8 Best Animation Software Options for Creating Anime
Anime is an animation genre created in Japan in the early 1900s, and has evolved significantly over time. Energetic characters and themes like supernatural forces, romance, and sci fi characterize most anime films.
People watch anime for various reasons; humorous, inspirational, or relatable anime movies are incredibly popular worldwide. This explains why many artists and production houses have put time and effort into creating anime movies.
Anime creation has evolved from chalkboards to paper cutouts to more technologically advanced processes. Today, anime artists use different digital animation tools to draw their characters and scenes, create storyboards and layouts, build key frames, and insert voice-overs. Specialized software tools are designed to simplify the process of creating animation, with applications for anime and other styles.
From Adobe to TVPaint, this article covers the best software choices that artists use to create anime. We’ll discuss the key features of these digital tools, including pricing and best uses when creating anime.
Best software to create anime
This section discusses the top software for creating anime characters and movies.
Adobe is quite popular when it comes to design and content production. Founded in 1982, the company features a number of tools that are popular among anime artists, professional editors, and designers. For instance, you can use Adobe Animate to create animations or bring your characters to life, Adobe After Effects to add visual effects to your anime movies, and Adobe Illustrator to create storyboards, characters, and anime scenes. Most of Adobe’s 20+ design tools are available for 7-day free trials.
Beginning with Adobe Animate, let’s look at the key features of these Adobe products.
Adobe Animate provides vector brushes, audio syncing abilities, fonts, modern timelines, Adobe Animate camera, and other features to create interactive animations for video games, cartoons, and TV shows. You can also generate or download your content in different formats and share it on social platforms.
- Asset panel. Adobe Animate offers a premade asset library, of which some are specific to anime, to speed up your design process. You can choose different backgrounds, characters, motion assets, and audio rigs to include in your work.
- Learning materials. Adobe provides numerous tutorials to help you start animating quickly. You can follow along stepwise to master intermediate and advanced skills.
- Quick sharing and publishing. Adobe Animate allows you to download anime content in your desired format and share it on various platforms. You can also share your anime compositions directly on social media platforms like YouTube and Twitter.
- Modern rigging. Adobe Animate features a new rigging technology that enables you to easily add different movements to your anime characters by building and manipulating a skeleton structure.
Pricing: Plans for Adobe Animate start at $20.99 per month. You can also get Adobe Animate as part of the Creative Cloud All Apps plan for $54.99.
Best for: Adobe Animate is best for professionals with experience creating anime movies. However, the tutorials help beginners get started.
Adobe Photoshop allows content creators and artists to draw anime characters, backgrounds, and scenes, as well as change or enhance existing images and scenes. You can also engage in graphic design to showcase your brand on different social platforms.
- Hue and saturation. Adobe Photoshop enables you to adjust or control colors in your images. Anime artists can use Adobe Photoshop to adjust color intensity and richness in their characters and scenes.
- Layers. With Adobe Photoshop, artists can create backgrounds for animes according to original drawings or sketches.
- Image sharpening. Use Adobe Photoshop to sharpen and improve dull or unclear images. This is especially useful for anime artists that wish to use still backgrounds in their work.
Pricing: Adobe Photoshop (100GB storage) is available for $20.99 per month. Alternatively, you can get Adobe Photoshop in the All Apps plan for $54.99 per month.
Best for: Adobe Photoshop is suitable for a range of designers who wish to edit their images or enhance their designs.
Adobe Fresco features a huge collection of vector graphics and raster brushes, allowing it to deliver a natural drawing and painting experience. This tool also offers a range of colors to enhance your painting.
- Cloud integration. Like other Adobe products, Adobe Fresco integrates with Adobe Creative—a cloud platform that enables you to import your projects and work on different platforms (including desktop and web). You can also access your work on popular mobile operating systems like Android and iOS.
- Magic wand tool. Adobe Fresco has a magic tool that allows you to select a color by hovering your mouse over a specific area and applying it to other areas of your drawing.
- Multicolor swatches. Adobe Fresco makes it easy to draw 3D strokes and backgrounds due to its support for multicolor swatches.
- Liquify effects. With Adobe Fresco, you can pull, push, inflate, or exaggerate any part of your drawing to create a different look. Anime artists can use this feature to allow their characters to display different emotions.
Pricing: Adobe Fresco offers a 30-day free trial, after which you pay $9.99 annually. Fresco is also included in the Photoshop and All Apps plans.
Best for: Adobe Fresco is best for sketchers, animators, and illustrators looking to engage in next-level painting and drawing.
Adobe Character Animator
Adobe Character Animator allows you to add movements and expressions to your 2D characters and bring them to life. You can also access customized characters, backgrounds, and scenes to import and use in your project.
- Quick export. Adobe Character Animator can generate and export your anime projects quickly. You can also share your projects with friends via email or social media.
- Efficient animation creation. Character Animator features a simple user interface that makes it easy to design your characters and add different styles to your scenes.
- Availability of tutorials. Character Animator provides projects that anime beginners can use to learn how to animate, including creating eyes and eyebrows or designing basic faces.
Pricing: Character Animator Starter has a free trial period of one month. After the period expires, you’ll pay $54.99 per month for the Creative Cloud All Apps plan.
Best for: Character Animator is best for content creators and animation lovers who wish to animate characters quickly.
Toon Boom provides animation software for producing explainer videos, games, TV shows, advertisements, infographics, and movies. With more than 25 years of experience, Toon Boom prides itself on being the global standard for storyboarding and animation.
Toon Boom’s popular products are Harmony 22 for creating 2D animation, Storyboard Pro 22 for creating storyboards, and Producer 22 for tracking animation studio production.
- Advanced drawing tools. Whether drawing or painting, Toon Boom provides access to a wide range of assorted tools to complete your anime project. Toon Boom’s brush and pencil lines (part of the drawing engine) feel natural, helping artists develop high-quality drawings or paintings.
- 3D objects. Toon Boom Harmony 22 features a 3D animation environment that allows animators to include different 3D assets and objects in their projects.
- Huge community. Toon Boom has a large community of animators and artists from different areas worldwide. Therefore, joining this community can enhance your learning and knowledge of anime and other styles.
- Availability of tutorials. Toon Boom provides a variety of free courses to help you get started with Storyboard Pro and Harmony.
- Project management. Toon Boom’s server database option includes Harmony 22 and allows medium and large production firms to easily manage their assets, scenes, and batch processes. This option also improves overall security since users have to log in to access different functionalities.
Pricing: Toon Boom offers different product plans. Harmony 22 Essentials is available for $27 per month; Harmony 22 Advanced for $67.50 per month; and Harmony 22 Premium for $123.50 per month, with discounts for annual billing. Storyboard Pro 22 has a monthly billing of $71 or an annual billing of $557.
Best for: Toon Boom is best for beginners or animators with little experience due to its easy learning curve.
Blender is an open-source software for 3D-related activities, including animation, simulation, rendering, motion tracking, rigging, modeling, and compositing. Designers can also use Blender for game creation and video editing.
- Cross-platform. Blender is cross-platform, meaning it can run on different operating systems, including macOS, Windows, and Linux. It uses OpenGL technology to deliver consistent experience or performance on different operating systems.
- Open-source. Blender is available as an open-source project under the GNU General Public License. Its maintainers receive code from global contributors and merge it into the central repository.
- Storyboard. Blender allows artists to draw their characters and movie scenes in a 3D environment.
- Visual effects (VFX). From masking to motion tracking, animators and other content producers use Blender to add special effects to their projects.
- Detailed animation process. Blender provides the required tools for character animation, forward and inverse kinematics, and sound effects synchronization. You can also transform models into characters using the variety of rigging tools available in Blender.
- Modeling. In this context, modeling is the process of creating characters and objects in a digital space. Blender features an array of modeling tools for creating, editing, and transforming models. With Blender, you can add intricate hair details, expressions, and other complex features to your anime characters.
Pricing: Blender is free animation software.
Best for: Blender is best for those content creators and enthusiasts who wish to access a free tool for creating 3D models, visual effects, motion graphics, virtual reality, animations, and games.
Here’s a list of alternative software for anime production. These powerful animation tools can benefit content producers, artists, and enthusiasts for varied reasons. Read on to learn more.
Founded more than 20 years ago, Autodesk Maya is among the top animation and character design platforms. Anime and other designers can use this platform to create and add visual effects to movies. You can also use Autodesk Maya to create realistic effects, including cloth simulation, explosions, and water ripples.
- Fast playback. Autodesk Maya allows you to review animations faster and make desired changes without consuming extra system resources.
- Graph editor. Use Maya’s graph editor to easily create, modify, and view animation curves. This allows you to complete your anime project much faster.
- Interactive hair grooming. Getting a character’s hair right is a prominent feature of anime and it is one of the more challenging animation tasks. Autodesk Maya solves this issue by providing tools to create realistic hair and fur for different characters.
- Physics and engines. Autodesk Maya allows artists to develop anime movies that are in touch with reality. For instance, the Physics engine ensures that objects behave as they would in a real-life environment.
Pricing: Autodesk Maya offers several subscription plans. You can get the software by paying $5,085 every three years, $1,785 annually, or $225 monthly. You also have the option to buy tokens, which allow you to access Autodesk Maya products for a limited period. This flex plan includes 100 tokens (over 16 days) for $300 or 500 tokens (over 83 days) for $1,500.
Best for: Autodesk Maya is for professional artists willing to pay more to access a robust and versatile animation tool.
Moho is animation software mainly used for creating 2D objects. You can use Moho to draw, model, and rig different characters. Moho also lets you import files from other platforms, such as Adobe Photoshop, to use in your workspace.
- Advanced animation tools. Moho provides physics, particles, and dynamics engines so artists can control their characters’ movements and behaviors.
- Good workflow. Anime creators can take control of their projects using features like graphs, timelines, and multiple interpolation modes.
- Lip-sync tools. Moho allows you to import voice recordings and create personalized lip-syncing for your anime characters.
- Scripting tools. With Moho, you can personalize your experience by writing scripts or importing different plug-ins and templates into your workspace.
- Active community. Moho has a big anime community for members to learn and share their experiences.
Pricing: You can purchase Moho Pro 13.5 with a one-time payment of $399.99 and Moho Debut 13.5 for $59.99. A 30-day free trial is available.
Best for: Moho Debut 13.5 features a simple interface suitable for hobbyists, first-time animators, and digital artists who wish to learn animation. Moho Pro is for professionals looking for an effective way to create quality animations.
Like Moho, Animaker specializes in 2D animation but makes it easier to get started by providing users with professionally crafted templates. Animaker has helped more than 15 million people create awesome animated videos.
- Large asset library. Animaker has more than 10 million assets in its library, some of which you can import and use in your anime project. This includes 2D backgrounds, scenes, animated texts, and characters.
- Character builder. Rather than building your anime characters entirely from scratch, you can use Animaker to generate character models for your anime project quickly using premade skeletons or other objects.
- Auto lip-sync. Animaker allows you to match your character’s lip movement with voice-overs. This process is usually time-consuming, but you can save significant time by using the auto lip-sync feature.
- Quick sharing. Use Animaker to download your video or publish it directly on your social media channels.
Pricing: Animaker is available for free.
Best for: Animaker features a simple design and clear tutorials, which makes it more suitable for beginners and enthusiasts.
Opentoonz is open-source 2D animation software. Content creators, developers, artists, or other individuals are free to make changes to the source code for Opentoonz.
- Cross-platform. Opentoonz is compatible with Windows and macOS operating systems.
- Effects. Opentoonz allows you to utilize machine learning and deep learning technology to add different effects to your animation projects.
- GTS. Opentoonz is compatible with GTS—a tool that artists can use to scan their characters and scenes and use them in their digital space.
Pricing: Whether creating commercial or noncommercial projects, you can download Opentoonz for free.
Best for: Opentoonz is for content creators who are on a budget but still wish to access a robust and powerful tool for creating animations.
TVPaint helps you bring your drawings and animation to life. Use TVPaint’s storyboard to lay out your story, then export the characters, scenes, and backgrounds into the animation engine for better efficiency when creating.
- Multitrack audio management. TVPaint enables you to manage multiple audio tracks and include them in your project.
- Scan cleaner. The scan cleaner helps you improve image scan quality before using them in different projects.
- Paint bucket tool. TVPaint provides a variety of paints and brushes to make your characters and scenes lively.
Pricing: TVPaint categorizes its customers into five groups: independent artists, studios, students, teachers, and schools. Each group has a different pricing plan. For example, independent artists can acquire TVPaint Animation 11.5 Professional Edition for about $1,330 and the Standard Edition for $530 (converted from Euro pricing). Learn more about these pricing plans on the official website.
Best for: TVPaint is for professional anime artists who wish to access quality hand-drawn and frame-by-frame animation.
Hire a professional anime artist to help
Learning how to animate on your own can be challenging. Besides starting with creative ideas, you must master complex design and animation tools.
Sometimes, it’s best to consider your strengths and get expert support for other elements. Upwork is the best place to look for professional help. With thousands of highly qualified personnel, you can easily find and hire an independent anime artist using Upwork’s Talent MarketplaceTM.
If you're skilled in anime creation, you can also find work and earn a steady income as an anime artist via Upwork today.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation. Prices are current at the time of writing and may change over time based on each service’s offerings.