away.
In the past, especially with 2D animation, making changes would mean completely erasing or redoing something. Now, all the objects are directly on the screen and saved in digital form. This means you can redo, undo and redo over and over and not lose any of your work.
Another top benefit about using software when animating is that there are a ton of shortcuts and aids to help you move along faster. Depending on the software tool you’re using, the shortcuts will vary. On top of that, some of the software packages available to animators even include some automation features as well. This helps to further speed the process of animating up and takes some of the load away from animators.
Being able to cut, paste, and copy also help to speed things along. There’s no need to redraw things either. On top of that, entire frames can be cut and pasted — it’s not limited to the actual characters being animated.
Onion Skinning or Ghosting
Another top tool in the arsenal of the best animation software for beginners is that of ghosting. This means being able to see your objects or characters in the current frame as well as those in the frames on either side. Essentially, this feature does the work of a lightbox but even better. It helps you to see what the object will look like going forward.
Being able to view multiple frames simultaneously helps the animation process.
Interpolate or Auto-Create
This is where the software can really help you out. Rather than having to draw every single frame in a scene, the best 2D animation software should be able to interpolate and create those in-between frames to create a smoother animation. This can help speed up the process as otherwise, drawing each frame either by hand or with 3D animation software for beginners, can take up a lot of time.
While you should already have created the model or object in another program (whether it’s 2D or 3D is up to you and your project), top software will also have a variety of drawing tools available as well. This will include freeform options such as pen or paintbrush tools. It will often extend to erasers, the creation of geometric shapes, and the ability to color.
All top software for animators will also have a number of different export options. This will allow you to export your final product in a suitable file type. There are usually a number of different options available even when using free animation software for beginners.
Keyframes and Layers
Another very important benefit is the ability to add keyframes. Whenever there is a change within an animation, a keyframe is added. This is a process carried over from hand-drawn animations and applies to the best 2D animation software as well.
Additionally, most free animation software for beginners also has the option to create layers. This means that you can have different elements across varying parts of a scene or shot. It makes it very straightforward to composite objects, placing some things behind others to create the final image.
This is often very similar across different programs. For instance, almost all software will have a timeline feature. This enables you to see the frame rate, timings, and so on. Even free animation software for beginners has this type of feature as well as the ability to move along the timeline in a process called scrubbing. Better yet, the UI is intuitive in most of these options too, so that no matter your proficiency level, it’s easy to find all the tools and functions that are required.
Excitingly, many of the top software options for animators are also available in free or demo versions, at least for a period of time. As is the case with most software, you won’t get access to the full version. But these options do provide a good way to get a taste of what the program offers and whether it’s the right one to use. With that in mind, let’s take a look at which are the best animation software programs available in 2022.
How Much Does Animation Software Cost?
Prices for the best 2D animation software will vary dramatically. This is because they all have different features available. The greater the number of features, the more it will cost. On top of that, if the package is for a larger studio, it will cost more to implement and maintain in comparison to software designed for a beginner at home. That being said, this software can range from being free, a set price of around $400 for a one-time purchase, or as much as $2000 a year per license for some of the truly high-end options.
Types of Popular Animation Software
For the most part, software for animators performs the same basic functions. However, there are slight differences. Due to the main styles of animation, there are two main types of software and these are 2D and 3D animation software options. However, there are also special effects animation programs as well as the best 2D animation software for beginners.
The best 2D animation software must be able to allow users to upload and manipulate 2D images. The software can also handle moving these images and filling in the blanks in frames when necessary. However, it should also be able to allow animators to draw as well, so should include additional drawing tools to aid this.
Similar to the above, top 3D animation software for beginners or professionals can handle the heavy file load that comes with 3D animations. On top of that, it will offer a range of additional options that allow further manipulation (such as rigging), as well as being able to process any resulting moving images. In some cases, the software also has modeling options built-in so that animators can continue to create, edit, and adjust the objects they are animating within the program.
This type of program is quite specialized and usually can’t be found as free animation software. It’s all about creating extra visual effects and focuses on offering animation options for dust, fire, water, and the like. It tends to require a lot more processing power too and is generally not a good animation software for beginners.