Looking for the best 3D Animation Software both free and premium? We put together a exclusive list of the best 3D software where you can create and animate characters, animals, vehicles, creatures, and any imaginary characters. If 3D animation is outside your spec, please check our post of the best 2D animation software available to start your passion in character or cartoon animation. If you looking to hire an animator we recommend Twine as the best place to find your next 3D animator. If you need free illustrations for your 3D project.
Updated: January 12, 2021
Best 3D Animation Software from Beginners to Advanced both Free and Premium
1. Reallusion iClone
iClone is the fastest real-time 3D animation software in the industry, helping you easily produce professional animations for films, previz, animation, video games, content development, education and art. Integrated with the latest real-time technologies, iClone 7 simplifies the world of 3D Animation in a user-friendly production environment that blends character animation, scene design and cinematic storytelling; quickly turning your vision into a reality. Achieve dynamic and organic animation performance with a series of morphs added to props or skin-bone characters. This is a simple technique that adds incredible performance enhancing animation options which can be keyed and controlled inside iClone 7. The Morph Manager edits morph groups from a hierarchical model, and you can import OBJ morphs from 3D modeling or sculpting tools. Link selected morphs to adjust them individually using the iClone 7 Morph Manage interface. All imported blend shapes are available in the timeline with individual morph tracks. You can set keys and tweak values for each morph track in order to achieve ideal organic movement between morphs
The Curve Editor Plug-in allows you to adapt all the skills of classic animation principles to your iClone animations. Select a motion clip or a section of keys from the timeline and start applying curves to achieve the best animation performance. Exercise full control over time and space adjustments in your animations, create smooth and cinematic cameras, perform arc rotation for cartoon animation, and achieve the perfect ease-in and out behavior! Character Creator 3 is a full character creation solution for designers to easily create, import and customize stylized or realistic looking character assets for use with iClone, Maya, Blender, Unreal Engine 4, Unity or any other 3D tools. It connects industry leading pipelines into one system for 3D character generation, animation, rendering, and interactive design.
Blender is the free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing and 2D animation pipeline. Blender is a public project, made by hundreds of people from around the world; by studios and individual artists, professionals and hobbyists, scientists, students, VFX experts, animators, game artists, modders, and the list goes on. Blender has many online tutorials and Animation Fundamentals
Cycles Render Engine
Cycles is Blender’s built-in powerful unbiased path-tracer engine that offers stunning ultra-realistic rendering.
- · Real-time viewport preview
- · CPU & GPU rendering
- · PBR shaders & HDR lighting support
- · VR rendering support
Modeling, Sculpt, UV
Blender’s comprehensive array of modeling tools make creating, transforming and editing your models a breeze.
- · Full N-Gon support
- · Edge slide, inset, grid and bridge fill, and more
- · Advanced sculpting tools and brushes
- · Multi-resolution and Dynamic subdivision
- · 3D painting with textured brushes and masking
- · Python scripting for custom tools and add-ons
Best Animation & Rigging
Thanks to the high quality rigging and animation tools, Blender is being used for numerous short films, advertisements, TV series and feature films now.
- · Envelope, skeleton and automatic skinning
- · B-spline interpolated bones
- · Curve editor and dope sheets
- · Custom bone shapes for fast input
- · Sound synchronization
3. Pixar RenderMan
RenderMan Advanced Technology from Pixar Animation Studios for Rendering VFX and Animation
With a new state-of-the-art framework optimized for physically-based rendering, RenderMan can deliver unmatched flexibility for any production pipeline.
Not only is RenderMan used for our own feature films at Pixar, it is also used throughout the industry for rendering Visual Effects and animation, making scalability and versatility one of its core strengths. Now you can get out-of-box production tools straight from Pixar Animation Studios, including materials and light transport…no development required.
Physically based shading allows RenderMan to deliver highly realistic lighting with minimal setup, including full support for multi-bounce ray traced global illumination and ray traced subsurface scattering. Much research and development has gone into making these traditionally expensive effects a production reality. Pixar's first feature film to use this technology was Finding Dory, and now it has matured with great developments in Cars 3, Coco, Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4.
Created for Artists
Materials come fully loaded with all of the creative options for look development demanded by the shading artists at Pixar. Use Pixar Surface to create everything from glass to the most incredibly subtle skin you can image … and layer them on top of each other, for unlimited types of looks.
4. Cinema 4D
Easy to learn and extremely powerful: Cinema 4D is the perfect package for all 3D artists who want to achieve breathtaking results fast and hassle-free. Beginners and seasoned professionals alike can take advantage of Cinema 4D’s wide range of tools and features to quickly achieve stunning results. Cinema 4D’s legendary reliability also makes it the perfect application for demanding, fast-paced 3D production.
EASE OF USE
Getting started in the world of 3D is a blast when you can quickly create great-looking results! Cinema 4D’s intuitive and easy to understand operation and logically arranged interface makes it easy for beginners to jump right in and take control. And it never ceases to amaze professional users just how easy Cinema 4D is to use. Countless tutorials and a global, highly-skilled community play an important role in bringing beginners to a professional level of use.
Cinema 4D is a pillar in our users’ everyday workflow. This is why we make sure from the start that new functions work intuitively and are exactly where users will expect to find them. The Cinema 4D layout can also be easily customized to precisely fit a user’s needs and saved for later use.
5. Autodesk – Maya
3D computer animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering software
Create expansive worlds, complex characters, and dazzling effects
- Bring believable characters to life with engaging animation tools.
- Shape 3D objects and scenes with intuitive modeling tools in Maya® software.
- Create realistic effects —from explosions to cloth simulation.
- Learn Maya with free tutorials online
Create serious effects procedurally with Bifrost for Maya
- A new visual programming environment using dynamic solvers enables you to create blockbuster-worthy effects quickly.
- Build custom graphs using the Bifrost Graph Editor.
- Create stunning effects—from snow and sand to dust storms and explosions—with ready-to-use graphs.
- Get Maya Free Trial and see if Maya is the best 3d Animation software on the market
Render your most complex projects with Arnold
- Arnold is built to manage complex characters, scenery, and lighting challenges.
- Arnold is integrated with Maya, so you can see high-quality previews and iterate changes quickly.
- Save time with Arnold’s artist-friendly UI and simple, intuitive controls.
6. LightWave 3D
Fresh. Fast. Easy. Proven.
NewTek LightWave 3D® makes it possible for anyone to become a 3D artist and animator. The software is affordable, complete, easy to learn and use and well established as one of the leading 3D systems on the market for producing beautiful photo-real renders as well as incredible anime. This complete out-of-the-box 3D animation solution now offers real-time collaborative 3D interactivity through a bridge to Unreal Engine.
Real-time Collaborative LightWave™
to Unreal Engine
LightWave 3D® enters the Real-Time Age for interchange with this workflow link between the Unreal Engine and LightWave 3D®, focusing on LightWave driving Unreal changes iteratively. Multiple LightWave seats are able to connect to the same Unreal Editor simultaneously to enable real-time collaboration between artists. The bridge uses NewTek's proven NDI® network discovery mechanism for easy automatic configuration, and can be limited to single project use in Unreal, or installed as a general plugin for use in all Unreal projects.
7. Autodesk 3D Studio Max
3D modeling and rendering software for design visualization, games, and animation
Produce professional-quality 3D animations, renders, and models with 3ds Max® software. An efficient and flexible toolset to help you create better 3D content in less time.
3ds Max offers a rich and flexible toolset to create premium designs with full artistic control.
- Create massive worlds in games
- Visualize high-quality architectural renderings
- Model finely detailed interiors and objects
- Bring characters and features to life with animation and VFX
- Learn 3d studio max tutorials and documentation
3ds Max free trial lets you scale your workflow with automation, allowing you to spend more time on creativity.
- Use 3ds Max as a compute engine to scale content production
- Extend built-in workflows with accessible APIs
- Accelerate manual steps to boost productivity
Autodesk Motion Builder for Animation and 3d animation.
Modo’s powerful and flexible 3D modeling, texturing and rendering toolset empowers artists to explore and develop ideas without jumping through technical hoops. Modo® is your starting point for creative exploration. Mobile game company Wooga develops successful story-driven casual games. Their 3D artists work faster and better using Modo comprehensive modelling toolset, eliminating the need for sketching. Modo UI also makes a difference for 2D artists, they are also able to take a step into 3D smoothly thanks to Modo friendly user interface.
With its advanced photorealistic viewport and progressive renderer, and WYSIWYG look-dev for Unity and Unreal, Modo lets you visualize your designs as you develop them, so you can discover their ultimate potential in less time.
Modo fits right into your pipeline, with Python and C++ APIs; a fully customizable UI; and support for industry-standard formats like OpenSubdiv, OpenColorIO, OpenEXR, OpenVDB and Alembic.
9. ZBrush 3D
ZBrush sets the industry standard for digital sculpting and painting. Its features enable you to use customizable brushes to shape, texture and paint virtual clay in a real-time environment that provides instant feedback. When you use ZBrush you'll be empowered by the same tools employed by film studios, game developers, toy/collectible makers, jewelry designers, automotive/aviation designers, illustrators, advertisers, scientists and other artists the world over. In fact, we have even received an Academy Award for the technology that powers ZBrush.
In short, ZBrush is an art tool created by artists, for artists. It allows you to create models and illustrations limited only by your imagination, at a speed that allows you to stand out in today's fast paced industry.
The inherent problem with traditional 3D modeling methods is that once you divide your mesh you are locked into the design thus far. There is no way to go back and make changes at the macro level without sacrificing everything that has been done at higher resolutions. ZBrush does away with that restriction through multi-resolution subdivision editing, the feature for which it received an Academy Award. With this system you are free to move between subdivision levels at any time, making changes wherever they are most appropriate. Those changes then automatically ripple across all other levels of your model.
Clara.io is a full-featured cloud-based 3D modeling, animation and rendering software tool that runs in your web browser. With Clara.io you can make complex 3D models, create beautiful photorealistic renderings, and share them without installing any software programs. This is the perfect Three.JS or Babylon.JS editor for creating and tweaking your Web game content.
Made by professionals for professionals
Clara.io is the latest innovation from the trusted and experienced team at Exocortex.
Exocortex's suite of products are trusted by hundreds of creative teams at studios around the world. Exocortex's tools have been used to create these recent Hollywood blockbuster films.
Scripting, Plugins + REST API
Customize. Extend. Mashup. White Label. And even create your own Custom 3D Viewers.
Chrome. Firefox. IE11. Edge. Windows. Apple OSX. Linux. Android. iOS.
Over 30 common 3D files formats supported. FBX, Collada, STL, OBJ, Three.JS, Babylons.JS, STEP, IGES, 3DS, Blender and more.
11. DAZ 3D Software
World-Class Studio Power, Drag and Drop Simplicity
At Daz 3D, our figure content is designed with high adjustability to easily become any character. Genesis 8, our latest and most advanced platform, is backward-compatible with all predecessors, and with tens of thousands of supporting assets, is the most versatile figure platform ever made. With dForce physics technology, Daz Studio simulates natural cloth and hair movement. By combining dForce, Genesis 8, and the NVIDIA Iray render engine option, Daz 3D makes 3D creation, imagery, and animation fast, easy, and more realistic.
Free Animation with Daz Studio
Daz Studio gives you the power to easily create your own animations with exclusive tools to help you animate quicker, better and easier. Get started today with our free 3D animation software.
Advanced Animation Capabilities
Daz Studio's Animation Software features:
- Customizable user interface
- Physics based hair and clothing simulation
- Visualize and edit transitions with ease
- Grannular control between keyframes and IK nodes
These enhanced features let you animate easily and seamlessly.
12. Character Animator – Adobe
Character Animator uses your expressions and movements to animate characters in real time. It’s so fast, you can livestream while you work, to wow audiences every step of the way. Turn any art into an animated character with your webcam, powered by Adobe Sensei AI. Import art from Illustrator and Photoshop, or start with built-in character templates. Control gestures like waving with your keyboard or MIDI device. Movements can be saved as buttons, so they’re easier to remember than key commands.
Empowering creativity with animated 3D characters.
Mixamo Bring your projects to life with 3D characters, skeletal rigs, and animations, ready for use in film, games, interactive experiences and illustration.
Ready to Use Characters
Browse a collection of high-quality 3D characters. From realistic to cartoon, fantasy to sci-fi, there’s a character for every purpose. Each character comes fully textured and rigged so you can use immediately in your creative projects.
Motion Captured Animations
Explore a library of thousands of full-body character animations, captured from professional motion actors. Each animation is transferred to your own character and can be previewed and edited directly with Mixamo, so you can control the look and feel of each motion.
The Premier 3D Rendering & Animation Software
Easily create art and animation with 3D characters
Poser is a 3D computer graphics program optimized for 3D modeling of human figures. It is known for enabling digital artists to easily produce 3D animations and digital images, as well as the extensive availability of third-party digital content.
Poser is an ecosystem full of ready-to-pose 3D human figures, hair, clothing, props, scenery, lighting and cameras you need to bring your stories, dreams and fantasies of all genres to life. From historic to contemporary, sci-fi to fantasy, Poser is the 3D graphics software tool used by studios and hobbyists alike.
Poser delivers the power of interactive 3D figure design, offering infinite opportunities to portray human diversity, form and expression. Create with the human form for art, illustration, animation, comics, web, print, education, medical, games, story boarding, and more!
Houdini is built from the ground up to be a procedural system that empowers artists to work freely, create multiple iterations and rapidly share workflows with colleagues.
In Houdini, every action is stored in a node. These nodes are then “wired” into networks which define a “recipe” that can be tweaked to refine the outcome then repeated to create similar yet unique results. The ability for nodes to be saved and to pass information, in the form of attributes, down the chain is what gives Houdini its procedural nature.
While the nodes are what makes Houdini unique and give it power, there are lots of viewport and shelf tools that allow for artist-friendly viewport interactions. Behind the scenes, Houdini builds up the nodes and networks for you. Houdini lets artists explore different creative paths because it is easy to branch off a new node to explore alternative solutions.
Visual effects artists gravitate to Houdini because its procedural workflow is ideal for creating sophisticated particle and dynamic simulations. Effects are typically designed to react to actions taking place in a shot and a procedural solution “automates” these reactions providing studios with more creative control and more rapid turnaround.
Visualize your ideas
The joy of drawing by hand. The ease of super-smart 3D modeling software.
Customize your 3D workspace
Hundreds of professionally-developed extensions at your fingertips.
Tell the whole story.
Design in 3D. Document in 2D. Make work easier.
Get inspired. Share with the world.
Bring efficiency to your team and the 3D community.
17. EIAS 3D – Electric Image Animation System
The Electric Image Animation System (EIAS) is an eminent 3D animation and rendering package available for the Mac and PC. You can texture and animate with ease and render your 3D scenes with amazing speed and quality. EIAS includes the ability to network render to an unlimited number of computers across both platforms at no additional cost. EIAS presents advanced ‘buzz-word' features in an easy to use, no-nonsense interface.
The latest version of our flagship software includes several unique features, several peerless features and plenty of useful treats to compliment them. EIAS v9 Animator Feature List, EIAS v9 Camera Feature List and EIAS v9.1 Feature List and bug fixes. We've overhauled the entire EIAS to give you access to industry-leading tools that will not only allow you to create truly stunning images quickly and easily.
EIAS is extensively used by professional studios all over the globe to create world-class animation for countless productions. It is ideal for all animation: from complex VFX shots to Architectural Fly-throughs.
- Virtually every attribute can be animated in EIAS.
- EIAS can import animation from other applications via the FBX, OBM and BVH formats.
- EIAS can import motion tracking data from SynthEyes, PFTrack, Boujou and MatchMover.
- Function Curves provide a precise way to animate objects naturally.
- Bullet rigid body dynamics.
- Straight-forward character animation.
- Inverse kinematics.
- Animatable deforms including: buldge, twist, bend, runwave, taper, bezier and many more.
- Morph editor.
- Full set of constraints including: Auto Bank, Aim, Geometry, Pole Vector, Auto Look and more.
18. Unity Animation
From independent boutiques to global media producers, studios around the world are harnessing the power of real-time rendering to speed up production, smooth workflow hurdles, and grow their creativity with Unity.
Unity brings real-time workflows to animation content creators – speeding up traditional pipelines and giving artists, producers, and directors more opportunities for creative freedom, fast feedback, and artistic iteration on a flexible platform. With Unity, real-time production is a reality.
Pipeline devs can work with Unity out of the box or create a real-time workflow custom-made for a project using the broadest platform support available alongside extensive DCC compatibility and highly versatile scripting tools.
Exchange models, animations, cameras, lighting, and FX between Unity and most digital content creation tools. With Alembic, USD, and FBX workflows, you can work in real-time with the same formats as your asset pipeline and use the right file for any job.
19. SkyCiv Structural 3D
SkyCiv Structural 3D is a cloud-based Structural Analysis software that allows users to model, analyze and design complex 3D structures. It is completely online; requiring no installation to use. SkyCiv Structural 3D offers the very best in online structural analysis. It includes the following: – Powerful Analysis: Linear, P-Delta, Cables, Buckling, Plates, Frequency, RS – Integrated Design checks for steel, wood, connections, foundations, wind (AISC, NSD, AISI, EN, AS, CSA, BS plus more…)
20. Wings 3D
Wings 3D is an advanced subdivision modeler that is both powerful and easy to use.
Originally inspired by Nendo and Mirai from Izware, Wings 3D has been developed since 2001, when Björn Gustavsson (bjorng) and Dan Gudmundsson (dgud) first started the project. Richard Jones (optigon) maintained Wings and coded many new features between 2006 and 2012. Wings 3D is currently maintained by Dan with the help of the great community.
Wings 3D offers a wide range of modeling tools, a customizable interface, support for lights and materials, and a built-in AutoUV mapping facility.
Wings 3D gets its name from the Winged Edge Data Structure (WEDS). This is the data structure used to store the adjacency relationships between edges, faces, and vertices in a Wings 3D model.
K-3D is free-as-in-freedom 3D modeling and animation software. It combines flexible plugins with a visualization pipeline architecture, making K-3D a versatile and powerful tool for artists.
K-3D's interface uses your platform's look-and-feel, and it's consistent with the applications you already know. New artists will find K-3D easy to understand, and professionals feel right at home. K-3D is intuitive, consistent, and discoverable.
K-3D features procedural and parametric workflows. Properties can be adjusted interactively and results appear immediately. The powerful, node-based visualization pipeline allows more possibilities than traditional modifier stacks or histories. Selection flows from one modifier to the next.
An advanced undo/redo system ensures you can always go back, and the pioneering undo tree means you can always go forward, even where other programs lose the ability to redo.
Industrial-strength standards form the foundation on which K-3D builds – including native RenderMan(TM) support that integrates tightly with the K-3D user interface.
Get all the power of a node-based visualization pipeline: connect anything to anything else. K-3D gives you the freedom to create combinations never before seen.
Work on one side of a model, show the other side mirrored, and see the end result welded together as a subdivision surface in realtime. Using K-3D, complex workflows are easy to create and understand. Go back, modify the beginning of a workflow, and watch as changes propagate automatically to the end.
What is the best Free 3D Animation Software?
Blender is the best free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing
What is the easiest 3D animation software to learn?
LightWave 3D software is affordable, complete, easy to learn and use and well established as one of the leading 3D systems on the market for producing beautiful photo-real renders as well as incredible anime.
What 3D Software Does Pixar Use?
RenderMan is used in our own feature films at Pixar, it is also used throughout the industry for rendering Visual Effects and animation, making scalability and versatility one of its core strengths.