5 Free and Inexpensive Mac Animation Software Packages

Character project

 Chris Turner/Getty Images

Whether you're looking for animation software that will let you learn without costing you a fortune, these applications for both Mac and Windows are excellent options to consider.

01
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Toon Boom Harmony

What We Like

  • Lots of drawing and animation tools.

  • Professional grade.

  • Large variety of special effects.

What We Don't Like

  • No audio recording or editing.

  • Steep learning curve.

  • Requires an expensive subscription.

Toon Boom Harmony, previously known as Toon Boom Express, comes in three levels of software packages:

  • Harmony Essentials is a learning-level package with fundamental painting, drawing, and animation tools for students and those learning on their own.
  • Harmony Advanced is a larger package designed for creative freelancers and even animation studios.
  • Harmony Premium is the top-tier professional package for studios, freelancers, and schools. It includes unlimited special effects of any style, the ability to create cut-out rigs, and more.

The Essentials level of Harmony is designed specifically for the novice or hobbyist animator​ and is a scaled-down version of the higher-tier software packages. 

Toon Boom has become a fixture in the animation industry.

02
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Moho 2D Animation Studio

What We Like

  • Create professional-quality animations.

  • Frame-by-frame editing.

  • Powerful vector based system.

What We Don't Like

  • Interface can feel intimidating at first.

  • Steep learning curve.

  • Limited drawing tools compared to other products.

SmithMicro's Moho 2D Animation Software (previously called Anime Studio) is another low-cost 2D animation solution for the Mac as well as Windows.

There are two versions of the software: Moho Professional and Moho Debut. Both versions offer a free 30-day limited trial.

Moho Debut is entry-level but powerful animation software that is appropriate for all ages, according to SmithMicro. Video tutorials help users learn the application. Moho Debut is under $100.

Moho Professional is more advanced software for studio artists and professionals (and has a commensurately higher price tag) with a host of tools to streamline the animation process, including new features like bezier handles, motion blur, and warping tools that allow you to shape your custom meshes easily. 

03
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Cheetah3D

What We Like

  • Very intuitive interface.

  • Many 3D animation tools.

  • Easy, quick rendering.

What We Don't Like

  • Available for Mac only.

  • Limited modeling tools.

  • Fairly expensive for simple software.

On the 3D modeling and animation front, Cheetah3D bears a simplified resemblance to 3D Studio Max. It was designed specifically for the Mac, and while it may not have all the bells and whistles of a major software package, it is no slouch when it comes to animation tools. Basic tools are all here to help you learn how to model from scratch and animate in 3D, and Cheetah3D has room for you to grow in expertise. It supports file formats from many of the major 3D packages, allowing you to import working files from other programs.

Cheetah3D is free to download and use, which makes it great for playing around with, getting a feel for, and learning on -- but if you want to save your files you'll need to purchase it. 

04
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Kinemac

What We Like

  • Easy to use.

  • Useful tutorials.

  • Excellent customer support.

  • Create your own app.

What We Don't Like

  • Only available for Mac.

  • Requires a high-performance graphics card.

Although it’s a bit more expensive, Kinemac brings a robust 3D package to the Mac, with features allowing for precise keyframe control and realistic animation. Kinemac’s key selling point is that it offers the versatility of 3D, controlled by the same simplicity as a 2D presentation tool.

05
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Poser

What We Like

  • Perfect for creating 3D characters.

  • Hundreds of free character templates.

  • Professional illustration tools.

What We Don't Like

  • Can't import from other programs.

  • Takes a while for beginners to learn.

  • Pro version is expensive.

Poser and Poser Pro are a bit higher in price than a few of the applications in this list, but many users will tell you that it’s well worth the price simply for the ease of creating your own 3D worlds and people in a matter of minutes.

Poser comes with a full set of customizable models that you can tweak however you want, and the program is popular among those who wish to create easy, fun designs and animations but who don't know much about animation software.