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Proprietary software solutions have dominated the 3D/2D animation landscape for most of the last 30 years. The animation software area is one of the sectors where proprietary solutions are gatekeeping the entire industry; it takes tens and hundreds of dollars to get good working software, and hence, individual animators or small-sized studios don’t even have a chance of entering the market.

But this is gradually changing, and open source solutions have started to catch up with the competition and offer a similar quality to their rivals.

That’s why open source solutions have become more important: Besides the fact that they are free as in freedom, they are also free in terms of cost. They have helped many small indie animators work on their novice animation projects easily, and even turn them into professional projects later on.

Top Open Source Animation Software

In today’s article, we present you the top open source 3D and 2D animation software in the market that you would love to use.

1. Blender

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Blender is so good, so good to the level that people have been wondering how can it be open source and free? And the first one that comes to mind when talking about open source 3D modeling tools.

It is a fully-fledged 3D modelling and animation software that supports almost anything any animator can think of:

  • Texture mapping.
  • Raster graphics editing and creation.
  • Rigging and skinning of objects.
  • Fluid and smoke control systems are already built in.
  • Particle simulation and control.
  • Visual effects composition.
  • Objects sculpting from defined materials.
  • Rendering in different supported engines.
  • Motion graphics capture and creation.

For rendering, Blender supports NVIDIA CUDA technology for NVIDIA graphics cards, and supports OpenCL rendering for Intel IRS and AMD graphics cards. Version 3.0 of the software is expected to land soon with tons of new improvements.

Blender was released back in 1994, making it one of the oldest open source software available in the world. It is licensed under the GPL license, and written in C, C++ and Python programming languages.

It supports a plugin system which is written in Python as well. So animators can develop their own plugins to automate any work they want in the software when needed.

If you are not convinced that Blender is good, then just take a look at Blender Studio. You’ll find many high-quality animations and short films that are 100% done in Blender, which will show you how amazing the software is.

The software is so good in fact, that the Blender Foundation has been receiving millions of dollars in grants and donations from various corporations and companies, including their very own rivals such as Adobe and others.

2. Synfig

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Synfig is one of the most famous open source 2D animation software out there. It’s licensed under the GPL license and works on all three major operating systems (Windows, macOS and Linux). Written in C++.

Among Synfig features we can notably see:

  • Vector Inbetweening, which would save the animator a lot of time and work on switching the movement/motion between sequential frames.
  • Support of up to +50 layers of objects.
  • A bone system simulates human motion, and controls the body’s parts’ movements accordingly.

Synfig uses its own .SIF/SIFZ/SIFG formats for the data files it produces, and supports rendering the output in AVI, MPEG, GIF, Flash and many other formats. It also supports importing Inkscape’s SVG files so that you can use them in your work. Synfig supports gradients, shadows and real-time effects.

Synfig provides a lot of documents about how to use the software on their official website. In addition to that, a complete video course is available to explain all the details of the program (but you have to pay at least $1 to access the video course).

You can download it from the official website, or access the source code on GitHub.

3. OpenToonz

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Originally named “Toonz” and initialized in 1993 as a proprietary software, this program became open source in 2016 and licensed under the BSD license. It was hence named “OpenToonz“.

You’ll find all the basic features in any 2D animation software available in OpenToonz as well; painting tools, frame manipulation, tweeing, motion capture and simulation support.

However, what makes OpenToonz special is a set of addons/plugins that can be installed to the program, such as Effects SDK which can employ deep machine learning to synthesize the effects of two images to produce a fusion image of them or even automatically add some effects according to your needs. And GTS is a scanning tool that allows you to scan an image and control/copy its properties instantly.

Finally, there’s a plugin called Kumoworks which allows you easily to create clouds in various shapes.

Unfortunately, one of the cons of OpenToonz is that it does not provide binaries for Linux distributions, but just for Windows and macOS. You can, however, build the binaries yourself from the source code and expect it to work on Linux.

Head for the downloads section to download it or view the source code.

4. OpenToonz Morevna Edition

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OpenToons Morevna Edition is actually a fork of the previous OpenToons program but with some additional features and differences. Many of those features do not appear back in the official OpenToons program, and also not all the features in the main OpenToons do appear in the Morevna Edition. But in general, both of them do have the same basic features and user interface.

Additionally, the Morevna Edition provides builds for most of the major Linux distributions, as well as Appimage, Snap and Flatpak formats.

It is an open-source 2D animation software, just like the program it was forked from.

You can download the program or browse the source code from the GitHub page.

5. TubiTube Desk

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TubiTube Desk doesn’t focus on being a professional 2D animation program, but instead, it’s targeting children, hobbyists and amateurs.

Its user interface is quite simple, and the program itself only offers the basic features of any 2D animation program, such as the painting/drawing tools, support for importing vector/image files in many formats from other programs, support for rendering the output work in AVI, MPEG and SWF formats, and manual tweening, scaling, rotation and opacity.

The program is released under the GPL license, and can be downloaded along its source code from SourceForge. It works on Windows, macOS and Linux.

6. Pencil2D

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Our final program in the list is Pencil2D, which is a cross-platform open source 2D animation software released under the GPL 2 license. Written in C++ and uses the Qt library for its user interface.

The program features a very simple and lightweight UI, and just like the others, it has all the tools necessary for painting, as well as layers support, multi-frame operations support, importing/exporting in various formats and many other nice features.

The community behind the program also provides a huge set of free tutorials and documents on how to deal with the software, as well as a forum for support or other questions that you may have.

You can download it from its official website or access the source code from its GitHub page.

7. enve

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enve is yet another simple 2D animation software that works on Linux and Windows systems. The project hasn’t received updates since 2021, but is still working as intended nonetheless.

It is very similar to the Flash creator in the past; you simply create the objects you want to animate using 3rd-party design software, and then use enve to animate them frame by frame according to your needs:

enve was written to be modular and expandable: If you know programming and the internals of the software, then you can develop your own plugins suitable for whatever use cases you may need.

The software is licensed under the GPL 3 license, and is developed in the C++ programming language. You can download it from its official page on GitHub.

For Linux users, you can install it as a Flatpak package from Flathub. Currently, it has around 14,000 users!

As you have seen in this post so far, there are many open source animation programs to use, but Blender is your only viable option if you want to do 3D animations, while the others on this list are for 2D animations only.

However, those tools should be just enough for doing your basic work as a hobbyist or someone who would like to see how this industry can work for you. Perhaps a 3D animation intern will find use for most of these tools. In addition, people who use these tools in their work can expect a pay raise faster that those who do not. Their resumes look much more attractive for potential employers.

If you have any other suggestion about a software to add to this list, then we’ll be happy to check it out.

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