Computer animation has come a long way since inception in the year 1960. The fundamentals of animation software or animation tool can be traced back to the time when William Fetter, a computer graphics designer made a diagram of a human body inside an airplane cockpit. Although the intention was to maximize the efficiency of Boeing’s cockpits, it paved the way towards more sophisticated process flows and thus, towards animation generated by computers. The credit for the first animation software, however, goes to Ivan Sutherland, an MIT graduate. His program Sketchpad (developed in 1963) drew lines that looked like recognizable figures. Little did he know that his idea would become a multibillion-dollar industry in the years to come.
Slowly and steadily, more progress was made in the field. The movie Tron which was released in the year 1982, was one of the first movies to use computer-generated graphics. Movies like the Terminator, Jurassic Park, Toy Story, the Matrix, and Avatar further refined the process, adding more details and sophistication to computer animation. The animation software industry grew to great heights within this period.
Fast forward to 2023, we have a plethora of examples to celebrate the genius of CGI or computer-generated imagery. There are a variety of animation software available in the market, widely used by professionals at animation studios. Depending on the medium you choose —hand-drawn or 2D, 3D, or stop-motion and the price range, there are plenty of options to get started. A well-built animation software provides intuitive controls and flexibility that can be easily understood by a beginner but also has vastly superior tools for an experienced user.
Browse through this list of quality animation software, and select the one that best suits your requirement. We hope it will help you hone your foundation skills, practice animation styles, and help you get professional results.
Here is a list of the best 16 Animation Softwares (Free and Paid)
Top Paid Animation Softwares
- Adobe Character Animator
- Toon Boom Harmony
- DigiCel Flipbook
- Moho Debut
- Moho Pro
- Cartoon Animator 5
- Stop Motion Studio
Top Open Source & Free Animation Softwares
What are the Best Animation Softwares of 2023?
Adobe Character Animator
This animation software comes from one of the biggest development companies in the world and serves up to the hyped expectations. One of the recent additions to the Adobe family, this simple animation software uses facial recognition, gesture recognition, etc to animate cartoon characters. The Character Animator is a real-time animator that uses your facial expressions, hand movements, full-body motion capture, and various other inputs to animate characters. It is extremely smooth and fast and you can live stream your development process to share work with team members or your audience. Just plug in your microphone, web camera and start animating! You can also create a character from your artworks in a few mouse clicks using the built-in Adobe Sensei.
To run Adobe Character Animator, you'll need Windows 10 or macOS 11.0 or later, at least 8GB RAM, and a GPU with 2GB VRAM.
Adobe Character Animator is one of the best animation software and is used by many Hollywood film houses. The software offers a huge variety of options for animating. You can also use the built-in puppets to begin animating as soon as you open the software. Animation options include breathing, walking, blinking, behaviors, etc. It is a great animation software for beginners as well as experienced professionals.
The free trial lasts for 7 days after which you can buy the paid versions of this simple software for animation. You can buy all the Adobe applications (creative cloud) for around 54.99 USD per month, billed annually. Adobe has created different packages for individuals, businesses, schools, and professionals. You can check this link out for more information on pricing.
|Motion capture allows to animate characters||Heavily relies on Adobe's other programs|
|Supports Motion Editor feature||The subscription plans are expensive|
|Easy to use, with excellent built in templates.||Programming Requires for interactive animation.|
|Anyone with basic knowledge can learn||3d animation capabilities need to be enhanced.|
Toon Boom Harmony
Toon Boom by Harmony is a cartoon animation software for beginners as well as for professionals. The software allows the user the flexibility, fluidity, and the smoothness of traditional animation. The learning curve is moderate since the software is meant for newbies as well as for professionals. The software has been used by leading animation studios for more than 25 years.
GitHub illustrator and animator, Tony Jaramillo writes in his testimonial, “Harmony makes it possible to level up our animation productivity without sacrificing quality...we're big fans”.
Some of the most famous users of Toon Boom are Universal Studios, Fox Studios, Cartoon Network, Ubisoft, and Lucas Film.
To run Toon Boom Harmony, you'll need Windows 10 or macOS 10.13 or later, 8GB RAM, and a modern OpenGL graphics card.
New features that came with the latest update include a stabilizer for lines, stylus pressure responsiveness, and tilt and angle responsiveness. Standard features include a brush engine, traditional paperless animation, deformers, cut-out animation, 2D/3D integration, export to game engines, and pipeline integration. It is also easily integrable with software such as Adobe Illustrator, and extensions such as PSD, PSB, PDF, and Bitmaps.
Pricing options come in different packages that include this animation software. Harmony Essentials cost 25 USD per month, billed annually. Similarly, Harmony Advanced is 63 USD per month and the Harmony Premium is 115 USD per month. You can use the software for free for 21 days; a duration that is good enough to understand and explore this amazing animation software.
|It has plenty of drawing and animation tools||Cannot record or edit audio in the program|
|High Fidelity Auto-Meshing||Glitches occur if software is not updated.|
|Advanced lip-sync tools||High-cost barrier for independent animators|
|Collaborative workflow||The program is highly customizable|
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This 2D animation software is easy-to-use but don’t let the simplicity fool you. You can do a lot of things with this animation software although it is intended for beginners. Developed by DigiCel, FlipBook runs on both Windows and macOS. You can also call this a frame by frame animation software since the method it employs deals with designing one frame at a time. Since the learning curve is smooth, you can directly dive into animating. The software lets you easily scan your artworks from paper directly onto the software. You can also make stop motion videos if you want.
To run DigiCel FlipBook, you'll need Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.10 or later, and a graphics card with 512MB VRAM.
Some of the features of FlipBook include a multiple-frame work desk, lip-sync support, pan, zoom, rotate, blur options, import and export capabilities, and scanning options. The software is efficient and super-smooth. The speed is amazing as well. You can make changes while the animation is running and the changes are visible the next time the loop runs! As aforementioned, the animation software is simple to use. However, some big names have complimented the software and recommended it to their followers. Disney’s Animation Director, Eric Goldberg calls it a great program and praises the draw tool provided by the software.
DigiCel’s Flipbook is priced according to four different packages that are Lite, Studio, and ProHD. If you use the free version of this animation software, all published exports are watermarked. The Lite version is listed at 98 USD but is currently at a sale price of 19 USD! The package offers 2 columns, 300 frames, and 800x600 screen capabilities. As the packages advance, so do their features. A complete pricing list can be seen here.
|Import images directly from a scanner||Free version have a watermark|
|Supports XSheet layers||History will be gone once document is deleted|
|Onion skinning technique is available||Limited number of frames|
Moho Debut 13.5
The Moho Debut is an animation software suitable for beginners interested in learning the art of animation. The interface is easy to understand and allows you to animate real fast. The simplicity does not, however, undermine the strength and the robustness of this software. The tools offered by Moho Debut are powerful and can be used to convert your strangest imaginations into an animated story. The software comes with multilingual support and has the capability to handle English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and Japanese.
To run Moho Debut 13.5, you'll need Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.13 or later, 4GB RAM, and OpenGL 2.0 graphics.
The software runs on both macOS and Windows and offers advanced and sophisticated freehand tools. Features such as bone rigging, pen pressure support for tablets, animated effects for shapes and layers, brushes that can be used to easily edit and animate, PSD support, and keyframe options are available. Advanced masking options and an auto freeze tool are also available.
The software is priced at 59.99 USD. The free trial can be availed for 30 days.
|Helps learn at your pace.||Doesn't automatically lip sync|
|Compatible for both Windows and Mac.||Limited audio editing capabilities|
|Plenty of premade character options||Limited community support|
Moho Pro 13.5
The Moho Pro is the advanced version of its lighter version, the Moho Debut. The user base is more professional and advanced. The software is costlier but has more features that can be used to create better animations. This 2D animation software includes all the features of Moho Debut. The latest version Moho Pro 13 integrates the best animation technology with the most sophisticated tools.
To run Moho Pro 13.5, you'll need Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.13 or later, 4GB RAM, and a modern OpenGL graphics card.
Moho Pro offers a bone rigging system, physics engine, dynamic bones, and smart bones to control complex movements, frame by frame capabilities, vector tools with Bezier handles, accurate SVG, AI, and EPS import, 4K video export, vector export, motion blur, and multilayer and multi-channel control. The newest update adds bitmap frame by frame capabilities, bitmap freehand drawing tools, custom bitmap brush creation, 3D objects light manipulation, 3D objects material properties support.
This animation software is priced at 399.9 USD with a free trial that lasts for 30 days. You can also purchase add-ons to improve the experience. The 100 Brush Pack, for example, is priced at 39 USD. Other add-ons include the Retro Space Pack, School Days Pack, Content Pack, and the Puppets Pack.
|Easy to make custom presets.||FBX file support is limited|
|Workspace is highly customizable||Lacks tutorials and resources for beginners|
|Enhanced Freehand Drawing Tools||Require a strong system|
Flipsnack is a web based flipbook animation software that allows users to create and share publications with a realistic page flip effect. With this tool, you can transform your static documents into all sorts of animated publications such as magazines, catalogs, presentations, portfolios, brochures, you name it, without any effort whatsoever.
This software comes equipped with an intuitive drag-and-drop editor and a plethora of fully customizable templates, therefore it is suitable for every type of user, whether you’re tech-savvy or not.
Flipsnack is constantly updating and developing new assets but when it comes to interactivity, some of its key features at the moment are the following: photo slide-shows; GIFs; audio and video elements; map embedding, and social media buttons integration.
If you want to share your animated content, there are various ways in which you can do it, be it publicly, unlisted, or private, with Flipsnack you can select and manage your audience according to your needs.
Moreover, if you want to track the performance of your animated flipbooks, you can do that using Flipsnack’s integrated option, which offers insights about every impression, view, share, and average reading duration for each publication. However, for a deeper understanding of your audience and content performance, you can also connect your account to Google Analytics.
In terms of pricing options, Flipsnack offers a free trial that allows you to create up to 3 catalogs of 30 pages each, a Starter plan for 14$/month; a Professional 35$/month; a Business plan for 79$/month, a Business plan for 207$/month and an Enterprise plan for 355$/month.
|Multi-platform compatibility||Don't function well with shared links|
|Easy to share and add to an email||The text box formatting has a bug|
|Collaboration and sharing||3D flip-page effect|
Do check out these topics
Cartoon Animator 5
Cartoon Animator 5 is a 2D animation software intended for both beginners as well as for professionals. You can design characters and digitally animate them via expressions and lip-sync capabilities. The Cartoon Animator 5 community is a strong one and materials for learning the software are easily available. Much like Adobe’s Character Animator, you can use your facial expressions and your voice to make animations. A few examples of videos made using this animation software are given here; The Curious Child, a TV series by Eon De Bruin, and an Animated comic by Fransesco.
To run Cartoon Animator 5, you'll need Windows 10 or later, 2GB RAM, a modern CPU, and a graphics card with 1GB VRAM.
Key features of this amazing animation software include webcam and iPhone facial mocap, hand tracking and digital puppets, full-body motion capture, sprite-based facial system, audio lip-syncing, precise FK/IK system, smart motion retargeting, stretch animation, and so much more. If you want to explore all the features of this superb software, head to this link for a detailed view. The software also lets you integrate your work with Adobe Photoshop and allows you to use PSD templates for designing. Pipeline features include capabilities to import 3D motions into 2D artworks and to create custom and unique elastic motion libraries. Finally, you can work with a huge number of file extensions without any trouble. It supports up to 4K resolution monitors.
The free trial is for 30 days after which you can buy the pro edition for 149 USD, edition with dynamic character design for 199 USD, or avail special bundle discounts.
|Photoshop integration is possible.||Not easy to create multiple scenes|
|Predefined animations and packs||Customer service could be improved|
|Can animate with the help of pins.||Rigging the face is difficult to do|
Stop Motion Studio
An animation software for beginners, Stop Motion Studio helps to create high-quality stop motion videos. Adopting the frame by frame animation technique, this software can help you make 4k stop motion videos with ease. The software is cross-platform and cross-device and can run on Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. Your projects are accessible from all the devices where you have your account.
To run Stop Motion Studio, you'll need Windows 10 or macOS 10.15 or later, 1GB RAM, and a graphics card with 512MB VRAM.
You can use your phone camera to click the single frames or you can even hook up your digital camera to your device. You also have the option to use a second phone to add more perspective to your videos. Editing these images is also easy and just requires a few touches or clicks. You can add audio clips, titles, credits, and filter effects to your videos as you click the frames. There is also the option to add looping to your videos using in and out set points. The software has built-in sound clips that you can use in your videos and you can directly record our voice and apply it on the video as you work your way through the project. Other features include grid and onion skinning options, paint tools, magic eraser, and import of images, audio, video files, etc.
This animation software costs just a dollar and 9.99 USD Windows & macOS. The mobile application costs 5.99 USD
|Allows users to add drawings to frames||There are no bone rigging tools|
|Has audio section for editing||No premade designs or templates.|
|Easy to use stop-motion tools||Tutorials videos are outdated|
|Offers a variety of features for free||Merge option is greyed out|
Animaker is a browser-based animation software that can be used by beginners, professionals, and animation enthusiasts. It is a great tool for making handcraft videos, whiteboard videos, short marketing bits, animated infographic videos, and educational videos. Used by huge brands such as Amazon, Nokia, Siemens, and Dell, Animaker’s buffed-up client base speaks for itself. With Animaker, you can make 2D and 2.5D videos via a variety of tools and features. You can choose from different plans based on your needs.
To run Animaker, you'll need a modern web browser with WebGL support, 512 MB of RAM and Windows 7 or higher OS.
Animaker supports full HD and both horizontal and vertical layouts. Animaker provides great features for animation such as record, curve, camera in/out, multimove, transition effects, and enter/exit effects. Along with these, the animation software also has a deck feature that allows users to use animations as videos or presentations. The software also has some amazing audio features such as text-to-speech, preloaded background tracks, sound effects, voice recording, etc. You can also use libraries for pre-defined templates.
With the free package, you can download your animations with a watermark. The free package also lets you work with HD support. The basic pack is priced at 10 USD per month supports creation of 5 custom characters & HD quality videos. The starter pack is priced at 19 USD per month and is intended for individuals and startups. Supports full HD and you can download 10 premium animations without the watermarks. The business pack is priced at 49 USD per month and has all the features that this great animation software has to offer.
|User interface is newbie friendly||Supports Full HD and 4k resolution|
|Several templates to get started||High system requirements|
|Character customization options||Need more sound track options|
Another browser animation software that is free to use, Powtoon is intended for beginners but can also be used by more advanced animators. It can be used to make dynamic video presentations. Used by brands such as Microsoft, IBM, Google, Adobe, Coca Cola, eBay, Cisco, and Starbucks, Powtoon is a trusted software that can be used to develop engaging infographic videos and marketing bits.
The official website describes Powtoon as a platform for visual communication. Hopping on the visual communication description, the animation software is a great means to talent acquisition, change management, internal communications, and marketing. Schools and universities can also use Powtoon to make infographic videos and educational tutorials to teach their students. In fact, during times such as these when the world is fighting against COVID-19, such a tool can come in handy to reach out to colleagues and team members.
With Powtoon’s free version, you can export YouTube videos, Facebook videos, Vimeo videos, and PDFs, and Powerpoints. The version also offers customs styles and you can change the aspect ratio as well as sizes. You can implement image files and animate and make GIFs. Once you get past the beginner level, you can choose from the various packages based on your requirements. Powtoon is one of the best animation software that you can use to learn about animation. You can import themes from Microsoft Powerpoint as well in case you don’t want to start working from scratch.
The three paid packages that come with this animation software are Lite, Pro, and Business. At 15 USD per month, you can buy the Lite package which gives you access to free content and 5 premium exports per month. The Pro is priced at 40 USD per month and gives you access to all PRO templates and Unlimited premium exports. With Business, the cream package, you get all the features of Powtoon with 3rd-party reseller rights at 125 USD per month.
|Offers a wide variety of preset||Only one timeline to edit from|
|Intuitive process for editing||Animations can only be set to ½ seconds.|
|Supports multiple layer editing|
Terragen is a free animation software for Windows. You can use it to make CG animation. It is meant for moderate level users but can be used by beginners who are interested in learning animation. The learning curve is moderate and it requires some time to get the hang of it. The newest feature, the ray-traced preview is great for animation. It can be installed on all Windows devices and is an amazing animation software for 3D animation. Developed by Planetside Software, Terragen 4.4, the latest update is feature-rich.
To run Terragen, you'll need Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.12 or later, 4GB RAM and a 2Ghz Dual Core CPU.
Besides ray-traced preview, some of the other features include photo-real clouds, ozone simulation, faster rendering (almost double), lens effects, and new shaders and enhancements, etc. Terragen Pro comes with FBX, render layers and AOVs, spherical cameras, full 3D motion blur, and stereo cameras. The drawback of this animation software is that its interface looks very complicated. However, with use and understanding, you can work on it effortlessly.
The creative edition starts from $15 per month & professional edition for $38 per month. The complete price list of Terragen can be found here.
|Realistic terrain generation||Steep learning curve|
|Versatile rendering options||Limited animation capabilities|
|Ray-traced preview||High price tag|
|Large user community||Doesnt work on lower-end machines|
Open Source & Free to Use Animation Softwares
Pencil 2D (Open Source animation software)
This is a great free animation software for people who are into traditional hand-drawn animation. The software allows you to work with both raster as well as with vector graphics. The minimal design of the interface makes it easy and smooth to work with. The clutter-free UI/UX experience is one of the selling points of this free software.
Pencil2D is a cross-platform software that runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux. The software is open-source which has allowed a great and helpful community to develop around this product.
To run Pencil 2D, you'll need Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.12 or later, and ICore-5 (3rd Generation or Above) or comparable CPU. 4GB of RAM
The software has a variety of handy animation tools and options. You can also upload your Pencil 2D project to aid in the development of the software; one of the plus points of being open-source. You can import GIFs and export them as well. The latest version, v0.6.6 released on year 2021 with several new tweaks and adjustments. Bug fixes and patches were also part of the update.
The biggest disadvantage of using Pencil2D is that the software requires you to fill in your preferences every time you open it.
|User Interface is very easy and simple.||Need to animate frame by frame|
|Open Source & free 2D animation software||Limited options compared to competitors|
|Supports both Raster and vector assets||Not much used by professional studios|
Synfig Studio (Open-source 2D Animation Software)
Another open-source 2D animation software that comes free of cost. If you are not comfortable with a frame by frame animation software, this is the perfect tool for you. You can run this free animation software on Windows, Linux, and macOS. Since the software is open-source, you can make changes to the source code and submit enhancements and upgrades.
To run Synfig Studio, you'll need Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.13 or later, or a Linux system with a modern OpenGL graphics card.
One of the main features of Synfig Studio is vector tweening; you can convert any vector graphic into another form easily. The software offers powerful tools to help you achieve that. Synfig also provides more than 50 layers to make artworks and animations. Some of the layer types are geometric, transformations, gradients, filters, distortions, fractals, etc. The bone system is also full of options and is a powerful tool on its own. The software also provides an additional skeleton distortion layer. Finally, you can connect different layers via mathematical expressions. With the help of this, you can make characters, puppets, and complex dynamic structures. The software has a steeper learning curve for beginners.
|The animation tools are powerful||Program crashes frequently|
|Lot of plugins available||Slow rendering|
|Smoother transition features||Advanced features takes time to learn|
Blender (Free and Open Source 3D creation suite)
Probably the best free animation software on this list and one of the most recommended software for animation by professionals, Blender is an open-source software that runs on different platforms with ease. It is one of the few 3D modeling and animation software that is free of cost, yet it does not lack any power or robustness of its paid counterparts. In fact, it might just have a slight edge over them. This animation software is suitable for beginners as well as for professionals. With the help of Blender, you can develop animations, games, animated models, animated movies, renders, and other types of 3D prints. It is available on macOS, Linux, and Windows.
To run Blender, you'll need Windows 8 or later, macOS 10.13 or later, or a Linux distribution, with 8GB RAM and a graphics card that supports OpenGL 4.3 or higher.
Blender is a pretty good animation software when it comes to the features it offers. Blender provides real-time viewport review as well as CPU and GPU rendering. With Blender, you have PBR shaders and HDR lighting support. Other features include VR rendering support, advanced modeling, sculpting, and UV tools, advanced rigging and animation tools, powerful visual effects, auto-tracking, manual tracking, camera reconstruction, drawing in 2D mode Ð¾nto the 3D viewport, onion skinning, etc.
Blender is one of the best free animation software that you can use at all levels. Blender has some amazing open projects where you can contribute. Ever since the year 2005, the Blender Foundation has tried to invite developers and animators to contribute to open projects to promote creativity and innovation in Blender. The first such project was called ‘Elephants Dream’, which won the best short film award. Here is the official link to all open projects started by the Blender Foundation. If you are an advanced animator, make sure to check these out.
Some of the drawbacks are that the learning curve is very steep and it would take beginners a lot of time to learn to use this software. It is also not easy to make image animations since the software aims more at 3D animation.
|Very fast poly modeling tools||Slow viewport performance|
|A lot of features & it's free||Unintuitive layers system.|
|Incredibly customizable input.||Lack of proper motion capture support.|
|Has multiple save file options||Hard to understand the interface|
OpenToonz (Open Source)
OpenToonz is a free animation software that you can use to make cartoon animations. It runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux. OpenToonz was customized by Studio Ghibli and is in use by the same for many years. It was first used in the making of the famous film, ‘Princess Mononoke’ by Studio Ghibli. Since it is open-source, you can contribute to its source code as well.
To run OpenToonz, you'll need Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.14 or later, and a 64-bit CPU with at least 4GB RAM.
OpenToonz has all the features required to make a great animated film. Its unique features have been specifically customised to meet those requirements of the production staff. The scanning tool or 'GTS’ for instance, that specializes in animation. OpenToonz also comes with an effects development kit developed by Dwango. The SDK is a plug-in effect for image processing. Other features include digital drawing tools such as vector and bitmap drawing tools, indexed color palettes, animated special effects, and composite scene, scripting, motion tracking, frame-by-frame animation, motion tweening, bones character animation, particle systems for dust, rain, and similar effects, etc.
It can be used free of charge for both commercial and non-commercial videos. In case you face any issues, you can post your query in the developers’ forum or any community blog. The plug-in effects of this animation software are, however, very limited.
|Open-source and free||Unaesthetic and antique interface|
|Customizable Templates||Steep learning curve|
|Import using image scanning||Outdated interface|
TupiTube (Free animation tool for children and teenagers)
Here’s a treat for Mac users; a free animation software with amazing features and lots of content. The software was developed by animators who wanted to allow people to make and edit videos without having to pay for them. The learning curve of this software is moderate and you can create quality 2D videos once you get the hang of it. You can contribute to the Tupi source code as well and tweak it in case you require specific customizations or would like to help the community.
To run TupiTube, you'll need Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.9 or later, or Ubuntu 18.04, and OpenGL 2.0 compatible graphics.
Features of TupiTube include support for vector illustrations, adding shapes, filling areas, import raster images, export all your finished images into different file formats, support for tweeting positions, etc. You can also make lip-sync animations using TupiTube. The software also supports vector illustrations and different file formats. The official website contains lots of resources for animators of all levels. It features an extensive resource base of examples and tutorials. One of the drawbacks of Tupi is that it cannot be used to make 3D videos.
|Aimed for complete novices||Not as polished as other animation software|
|Provides basic tools for vector illustration||No iOS version|
|Simplistic design and UI||Limited export options|
|Cross-platform compatibility||Lack of documentation|
Although the list of animation software is exhaustive, we have tried to put together the best intuitive software programs, and we hope it'll give you a good start.
You might want to check out our list of the best graphic design software. Tech-savvy creatives would also like our feature on the best drawing and art apps.
As you get creative with your animation portfolios, do remember to create your portfolio website to showcase your work. Your design portfolio represents a window for the world to view your work and judge your talent, skills, and experience.
So, if you haven’t built a website to showcase your design portfolio, start today with Pixpa. Here are some great examples of graphic design portfolios created on Pixpa for your inspiration. Explore all features that make Pixpa the perfect choice for creative professionals. Get ready to express yourself in stunning new ways and create awesome animation clips with ease and efficiency!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Where can I animate for free?
You can use open source or free to use software like Pencil 2D, Synfig Studio, Blender or OpenToonz to animate for free. Of these Blender is a highly recommended free to use software while OpenToonz is an open source program developed by Studio Ghibli.
2. What is an example of an animation software?
Adobe Character Animator is an example of a popular animation software used to create computer based animations.