It’s no secret that video is a powerful marketing tool. According to research, video marketers enjoy 66% more qualified leads per year. But putting out video content isn’t always easy.
The biggest challenge you’ll face is coming up with creative video ideas. If engagement is your main objective, try promoting your business through an animated video.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need expensive software to create animated clips. In fact, you can make these videos for free. Check out some of the best free animation software for beginners, experts, and everyone.
Top 13 free animation software for beginners and pros
Animaker is a free animation software for beginners, with easy drag-and-drop functionality and an intuitive interface to match. There are six core types of videos you can make with Animaker:
With full HD support, horizontal and vertical video layouts, and premade graphics, you can create fun, animated videos in no time.
Audio features include text-to-speech, the option to add background music and sound effects, and voiceover. You can choose from Animaker’s library of sounds or upload your own tunes.
If you want to pay for the pro version, you can also get advanced features: in-app camera, multimove, curves, transition effects, and enter/exit effects. It’s like all those PowerPoint animations, except cool and not so cheesy.
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Use Blender if you’re looking for the best video animation software for pro editors and creators. The free open-source 3D animation tool supports the “modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing, and 2D animation pipeline.” The platform is a public project, and creatives from all over the world contribute to its ongoing maintenance.
Let’s talk features:
- Rendering: Cycles is Blender’s ray-trace-based production render engine, FreeStyle is an edge- and line-based non-photorealistic (NPR) rendering engine, and real-time feedback speeds up the editing process.
- Modeling: Blender’s modeling tools include sculpting, retopology, modeling, curves, and more.
- Sculpting: Digital sculpting tools are flexible for each stage of the digital production pipeline.
- Animation and rigging: These tools include a character animation pose editor, non-linear animation (NLA) for independent movements, IK forward/inverse kinematics for fast poses, and sound synchronization.
- Grease pencil: Draw directly in 3D and combine 2D/3D art.
- VFX: From camera and object motion tracking to masking and compositing, there are lots of fixes you can make in post-production.
- Simulation: Create simulations for fog, smoke, rain, fire, liquid, and more.
- Pipeline: Choose from a long list of import/export options.
- Video editing: A built-in video editor allows for basic actions like video cuts and splicing and more complex tasks like video masking or color grading.
Yeah, that’s a lot. Blender is a comprehensive tool. And it’s all free.
Editor’s note: We also review Blender, along with 29 other video-editing tools, in this review.
Platforms: Windows, Linux
K-3D is a free 3D animation software specializing in polygonal modeling, an approach to digital graphics that represents and approximates object surfaces using polygons. Designed for artists, the software combines plug-ins with a visualization pipeline architecture—it adapts to the look and feel of the tools you integrate it with.
Get started with its Wiki tutorials, showing you how to master features like texturing, shadows, and symmetric modeling.
One of its best features? Easy undo/redo functionality, so you can quickly fix a mistake. Most programs only offer the option to undo an action.
With both procedural and parametric workflows, you can make adjustments and see the change immediately. A node-based visualization pipeline means editors can create connections and combinations for different elements within the video. You can work on one side of a model and mirror the other side to see what it looks like welded together.
K-3D is an advanced tool for true creatives.
Platforms: Windows, Mac, and Linux
OpenToonz is one of the top free animation software for 2D videos. The open-source software is free for both commercial and non-commercial use, so you can use it to create marketing videos for your brand.
It’s also packed with features, such as:
- Digital drawing tools: vector and bitmap drawing tools
- Indexed color palettes: quick paint and color changing
- Effects and compositing: animated special effects and composite scenes—choose from blurs, lighting, keys, masks, wraps, and more than 100 other effects
- Scripting: automations via ECMA-compatible scripting engine
- Motion tracking: combine your animation with video footage
- Scan and cleanup: create vectors from paper drawings
- Frame-by-frame animation: with configurable onionskin
- Motion tweening: link objects or use motion paths to execute complex movements
- Bones character animation: with IK support and mesh deformations
- Particle systems: for rain, dust, and similar effects
You can make some pretty advanced animations with this tool.
COULD MAYBE EMBED AN EXAMPLE HERE https://twitter.com/hashtag/opentoonz some ideas:
If you run into issues using the free animation software, you can always turn to the user community or a developer forum.
5. Pencil2D Animation
Platforms: Windows, Mac, and Linux
Pencil2D is a simple animation software you can use to create hand-drawn 2D videos. The open-source software is free for both personal and commercial use, so you can use it just for fun or create videos to promote your products.
The interface is simple and easy to use. Plus, there are tons of tutorials on Pencil2D's website to help get you started.
- Image and audio import
- Switch between raster and vector workflows so you can sketch, ink, and paint
- Adjust frame rate
- Add distortion and lighting effects
- Toolbar customizations
- Pressure sensitivity
- Multiple export formats
6. Plastic Animation Paper
Platforms: Windows, Mac, and Linux
Though its interface is outdated, Plastic Animation Paper (PAP) is free to download and use.
With PAP, you can create hand-drawn 2D animations while seeing your edits in real time. The editing experience can be clunky, but it’s easy for beginners to learn and become familiar with. It’s sufficient for basic animated videos.
Feature highlights include basic drawing tools, zoom, rotation, cutouts, layers, and more.
Soon, PAP’s creator will release a new, more advanced program for $79, called Animation Paper.
Best suited for skilled animators, Animation Paper will help animators create 2D graphics from hand-drawn illustrations, along with a long list of features:
- Small and large format frames
- Real time, smooth rotation and zoom, along with multiple options for flipping
- Advanced and customizable onionskinning
- Layers and lasso
- High-quality lines and stabilization
- Coloring and paint
- Real-time full-frame reference on a second monitor for quick editing
When you’re done creating your animated video, export options include .mp4, .mov, and .png or .svg frame stacks.
The next free video animation software is Powtoon, meant for dynamic video presentations. While there are paid options with advanced features, Powtoon also has a stripped-down free tool for videos up to three minutes long.
In addition to what’s listed above, Powtoon’s free software also has:
- Custom styles
- Adjustable aspect ratios and sizes
- YouTube, Facebook, Wistia, Vimeo, PowerPoint, and PDF export
- Full video, animation, GIF, and image file implementation
It’s a great tool for beginners, with several professional-looking templates to choose from, including animated explainer and infographic-style videos, as well as templates built specifically for product promotion. You can also start from scratch or import a theme from PowerPoint.
Platforms: Windows, Mac, and Linux
Stykz is one of the easiest animation software to use. With it, you can make basic 2D stick figure animated videos.
Stykz is frame-based, meaning you work on one individual frame simultaneously. It uses onionskins so you can see the previous frame and how the two flow together.
All edits are done within the “stage”—in other words, you make your edits and view your changes within the same window. No toggling between views is needed.
Edit one or multiple stick objects, fill shapes, and import your own stick figures. Everything will auto save as you go, so you don’t need to worry about losing all your hard work.
9. Synfig Studio
Platforms: Windows, Mac, and Linux
The next free video animation online is Synfig Studio, an open-source platform for creating 2D animated videos. With it, you use vector graphics to create timeline-based animations.
Like OpenToonz, it offers a bone system for animation controls so you can create natural movements. Create cutout animation using bitmap images, and use the additional Skeleton Distortion layer for complex deformations to bitmap artwork.
Advanced features include linking parameters for layers, allowing you to build character puppets and other advanced dynamic structures. It’s certainly not made for beginners, so turn to an easier option to get started before upgrading to Synfig’s advanced feature set. Plenty of video tutorials are there to help you get used to the program.
Here’s an example of a fun animated short created with Synfig Studio:
10. Toontastic 3D
Platforms: Android, iOS
Google’s free animation software for Android, Toontastic 3D, is meant for kids, but brands can also use it to make animated 3D videos. Ideal for storytelling, you get started with Toontastic by creating your own characters, either from scratch or based on an uploaded photo. Then it’s time to insert your characters into a story.
Toontastic encourages budding storytellers to get creative with their narratives, and brands can do the same. Plan your storyline, animate, add narration and music, and then export it to share it with the world.
Your storyline is based on Toontastic templates, each with a different number of scenes. Toontastic also has premade scenes to choose from, so the only “drawing” you need to do is when it comes to the characters.
If it sounds like many steps, Google says you can create a one-minute video with up to six scenes in just a minute—though that doesn’t include the time it takes to create your characters upfront. It also works offline, so you can create videos on your daily commute or when the Wi-Fi’s out.
If you’re looking for more control and creative flexibility, Toontastic isn’t the best option. It’s best suited for those who are very new to animated videos. Soon you’ll graduate to one of the others on this list!
Platforms: Windows, Mac and Linux
TubiTube is among the best video animation tools for complete beginners. Ideal for hobbyists, amateurs, and even children, this straightforward software makes animation accessible to everyone. A clean and simple user interface means you won’t need to spend a lot of time learning before you can begin bringing your creations to life.
With TubiTube, you get a fantastic range of basic 2D animation solutions, including painting and drawing tools, vector/image importing, manual scaling, rotation, and opacity.
Available under the “GPL” license, TubiTube is ideal for budget-conscious animators, and it’s flexible too. You can render pieces in SWF, MPEG, and AVI formats. There’s even a social network community where you can connect with other animators for quick tips.
12. Cinema 4D
Platforms: Windows and Mac
Suitable for beginners and more advanced animators alike, Cinema 4D is a versatile software that allows users to do more than just animate. You can leverage Cinema 4D for modeling, texture application, visual effects, and lighting, all within an intuitive user interface.
The customizable layout of Cinema 4D is ideal for creating the most convenient user experience for every animator. There’s also access to Mograph, allowing designers to create more complex sequences without the confusing elements of traditional software.
If you’re looking for something easy to learn but still scalable enough to help you create more sophisticated animations, this could be the tool for you. Bonus features include automatic retopology from ZBrush for creating optimized meshes and advanced cloth simulation.
Platforms: Web browsers, Mac, Windows, and Linux
A web-based application for creative professionals, Clara.io ensures you can work from your browser when creating, animating, and rendering 3D content. The streamlined interface comes with a range of powerful tools, including sub-object editing, VRay cloud rendering, and responsive workflows.
As you work on your animations using the modern interface, you can also invite other colleagues to get involved with you. The easy sharing and embedding functionalities make it easy to collaborate. Clara also automatically saves all your work and progress in the cloud.
There are over 30 common 3D file formats supported for importing and exporting. What’s more, you can customize and extend the functionality of your application with plug-ins and REST API access.
If you need help figuring out what to build with Clara.io, there’s a fantastic 3D model library you can use for inspiration.
Animate your way to success
There you have it—a list of the best 13 free animation software for beginners and pros. The tool you choose really depends on your skill level, your hardware, and the types of videos you want to make. In summary, here’s what you get with the software highlighted in this article:
- Animaker: simple, browser-based animation software for beginners, with paid upgrades available
- Blender: advanced open-source 3D animation software for people with video experience
- K-3D: 3D animation software with polygonal modeling
- OpenToonz: 2D animation software with a long list of features for proficient or expert video folks
- Pencil2D: hand-drawn, 2D animated videos with a simple interface that’s beginner-friendly but loaded with features
- Plastic Animation Paper: helpful for incorporating hand-drawn characters into 2D animated videos
- Powtoon: great for creating simple, three-minute explainer or infographic videos in presentation-style format
- Stykz: beginner-friendly, stick-figured-based 2D animation software
- Synfig Studio: robust software for creating vector-based animated videos with advanced character control
- Toontastic 3D: for people who are very new to creating animated videos; meant for kids but can create simple, storytelling- and character-based videos for brands as well
- TubiTube: for hobbyists, amateurs, and even children, this software is a great choice for starting your animation journey
- Cinema 4D: allows users to create complex sequences without the confusing elements of standard animation software
- Clara.io: offers a range of powerful tools that make it easy to animate your video content
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