Animation programs every animator should know featured image

Animation programs every aspiring freelancer should know

Want to make in in the industry? Here are the animation programs you need to know…

If you’re beginning your career as a freelance or self-taught animator, it can be difficult to know where to start. Pursuing a self-taught or freelance animation route often means you’ll have to invest in animation programs yourself. Here’s our breakdown of the most popular animation programs out there...

2D Animation Programs

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Rough Animator is an excellent option for animators who are just starting out. It can be operated from your mobile, tablet, laptop or PC, and it’s only a few dollars! Rough Animator is great for getting used to animation practices like creating keyframes, using onion skins, and working within an animation timeline.


Only $4.99!

Krita is an excellent animation program to get started with—and it’s free! If you’re just starting off, Krita will teach you the basics. If you’re debating whether to invest in the Adobe Cloud Suite, Krita is a great alternative to some of the animation programs Adobe offers.




Adobe Character Animator is part of the Adobe Creative Suite*. Adobe Creative Suite isn’t the cheapest collection of programs to learn on. Despite the price, Creative Suite is an industry standard program worth investing in. You’ll also have access to programs like Photoshop and Premiere, so you might consider it a worthy investment.

As part of the Adobe Creative Suite, Adobe Character Animator is included in a package that’ll cost you £49.94 a month.

Toon Boom Harmony is another industry-standard program. If you want to produce 2D animations for a studio in the future, it’s worth picking up. However, it’s very expensive compared to alternatives like Adobe Animate. Due to the fact it’s industry standard, there’s a plethora of free advice available online for animators who are starting out.


Toon Boom’s pricing depends on which version you get. For an annual ‘essentials’ package, it will cost you $15 a month. On the other end of the scale, a perpetual premium licence will cost $1975—inaccessible for most aspiring animators.

3D Animation Software

3D animation software for animators

Maya is an industry standard for many animation studios. If you have it available, therefore, learning Maya will give you a head start as a professional animator. Unlike other programs, Maya covers a range of production processes. Modelling, rigging, FX, rendering and animation are all included.

Maya has a steep learning curve, so you should be prepared to invest time as well as money into mastering it.


£1968 per year. For most self-taught animators, that price isn’t worth it. It’s good to explore some free options, such as…

Fans of Blender argue that its results rival work produced in Maya. Blender has a huge advantage over Maya—it’s completely free. This makes it the perfect place to start for many self-taught animators. It’s also popular with indie animators, modellers, and games designers, and has even been used to produce movies such as Spider-man: Into the Spider Verse.

Compared to Maya, Blender has a relatively small memory, which is often why studio’s prefer programs like Maya.



Luckily for self-taught animators, SideVFX offers a free version of Houdini—Houdini Apprentice. If you’re looking to save money and develop skills in industry-standard animation software, this option’s for you. As with other animation programs, Houdini has quite a steep learning curve. Once you get the hang of it, however, the possibilities are endless. The Houdini website features a library of learning resources to help you master rigging, modelling and animation.


There are many different options, but Houdini Apprentice is free.



Creating professional-looking storyboards quickly is an essential skill for any animator. Boords makes it easy to produce high-quality storyboards to show your clients. Even if you’re starting out, learning how create a good storyboard is a skill that’ll help you out when applying for jobs in the future.

If you’re planning for a future studio, it’s also worth developing pre-production skills like storyboarding as well as production. If you want to understand more about the roles you’ll need to start your own studio, check out our article here. [INSERT LINK]


$36 per month will get you the ‘Studio’ Boords deal, which is best suited for you if you’re an animator going it alone.

Procreate is another great tool when creating good-looking storyboards. It’s also great for brainstorming character designs and keeping your digital drawing skills sharp. Procreate has a pleasingly short learning curve compared to other animation software. It can be downloaded to your Ipad, making it an easy, portable option for on-the-fly design.


$9.99, available on the app store.

If you want to create highly realistic 3D models, Z Brush is for you. Many animators use Z brush solely for sculpting and prefer the animation capabilities of programs like Maya or Blender. On the other hand, models made in Z Brush can be easily exported to other programs. If you want to specialise in making 3D models, Z brush is a good choice. Otherwise, keep your options open with other animation programs.


A single-user monthly subscription costs $39.95 per month.


Choosing which animation programs you want to learn can be tricky. In the end, make your choice based on three factors: what kind of animations you want to produce, how much time you’re willing to spend, and your budget. Starting with free programs will allow you to pick the ones which work best for you. After you’ve learned the basics, treat yourself to an industry standard program that’ll last you years into the future!

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