There are hundreds of animation programs out there. Many have a specific intent and purpose or are designed to work into a particular look or style of animation. They can be open source or have a tiered licensing structure. They may appeal to beginners or those that have outgrown other programs.
Below you will see a short list of just 5 animation programs compatible with Windows. All of them are easy to pick up and start to use right away, have sufficient documentation and community support, and are used for a variety of professional applications including animated video production. Every one of these is also used by a handful of professional animation production companies.
Best Animation Programs for Windows
Most Flexible for Simple 2D Animation – Adobe Animate (Flash)
Adobe Animate is the most expensive option on this list because it’s the only program that is a subscription model. If you already work with the Creative Cloud, this could be something that interests you. If not, it is quite powerful and does offer a complete animation studio solution.
If you invest the time and money, Adobe Animate is geared toward the professional animator or animated content creator. It’s completely polished and can handle any type of 2D animation you need it to.
Best for Open Source 2D Character Animation – Dragon Bones
Dragon Bones allows anyone to easily create 2D animations for videos, movies, and games using a simple rigging system (bones) similar to what you might find in the Adobe program above. The software itself is entirely free and can export files for use in many other platforms and engines.
Best for 3D Models and Animation – Blender
Anyone who has dabbled in 3D animation has at least heard of Blender. As a free, open-source software it was rough for quite a while. Now, however, its formerly rough edges have been polished, and the software even has a few critical features that “name brand” 3D animation software does not. Yes, it takes time to learn. Any new program will. However, once you’re used to it, you may find that it makes handling animation work easier and faster.
Best Overall for Complete 2D Animations – MOHO
Moho, formerly Anime Studio, is a complete animation suite with the most features you will find just about anywhere for 2D and some 3D animations. It’s used for movies, games, and more both by hobbyists and professionals.
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It has all the capabilities of Flash and Dragon Bones mentioned above and, if you are familiar with either, Moho should come across as easy and intuitive to use. Moho comes in both Debut and Pro versions, requires you to pay once for whichever version you choose, and has additional plugins, mods and add-ons available for purchase a la carte.
Best for Hand Drawn Animation – Animation Paper
Animation Paper is the ideal animation program for anyone who wants a hand-drawn animation style and feels. The older version is completely free, and a somewhat newer version with a bit more polish is the reasonable one-time price of $79. They are, however, in the middle of releasing an entirely new, rebooted version. This version is estimated to be published in early 2019.