Animation is a method in which pictures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent celluloid sheets to be photographed and exhibited on film. Today, most animations are made with computer-generated imagery (CGI).
Features of an Animation Software Tool
- Tweening– Tweening is a process which integrates one frame to another frame seamlessly in any animation process. This removes the abrupt cut effect between frames and maintains the continuous illusion of motion. Tweening is included in most animation software tools as a basic feature these days and the frames are automatically ‘tweened’ in the background during the animation process.
- Rotoscoping– Rotoscoping is the process of tracing objects on an existing motion picture or on a sequence of frames. If during the editing process the filmmaker feels the need of any object in the frame, animation software tools help in adding objects to the frame by tracing them from one place to the existing motion sequence. This reduces the production cost and saves a lot of time.
- Motion Capture– Motion Capture is a very popular feature of animation these days. It does require a lot of external hardware to execute but regardless filmmakers are using it to add that ‘realism’ to their animated features. Motion Capture is a process where the real movements of people or other living creatures are captured and those movements are traced upon characters in the animation. This creates an authenticity about the animated characters in the feature.
- VFX– VFX or visual effects are manipulations of real-life footage using outside features and objects. Things which are very time consuming, dangerous and impractical can be created with the help of VFX, where real life footage and digitally created footage is combined to give result to a very attractive and credible feature. VFX are omnipresent in the film and television industry today, as it saves a lot of time and production cost for filmmakers and they can make the impossible, possible with the use of special effects.
- Simulation– Simulation is basically a draft or a model which predicts how the process will turn out. Simulation is a very important part of the animation process as it helps map and identify the needs and rectifications in your animated feature. Simulation takes place with your frame creation simultaneously and the frame prediction helps you create a seamless animation experience.
The animation process is hectic and difficult to execute so it’s done by a rare few professional painters/animators only. Now let us have look at the best animation software tools available on the Internet today. The top 7 free and open source animation software tools are the following:
- Synfig Studio
- Pencil 2D
- Maefloresta Tupitube
We will now discuss these animation software tools individually with further details.
- Game Creation
- Video Editing
Blender is one of the most advanced animation software tools on the internet and it is extremely popular among animators as it is completely free to use along with being open source. Blender has all the features and functions you would want in any animation software and gives its paid and premium competitors a run for their money. Blender can be used to create an array of animations and simulations for anything from movies to games. In short, Blender is probably one of the most complete animation software out there and a must-have for any animator.
(Source: Synfig Studio)
- Vector Tweening
- Layers and Filters
- Bitmap Artwork
- Advanced Controls
Synfig Studio is very popular among comic and cartoon creators. It’s majorly a 2D animation software but can add that minor 3D aesthetic to your animation. Vector Tweening is a major feature of Synfig Studio which enables seamless frame to frame integration. It’s completely based on a Bitmap Art frame which enables minor tweaking of colour bits. Though it might appear quite basic from the offing but Synfig Studio does have an array of advanced features as well making it a complete package for 2D animators. If you are a virtual comic or cartoon creator, Synfig Studio should be your Go-to software.
(Source: Pencil 2D)
- Minimal Design
- Raster and Vector workflows
- Hand Drawn Animation
- Bitmap Artwork
Pencil 2D is a very simplistic 2D animation software. The UI and design are very minimal and convenient to use, making it simple from beginners to professionals alike. A very important feature of Pencil 2D is that it is cross-platform which is very rare among animation software. Pencil 2D too is majorly based on a Bitmap framework, perfect for intricate animation. Hand-drawn animations are the most widely created animations on Pencil 2D and Pencil 2D allows you to animate your creations frame-by-frame along with adding vectors to it. Pencil 2D is one of the most widely used animation software on the Internet.
- Powerful Drawing Tools
- Indexed Colour Palettes
- Effects and Compositing
- Frame-by-frame Animation
- Motion Tweening and Tracking
- Particle Systems
OpenToonz is an advanced 2D animation software tool with a big list of features and functions. OpenToonz features extremely powerful drawing tools which help in scaling and modelling of animation features. It’s very efficient when it comes to frame-by-frame animation and along with features such as tweening and tracking; the frame integration is almost seamless. Scripting is another convenient feature added to its list. Particle Systems are another of its added features which help in minute and intricate animation tweaks.
(Source: Maefloresta Tupitube)
- Stop Motion
- Frame-by-frame Animation
- Cut-Out Animation
- Hand-Drawn Animation
- Virtual Assist
Tupitube is an animation software created by Maefloresta Inc. It’s basically an amateur animation very popular among kids, students, and teachers. Schools and colleges are a market for Tupitube. Its simplistic design and UI is very easy to use for beginners. It also a virtual assist feature to help with the animation process. Tupitube can help create a range of animation features. Hand-drawn animation feature is the most commonly used followed by Cut-Out animation. Even though it might appear amateurish, Tupitube does have advanced functions such as Rotoscoping and Stop-Motion animation.
- Image Manipulation Program
- 2D Animation
- Frame-by-frame animation
- Simplistic UI
- Hand-drawn animation
- Basic Animation Program
GIMP is the acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program which has all features a software tool like Adobe Photoshop would and along with that, an added feature of animating hand-drawn 2D figures and drawings. Animation is very basic but it does provide frame-by-frame editing and composition. If you are looking for a very basic animation software tool, GIMP is all you need.
- Compact UI
- Brush Stabilizers
- Brush Engines
- Resource Manager
- Pop-up palette
- Wrap-around mode
- Drawing assistant
- Mirroring tools
- OpenGL Enhanced
Krita is an open source painting and brushing software tool which is very useful to create draft drawings and frames for virtual comics and cartoons. It is one of the most advanced painting and brushing software on the internet. It has advanced tools such as brush stabilizing and wrap-around. Krita is fully OpenGL enhanced which helps in drafting graphics for bigger projects. It also has a drawing and virtual assistant for extra help to the designer. Krita is widely used in the East Asian animation industry for things such as Anime and virtual comic books. You can always make your drafts extra colourful and detailed with the help of Krita.
We have included one more software under the popular category for discussion-Adobe Animate.
Adobe Animate is a popular animation software that lets users design interactive vector and bitmap animations. These animations can be built for games, apps, and the web. The animation can be applied to cartoons, banner, tutorials, and infographics. Adobe Animate lets users publish to multiple platforms. It has powerful toolset for animation that lets users create apps, multimedia content, and ads. It supports export to HTML5 Canvas, Flash/Adobe WebGL, SVG, and AIR. Adobe animate is a great platform to build game environments, integrate audio, and design start screens and interfaces. It has a simple frame-by-frame animation, and users can code right inside the projects.
(Source: Adobe Animate)
- Asset Sculpting: users can create new poses for vector using mesh deformation.
- Layer Control: It lets organize animation layers in a parent-child hierarchy.
- Auto Lip-Sync: Automatically match mouth poses to sound inflections
- VR Authoring and Publishing: Use your 2D skills to export 360 VR animations
- It lets users save Animate documents (FLAs and XFLs) incrementally.
- Quick auto-recovery mode
- Export images with the right resolution
- Enhanced asset warping
- Optimize your text atlas outputs
- Generate multiple bitmaps.
- Retain the audio effects when you split the audio, which is imported.
- Create secure AMP-based ads
- Blend modes applied at layer or frame level
Animation is one of the primary elements of content creation in the modern world. When it comes to visual media, animation and VFX are as omnipresent as ever. Whether it is news, television programs, movies or video games, animation has become a vital part of conveying through the visual medium. Animation software tools have become a must for each and every content creator but using them requires a particular skill set and some training as well. For some visual content to look aesthetically pleasing, animation software tools should be a visual content creator’s go-to software and skilled animators are one of the most in-demand professionals in today’s world. The animation software tools discussed in this blog are great additions to your software collection, with an array of advanced features and above that being free and open source.