Our Top Picks

Adobe Logo
Adobe Animate
  • Deployment: SaaS, Windows, Mac
  • Customer service: Chat, tickets
  • 2D animation

As part of the Creative Cloud platform, Adobe Animate features a suite of 2D animation tools for cartoons, video games, and interactive web content. The software includes advanced rigging tools and comes with premade characters, audio clips, backgrounds, and other assets. Animate supports one-click export to some of the most popular sharing platforms, including YouTube and Twitter. All asset design and coding can be done from within the Animate app for a seamless creation experience. Users can add special effects, such as cinematic intros and custom color adjustments, to creations with the included After Effects tool.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • New features added regularly
  • Step-by-step tutorials
  • One-click publishing

Cons

  • No phone support
  • Can only be installed on up to two computers

Summary

Adobe Logo
Adobe Animate
  • Starting Price
    • Adobe Animate Single Apps: $27.62/month
    • Creative Cloud All Apps: $69.72/month
    • Students and teachers: $26.30/month
    • Business: $54.04/month
  • Free Trial/Demo
    Free Trial
  • Deployment
    SaaS, Windows, Mac
  • Support Options
    Chat, Tickets
  • 3D Animation
    Yes
Features
  • Deployment: SaaS, Windows, Mac
  • Customer service: Chat, tickets
  • 2D animation
Animaker Logo
Animaker
  • Deployment: Web-based, cloud, SaaS
  • Customer service: Chat, tickets
  • Character builder

Animaker's 2D animation software comes with thousands of pre-built templates, characters, scenes, and music files, enabling users to build their creations with just a few clicks. The lip sync function automatically pairs voiceovers with character mouth movements, eliminating the need to match the two manually. Creators can add subtitles and image overlays, as well as protect their content with a custom watermark. Other features include text-to-speech functionality, live video editing, and real-time multiuser collaboration tools. The software supports up to 4K video quality and direct publishing to all social media channels, including LinkedIn and Instagram.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Large asset library
  • Strong security features
  • Free version

Cons

  • Not for 3D
  • Limited features and support for free version
  • 4K quality for Enterprise only

Summary

Animaker Logo
Animaker
  • Starting Price
    • Basic: $10/month
    • Starter: $19/month
    • Pro: $39/month
    • Enterprise: Custom Pricing
  • Free Trial/Demo
    Does not offer Free Trial
  • Deployment
    Web-Based, Cloud, SaaS
  • Support Options
    Tickets, Chat
  • 3D Animation
    No
Features
  • Deployment: Web-based, cloud, SaaS
  • Customer service: Chat, tickets
  • Character builder
Autodesk Logo
Autodesk 3dsmax
  • Deployment: Windows, Mac, web-based
  • Customer service: Phone, email, tickets, live support
  • Integrations

3ds Max offers creators powerful 3D modeling and rendering tools for animation, design visualization, and games. The software's built-in Arnold renderer features an artist-friendly UI and workflow automation APIs. Users can create photorealistic animations with dynamic lighting, detailed textures, and natural behavior for liquids, such as oil and water. 3ds Max comes with ready-to-use customizable character rigs for both bipedal and four-legged creations. The Shared Views feature allows creators to send a visual representation of their work to collaborators via any desktop or mobile device.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Robust suite of 3D animation tools
  • Annual billing discount
  • Good support and tutorials

Cons

  • Not beginner-friendly
  • Not for 2D animations
  • Expensive

Summary

Autodesk Logo
Autodesk 3dsmax
  • Starting Price
    • Maya: $1,620/year
    • 3DS Max: $1,620/year
    • Motionbuilder: $1,855/year
  • Free Trial/Demo
    Free Trial
  • Deployment
    Windows, Mac, Web-based
  • Support Options
    Phone, Email, Tickets, Live Support
  • 3D Animation
    Yes
Features
  • Deployment: Windows, Mac, web-based
  • Customer service: Phone, email, tickets, live support
  • Integrations
Blender Logo
Blender
  • Deployment: Windows, Linux, Mac, web-based
  • Customer service: Email, ticket, live support
  • Character builder

Open-source Blender is a complete package of animation tools for modeling, rigging, motion tracking, and video editing. Blender's path-tracing engine, Cycles, supports ultrarealistic rendering and a viewport that lets users see their creations unfold in real time. Users can paint creations with 3D textured brushes, sculpt objects, and combine 2D drawings with 3D animations directly in the viewport. Camera and object tracking tools allow users to import raw footage and reconstruct camera movements live within a 3D scene. Blender's Python-based API enables creators to script and customize any tool to meet their project's needs.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Completely free
  • Good documentation
  • Training and certification available

Cons

  • No phone support
  • No mobile deployment

Summary

  • Starting Price
    • Custom Quote
  • Free Trial/Demo
    Free & Open Source
  • Deployment
    Windows, Linux, Mac, Web-based
  • Support Options
    Email, Ticket, Live Support
  • 3D Animation
    Yes
Features
  • Deployment: Windows, Linux, Mac, web-based
  • Customer service: Email, ticket, live support
  • Character builder
Toonboom Logo
Toonboom Harmony
  • Deployment: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Customer service: Email, phone, tickets
  • 2D animation

Toon Boom Harmony provides a full suite of drawing, painting, and animation tools designed for 2D videos and games. Harmony supports both paperless and simple cutout animations, as well as 2D/3D integration and a variety of special effects. The advanced brush engine lets content creators choose from a library of textures, shaders, and color management environments. Artists can add depth and realism to their creations with advanced rigging features and texture deformers. Harmony features scripting tools for task automation and improved productivity. The optional Harmony Server includes scene storage, high-speed scanning, and integrated batch rendering in a secure multiuser environment.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Training courses
  • 33% annual billing discount
  • Permanent license available

Cons

  • No bitmap tools for Essentials
  • 8K resolution for Premium only

Summary

Toonboom Logo
Toonboom Harmony
  • Starting Price
    • Harmony Essentials: $15/month
    • Harmony Advanced: $36/month
    • Harmony Premium:$68/month
  • Free Trial/Demo
    Free Trial
  • Deployment
    Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Support Options
    Email, Phone, Tickets
  • 3D Animation
    No
Features
  • Deployment: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Customer service: Email, phone, tickets
  • 2D animation

How We Chose the Best Animation Software

Whether you're making a short 2D movie or working on the next big video game, animation software has the tools you need to bring your creative project to life. Some animation software is geared toward beginners, while other programs may require a bit of training to make the most of them. We chose the best of both types based on features that all animation software should have.

Animation Features

Tasks such as lip syncing, rigging, and designing special effects can be labor-intensive when done manually. Our top picks handle it all with just a few clicks. We also prefer software that includes templates for ready-to-use characters and backgrounds.

Types of Animation

The best animation software supports both 2D and 3D projects, with the most powerful allowing creators to combine both types of artwork in a single scene.

Integrations

We prioritized software that can integrate with other popular tools and programs used by animators, such as Adobe Photoshop, AutoCAD, Fusion 360, and Civil 3D.