The 23 Best 3D Animation Software for Beginners in 2021

by | Feb 9, 2021 | Tips & Techniques | 0 comments

Want to grow your skills as a computer graphic artist? 

There’s no better time to learn about the best 3D animation software for beginners than today. Mastering industry-standard software applications are critical to building a successful career in the animation and VFX industries. Knowing which applications to learn, you are much likelier to get a job at top studios (Pixar and Dreamworks, to name a few), earn more than you ever thought possible, and enjoy a fulfilling career. And here below, we list the 23 best tools for you. 

Want to learn more? Let’s dive right in. 

What is 3D Animation?

3D animation is the art of bringing characters, sceneries, and props to life using 3D animation applications. To become successful in the animation and VFX industries, you have to master applications that many studios use. If you’re just getting your start, there are many 3D animation software programs for beginners to choose from. 

Why Should You Learn 3D Animation?

It’s essential to learn about these software applications as early in your career as possible because you’ll stand out from the competition and get MORE job opportunities. Hiring managers are always looking for very well-versed artists in the 3D animation software to save time. Less training means you can join a project faster. 

Also, artists who know how to use specific 3D animation software are getting paid more simply because they have the technical know-how and the experience. 

Can You Learn 3D Animation on Your Own?

A question we get asked a lot is, “Can I learn 3D animation on my own?”

The answer? Yes, you can. However, you’ll get much more out of the software if you have the proper training for it. 3D animation software programs, even the most basic ones, have tools that will require some practice to use the right way. Essentially, you’ll get faster results if you have the proper training. You’ll make fewer mistakes, which means you can complete a project faster. 

For example, take our student, Nicholas. 

Nicholas attended the Kansas City Art Institute for traditional hand-drawn animation and was almost instantly drawn to 3D animation. 

As no school or program had a strong 3D focus, he left his program early and began teaching himself 3D through online resources. 

His first job was as a 3D artist. But soon enough, Nicholas felt that he wanted to focus on the area that interested him the most — lighting, rendering, and composition. 

Again, he looked around for schools, but all of them were expensive and their curriculum felt outdated.

Ultimately, that’s how he found us at the Academy of Animated Art. He says:

“I immediately felt like I had a direction to go that would lead to success, and from there, it was up to me to work and make it happen. It feels like I have made incredible progress in such a short amount of time, and there is no way that would have happened without AAA.“

And just a short while later, Nicholas was offered a spot in Disney’s Apprenticeship program as a lighting trainee, fulfilling his dream of becoming a lighting artist.

How Long Does It Take to Learn 3D Animation?

How long it takes you to learn 3D animation depends on how much time, energy, and money you can spend. You can develop your skills in a few years and then build your skills if you choose to make it your career.  

If you’re a full-time student, you’ll obviously get results much faster. That said, by taking courses on the subject, you’ll get quicker results than if you just go through hundreds of free tutorials. 

3d animation example

What is the Best 3D Animation Software for Beginners?

What is the easiest 3D animation software to use?

Great question. When you’re still getting your start, it’s hard to know which of these 3D animation software applications to get — that’s something you’ll learn from experience. But, to understand what separates good from bad tools, here are some factors to consider:

The Power to Tell a Story

A good 3D animation software tool should let you tell a story to elicit the desired emotions. Using the software, you should be able to express the message that you want to convey, create worlds that could inspire your audience, and create characters that people could connect with. Choose a 3D animation software that lets you create, shape, and manipulate scenes, characters, and props to evoke the right emotions. 

Utmost Control

A good 3D animation software should have all the tools you need to express your vision. The software should come with features that let you control the flow of the story. It should allow you to edit scenes and work from different angles so that watching your creation is a complete experience for your audience. 

3D animation applications often come with pre-made models that you can use for animation. The software should let you mold these models to suit the scene you are building. Ideally, you have total control over the model to bring it to life. 

When it comes to choosing which of the best free animation software for beginners to use, it all boils down to the ones used by big studios. 

One of our favorites is Maya, one of the most popular 3D animation and modeling programs. Blender is a free 3D animation software that big studios like Disney use for their films. On the other hand, RenderMan is used by Pixar. This software application is free for non-commercial projects. Other applications that big studios use to animate are Zbrush, Keyshot, and Adobe Character Animator. 

3D animation example

List of 3D Animation Software for Beginners

While most 3D animation software applications come with complex toolsets to bring ideas to life, some are very beginner-friendly. That’s what this guide is all about. Let’s get to know more about these applications and how each one could help you succeed in the animation and VFX industries:

1. Maya

Official Website 

Maya course

Check out our Maya technical workshop that teaches you exactly how to use Maya from the ground up. 

Autodesk Maya is an industry-standard. It’s a 3D animation software that does everything related to 3D animation, including modeling, simulation, and rendering. It’s the software of choice for 3D scenes, games, presentations, special effects, and movies. Maya is best known for its customizable user interface. It comes with an advanced CG compositing program called “MatchMover” that allows users to combine 3D rendered images with motion data. 

Maya comes with a comprehensive set of tools and features for modeling, animating, texturing, rigging, lighting, and rendering. Because it’s on-destructive and non-linear, Maya lets users create incredibly true to life images and animations. You can also use Maya to model complex objects such as hair, fur, particles, and clothing.

Features

  • Cached Playback
  • Animation Bookmarks
  • Native motion library plugin
  • Time Editor
  • Geodesic voxel binding
  • General animation tools
  • Shape authoring workflow
  • Parallel rig evaluation
  • Performance capture
  • Arnold GPU/ CPU
  • Look development with Hypershade
  • Revamped sculpting tools
  • Polygon modeling
  • UV editor workflow, look, and feel

Pros:

Used by big studios: Again, Maya is an industry-standard. It’s one of the most widely-used 3D animation software programs in the business, so knowing how to use Maya will give you an advantage over the competition. 

Extensive Features: Maya has all the tools and features needed to create any type of animated characters and scenes. The software has everything to create different worlds. You’re only limited to your imagination. 

Cons: 

It’s not one of the cheaper options: Maya is a pricier tool because of the sophisticated technologies. 

Will require training: You can play with Maya’s many features, but to get the most out of this software, you need proper training. 

Pricing Plans 

Monthly Subscription: $205

Annual Subscription: $1620

3-Year Subscription: $4,375

2. Adobe Character Animator

Official Website 

 

Adobe Character Animation CC is an animation and motion capture software tool that lets you create 2D character animation and live animation in real-time. This software combines live motion-capture and multi-task recorder to create 2D puppets drawn in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. 

The live inputs are collected through a webcam for face-tracking, microphone for live lip-syncing, keyboard for triggering layers, and mouse for warping specific handles. You can then superimpose the puppets in different scenes.

Rigging is done automatically on Character Animation CC using specific layer names. Apart from creating characters in seconds, you can animate with legs, arms, and heads using control gestures. You can animate limbs naturally, create more accurate lip-sync, and add voices via the Adobe Sensei to correspond with movements and expressions.

Features

  • Characterizer
  • Replays
  • Magnets
  • Physics: Squash and Stretch deformation, Damping control
  • Walk behavior improvements
  • History bookmarks
  • Improved Start workspace

Pros

Animate in seconds: With this software, you can create movie animations, kinetic typography, cartoons, animated GIFs, etc., in real-time. It’s easy to use, and the animations are very fluid. 

Fast rigging: Using correctly layered PSD or Illustrator file, character rigging is virtually done automatically. It also comes with useful automatic lip-syncing and automatic walk cycle features.

Cons

Very specific: Rigging will require a particular naming structure and folder to automate the rigging.

Limited timeline editing: It will take some tweaking to pull out individual parts of the character.

Pricing Plans

Monthly Individual Subscription: $69.72

Monthly Subscription for Students and Teachers: $26.30

Monthly Subscription for Teams: $54.04

3. Blender

Official Website 

If you’re looking for a free 3D animation software for beginners, you’ll love Blender. It is an open-source 3D animation application that could support an entire 3D pipeline — modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, and motion tracking. You can also use Blender to support the 2D animation pipeline as well as VFX, gaming, and video editing. 

As a cross-platform software, Blender works well in various operating systems – Windows, Mac, and Linux and a port for FreeBSD. Blender’s OpenGL interface ensures a consistent experience for ease of use. Because it’s open-source software, the public could tweak the codebase to add more features, fix bugs, and promote better usability. 

Features

  • Modeling
  • Simulation
  • Animation
  • Non-linear video editor
  • UV unwrapping
  • Raster Graphics Editing
  • Sculpting
  • Built-in real-time graphics  
  • GPU rendering
  • Integrator for lighting computations
  • Texture and shading
  • EEVEE real-time PBR renderer 

Pros

It’s free: Blender is a software program designed for public use. But unlike some software brands that offer free 3D animation software for beginners with limited features, Blender supports the entire 3D pipeline. 

Feature-packed: Blender has all the features you need to create a full-length animated movie. You can use Blender to execute 3D modeling, texturing, and rendering in a single program. It also comes with quality rigging, particle simulation, smoke simulation, soft body simulation, skinning, fluid simulation, and match moving features.

Cons

Steep learning curve: Blender is loaded with a host of features, and for a beginner, learning all these tools can be quite intimidating or overwhelming. You’ll need proper training to use Blender to its fullest.

Cluttered interface: The interface takes a while to get used to, but the menus and toolbars are customizable.

Pricing Plans

Free 

According to Blender’s website:

  • You can use Blender for free, for any purpose
  • You are free to distribute Blender
  • You can study how Blender works and change it
  • You can distribute changed versions of Blender

Though free, users can donate and participate in advancing and supporting the Blender community.

4. KeyShot

Official Website

KeyShot is a 3D rendering software tool that lets you animate visuals of your 3D models in real-time. This software enables you to apply materials and light scenes quickly and easily by providing a host of scientifically-accurate materials and real-world lighting effects. On top of that, KeyShot offers advanced features and capabilities to create incredibly realistic characters, objects, and scenes. 

Although packed with advanced features, KeyShot is known for being user-friendly. It’s straightforward to learn thanks to its simple, workflow-based interface. But don’t let the user-friendly interface fool you; the software comes with advanced technologies and features for the most experienced 3D render professional.

Features

  • CPU Rendering
  • GPU Rendering
  • Denoise
  • Scientific accurate IOR, dispersion, and subsurface scattering
  • Global Illumination
  • Focused Caustics
  • HDRI Lighting
  • Physical Lighting
  • Material Library
  • Texture Library
  • Environment Library
  • Color Library
  • 3D Model Library
  • KeyShot Cloud
  • Procedural Textures
  • Dynamic Texture Mapping

Pros

Powerful features: The KeyShot Animation system is streamlined so you can create fluid animations with real-time playback and updates. As a renderer, KeyShot’s performance is unparalleled. The software will use all of your computer’s cores for lighting quick rendering.

Easy to use: KeyShot may be packed with excellent features, but it’s one of the most user-friendly 3D animation software programs there is. You don’t have to be an expert to create realistic images of your 3D model.

Cons

It’s expensive: All those features will cost you. As with any feature-rich 3D animation software applications, KeyShot is expensive – more expensive than some other 3D animation software tools. Also, subscriptions are limited to yearly packages, with no monthly or per-use pricing.

Limited geometry modification: You cannot modify the geometry like standard 3D software. Instead, you can only move the geometry, but you cannot alter its shape or form.

Pricing Plans

KeyShot 9 HD: $995.00 per year

KeyShot 9 Pro: $1,995.00 per year 

KeyShot 9 Pro Floating: $2,995.00 per year 

KeyShot 9 Enterprise: $3,995.00 per year

5. Houdini Apprentice 

Official Website

From the makers of Houdini FX comes Houdini Apprentice. It is the free version of Houdini FX and is geared towards students, hobbyists, and artists with personal, non-commercial projects. Houdini Apprentice lets you work at home for free, and it works seamlessly with Houdini Education, a sister animation software for school. Thanks to Houdini Apprentice’s .hipnc file format, working with different Houdini FX versions is easy and fuss-free. 

As far as features go, Houdini Apprentice gives you all the features of Houdini FX but expect several restrictions since it’s free software. The software cannot be floated on the network; it’s locked to the machine using them. With this software, you cannot use the License Administrator and “cannot be returned from the computer using the License Administrator.”

Features

  • Modeling
  • Terrain
  • Character
  • Animation
  • Solaris: Layout Tools
  • Solaris: Lookdev & Lighting
  • Mantra/Karma Rendering
  • Compositing
  • Volume
  • PDG | Tasks
  • Local Scheduler
  • Pyro FX
  • Simple Fireball
  • Fluids
  • Rigid Bodies
  • Simple Fracturing
  • Particles
  • Crowds
  • VELLUM Cloth
  • Simple Cloth
  • Wire Dynamics

Pros

It’s free: The best things in life are free, including the Houdini Apprentice. As long as you are using the software for non-commercial projects, you can enjoy its advanced features without paying a dime.

Flexible environment: Houdini Apprentice offers a powerful yet versatile environment and natural, node-based workflow that lets you unleash your fullest.

Cons

Many restrictions: Houdini Apprentice comes with many restrictions, which are expected with free software applications. This software cannot be used in the same pipeline as commercial versions of Houdini. Also, the assets used in Apprentice can’t be used with Houdini Engine or Houdini Engine Indie. Rendering is restricted to 1280×720.

Rendering limits: Houdini Apprentice has its own file format for saving assets and scenes. If you are rendering file formats other than the .picnc format, the results will be wordmarked. Houdini Apprentice will not work with other third-party renderers.

Pricing Plans

Free

6. Cartoon Animator 4 

Official Website

Cartoon Animator 4 is an animation software that lets you animate characters while generating lip-sync animation from audio, work on 3D parallax scenes, use a variety of 2D visual effects and adopt a comprehensive photoshop pipeline to custom create characters. The software comes with useful features and tools that let you turn illustrations into animation.

You can also use Cartoon Animator 4 to animate yourself! It features a sophisticated set of motion capture tools so you can record a video of your avatar or someone else performing as the character. You can then transfer the actions and movements to the animated avatar. 

Cartoon Animator 4 is also one of the best 3D animation software programs for beginners. The navigation is user-friendly and straightforward. Integration with other programs such as Photoshop, Krita, Affinity, or Clip Studio Paint, is also seamless. What’s more, you can use a whole library of assets for breathing life to 2D and 3D scenes. 

Features

  • Full body mocap
  • Motion Capture for 2D Animation
  • Webcam and iPhone facial Mocap
  • Hand tracking and digital Puppets
  • Smart IK Motion Editing
  • Precise IK/FK System
  • Smart Motion Retargeting
  • Auto IK Rig
  • Stretch Animation
  • 2D character rigging and bone tools
  • Character templates for humans & animals
  • Create multi-angled 2D characters
  • animate character – prop
  • Prop Dynamics & SFX
  • Give life to props – Elastic Motion
  • Create Interactive Compound Animations
  • Combine props and link SFX
  • Light and shades – Effect Layers

Pros

Easy animation: Cartoon Animator 4 is one of the most beginner-friendly 3D animation software programs. All the features you need to create animated characters, objects, and scenes are laid out simply so you can focus on creating amazing visuals and telling a story.

Seamless integration: This software plays well with other art-based applications, giving you even more control over all aspects of the animation you are working on. 

Cons

Best for professional use: Cartoon Animator 4 is reasonably priced if you work on projects for profits. But for hobbyists, there are more affordable options out there. 

Constant updates: Cartoon Animator 4 requires regular updates, and you have to pay for these updates. The price isn’t that much, but it could add up, which might frustrate some users.

Pricing Plans

Pipeline Edition: $199 

PRO Edition: $99

7. Adobe After Effects

Official Website

After Effects is Adobe’s motion graphics, compositing, and visual effects software. This software is designed for movies, video games, and television production. It can also be used for keying, tracking, compositing, and of course, animation. 

The software boasts of hundreds of special effects that could manipulate imagery in every way possible. With After Effects, you can combine layers of video and images into the same scene to create stunning visual wizardry. Adobe After Effects also works as a basic non-linear editor, audio editor, and media transcoder. 

Integration is also seamless with After Effects; the software goes well with other software applications. You can also use After Effects to import 3D scene data and create Hollywood-level title sequences.

Features

  • 2D Vector Animation
  • Basic 3D Animation
  • Character Animation
  • Kinetic Typography
  • UI/UX mock-up animations
  • Visual Effects
  • Motion Graphics
  • Rotoscoping 
  • Motion Tracking

Pros

Access to powerful toolsets: Adobe is known as an art, animation, and visual effects powerhouse, and with After Effects, you get a vast selection of Adobe toolsets that will take your visuals to the next level. Some of the Adobe applications that complement After Effects are Photoshop, Illustrator, Character Animator, or Animate. 

Stunning visuals: Expect nothing but the best features with After Effects. From motion graphics to VFX, After Effects come with all the essential post-production features that will elevate your creations. There are also loads of plugins you can use to boost customization.

Cons

No real-time features: Unlike some animation applications that come with real-time features, After Effects doesn’t have what is often deemed by many artists as an industry standard. 

It’s expensive: It’s from Adobe and true to form, After Effects is quite pricey. There’s a free version, but the features are limited, which is expected from these applications. 

Pricing Plans

After Effects as part of Creative Cloud: $27.62 per month

Creative Cloud All Apps: $69.72 per month

Students and teachers: $26.30 per month

Business: $54.04 per month

8. Stop Motion Studio

Official Website

Stop Motion Studio is a full-featured movie editor with an easy to use interface and powerful toolset for animation. This software lets you animate objects easily using a copy, cut, and insert approach at any position. Stop Motion Studio enables you to capture high-quality images using automatic or manual camera control settings. You can record using a live screen or in 4K and use a second device as a remote camera.

What sets Stop Motion Studio apart from other 3D animation software programs for beginners is that it can be used across all devices. It is available for iOS, macOS, Android, and Windows. It is also compatible with all popular camera brands, including Sony, Canon, and Nikon. With this software, you can start a project on one device and then complete it on another device. 

Features

  • Frame-by-frame editing
  • Desktop-class movie editing
  • Grid and Onion Skin controls 
  • Sound effects and music clips 
  • Built-in audio editor 
  • Painting tools
  • Apple Pencil support
  • Magic eraser
  • Image editor
  • Import options
  • Youtube Export
  • Timelapse
  • Rotoscoping
  • iCloud Sync
  • Shared iPad and Mobile Device Management

Pros

Beginner-friendly: This software makes moviemaking so fun and easy. It offers a range of powerful animation features that are simple to use. It’s even kid-friendly, so it’s virtually fool-proof. Great for practicing your skills as an artist. 

Social media integration: You can showcase your work on social media because the software lets you upload on YouTube and Facebook. You can also save your work as WMV, AVI, MPEG1, MPEG2, or HD MPEG file. 

Cons

Limited tools: Although Stop Motion Studio comes with a host of powerful yet easy to use features, the tools are not as extensive compared to other animation software programs. There are no pre-created special effects or character templates to use. You have to build your character from scratch.

Limited animation: The software focuses on animating physical objects instead of illustrations, so the animation aspect can be quite limiting. 

Pricing Plans

iPhone, iPad and iPod: $4.99

Mac: $9.99

Android and Chromebooks: $4.99

Windows: $9.99

9. Synfig Studio

Official Website

Synfig Studio is an open-source, 2-D animation software that lets you create film-quality animation without drawing the displayed images individually to create the illusion of movement. This software utilizes two techniques to make character animation easier – morphing and cutout animation. 

Morphing is a technique that creates a smooth transition between two images to make a basic sense of motion for a scene. Cut-out animation splits an object into several parts then adds simple transformation to interpolate the motion in-between frames.

Features

  • Simple, Single-Window mode UI
  • full-featured bone system
  • Advanced image distortion
  • Skeleton system
  • Cutout Tool
  • Sound Layer
  • Linux full-featured audio editors
  • Dynamics converter
  • Image painting engine with MyPaint brushes
  • Preliminary support for frame-by-frame animation
  • Plugin support 

Pros

It’s free: Synfig Studio is perfect for artists on a budget because it’s free. It’s ideal for small projects, and there are loads of experimental features to tinker with. The software also plays nicely with many third-party plugins, so you can create breathtaking animations without spending more on a pricey application.

Easy to use: Synfig Studio sticks to simple navigation with a basic workflow. You don’t have to be an expert to play with Synfig Studio. 

Cons

Limited resources: Synfig Studio does not enjoy the same level of popularity as other animation software programs, so finding info about it online isn’t easy. 

Needs a fast computer: The software is on the heavy side, and unless you’re using a fast computer, it will slow down your machine. You need to save regularly because your computer might crash now and then.

Pricing Plans

Free

10. Toon Boom Harmony

Official Website

Toon Boom Harmony is a versatile animation and production software program that lets you create animations for short films, television, video games, or online content. With the software, you can create animations using various techniques: cutout, paperless, and traditional animation. It can handle animation tasks from scanning to compositing — even 2D-3D integration. Some of the tools include pencil lines, textures, deformation tools, morphing tools, inverse kinematics, and a built-in compositor. 

Apart from the software, Toon Boom offers a centralized server so you can share, manage, and store assets from a central database. The dedicated server allows data sharing within a studio or between studios. 

Toon Boom Harmony comes in three different versions, Essentials, Advanced, and Premium. Essentials is an introductory software for students and hobbyists. The Advanced version is for freelancers and studios, while Premium is geared towards creative business use and schools. There is a free version of this software, although expect some limitations.

Features

  • Advanced brush engine
  • 2D/3D integration 
  • color pallets and painting
  • Deformers
  • Traditional paperless animation
  • Special effects and compositing
  • Cut-out animation and rigging
  • Pipeline integration
  • Weighted-Deform Node
  • Lighting & Shading tools
  • Advanced color management environments and effects 

Pros

Feature-rich: Toon Boom Harmony has a whole arsenal of drawing tools to explore. It also comes with bitmap drawing and painting tools. This is an excellent software to get if you are a digital painter because it has features that let you create richer, hand-drawn animations.

Special effects: Toon Boom Harmony offers an advanced set of rigging tools, including advanced deformers, which are a step up from regular rigid bones. It also provides robust compositing tools. There are built-in visual effects, including a nodal compositing system.

Cons

Steep learning curve: Since Harmony comes with a wide range of features, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It doesn’t help that the interface isn’t intuitively designed. 

Complicated: Because it’s a complex software, expect lots of tinkering when using this software. The features are quite heavy as well so you’ll need a robust computer.

Pricing Plans

Monthly Subscription: $23 Essentials, $58 Advanced, $109 Premium

Annual Subscription: $15 Essentials, $38 Advanced, $73 Premium

Perpetual License: $375 Essentials, $975 Advanced, $1,975 Premium

Honorable Mentions

11. DigiCel FlipBook

Official Website 

DigiCel FlipBook is a user-friendly animation software for creating traditional 2D animation. This application is very similar to Toon Boom Harmony and TVPaint; it comes with great features for creating simple animations. DigiCel FlipBook does not support skeletal animation or morph target animation. This was done intentionally as these features aren’t part of the traditional animators’ toolkit.

DigiCel FlipBook comes in five different versions. There’s the free version that produces watermarked results. There’s Lite, Studio, Pro, and Pro HD. The Lite version provides one foreground, one background, one soundtrack, and up to 300 frames per shot. The rest of the versions support more layers and frames as well as higher output resolutions.

Features

  • Shoot and scan illustrations
  • Lip sync support
  • Zoom, pan, rotate, dissolve, blur options
  • Import and export functions
  • Add a soundtrack to a storyboard
  • Speed up or slow up the timing of frames
  • Multiple transition effects
  • Drawn on PC or tablet

Pros

Easy to use: DigiCel FlipBook is one of the easiest animation applications in the business. The features are simple, so you can start animating right away.

Best for traditional animation: Since the software doesn’t support skeletal and morph features, it’s designed for animating traditional, hand-drawn illustrations.

Cons

Limited support: Support is available, there are basic help files online, but that’s about it. If you need more help, there are only a few video tutorials available for DigiCel FlipBook.

Flat results: There are fewer options for artistic effects, so the animations tend to look flat and “too clean.”

Pricing Plans

FlipBook Lite:  $19.99

FlipBook Studio:  $69.99

FlipBook Pro:  $169.99

FlipBook ProHD:  $199.99

12. TinkerCAD

Official Website

TinkerCAD is a computer-aided design (CAD software designed for users with no modeling experience). It features an intuitively-designed interface that can be manipulated using a mouse. This software lets you edit designs and recreate existing 2D and 3D designs. You have the freedom to modify or combine different shapes and objects, add movements, and develop circuits using TinkerCAD’s lines and customizable shapes.

The software boasts a drag and drop method of modifying or combining different 3D shapes and objects, allowing you to create complex results. It’s free software, so it’s one of the best 3D animation software for beginners working on a limited budget.

Features

  • File Exportation
  • File Editing
  • 3D Designs
  • Circuits
  • Codeblocks
  • Presets

Pros

Easy to use: This software is aimed at beginners, so the navigation is simple, and the features are easy to use. You can create movable objects quickly.

Great resources: Since Autodesk made TinkerCAD, there is a wealth of in-depth tutorials found online. 

Cons

Limited features: The shape library is limited because the software is created mostly for 3D design students and beginners. 

Web-based interface: It’s an online tool so expect lags when the internet is slow. Sometimes the software stops working entirely if the internet is unstable.

Pricing Plans

Free

13. Pencil2D

Official Website 

Pencil2D is an animation and drawing software that lets you create hand-drawn animation in bitmap and vector graphs. This open-source animation software uses the Qt framework, and the features are based on traditional animation techniques such as trade drawing and onion skinning. The software has its own file format, but you can export your images in PNG, JPEG, BMP, or TIFF format. For the video format, you can save it in AVI, MP4, WebM, GIF, or APNG format. Pencil2D is available in Windows, Mac, and Linux OS. 

Pencil2D’s user interface is quite simple, and it will only take a few hours to learn how to animate characters or objects by yourself. The minimalist user interface isn’t overwhelming at all, and the shortcuts ensure speedy animating.

Features

  • Add Text
  • Animate Characters
  • Collaboration
  • Custom Characters
  • Digital Effects
  • Key-frames
  • Layers and Filters
  • Production Pipeline
  • Sound Synchronization
  • Templates
  • Vector Drawings
  • Bone Tool
  • Save and Export
  • Vertical Videos

Pros

Excellent support: Pencil2D is a cross-platform animation software that’s been used for years, so there is a wealth of information about it online. Since it’s an open-source application, updates are always available.

User-friendly: The minimalist user interface is easy to use, clutter-free, and organized. All the features are already laid out for you with shortcuts to boot. It’s an ideal animation program for those who are just getting into animation. 

Cons

Basic Tools: The tools for painting and drawing are very stripped down. There’s not a lot of complex features to explore.

Does not support older OS: Lower OS versions inhibit the use of other advanced features. This can be solved by simply upgrading your computer’s OS.

Pricing Plans

Free

14. SketchUp

Official Website 

SketchUp is a web-based 3D modelling software designed for moviemakers, engineers, and architects. The program can be used for different 3D modelling applications, particularly in gaming, interior designing, civil and mechanical engineering, just to name a few. It has a drawing layout functionality and surface rendering, as well as support for third-party plugins to enhance its features. 

What’s great about SketchUp is its library of free model assemblies called 3D warehouse. Users could use the models or contribute models to the library. All the models in the library are free for anyone to use. 

Features

  • Textures
  • Lighting effects
  • 3D models
  • 2D models
  • Layer manager
  • Animations
  • Unlimited access to Pre-Built 3D models
  • Augmented Reality Mobile Viewer
  • Unlimited Cloud Storage
  • Robust desktop 3D modeler
  • 2D Design Documentation
  • Quick insights for design research
  • Experience Reality (XR) Headset Viewing
  • Access to plugins for extending SketchUp Pro Desktop functionality
  • Building energy analysis
  • Daylight analysis
  • HVAC sizing
  • Thermal comfort analysis
  • Carbon Emissions

Pros

Quick modelling updates: SketchUp makes it easy to create or modify models with simple shapes. Using this software, you can build a model quickly and achieve realistic results. You can also change the details, scenes, or materials in real-time. 

Huge asset library: The 3D model library is vast and free. Useful for animators looking for assets to use for any 3D modelling projects.

Cons

Hard to control layout: The controls are complicated, so you’ll have to search for more information online, which takes a lot of time.

Over-reliance on plugins: Instead of developing built-in features to improve the user experience, SketchUp is dependent on third-party plugins. These plugins are available in its 3D warehouse but downloading and activating the plugins is an added step to the process. 

Pricing Plans

SketchUp Shop: $119 per year

SketchUp Pro: $299 per year

SketchUp Studio: $1199 per year

15. K-3D

Official Website 

K-3D is a free 3D modeling, animation, and rendering software. The software boasts a node-based visualization pipeline architecture and a user-friendly interface, so it’s ideal for students and beginners. But don’t let the seemingly simple UI fool you. K-3D provides movie-quality animations + full RenderMan integrations. 

The application lets you create and modify documents in various real-time OpenGL solid, shaded, texture-mapped views. K-3D also features procedural and parametric workflows. It also offers an advanced undo/redo system that lets you go back to your work, modify it, and then save your work – something you cannot do on other animation applications. 

Features

  • Full RenderMan support 
  • Record interactive tutorials and macros
  • Unlimited undo/redos
  • Create and edit documents in multiple realtime OpenGL views
  • Scripting interface supports K3DScript and Python
  • With an open API for other scripting languages
  • Model, animate, and interact with animations
  • Architecture for full extensibility at runtime via third-party plugins.
  • Animated geometric procedural effects
  • Control-spline based animation
  • Supports Renderman Subdivision Mesh output
  • Capable of rendering one million polygons at interactive rates
  • Background rendering and batch rendering
  • Support for the LuxRender render engine
  • Experimental support for CSG operations on polyhedra, using either CGAL or CARVE
  • Introductory support for NURBS

Pros

Simple layout: K-3D is popular because the interface’s look and feel is intuitively-designed and discoverable.

Powerful: K-3D is packed with advanced features that are found only in expensive software applications. It offers procedural and parametric workflows, full RenderMan support, and plugin support.

Cons

Lacks tutorials: It’s hard to find step-by-step guides for users online. 

Steep learning curve: Although the user interface is laid out simply, learning all the tools could overwhelm a beginner.

Pricing Plans

Free

16. PowToon

Official Website 

Make videos in minutes – that’s PowToon’s tagline, and that’s precisely what you can expect from this animation/video maker. The app offers a vast library of characters, scenes, and objects that you can use to create and share presentations and content. 

PowToon comes with templates that you can choose for creating high-quality videos. The drag and drop functionality lets you design and creates visual content with ease. It also comes with music you can use for your animations, or you can create voice-overs yourself. Using PowToon is similar to using PowerPoint. PowToon also works as a communication platform so you can connect with other artists or join webinars. 

Features

  • Customize characters
  • Royalty-free footage, images, and soundtracks
  • Drag and drop interface
  • Fully customizable videos
  • Over 100 video templates in the library
  • Pre-designed animation

Pros

Intuitive UI: Beginner-friendly, just like creating a simple PowerPoint presentation

Unique features: Great selection of unique features to make every video stand out, such as moving images from one point to another specific point in the video. Characters and objects are very diverse.

Cons

Limited features: The free version comes with limited features. The best characters and objects are only available in the Pro version.

Watermarked results: You need to get the Pro version to remove the watermarks on the finished visuals.

17. Daz Studio

Official Website

Daz Studio is a rendering and scene creation application that lets you animate beautiful, realistic images. This free resource enables you to arrange scenes, and there’s no need to buy assets through Daz Studio. The application offers a range of models and resources for free. 

With Daz Studio, you can build customized scenes and characters in seconds. You can export photo-realistic images and animations using the app’s studio-class processing. It has a massive content library teeming with premium 3D content too! One of the most amazing things about this software is that you can build your own universe from scratch. It has an advanced character system and smart content that you can mix and match to create a visually-stunning world.

Features

  • Photo-Realistic Renders
  • Auto Convert to V-ray
  • Built-In Flexing of Muscle Groups.
  • Detailed Characters
  • Daz Studio 3D Creation Software Tool
  • Props to Maya with 2 Clicks
  • More Organic Bends and Articulation.
  • Hexagon Delete Accessory
  • Dress Modeling.
  • IRAY Uber Shader
  • dForce physics simulation
  • Advanced shoulder, collar bone, and abdomen bends
  • Built-in muscle flexion
  • Morph technology

Pros

Realistic character production: Using Daz 3D, you can create photo-realistic images. The advanced morphing technology lets you choose and customize different body extremities and muscularity. 

Easy to use: It’s user-friendly and ideal for beginners and professionals alike. Daz Studio offers various powerful tools and features to animate, model, and render 3D images, but these are presented in a user-friendly manner. 

Cons

You can’t create your own models: The software boasts a sizable 3D model library that you can manipulate. However, you can’t make your own models.

Prone to glitches: According to users, bugs and glitches are common occurrences with Daz 3D. 

Pricing Plans

Free

18. Cinema 4D

Official Website

Cinema 4D is an award-winning animation and rendering software. Designed for beginners and professional users alike, Cinema 4D offers a powerful toolset for “easy” animating and rendering. It is also capable of procedural and polygonal/subd modeling, lighting, and texturing.

With this software, you can rig simple cartoon characters by following Cinema 4D’s easy to follow tutorial. It also comes with proprietary technologies for faster animation, such as Sketch and Toon module. These features let you transform your 3D artwork into cartoon-like assets with just a few clicks of a button. The application’s MoGraph tools let you create photo-realistic images. 

Features

  • Take System for creating and modifying multiple independent takes of a scene
  • Lens Distortion Support
  • Graph View for Motion Tracker
  • Spline Tools
  • Animation workflow enhancements
  • Sculpt to Pose Morph feature
  • Houdini engine integration
  • Scene independent pose library
  • Character Definition Tag allows rig-independent definition of character components
  • Extensive preset library of high-quality motion capture presets
  • Character Solver transfers motion between rigs based on character definitions, regardless of hierarchy or joint rotations

Pros

Easy to use: For a feature-packed 3D animation software, Cinema 4D is surprisingly easy to use. Yes, you need proper training to get the most out of Cinema 4D, but the features are streamlined so you can navigate the app with ease.

Smooth integration: Cinema 4D is a powerful animation, rendering, and texturing software as it is. You can also use it for procedural and polygonal modeling. But the software becomes even more powerful when integrated with other industry-standard animation software programs. And integration is smooth as silk.

Cons

It’s expensive: The user license costs $700, and you have to pay extra for the new system, so the total price for the perpetual plan is $3,495. You can choose between monthly and annual subscriptions.

Not perfect: Cinema 4D is no doubt a powerful animation tool, but it has its limits. The technology isn’t perfect; some users noted that the bodypainting and UV editing needs more work. 

Pricing Plans

Annual subscription: $59.99 

Monthly subscription: $94.99 

Perpetual plan: $3,495 

19. Moodily

Official Website

Moovly is a cloud-based video editing software that lets you produce multimedia content. You can use the software to create animated videos, promo videos, video tutorials, and so much more. 

The software has its own templates that you can customize according to your preferences. You can choose from the software’s many video templates or build your own, providing utmost flexibility. The drag and drop user interface lets you customize every aspect of your video easily. Content can be created using a combination of custom-made videos, images, and sounds. The final results could be downloaded in a .MP4 format and published on various video platforms. 

Features

  • Video creation and editing
  • Browser-based, drag-and-drop video creation
  • Upload your own images, sounds, and videos
  • Over 1.3 million free media objects 
  • Create videos in any shape or style
  • Add animations and transitions 
  • Add music, sounds, and voice 
  • Convert text to voice-over and choose from over 20 languages
  • automatic subtitle generation
  • Publish directly to video hosting sites 
  • Integrate DAM assets  

Pros

No installation is needed: This is a browser-based and cloud-based animation software, so it doesn’t require installation or software download. You can use Moovly with any device.

Massive asset library: Moovly’s asset library contains millions of free media objects and hundreds of soundtracks. There are thousands of illustrations, sound loops, illustrations, and motion graphics to choose from.  

Cons

Prone to glitches: Users say that Moovly is prone to glitches, and you have to refresh the page every time an error occurs. 

Download limits: You are only allowed to download 50 videos per month.

Pricing Plans

Free version

Pro Version: $ 24.92

Max Version: $49.92

Enterprise version: custom pricing

20. Animaker 

Official Website

Animaker is a browser-based, DIY animation creator and video maker. It’s similar to Moovly in terms of features, allowing you to create animated videos using pre-built characters and video templates. The software offers a range of visual effects, audio tracks, camera effects, and screen effects to animate or enhance videos that you can use for your website or market your business. 

Animaker is easy to use, as you don’t have to be an expert in video-making to create engaging animated videos. You can build and/or modify the videos using the software’s easy drag and drop feature.

Features

  • Powerful HTML5 Engine
  • Professionally made templates
  • Video creation 
  • .gif video editor
  • Short video making
  • Live video editing
  • Character Builder
  • Extensive Facial Expressions
  • Auto Lip-Sync
  • Smart Move animation
  • A massive library of animated characters, properties, BGs, icons, images, videos

Pros

Easy to use: Animaker is exceptionally user-friendly, not surprising considering its brand tagline, “So simple, even a child could use!”

High-quality videos: The software lets you build or customize premade templates to create high-quality videos that you’d be proud to share on social media. There are so many features that enhance the visual impact of any video.

Cons

It’s browser-based: Since it’s browser-based, you need a strong internet connection to make the application work smoothly.

Outdated UI: The user interface may be cumbersome to navigate, and sometimes, the way the features are laid-out is confusing.

Pricing Plans

Basic Plan: $10 per month

Starter Plan: $19 per month

Pro Plan: $39 per month

Enterprise: custom pricing

21. Wings 3D

Official Website

Wings 3D is an advanced open-source modeler inspired by Nendo and Mirai from Izware. The software is named after the winged data structure that it uses to store coordinate and adjacency data. 

Wings 3D can model and texture low to mid-range models for animation and game development. It has basic OpenGL rendering capabilities and a virtual mirror for symmetrical modeling. The software also comes with surface modeling tools and texture mapping capabilities. 

Features

  • Selection and Modeling Tools
  • Modeling Tool support for Magnets and Vector Operations
  • Customizable Hotkeys and Interface
  • Tweak Mode for quick adjustments to a mesh
  • Assign and edit Lighting, Materials, Textures, and Vertex Colours
  • AutoUV Mapping
  • Ngon mesh support
  • A Plugin Manager for adding and removing plugins
  • Import and Export in many popular formats

Pros

Best for modeling: The software’s core capabilities are focused on modeling low poly to mid-range 3D assets for animation and game development. 

Detailed results: Wings 3D comes with editing and sculpting features for detailed modeling. It also offers a virtual mirror to make symmetrical modeling easy. The software is packed with basic and advanced tools that beginners and professionals will love. 

Cons

Tricky UV-mapping system: Wings 3D’s UV mapping system is not intuitively designed as popular programs like Maya. 

Learning curve: The way that Wings 3D’s layout is presented makes it a little bit difficult to get around. You have to practice using the program all the time to get the hang of it.

Pricing Plan

Free

22. Boats Animator

Official Website

Boats Animator is a free, open-source stop motion animation program designed for animators of all levels. This program comes with powerful features so you can create high-quality animations. 

Although relatively new, Boats Animation has garnered raves for its minimalist UI and user-friendly navigation. It’s also quick and easy to set up. The free capture program lets you create stop motion animation in 1080p. Boats animator is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. 

Features

  • Export video
  • Instant Playback
  • Onion Skinning
  • High resolution and multi-device support
  • open-source frame capture tool

Pros

Easy to use: Boats animator is designed to be user-friendly. It connects to a recording device, and you’ll get a preview of the content being captured from the get-go. The controls are also easy to use, and the entire process of motion capture is straightforward.

It’s open-source: It’s an open-source animation software, and it’s free. Boats animator keeps getting better with every update.

Cons

Limited resources: Boats animation is relatively new, and there’s not much information about it online. 

Limited features: Some of the industry-standard tools and features are missing on Boats Animator, such as loading and saving subjects. But as new updates roll in, Boats Animator will come with more animation features. 

Pricing Plan

Free

23. Mandelbulb 3D

Official Website 

Mandelbulb 3D is a software application designed specifically for 3D fractal imaging. A typical computer-generated environment is sterile because it has no irregularity. 

Software applications like Mandelbulb 3D formulate dozens of non-linear equations to create a wide range of fractal images. The fractal generation can be produced for simulation or random fractals for digital art. The software gives control over the imaging effects. 

Features

  • Generate 3D fractals
  • Modify lighting and color characteristics in 3D fractal models
  • Use visual effects to fractals such as fog, shadows, reflections, etc.
  • Creates fractals using mathematical based fractal formulas and algorithms
  • Generate high-quality renders and 360° renders
  • Easily create GIFs and animations with fractals

Pros 

It’s open-source: This is an open-source and free software that’s geared towards beginners and professionals alike. It’s a great application to those who are new to fractals creation because the results are quick and mathematical based.

A range of fractal objects: Whatever effect you’re going for, the software offers a fantastic range of fractal objects to choose from. 

Cons

Limited features: The features are limited because Mandelbulb 3D is explicitly designed for fractal creation. 

Over to you!

There you have it! These are the 23 best animation software programs for beginners.

Ready to start working on your first animation? The beauty of the animation software applications that we’ve listed above is that they come in free/trial and paid versions. You can start with the trial version to get a feel of the software, and once you’re ready, you can try the full version. Like anything in life, it will take practice to master any 3D animation software, even those for beginners. We hope that our list of the best 3D animation software for beginners has been helpful. 

Which program are you planning on using? Let me know in the comments below!

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