There is almost no such thing as an easy animation software when you're serious about the subject. Animation is an extremely complex area with an often mind-boggling array of terminology and any animation package worth its weight will almost certainly require a steep learn curve. Whatever package you choose, be it 2D or 3D, do ensure it comes with plenty of tutorials, tips and advice.
This brief line-up, in no particular order of preference, is aimed at the hobbyist, enthusiast and those new to the field. Hopefully there should be something to suit all tastes and pockets. The compilation is not exhaustive, excluding some of the more expensive heavyweights such as Maya, Lightwave and 3D Studio Max; but many of the products listed are free or moderately priced, have good reputations, and are all designed to inspire creativity.
- ANMIE STUDIO PRO (2D) create cartoons, anmie and cut-out animations with ease. Add skeletons with the click of a mouse. Import photoshop files with layers intact and build characters from scratch with character wizard. Anmie Studio has excellent lip syncing capabilities, generous multi-sound formats along with full support for YouTube.
- Other popular animation programs with strong YouTube support include, GO ANIMATE (2D), XTRA-NORMAL (3D) and MUVIZU (3D). All three programs allow you to create animations without the need for expensive equipment or specialist training and Muvizu, which is free, provides high-quality sets complete with complex character animation and the facility to collaborate on productions.
- MOVIESTORM, an innovative 3D software program is aimed at amateur film makers wishing to making high quality animated movies and provides the perfect tool with which to learn about film and TV production. Other 3D software packages also popular with artists and filmmakers are DAZ STUDIO (3D) and ICLONE 5 (3D). Iclone 5 is a real-time 3D animation tool with digital actors, visual effects and Microsoft Kinect-ready motion capture whilst Daz Studio, allows you to create stunning digital artwork and animations and is currently free.
- For good lighting and camera effects try SYNFIG (2D). The ambition of Synfig developers was to create an animation software capable of producing film quality output. Synfig is an open source vector based animation program and is free.
- Now if you can, check out the cartoon strip "Big Buck Bunny" and the film short "Elephants Dream" to see why BLENDER (3D) is a legend in the world of 3D animation software. Software to rival the big boys, available free with a huge fan-base and plenty of tutorials and support.
- For the more adventurous amongst you CRAZYTALK (2D / 3D) is a photo to animation engine where you can turn photos, sketches, statues, anything into animable characters. Media can be inserted directly into the scene and the program supports a variety of formats. Similarly Morpheus (2D / 3D) animation software will transform your photos into other things such as cartoons or animals. Blend, mix and exaggerate body parts. Watch a person turn into someone – or something else.
- Remember king Kong and the empire state building? Well if you're into STOP-MOTION photography then IstopMotion (3D) for Macintosh is worth considering. With IstopMotion you can work with your Mac's built in camera or import photos to build your animations. You can even turn your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch into a High Definition camera …
- One free 2D animation package with drawing tools similar to Photoshop is PENCIL. Pencil allows for both vector and bitmap graphics and has provided an excellent introductory animation tool. With pencil you can create traditional hand drawn animations on most computer platforms including Mac OS.
- Another 2D substitute for the traditional light table / and paper animation is PLASTIC ANIMATION PAPER (PAP) 4 which is currently free for download. Also currently free for download (but without technical support) is CREATOON 3 (2D) which utilizes the cut-out animation process.
- Lastly a fine example of a solid 2D animation program, renamed for its depth and the quality of technical support is TOON BOOM STUDIO. An excellent application made for animators, by animators.