The creation of cartoons of any complexity and style has long been available not only to professional studios but also to any owner of a desktop computer, laptop, or even a smartphone. There are a massive number of all kinds of large and small applications for creating animation in 2020, and the editors of Expertology magazine will help you choose the best ones. Our experts have prepared recommendations for the most exciting and functional applications for creating animation on a PC. Here we will give a complete list about best animation software.
Best free entry-level animation software
In the first collection, we will consider the most accessible and completely free programs for development. Each program has its characteristics, a particular style, even genre accents. An excellent choice for the first attempts at writing in the art of animation, for a one-time creation of an animated video congratulation or presentation. For the most part, the proposed options are available for beginners to master; some are even completely free.
Let’s start with an application for creating two-dimensional animation, in which two-dimensionality is emphasized already in the name – Pencil2D. The program is entirely free, developed in line with the ideology of open source. Compatible with Windows, macOS X, and Linux PC platforms. So, It is one of the most straightforward solutions in this subject area. The program interface can be characterized as classic or traditional for video processing and animation applications, as a form of it.
Among the tools, there are primary and advanced sets of tools for vector and raster drawing principles – a pencil, a pen, an eraser, a brush, etc. Most of the tools are customizable – pressure, pen size, hardness, etc. the keyboard to draw lines, all kinds of shapes, manipulate curves, use tools for filling, blurring, erasing, highlighting a particular area and others. Although Pencil2D is a simple program, it is still not Paint, and there is support for layers.
True, the functionality of working with these same layers is not so wide, but this is not even a drawback, since the program is amateur. One way or another, the necessary basic minimum for working with such branched graphics is here. The basis of everything on which everything is built is a timeline – “Timeline,” depicted graphically in the form of a scale. On it, frames, layers, and everything else are managed.
The formation of a moving picture occurs frame by frame by adding and editing each (if necessary) frame. A beginner animator can view his creative while working on the feed, add inserts of images along the way, and add sound. There are a few of them – AVI, MOV, and WMV. Alternatively, the video can be recorded in the format of an animated GIF file, frame by frame in one JPG or SVG file, or even in general, each frame in a separate file. For all its simplicity, Pencil2D provides a real opportunity to create a quite dangerous animation, subject to a certain level of skill and the use of additional equipment – at least an electronic pen or a graphics tablet.
- elementary to master;
- light, fast, intuitive interface;
- works with layers;
- supports Macromedia Flash;
- one of the best newbie feedback;
- completely free.
- faulty localization.
Express Animate for Best animation software
Another simple, straightforward, easy-to-learn, and rather enjoyable application for creating two-dimensional animation is Express Animate. The program is also completely free. To be precise, certain functions related to 3D modeling are still included in Express Animate, but they serve more auxiliary purposes. The program provides tools for animating vector objects, text, imported bitmap objects, etc. There are also tools for processing a project in post-production using empty objects, masks, overlaying transparency, manipulating the size and shape of objects, adding sound. Working with an open project is carried out on the principle of using keyframes, between which the engine independently draws smooth transitions. So, you can apply basic digital settings (brightness, contrast, saturation, color inversion, etc.), all kinds of filters to any graphic objects in the frame. Objects can be grouped; masks can be added to groups.
The workspace and, to a certain extent, the style of work in Express Animate has clear parallels with the super popular Adobe After Effects software package. It has almost exactly the same timeline and a generally similar interface. Only the functionality, of course, is far from so rich.
But, as in the case of the previous program, there is no expectation of creating super-complex projects, and thanks to good optimization, simple animated graphics do it quickly, clearly and without excessive movements, as it would be in any professional-grade software package. With sound, Express Animate also works not one-sidedly but allows you to add audio tracks, and separately apply various sound effects to them. Flash and classic GIF. In general, the program has earned mostly positive feedback from users.
- simple and straightforward to learn;
- speed of work;
- convenient tools;
- completely free;
- interface and approaches resemble Adobe After Effects;
- correct smooth transitions between keyframes;
- there is a language of the working environment.
- some simple, useful tools are missing.
The third number in Expertology magazine’s selection of the best free software for creating simple animation in 2020 is the vector editor Synfig Studio – developed for the American studio Voria Studios. Distributed under the free GNU GPL license, there are versions for Windows, macOS X, and Linux platforms. The main stated specialization of Synfig Studio is “creating professional 2D-animation.” As for the level, such a statement by the developers is a pure marketing ploy, since the program itself, although it boasts a little more advanced functionality than the previous ones, is far from real animation software packages.
Synfig Studio employs flexible techniques for creating moving images, allowing frame-by-frame animation, but not fixing only on this method. You can import vector and raster graphic objects from files in different formats into the project, sound design from files in WAV and MP3 formats. The program is more “sharpened” for working with vector objects.
Synfig Studio can work with different types of layers, apply all kinds of distortions, apply built-in filters, transform graphic objects in every possible way, change their properties. So, It greatly simplifies the procedure for adding soft tints to a series by the application’s support for the function of gradient paths – there is no need to carry out the procedure with each frame of the sequence. And this is not the only tool that uses real-time calculation technology – the same principle can be used for color correction for a whole series of frames, radial blur, etc. The program also has advanced features that are not available in every free animation software. So, here we see support for extended lighting effects in the context of working with high dynamic range HDRI. There are convenient tools for synchronizing the audio track with the “picture.”
Synfig Studio Advantages
- “Commercial” functionality in a free program;
- work with layers; support for gradient paths;
- support for high dynamic range HDRI;
- automatic animation tools;
- good localization and training course;
- there are versions for the three most popular operating systems.
Synfig Studio Disadvantages
- some restrictions on the format, parameters, and composition of imported files.
The selection of the best free programs for creating animation, according to Expertology, will be completed with an extremely simple but very interesting application. It does not require the user almost any drawing skills at all and even most of the knowledge of the basics. Here the whole idea is different – to create a hero-character with a schematic appearance, but unique and realistic “behavior.” The principle of the editor is based on the so-called skeletal animation using sprite graphics.
To do this, we have a specific set of tools and blanks at our disposal – basic shapes of a circle and a triangle, lines, stripes. There are two main ways to create a symbolic character – from scratch and from ready-made samples. In the first case, you will need to switch to the “Creator” mode. In the mode of ready-made samples. So, you can use built-in objects, some of them are free – animals, plants, trees, sabers, swords, tanks, etc., and some can be purchased for a small fee – a police car, automatic weapons, ready-made little men with their own characters, etc.
The user has a fixed set of possibilities for manipulating objects. You can change the parameters of the mesh, take segments of different lengths, change their thickness, move the object allows you to do it in whole, or in component parts, focusing on key points. A wide palette is also available for coloring objects and backgrounds. You can save the hero and the episode with his participation in GIF or AVI format but without sound design. So, you will need to “voluntarily-compulsorily” like the official Pivot Animator page on Facebook. The paid version has no ads. Some additional sprites are available.
- interesting and exciting idea;
- ease of learning;
- realistic “behavior” of the created characters;
- quite a workable free version.
- you cannot change the scale.
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The best animation software for beginner to intermediate
In the second part of the review of the best animation software for beginner to intermediate creating animation according to the Expertology magazine. So, we offer a large selection of programs that our experts have identified in the huge mass of applications of this kind existing in 2020. However, each of them has its own individual, sometimes unique advantages, and to a certain extent, allow creating animation videos of a fairly high technical level.
A large selection opens with a program that, for a long time, since 2008. The name stuck much better than the faceless “Cartoon Animator.” As the project evolved, it became more powerful and functional. In the next 4th version, 3D modeling elements have already appeared with interesting solutions for translating two-dimensional characters into three-dimensional ones. So, immediately a slight disappointment for Russian-speaking users – the program does not yet have an official Russian localization.
But the interface is clear and convenient enough to deal with it even with basic knowledge of the language in the subject area. Most of the built-in and selectable objects and characters have a predetermined set of properties. We recommend Cartoon animator is the best animation software for biggener. Therefore, characteristics and actions that can be applied canceled and changed. So, by selecting a character and placing it on the working field or a ready-made scene. The user can immediately apply ready-made animation scripts to him using the context menu.
Firstly, If you want the character to walk or run, you just need to select the appropriate behavior model from the context menu without having to draw all the movements manually. When you select one or another standard action, all movements fall on a convenient timeline at the bottom of the screen. After which you can already make changes manually at least in each frame. Now a few words about the 3D functions of the program. So, the fourth version of the program received a new function – 3D Head Creator. And from all sides of the 360-degree view and even the ability to create any poses.
Cartoon animator Advantages
- convenient and intuitive interface;
- many ready-made built-in scenes, characters, objects;
- ready-made scenarios for the behavior of objects and characters;
- three-dimensional function 3D Head Creator;
- tight integration with Adobe Photoshop.
Cartoon animator Disadvantages
- no fixed localization.
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Best animation software: Easy GIF Animator
Lightweight, simple, but quite workable within the framework of its specialization of programs – this is the fairly well-known Easy GIF Animator application. This is already a commercial product, paid and somewhat conservatively relatively expensive – in 2020, about $ 30 for such a simple program can already be considered bad manners, especially against the background of many similar free online services. On the other hand, it provides a fairly flexible trial and evaluation terms. The specificity of the program is that it is designed in the most simple and accessible way so that a person with zero profile training can quickly figure it out.
Firstly, you can apply built-in effects, transform, color change, and more to frames, background images, and imported objects. In the process of drawing, composing, and any form of editing, you can add sound design to the created animated video. Easy GIF Animator is one of the best animation software. You can save the work result in the same gif format, as well as flash or a video format. However, you can use the automatic code generation feature for insertion into the website. In other words, one notable flaw in Easy GIF Animator is that the program does not handle large projects with dozens of individual objects poorly. It turns out that there are no restrictions, but they will arise naturally if the project becomes too “heavy.”
- user-friendly and well-recognized interface;
- availability in development;
- simple and straightforward tools;
- everything you need to quickly create many small animations (banners, buttons);
- browser preview;
- automatic generation of HTML-code for insertion into the site;
- flexible terms of trial use.
- errors and crashes when the “invisible threshold of the number of objects is exceeded;