12 Guaranteed Free Animation Software Tools That Actually Animate

March 17th, 2020

If you want to try out some free animation software before splurging on paid plans, you’re in luck. Free animation software is a viable choice for professional animators, beginners, hobbyists, and indie studios who work on tighter budgets. Beloved animation studios like Studio Ghibli use free animation tools to produce their major works, so why can’t you? 

Below, we’ll highlight 12 of the best free animation software. These tools are not just glorified video editors or gif-makers, but software that will actually allow you to create animations from the ground up. They can also be used completely for free, and not just as part of a limited-time free trial.

#1 Animaker

Animaker is a video making platform that allows users to make both live-action videos and animated videos. Some of its key features include specialized tools for creating video infographics, 2D animations, and collaborative animated shorts. 

Best for
Users new to animation or for whom animation is only a small part of their job description. Animaker is designed to be easy-to-use for both seasoned animators and those just looking to make exciting content for their business.

#2 Autodesk Maya

Autodesk products are considered the industry standard for animation. For students, educators, and educational institutions, Autodesk Maya, a 3D animation, motion graphics, and VFX software, is available for free. Autodesk Maya is great for computer animation, character modeling, and 3D renders. 

Best for

Animation students, art school educators, and educational institutions looking to arm their students with the skills to prepare them for the professional world of animation. 

#3 Autodesk 3DS Max

Autodesk 3DS Max puts a stronger focus on 3D modeling and rendering than Autodesk Maya. It’s also available for free to students, educators, and educational institutions. It is designed to expedite 3D content creation.

Best for

Animation students who are particularly interested in working on video games. Autodesk 3DS Max features great support of 3D modeling and rendering compared to other tools on this list. 

#4 Blender

Blender is a completely free-to-use, open-source 3D animation platform. It can be used for 3D modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, motion tracking, and video editing. Users can even create 2D animations using this software. 

Best for

Professional animators working at indie studios, or starting their own studio. Good for those looking to be a part of something bigger in regards to animation software as Blender allows for community-driven and community-designed updates.

#5 Clara.io

If you really aren’t looking to commit to downloading free animation software, check out Clara.io—a browser-based 3D modeling tool. With Clara.io you can access a library of 3D models to use in your own animations, as well as create your own. Clara.io also supports 3D rendering within its browser-based app.

Best for

Animators looking to try their hand at 3D animation, but don’t want to commit to downloading due to hardware constraints.

#6 Daz Studio

Daz Studio is 3D modeling software that also allows users to create 3D scenes and renders. It can be used to create still images as well as videos. It comes with built-in 3D figure content for users to use as-is or customize to their liking. These ready-made assets are a huge selling point.

Best for

Character artists focusing on 3D modeling. Video game character artists will particularly enjoy Daz Studio’s 3D character modeling and motion capture capabilities. 

#7 K-3D

K-3D is an open-source animation platform that supports 3D modeling.  It allows users to create procedural modeling and animations and provides users with interactive tutorials to help you quickly understand its features. It also supports scripting using Python or its proprietary K3DScript engine, but can integrate with other scripting languages.

Best for

Animators looking for more flexibility with their free animation software. K-3D offers standout adaptability with different coding languages, and is a great option for animators looking to experiment or test ideas within computer animation. 

#8 OpenToonz

OpenToonz and Toonz are the animation software choice of Studio Ghibli, one of the world’s most beloved animation studios, and is, therefore, a big draw for those interested in 2D animation. OpenToonz can be used for all steps of the animation process, and given that this tool is open-source, it can be modified to suit your team’s specific needs.

Best for

Indie animation studios focused on 2D animation. Animators looking to grow and expand upon their free animation software’s features and capabilities with community support will also find OpenToonz’ active help forum useful.

#9 Pencil2D

As its name suggests, Pencil2D is animation software geared towards 2D animations, specifically those that are hand-drawn. It allows hand-drawn artists to streamline their animation process by providing tools that allow them to switch between raster and vector workflows. 

Best for

Cartoonists with unique art styles, and traditional artists looking to get into animation. Pencil2D focuses on cartooning specifically, and it was designed to work well with hand-drawn sketches versus stricter 3D modeling.

#10 Powtoon

Powtoon allows users to create animated presentations and animated videos using its software. Its key features is its WYSIWYG animation editor, which allows you to utilize its database of images and vectors to create animations. Users can also bring in their own images and animations to use within its platform. It comes with several templates depending on users needs such as educational videos or informative marketing plans.

Best for

Professionals with no experience in animation. Great for anyone looking to experiment with their presentation styles, or trying to make more engaging content for their brand.

#11 Rive

Rive is a 3D animation software platform that is part of the Open Design movement, so it is available completely for free. What makes Rive unique is that its tools are interactive in design, allowing artists to make changes to their animations and 3D models in real-time.

Best for

Character artists and 3D modelers who are not interested in dealing with code. Rive is also a great option for animators looking to speed up their animation processes. 

#12 Synfig Studio

Our final tool is another 2D animation platform called Synfig Studio. It is one of the more traditional open-source 2D animation software tools on the market, given that it puts emphasis on vectors and bitmap images. However, it provides animators with a front-end and back-end tool for creating animations first, and then rendering later.

Best for

Indie animation studios that will need to do both front-end and back-end work on their projects. Good for 2D animators looking to save time in regards to tweening. 

Looking beyond free animation software

While the free animation software listed above are commonly used professionally, you may still want to branch out into paid alternatives once you feel you’ve outgrown them. This will definitely be applicable to users who start as students using Autodesk products and want to continue to use them in their professional careers. The newly-created animation software category on TrustRadius is a great starting point for professional animators or team supervisors looking to take their department to the next level. If you have used any of the tools featured on the site, leave a review to help other animators find what will work best for them and their teams.