Tools for Animators: What Animation Software Should I Learn?

Tools & Software for AnimationHand-drawn animation films may seem to belong to a bygone era, though Disney’s black-and-white 3-D hand-drawn/computer animated short film, “Paperman,” released in 2012 suggests that traditional 2-D animation is every bit as expressive and effective as computer-generated 3-D animation. But technology is evolving fast and the field of animation, too, now relies on many software and tools.

Sophisticated computer software can now create both hand-drawn and computer-generated (CG) animation. Animation today can be 2-D (classical hand-drawn) or 3-D (computer generated). The animation software you need to learn may differ from the type of animation you wish to specialise in. Here is a list of tools and software that are used extensively in the field of animation.


Adobe Illustrator

It is a 2-D software for producing and editing vector graphics such as character design and creative design that may be used in designing for the web, brochures, business cards and 2-D rendering.

Adobe Photoshop


This is a very popular and widely used graphics creation and editing software used widely in the industry in all sectors related to graphics (GFX) and design. This software is mainly used for image editing, retouching, digital painting, image morphing, video editing, creative design and for crafting textures for 3-D models.

Adobe Flash

This is a vector-based software mainly used for delivering high-impact, rich designs, animation and application user interfaces (UI).

Adobe After Effects

This software is mostly used in the postproduction process of filmmaking and television production and is mainly used for creating motion graphics and visual effects. You can use this software to animate, alter and composite media in 2-D and 3-D space with various built-in tools. It allows you to add various effects like fire, explosions and noise.

Autodesk Maya

Autodesk maya

Autodesk Maya is popularly used by 3-D animators

This comprehensive 3-D animation software can be used for 3-D computer animation, modelling, simulation, rendering and compositing to generate interactive 3-D applications, including video games, animated film, TV series or visual effects. It has next generation display technology, accelerated modelling workflows and new tools for handling complex data.

Autodesk 3ds Max

This 3-D computer graphics software can be used for 3-D modelling, animation, rendering and compositing by games, film and motion graphics artists.

AutoDesk Mudbox

This is a digital painting and digital sculpting software that can create highly realistic 3-D characters, engaging environments, detailed props and compelling concept designs.

Autodesk MotionBuilder
This is yet another 3-D character animation software from Autodesk that can be used for virtual production and to control and refine data.

eyeon Fusion
Also known as “Fusion,” this image compositing software program is primarily used to generate visual effects and digital compositing for film, HD and commercials.

Foundry Nuke
This digital compositing software is node-based and mainly used for film and television postproduction. It has a wide range of flexible and easy to use tools.

Houdini is a flexible 3-D animation software package renowned for its high-quality graphics pipeline. It can provide all key areas of 3-D production such as modeling, character, rendering, compositing, lighting and animation.

Sound Forge
This is an audio editing software by Sony Creative Software that can be used to cover all aspects of audio editing and mastering.

Keep in mind that a tool is only as good as the skills of the craftsperson using it. A sound knowledge of some or most of these combined with your creativity and artistic talent may help you achieve success in the field of animation. You should aim to learn the craft of animation at your animation college. The software can become secondary if you’re already proficient with the principles of animation. The animation tools may change from studio to studio, but you may be able to animate regardless, if you get your basics right.


“Adobe Creative Cloud Illustrator,” July 2013,
“Adobe Photoshop,” July 2013, Wikipedia,
“Autodesk MotionBuilder,” July 2013, Autodesk,
“FAQs,” July 2013, Arena Animation,
“Houdini Product Overview,” July 2013,,
“NUKE and NUKEX | Advancing the art of digital compositing,” July 2013, The Foundry,
“NUKE and NUKEX | Testimonials,” July 2013, The Foundry,
“Sound Forge Pro 10 overview,” July 2013, Sony Creative Software,
“Tools and Software,” July 2013, DSK Supinfocom Animation,

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About Nishatha Abraham Bijeesh

Nishatha has been writing about education in India and abroad for the last 9 years. She has been in the digital marketing industry for 8+ years and specializes in content marketing. Nothing annoys her more than slow wi-fi, incorrect usage of the apostrophe and people mispronouncing her name. She prefers not to talk about herself in the third person, but reluctantly, had to do so here!

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