You want to start animating, but you have one problem; you don’t know which animation software is best for you.

Yep. I didn’t say which animation software is BEST... because truth is, there is no BEST... there are features, and there are user needs.

Always remember this

“It’s not the tool, it’s the artist”.

I’ve seen crappy animations done with very expensive software, and also seen amazing animations with cheap software.

So, the real question is, what do you need?

That can be hard to answer... but hey... Good news!

Here at 2D Animation 101, we have narrowed the process for you.

All you have to do is: Evaluate your current situation, capabilities and needs (your budget, the results you are looking for, your own ability to learn) and the process will be a breeze.

Consider the following criteria when choosing your next software.

Price

Price/Fee:

How much does it cost? Do you prefer onetime payment? Or a monthly fee?

Learning

Learning curve:

How much time will it take you to learn the basics of the program? Are you a fast learner? Slow learner?

Resources

Learning Resources:

How many free tutorials are available out there?

Assets

Assets and Plugins:

Are there many plug ins or assets available (characters, elements) that can make your life easier?

Requirements

Requirements:

How much hardware power do you have? Can your computer get Superman jealous?

Possibilities

Possibilities:

What can you achieve? We will show you the types of animations that each software can do. (So you can be inspired!)

So, the key is to evaluate your situation.

If you have a big budget, then, the price will not be a problem. But if you don’t have enough budget, then you need a cheap software.

Or, if you are a slow learner then you need something easy to learn, but if you are a fast learner, then a complicated software won’t intimidate you.

Got it? Just evaluate your situation and your needs, and once you have that, proceed to step 2.

Ok. Let’s jump right into the different options

Instructions:

Click on the software to get more info
Adobe After Effects
Adobe Animate
Toon Boom
Adobe After Effects
Adobe Animate
Toon Boom

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ADOBE AFTER EFFECTS $29.99/MO

Adobe After Effects is a very popular software in the market. Lots of tutorials.

It’s mostly used for motion graphics and visual effects, and not so much in character animation...

But! We wanted to include it in this list because, thanks to a lot of plug ins, you can achieve decent cut out character animation.

Even though you can’t do traditional animation (no frame-by-frame feature, no onion skin) you can use the puppet tool and plug ins (like Duik) to rig characters, and you can also import 3D elements to your animation.

Another awesome feature is the powerful and easy 3D Environment. You can control 3D cameras, and set very complex scenes.

As for the requirements, almost any computer out there can handle after effects.

But remember, it all depends on how much processing your project needs.

And, before we finish with this one, there is another thing to consider: The integration with other adobe products, like Photoshop or Illustrator.

That’s got to be a powerful feature, right?

PRICE $29.99/MO or $239/YR

LEARN MORE ABOUT ADOBE AFTER AFFECTS:

AE OFICIAL PAGE:

After Effects Official Page

AE FREE BASIC TRAINING:

Video Copilot Basic Training

CHARACTER ANIMATION COURSES:

Save Time in Character Animation in After Effects
2D Animation With No Drawing Skills in After Effects
Adobe Training Classes & Certifications

POSSIBILITIES

ARCHER

Archer’s characters are created in Adobe Illustrator, and then rigged inside After Effects.

Pipelines

This animation was created with the integration of Adobe Animate (Flash Pro) and After Effects

MAN

This animation was created with the integration of Adobe Animate (Flash Pro) and After Effects

ADOBE ANIMATE (FLASH) $29.99/MO

This one is probably the most popular 2d animation software that is vector based.

It is the one preferred by most YouTubers who post funny animations.

It has a 360 rotatable canvas that you can use to improve your angles and strokes, and it’s compatible with Wacom.

Another awesome feature is the powerful and easy 3D Environment. You can control 3D cameras, and set very complex scenes.

Oh, and different to After Effects, you can scale your drawings to any resolution without losing any quality (because it’s vector-based, not pixel-based)

All in all, it’s a very intuitive software for 2D Animation. Recommended for funny sketches.

PRICE $29.99/MO or $239/YR

Learn More about Adobe Animate:

ADOBE ANIMATE OFICIAL PAGE:

How To Make Animation in Adobe Animate

BASIC TRAINING:

Adobe Animate CC First Look

CLASSES & CERTIFICATION:

Adobe Training Classes & Certifications

POSSIBILITIES

I love dota 2

kite

Moho (Anime Studio) Pro $399.99

Many animators consider this to be the direct (and more affordable) competition to Toon Boom.

Of course, big studios would probably differ, but hey, it’s not the tool, it’s the artist, right?

You can do awesome traditional animation (frame-by-frame).

And with the new release of version 12, the smart bone enhancements and bone targets; you can achieve very complex character rigs that really give the illusion of traditional animation.

You can get Moho (Anime Studio) pro for a onetime payment of $399.99 USD (or if you subscribe to their newsletter, you can get an offer for $200).

So, for a fraction of what Toon Boom costs, you can enjoy a lot of the same features that Toon Boom Premium ($76/mo) offers:

  • Different brush styles
  • Frame by Frame Animation
  • Multiple Layers and Drawings
  • Cut Out Animation (Awesome Bones System with IK)
  • Particle Systems

Another advantage is that you don’t need a high end computer hardware to be able to run the software, but as always, it all depends on your project requirements.

All in all, Moho (Anime Studio) pro is a very powerful software, with a lot of tutorials on their website.

But, they don’t cover the essentials for beginners, so that’s why we offer a FREE animation course where you can learn the basics on cut out/puppet animation.

Now. For the really advanced and veteran, Moho (Anime Studio) doesn’t offer a Node Workflow, but if you don’t care about that, are happy working with layers, and you have a tight budget, consider Moho (Anime Studio) Pro as a good alternative to Toon Boom.

PRICE: One Payment of $399.99

(Remember you can get it for $200 if you subscribe to their newsletter and wait for a 50% discount offer).

Learn More about Moho Pro:

OFFICIAL SITE

Moho Pro Free Trial

Basic Training

Moho Video Tutorials

POSSIBILITIES

Moho 12 Trailer

Anime Studio Trailer

Moho (Anime Studio) Debut $69.99

Ok, this one is a cheap one. For only onetime payment of $69.99 USD, you can enjoy all of the features needed to do basic Cut-Out Animation.

And yes, with Inverse Kinematics, a feature that costs $76.00 a month in Toon Boom.

What’s the catch? Why so cheap? Well, you can’t do traditional animation, and can’t do very complex rigging (no Smart Bones).

For a comparison between what you can or can’t do with the Debut, compared with the Pro version, check this link.

If you are starting your journey in animation, this can be an excellent choice.

Once you master cut-out animation, you have the option to upgrade to the Moho (Anime Studio) Pro and explore new grounds, like combining Traditional Animation and Rigged Characters.

PRICE: One Payment of $69.99

(Remember you can get it for $200 if you subscribe to their newsletter and wait for a 50% discount offer).

Learn More about Moho Debut:

OFFICIAL SITE

Moho Debut Free Trial

Basic Training

Moho Video Tutorials

POSSIBILITIES

Moho Overview

Toon Boom $16/MO, $41/MO, $76/MO

Toom boom harmony is considered the Crème de la Crème of 2D animation software.

Used by major animation studios such as Disney, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros, etc.

It supports the 4 principal animation techniques:

    Traditional frame-by-frame animation Puppet or Cut-Out Animation (Rigged characters) Rotoscoping And Stop-Motion

And in the latest version, you can import 3D elements for your projects.

It sounds like the promised land right?

Well, let me tell you, is not that simple. This is for the big budget and fast learner people.

You can get the (very) limited Essential Version, for $16 USD a month; but you will be limited to just 1 layer per drawing, so your animation process is more tedious.

The Advanced version for $41 a month doesn’t let you use inverse kinematics, which is essential for Rigged characters.

And the Premium Version, the one recommended for professionals, costs $76 a month.

You need to spend some time to learn how to use it well, and you also need some computer power to run it perfectly.

For a complete list of what you can or can’t do with each version of Toon Boom Harmony, (and also to compare prices) check this link: https://www.toonboom.com/products/harmony/pricing

For a complete list of what you can or can’t do with each version of Toon Boom Harmony, (and also to compare prices) check this link: Toon Boom Harmony Pricing

Price: $16/MO, $41/MO, $76/MO

Learn More about Toon Boom:

OFFICIAL SITE

Toon Boom Official Website

Training

Toon Boom Certification

POSSIBILITIES

Sponge Bob

Family Guy

Synfig FREE!

This one is a FREE software.

Yep, you read that right. You need $0 bucks to get it. (Hopefully you won’t be in debt, because you won’t be able to afford $0 dollars)

Don’t let the “price” fool you, this is an excellent tool, it supports a lot of 2d animation features like cut-out animation.

Ok... so where is the catch?

Well, it doesn’t offer Inverse Kinematics, or any other time-saving bones feature.

Oh, and also, you need to at least have some experience working with 2D Animation.

The software is not very intuitive, and there are not many tutorials on the web, but hey! It’s FREE and you can give it a shot.

And all in all, you can get very decent-looking projects, but it will take longer to animate them.

It is an excellent choice if your pockets are empty, but you will have to dive deep into the documentation to get familiar with the software.

Price: $0.00 FREE! (Wohoo!)

Learn More about Synfig:

OFFICIAL SITE

Synfig Official Site

Basic Training

Official YouTube Channel

POSSIBILITIES

MOREVNA DEMO

This demo is a part of Morevna Project which is targeted at creation full-feature anime movie using Open Source software only. The 2D Animation was made on Synfig.

Autodesk Maya $185/MO

This one is a biggie.

Maya is probably the industry’s standard in 3D Modeling and Animation.

If you got the budget, and are into 3D Animation, then Maya is the one to go with.

They offer the lite version at $30 USD/mo, or the pro version at $185 USD/mo

This is a very powerful software where you can do amazing work, from 3D cartoon animations, to real-looking characters. You can create characters for games and a lot of other cool stuff.

Its major feature is probably the wide range of textures and materials, including fluid, cloth, hair and muscle.

The interface is not super intuitive, and you really have to spend some time to learn the basics, but hey, once you manage to master the program, you can be unstoppable.

Luckily, there are a lot of tutorials out there to get you going.

This one is on the V.I.P. category... you need to be able to afford $185 USD a month, and, as most 3D software, you need a High End Computer to handle all the heavy processing.

So, expensive software for an expensive machine. Yep, like I said, reserved for the V.I.P.

However, if you keep the texture to the minimum, you can make it work with limited hardware.

But that would be just like spending your savings to buy a Rolex to impress rich people, when you can’t afford your bills.

So, keep in mind your budget. If you have it, then, this is the choice. If not, keep looking.

Price: $185/MO

Learn More about Maya:

OFFICIAL SITE

Maya Lite Version:
Maya Pro Version:
Maya Overview

Basic Training

Maya Knowledge Network
3D Tutorials from beginners to advanced
Maya Tutorials from CreativeBloq
Maya Tutorials from Digital Tutors

POSSIBILITIES

Witcher 2

Rango

Autodesk 3ds Max $185/MO

3ds max is almost the same as Maya.

It has a little more intuitive interface but remains in the hard category.

This software is mainly used for architecture projects, and not so much when you want to do character animation.

If your goal is to do character animation, then stick with Maya.

If you want to model cars, design engineering tools, architectural models, then stick with 3ds Max.

Anyway, the truth is that: you can achieve almost the same results in either one. It’s a matter of taste. Just consider your needs.

Price: $185/MO

Learn More About 3DS Max:

Official site

Subscribe to 3DS Max
3Ds Max Overview

Training and tutorials

3Ds Max Tutorials
3Ds Max Training
3Ds Max Ultimate Collection of Tutorials

POSSIBILITIES

3ds Max is more commonly used in Movies, here is a small list of movies that used 3ds max
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Avatar
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Speed
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Cinema 4d $999 - $2,295

This is probably the 3D solution to motion graphics by excellence.

Its integration with After Effects has given this software a lot of popularity.

What about Character animation? Can you get awesome stuff done with it? You can bet your bottom dollar on it.

Cinema 4D is one of the more intuitive 3D modeling and animation software out there, and you can find lot of tutorials.

The cons come when you have to rely on third party software, plug ins and scripts to improve your animation quality.

Another thing to consider is that It doesn’t come with a very powerful render engine, so you have to work with plugins to reach the results you are looking for.

And guess what... yep, this one is also for the V.I.P.

The licenses for Cinema 4D are:

  • Prime - $999 USD
  • Broadcast - $1,695 USD
  • Visualize - $2,295 USD

All in all, it’s a very powerful software that needs a powerful computer.

Cinema 4D is a very intuitive software and it’s easier to learn than most of its competitors.

Price: $185/MO

Learn More about Cinema 4D:

OFFICIAL SITE

Cinema 4D Overview

Basic Training

Cinema 4D Tutorials from Digital Tutors
5 Training Sites for Cinema 4D
Plug ins and Training for Cinema 4D
Learn Cinema 4D in one day tutorial

POSSIBILITIES

The Polar Express

Houdini $1,495 USD

This one is an excellent 3D animation software, however, its limitations come when we talk about its features. The environment is somewhat limited.

On the good side, it has a powerful render engine called Mantra, which can deliver high quality images.

The Nodes system makes it very powerful, but it can be quite difficult to understand at first glance.

So you will need to spend some time learning the basics. And even some more if you want to get to the advanced stuff.

There are not many tutorials out there, so you have to start with the software documentation. Yeah, I know... boring.

PRICE: $1,495 USD

Learn More about Houdini:

Official Website

Overview

Training

Master Classes
Learning Materials
Houdini Fundamentals Course
Introduction To FX Using Houdini

POSSIBILITIES

Big Hero 6

Blender FREE

This one is the good news for the No-Budget people interested in 3d. It’s FREE. Wahoo!

Not only is it FREE, but it is also very powerful.

You can create animated movies, video games, 3D Printing models, and all the content that you create is totally yours (That means you can create a model and sell it!)

It has an outstanding performance in 3D Design, modeling and animation.

Ok... sounds like heaven. Where is the catch?

Well, it can be pretty daunting for someone who has never worked with a 3D software before.

So unless you have some experience in 3D modeling or animation, you will have to do some groundwork to get familiar with the software.

There are quite a few courses and tutorials on the web, so you don’t have to worry about that.

As for the requirements, well, they are pretty much the same as any other 3D Software.

The real advantage is that it’s powerful and it’s FREE.

PRICE: $0.00 (FREE! WOHOO!)

Learn More about Blender:

Official Site

Blender Oficial Website

Training

Blender 3D Design Course
Blender Training and Tutorials
Blender Basics Course
Blender Course

POSSIBILITIES

Sintel

R'ha

Conslusion

As you can see, you can achieve excellent results in every single software.

Just remember, it’s not the tool, it’s the artist.

Being a great animator takes time, and all those cool animations come from years of preparation perfecting a skill.

And for you to start perfecting your skill, choose a software, try it for a little bit, flirt with it. If it gets you, marry it.

Which one should you start with? Just follow the two steps.

  1. Evaluate your situation
  2. Choose a software that fits your situation.