Animation is no longer the sole domain of the professional. Increasingly, modern animation software packages are opening access to all, in both skillset and crucially cost. Artistic ability and animation training are not essential, you don’t have to be able to draw and break pictures down into individual frames, and a wide range of tools are available to create different styles, techniques, and effects to your liking. There is also an increasing number of ways to distribute your work, whether through direct email, social media channels, YouTube, or even educational or explanatory presentations to classes, meetings, or conferences.
In this article:
1. Adobe Character Animator
3. Blender 3D
7. Plastic Animation Paper
You may also be interested in Animation Trends in 2021.
Why use animation?
Animation breathes life into the media presented. By making your creation move, it becomes more memorable and entertaining. Your presentation or video is flows and is more dramatic, you increase the stimulus and therefore the engagement. Information is more accessible and easier to follow and of course, your style points go through the roof. Tremendous for teachers, both online and in class, save the creations and adapt for different levels, subjects, etc. Brilliant for business presentations or meetings – engaging. Super for boosting your social media views – interesting, more chance of being shared. Wonderful for websites, adding interest, and holding the viewer on your site (the longer they stay the better). Excellent for explanatory concepts. Great for GIFS. We could go on…..
There are, of course, paid for software packages full of bells and whistles and these can be great. They can create a top-class professional look with relatively little skill. However, if you are starting out and want to get a feel for animation, experiment, see if it grabs you then investing in a full-scale software package might not be the way forward. Luckily, you have options. There are some great, really great, free packages available on the net. Ideal from beginners through to more advanced users.
We’ve put together some of the best free animation software to help you dip your toe into the water. It’s a brief guide, explaining the package in general, highlighting certain key features, and giving you the chance to get an idea of what is out there and what it can do for you. Absolutely free, no risk involved, play around for fun -it might turn into something more serious -and if not what’s wrong with just doing it for fun?
Don’t be scared to experiment – you still need ideas and creativity but these software packages make the rest easy.
1. Adobe Character Animator – Free Lip-sync Animation
Perfect for: Beginners to professionals
For something, a little different Adobe Character Animator is a desktop application software that comes as part of the Adobe Creative Suite. This software allows the animation of characters drawn in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, or premade template characters, in live motion-capture or recording modes. The puppets are rigged to your facial movements, and gestures and can add real personality to an animation. You can also lip-sync your character, making this perfect for presentations or educational videos with a difference, as well as live streaming. It is a quick and easy way to personalize your video animations, and there’s plenty of guidance available. You can take up the special performer mode option below to experiment for free, with even some free puppets provided.
Character Animator best features:
- Live motion capture
- Character templates
- Sound files
- Template scenes
Free Version: Part of the Creative Suite from Adobe. The special Performer Mode gives you the opportunity to use the Record and Stream options in the Adobe software completely free to create and record different scenes, see Free Adobe Character Animator Performer Mode Activation
There are also a lot of free puppets available so you can concentrate on the animations. To learn the software, check out these 10 Tutorials to start with Adobe Character Animator.
2. Powtoon – Easy Free Beginner Animation
Perfect for: Beginners
Powtoon’s free animation software is a slimmed-down version of their paid-for packages. It is useful for short videos, presentations, and animations of up to 3 minutes long, and as such it’s a tremendous opportunity to get a real feel for professional software. There is a great selection of customizable drop and drag templates for product promotions as well as infographic and explainer videos, so you can really get up and running in an instant. Added to this there is a comprehensive library and custom styles to go to. Tutorials and guides add to the ease of use and the overall package.
Powtoon best features:
- Custom styles
- Content library – limited on the free version
- Multiple export features including PowerPoint and YouTube
Free Version: Completely free version but 3 minutes limited on video length. Paid versions from $19 per month.
3. Blender 3D – 3D Animation
Perfect for: Beginners (some skills), including game developers, up to professional 3D animators.
For another free animation package, how about trying Blender. It is a popular, open-source lightweight 3D computer graphics software package used for creating all sorts of animations from short films and visual effects, to motion graphics and computer games. Once you get used to the basics, which takes a bit of time to be honest, then Blender is pretty easy to use and progress to the more complicated functions. It certainly very versatile with incredible options, well organized, and well respected. It is also being improved on all the time, with constant maintenance from users and it’s free for any purpose. There are great informative tutorials on the Blender website and also on YouTube so you can get real help or see what’s possible even before the free download.
Blender 3D best features:
- Super tools for modeling, rigging, rendering, animation, simulation, motion tracking.
- Specialist game and video creation options
- Realistic simulation
Free Version: Open source, completely free for any purpose, including commercially or for education.
4. K-3D – Free 3D Animation
Perfect for: Professional Artists, Start-ups, Agencies, Enterprises
K-3D is free 3D polygon-based modeling, rendering, and animation software specializing in shape modeling, with plenty of features, and it’s fast and very versatile. It has a familiar look and is designed to generate high-quality animation using RenderMan render engines, allowing you to create and edit documents in real-time (with excellent undo functions that can take you back to any previous point) as well as to model, animate, and interact with animations. It’s not as well known as some of the other software packages but it is stirring below the surface and as it is completely free you can give it a try at no risk at all. Wiki tutorials will guide you.
K-3D best features:
- Image library
- Customizable Templates
- Integration of 3rd party rendering
Free Version: K-3D is Free Software. Run it on your choice of platform and share it. For any purpose.
5. OpenToonz – Free Animation Tool
Perfect for: Some experience to advanced level
As a specialist 2D animation software OpenToonz is highly rated. It’s open-source software and is free for all purposes. Although, looking pretty straightforward the more advanced tools, whilst being great, do take some getting used to. Once you spend some time with it, you can come up with some highly advanced animations but it will take that time, so if you’re not prepared or you struggle for time, maybe this isn’t the package for you.
OpenToonz best features:
- Great drawing tools
- Loads of effects (distortion, lighting effect, style)
- Motion tracking
Free Version: Completely free for all uses.
Looking at a premium paid version in the need future.
6. Pencil2D – Free Hand-drawn animation
Perfect for: Beginners with drawing skills
Open source, beginner-friendly free animation software Pencil2D is ideal for 2D videos in a hand-drawn style. With a user-friendly interface and easy to use tools, it is a perfect way to digitize and animate your drawings without any great technological know-how. Of course, the result will depending on your quality of drawings in the first place. Their own website contains fabulous tutorials that take you through the process as does YouTube. If you’ve got the drawing skills this is a great free animation software package to get you to the next level.
Pencil2D best features:
- Very User Friendly
- Import images and audio
- Switch workflows
- Customize toolbars
Free Version: Completely free, open-source, for personal or commercial purposes.
7. Plastic Animation Paper – Free Basic Animation
Perfect for: Starters, beginners and basic users
As a long-established free software Plastic Animation Paper is well known and well used. By their own admission, it’s a little basic and a little dated but it is a great way of getting a feel for the processes involved in animation. Basic tools for drawing, zooming, and rotating give a real feel animated hand drawings and for what is possible without you spending time or money. How to use tutorials are freely available and act to take start you on your animation journey.
Animation Paper best features:
- Real-time editing
- Different size format frames
Free Version: Old version is completely free. Newer improved version – paid.
8. Stykz – Free Easy Animation
Perfect for: Beginners, including children
Generally regarded as one of the easiest animation software to use, it is also one of the most basic (stick figure animation) As a plus point this is why it’s perfect for starters and beginner and it succeeds in giving you a good grounding in techniques like the use of onionskins, and frame-based work whilst at the same leaves you looking for more. It has an almost foolproof system with autosave, simple editing, coloring, etc.
If you need help (you won’t) there are tutorial series on YouTube.
Stykz best features:
- Basic animation features
Free Version: completely free for all purposes including commercial.
9. Synfig Studio – Free Expert Animation
Perfect for: Some experience, artists and more advanced, to expert
Synfig Studio has a free package that is ideal for producing 2D animations and is available on open source for free. It’s better for users who have some knowledge, experience, or at the very least can afford the time to get the most out of it. There is a familiar look about it, think slideshows but for the more advanced features (there are plenty) you may need to consult the comprehensive documentation or video course tutorials. Once you’ve got into the swing of things you can create fantastic professional-quality animations quickly and efficiently. there are no templates or libraries so you’re going to need a lot of creativity, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
Synfig best features:
- Advanced features for expert animation
Free Version: 2 versions, Stable version or development (experimental)version – both free for all usage.
10. Toontastic 3D – Free Super Easy Animation
Perfect for: Newbies, including children and young learners
Google’s Toontastic is designed to allow anyone to create 3D cartoons. You can create characters, plot the story, narrate and animate the story, add a soundtrack, and then export it. It looks like it is solely designed for youngsters, and indeed that is the focus but that doesn’t mean it is exclusive to children. You can use pre-made character, or create your own, drop them into a template with scenes and move them around as you wish. Remarkable easy and very very cool. This a great way to get started and learn but you are confined to the template scenes so you will have to limit yourself. Ideal for inspiring creativity in young learners and educational settings.
Toontastic 3D best features:
- Different templates, scenes, setting, characters
- Youngster friendly
- Can be used offline
Free Version: Free downloadable app.
11. Moovly (with watermark) – Free Cloud-Based Animation
Perfect for: Beginners and higher
A cloud-based platform for creating any multimedia content: animated videos, training videos, presentations, educational videos, animated infographics, etc. Moovly is an easy to use software package that has a free version that is good enough to get you in the mood for more but is limited to 2-minute video length. There is a library of over 1 million stock images, videos, and audio and you can choose between versatile template options or starting from scratch. Simple drop and drag editing and animation and seamless sharing or publication are all possible from the interface.
Moovly best features:
- collaboration tools
Free Version: Moovly is free to sign up and use but this free version contains a watermark, is limited to 2 minutes in video length & 20 upload limit.
Paid plans start at $49 a month (or $299 if you want to do a year) with access to full stock library and HD quality.
12. Daz 3D – Free 3D Animation
Perfect for: Some experienced to expert
DAZ Studio offers a free animation application that allows you to pose, render, and animate 3D figures. Super fast, powerful, and user friendly, it isn’t as straightforward as some packages but you should be able to get the hang of it in a few days. Exceptionally good for 3d effects, figure customization, and has fantastic tools for posing and animation, enabling most people to create realistic digital art using virtual people, animals, props, vehicles, accessories, and environments.
Daz 3D best features:
- Huge library of assets
- Great posing and animation tools
Free Version: Free version on registration the Daz Studio software comes with a starter package and free 3D models.
13. TupiTube – Free Education Animations
Perfect for: Children, Teens, Young learners
A 2D animation package, this is an open-source tool, also available as an app, that is user-friendly, child friendly, and intuitive. The software allows the creation of 2D videos with a young learner focused on creativity. Their website is super child friendly too with examples and tutorials that really hit the mark. In addition, there are school-related features and technical support. A perfect way to introduced youngsters to animation and inspire creative storytelling.
TupiTube best features:
- Young learner-focused
- Basic 2D animator tools
Free Version: Completely free and open source.
14. Animaker – Easy 2D Animation
Perfect for: Beginners and non-designers
One of the most popular software packages is the Cloud-based (so no downloading) Animaker, a DIY video Animation software that allows users to create great animated videos such as infographics, whiteboards, and cartoons using a huge pre-built library of customizable characters, images, and audio and over 1000 templates. It is very easy to get started, perfect for your first try. it uses a familiar drag and drop interface to allow you to add/edit elements, plus you can add gestures or expressions. There are great support and video tutorials to guide you through every step of the process but it is pretty easy to grasp. Can be used for business, marketing, or personal animations and you can try it all out for free. And once you get the bug you can pay to upgrade.
Animaker best features:
- Character Builder
- 1000+ Premade Templates
- Multi-user collaboration
- Audio files including text-to-speak
Free Version: Free version is limited to up to 5 downloads with watermark, 2 custom characters, 10 GIF downloads, 10 music tracks but there is no time limit.
There are two paid versions (Starter from $19 per month & Business) with greater support, assets, and flexibility.
Without doubt there is a large choice of free animation software and you’d be a fool not to take advantage of these free animation software packages. Which you prefer depends on your knowledge and skill level, but also the types of videos you want to make. It may be worth trying out a few options and playing around for a while, after all, it will only cost you time, not cash. Have some fun before getting serious. Educate yourself, watch some tutorials, and go with what takes your fancy, and suddenly you are an animator. Now get creative and really push those skills.
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