Finally Answered: The Best Animation Software

“What animation software should I use?” is one of the most-asked questions we receive, followed only by “What animation software did -insert person or film here- use?” It makes sense to want the best tools for the job ahead, especially when that job is as difficult as animation! Here’s the answer, finally, to that age old question.

The best animation software is…


the one you will actually use.

“Bah!” I hear the cries come from across the internet. “That answer does not give me a link to a particular download!” That’s true, it doesn’t. Because the download isn’t the important thing.

The truth is, a great animator can do great animation with any software.

Some software you may not like, and if you do not like it you will absolutely be less likely to use it. It could be the most efficient bit of programming every crafted by human hands, but if you hate it, you won’t want to use it.

Conversely, some software may be a buggy mess, but it will fit you like a glove. I tell you sincerely: If you find a tool that works for you, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of it. The important thing is that it works for YOU.

Example: I hate Adobe Flash. I used Flash for a decade, and hated 95% of the time working with it. It fought me every step of the way, and I will never recommend it to anyone. Couple that with the now forced-rental of Adobe’s Cloud and just thinking about how far its fallen from the Macromedia days makes my eye twitch. However there are animators who swear by it, and will never move to a dedicated animation program. Good for them! They should definitely keep using Flash if that’s what they feel is best for them. (I, on the other hand, consider moving to Toon Boom Harmony one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.)

The simple truth is you have to use whatever tools will best allow you to animate. That’s the ultimate goal, don’t forget. You may want beautiful rendering and lovely arcs, but the core of animation is not the movement or the final visual style. The best animation begins and ends with you the animator.

Remember that some of the greatest animation ever done was in the 1930s and 40s, long before there was such a thing as software! While the Blackwing pencils those animators used are nice, it was never the tool that allowed them to produce incredible work. The tools only assist the animator. So use whatever tools you feel most comfortable with.

The right animation software for you is the one you use best!
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How do you tell what tools you feel most comfortable with? You try them all out! You explore, and discover. Check out these 5 tips, including using different mediums! See what works for you, and see what doesn’t. Always remember this: Who cares what anyone else thinks about your choice if it’s a perfect fit for you?

Still not sure what to do next? We’ll be putting together a comprehensive set of articles on different animation software in the future, which will hopefully help you find the just-right program to fit you as an artist. In the meantime, don’t sit around twiddling your thumbs! Try programs, most have trial versions! Put together a flip book or two and work on your principals! Whatever you do while you search for the tools that suit you best, make sure you are doing animation as you go. If you do you’ll quickly find that tools don’t really matter that much – it’s what you can do with them that counts.

What software have you had the most success with? Which ones do you avoid like the plague? Let us know in the comments below!

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Sabina K

Ha! I knew this would be the answer as soon as I’ve read the title! I agree! 🙂 I used to be one of those people who think that the quality of the animation depends on a program, but then I noticed all those great animations people made, each using a different program. I realized that it’s not the program, but your abilities that make the animation great.

Chris

I knew that was the answer as well 🙂 At it’s core its creativity and artistic skill right?
Still there are software packages that make certain tasks like for example character animation much harder than other packages. Trying to create awesome animation in a short amount of time ( hooray studio life and advertising ) you should try to find the one that fits your teams workflow best. – I had to learn this the hard way using C4D for ca. Trust me, theres nothing more frustrating than working like that. Its not animating but fighting the program to do what you want. It’s possible to create great work, yes. But it’s frustrating and time consuming at best.
My advice would be: read up on sofware fitting your tasks and try to learn it as good as you can. In my case it was maya but yours might be different.

Chris

Couldn’t agree with you more J.K! Seemed like everyone is trying to find the easiest way out to something that takes a lot of discipline and a lot of practice! Like everyone is looking for that shortcut, that trick to make their animation seem amazing. In all honesty it comes down your drawing/animation skills and your ability to tell a story.

I used to be that guy who was trying to make the dramatic animations and try to use tricks and shortcuts to make a better film. With those shortcuts, I shortcut-ted my films.

Now I just focus on trying to make animations that make me feel an emotion. Whether its laughter, sadness, angry etc. Something that can move the audience without using a lot of special effects to do so.

Don’t be a Michael Bay, be like Walt Disney before he created Mickey Mouse.

Chris

Oh yeah absolutely! If you can move an audience with one background and a rough character animation then you know your going in the right direction. Engaging the audience with your animation skills should be your first goal.

anonomous

This is such a copout answer tho. Of course the best software is the one you like the best. But that doesn’t explain what the best software objectively is. >:(

e.hareem

To me the best value is Pencil2D. It’s free and open source! I would love if every program was that way. You can find it here http://www.pencil2d.org/ and download it immediately. Plus the community is so great and will help you learn how to use it. To me the free aspect is the one that wins it all. Programs that cost a lot are usually too complicated. For animation you just need to keep it simple.

Ki

I agree!! But why is it that companies stress on software knowledge while hiring Animators. How long does it take to learn new software anyways? From my experience not more than a week to get used to it. Most of the Big companies use proprietary software which you will have to get trained in once you join. Still many recruiters give more importance to software experience than the Animation skills.

Paul

Twenty years ago, studios looked for hires with animation skills, as no one really had specific software experience. Then, they’d train them on the tool. That’s how I got my first 3D job.

These days, it’s different. Studio pipelines are in place, and there is no lack of folks who know how to use the particular software that any given pipeline is built around. So studios can be much more selective regarding an existing artist’s skill set.

The possibility of an employee leaving is always there (and should be – the studio will cast you off in a second if they no longer have need of your services), but it’s more about getting someone going on day 1 than it is training costs.

Kimberly

I prefer Toon Boom Harmony. It is very easy for me to use. I use to animate with Flash MX but I switched over to Toon Boom Studio 3.0 and have been a Toon Boom fan ever since. I have tried Anime Studio Pro 6 and have found it to be complicated and more of a chore to use than TB Studio or Harmony Essentials. I have tried Synfig and I found it to be very hard and complicated too.

Msuserwin user

One of the Best Animation Software which I know are
1. Pencil
2. Creatoon
3. Plastic Animation Paper
4. Synfig Studio
5. Stykz