Best Animation Software 2D and 3D: From everyday business to imaginary worlds

Animation is an art form that has captured the human imagination for a very long time. Even though the necessary technology for recorded animation dates back to just over a century ago, archaeologists have discovered even pre-historic attempts to depict motion in images. Allowing creative people such freedom to represent new worlds and new possibilities, it’s no wonder that we fall in love with animation as children and continue to appreciate it into our adulthood.

So it’s also no surprise that animation is everywhere in our contemporary lives, from simple interactive web pages to immersive 3D games. If it’s an area you aspire to work in or practice, there are plenty of opportunities, provided you can hone your skills and get a thorough understanding of the tools. Start on that today with a course covering the 12 principles of animation.

And while you are working on that, start to think about what you want kind of animation you want to do and what tools you’ll need.  Here are some of the top software programs in several categories.

3D Animation

3D animation requires fairly complex applications, and there is a general concensus on the best progams you can learn in this space:


This program, currently owned and maintained by Autodesk, is an industry standard for 3D animated movies, television, and games, as well as computer generated 3D effects in live-action entertainment. If you have been paying attention to popular media over the past decade, you have no doubt seen a lot of what it can do on the big screen or your home console.

Always up to date and fully featured, Maya is a great program to learn if you are hoping to start a career as a professional 3D animator. On the other hand, it is relatively arduous and expensive, so if its features are beyond your needs, that might give you reason to look elsewhere. If you are ready to take on this extensive and feature rich program, jump in with a course covering Maya 2014.


In large production studios, you aren’t likely to see this open-source software as often as others. However, if you are working with a budget and/or undertaking 3D animation for your own projects, Blender might be a good option for you. This is in large part because of it’s attractive price tag: it’s completely free.

And even at zero cost to the user, this is a respectable tool that will get done what you need it to do. You just might not expect to get as much traction if you are trying to market the skill in a job search, and you might come across some idiosyncracies that make it harder to work with from time to time.

In addition to spending no money on the software, you can learn to use it for very little cost. Try an online course in 3D modeling with Blender for less than $20.

3DS Max

Another product by Autodesk, 3DS Max is another fully featured animation software, geared to a larger extent toward the gaming market. There is some perception now that those who can work with Maya will be able to work with 3DS. but Autodesk may begin to build out the programs’ features for more specific uses, Maya being the film star and 3DS being the gaming heavyweight. So if you are thinking about getting in to the gaming industry 3DS Max could be a great tool to begin learning. You can take a beginning level tutorial in 3DS Max to get a strong start.

2D Animation


Adobe’s universally known development environment and animation tool is still used extensively. It has a reputation for being easy to use and very flexible with 2D animators for lots of web-development purposes. Often professionals also praise it for its intuitive user interface, allowing them to get work done quickly with little fuss.

Flash-based animation took a blow when Apple decided not to work with it on its iOS platform, and Android followed suit soon after. However, Adobe is adapting its creative suite to changes in the modern web, and Flash remains a staple in the animator’s toolkit. It also remains a popular platform for developing simple, web-based games.

You can start learning Flash today with a beginner’s course in Adobe Flash Professional CS5.5.


Often discussed as a competitor to Flash, ToonBoom has gained traction and won over a significant fan-base. While more companies still use Flash for may projects, some houses are turning to ToonBoom for its ability to produce high quality graphics with greater reliability when it’s used as a drawing.

On the other hand, while this tool might give you a nicer looking finished product that you can execute all with one package, it comes with a less fluid interface that takes some getting used to. So if you are interested in getting to know this software, you will want to get some guidance in a course on animating in ToonBoom Studio.

Anime studio

An alternative to ToonBoom and Flash, Anime Studio can be a nice option for beginning animators and those looking to make simpler animations. Its features put ease of use first. For example, it has an automatic lip-syncing feature that works by reading the dynamics of sound input.

And the major advantage that makes it an attractive option for some is, again, it’s price. With its basic version retailing for less than $50, it is by far the least expensive option. You can learn the software with a comprehensive tutorial on Anime Studio Pro 9.

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Animation has come such a long way over the 20th century and into the 21st that it can and often does stand in for reality in movies and television. This means the technology has become sophisticated and you can do a lot with it. Of course, it also means there is a lot to learn. So don’t waste time. Get on top of this software and get to animating today.