okuha-logo-small-white

Best Animation Software For Creating Professional Anime

best-anime-animation-software-feature-image

If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. As an Amazon affiliate partner, I may earn from qualifying purchases.
Read our disclosure.


Key Takeaways

  • Most animation studios use multiple different animation software to produce their anime.
  • Retas Studio, Unreal Engine, and Autodesk Maya all offer different kinds of features for different parts of anime production.
  • Retas Studio is one of the most used anime animation software, but usually, other software is also needed.

Retas Studio

anime_software_retas_studio

Retas Studio has to be the most popular and one of the most used animation software for anime. This software has some of the best professional tools and features for anime animators and has been downloaded over 10 million times.

Animation studios from TOEI ANIMATION, Asahi Production, and Studio Colorido all use this software, and it has been rated highly amongst anime professionals for its brilliant tools for producing line art.

Interestingly, Studio Colorido found the software invaluable during their production of the 2015 anime fantasy, Typhoon Noruda.

The main features of the software and why it’s our pick for anime production:

  • Comprehensive 2D animation software suite for traditional hand-drawn animation and digital production
  • Support for various stages of the animation pipeline, including storyboarding, layout, key animation, in-betweening (also known as tweening), and compositing
  • Multiple tools for drawing and painting, including vector, raster, and bitmap layers
  • Onion skin feature for visualizing previous and future frames to create smooth animation
  • Peg registration for creating motion and camera movements with multiple layers
  • Automatic tweening feature to generate intermediate frames between keyframes
  • Easy-to-use camera tools for creating 3D-like camera movements for 2D animation
  • Effects tools for adding special effects and filters to animations
  • Sound synchronization tools for importing and editing audio tracks
  • Support for various file formats for importing and exporting animation files, including PSD, TGA, and QuickTime
  • Integration with other software tools, such as Adobe Photoshop and After Effects
  • Extensive library of add-ons and plugins for enhancing the software’s functionality
  • Support for different languages, including Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean.

Unreal Engine

anime_software_unreal_engine

Unreal Engine covers a lot of bases, but you’re probably most familiar with it from certain games. What most people might not know is that Unreal Engine is a great piece of animation software for anime.

If you want to see a good example, the Arc System Works Co., Ltd. uses this software for their Guilty Gear series, and if you watch the GG Strive animation and their creation of cel shading, you can see that this software (with the aid of Autodesk Softimage) can deliver amazing results.

The main features of Unreal Engine:

  • Real-time rendering engine for creating high-quality 3D games and interactive experiences
  • Blueprints visual scripting system for creating game logic and behavior without coding
  • C++ programming language for advanced customization and performance optimization
  • Virtual Reality (VR) support for creating immersive VR experiences
  • Animation tools for creating character animation and in-game cutscenes
  • Physics engine for creating realistic physical interactions between objects
  • AI system for creating intelligent and responsive game characters and enemies
  • Audio tools for creating and implementing game sound effects and music
  • Material editor for creating and editing shaders and materials for 3D models and environments
  • Sequencer for creating cinematic cutscenes and trailers
  • Multi-platform support for creating games for various platforms.
  • Live debugging and profiling tools for optimizing game performance and fixing issues in real-time
  • Marketplace for downloading and sharing game assets, plugins, and tools created by the community
  • Community support and extensive documentation for learning and troubleshooting.

Autodesk Maya

autodesk-maya-homepage
Marvel movies have visuals created with Autodesk Maya

Autodesk Maya is a 3D computer graphics software that is widely used in the entertainment industry, including anime production. It allows artists and animators to create and manipulate 3D models, textures, animations, and visual effects.

autodesk-maya-anime-software
Anime face creation with Autodesk Maya

In anime production, Maya can be used to create 3D models of characters, environments, and props, which can then be used to generate 2D animations. Maya’s rigging and animation tools allow animators to create lifelike movements and expressions for characters, and its particle system can be used to create realistic special effects.

Maya’s shading and lighting tools can be used to create dynamic and detailed scenes with a high degree of realism.

Maya is also used in the pre-production stage of anime production to create storyboards and animatics, which can help visualize and refine the story before production begins. Maya’s scripting and customization options make it a versatile tool that can be adapted to meet the specific needs of each anime production.

The main features of Autodesk Maya:

  • 3D modeling and sculpting tools for creating complex shapes and surfaces
  • Rigging tools for creating bones, joints, and controls to animate 3D models
  • Animation tools for creating lifelike movements and expressions for characters
  • Dynamics and simulation tools for creating realistic physical effects, such as cloth and hair simulation
  • Particle system for creating various types of particle effects, such as smoke, fire, and dust
  • Lighting and shading tools for creating realistic lighting and materials for 3D scenes
  • Scripting and customization options for automating tasks and creating custom tools and workflows
  • Collaboration tools for working with other artists and sharing assets and scenes
  • Integration with other software tools and plugins, such as Adobe Photoshop and Arnold Renderer
  • Support for various file formats for importing and exporting 3D models and animations.

Cinema 4D

anime_software_cinema_4d

Cinema 4D is the perfect software tool for 3D anime creations. It has reliable character animation tools integrated as standard, but it’s also capable of working with a wide range of other plugins and tools from other developers.

The main focus here seems to be on reliable and realistic 3D motion, so if that is something you are looking for, this will work well. J.C.Staff uses this for background work, too, though.

The main features of Cinema 4D:

  • Professional 3D modeling and animation software for creating high-quality 3D graphics and visual effects
  • Intuitive and easy-to-use interface for creating complex 3D scenes and objects
  • Comprehensive 3D modeling tools, including polygon modeling, subdivision surface modeling, and parametric modeling
  • Advanced rigging and animation tools for creating lifelike character movements and expressions
  • Advanced dynamics and simulation tools for creating realistic physical simulations, such as cloth and hair simulation
  • Particle system for creating various types of particle effects, such as smoke, fire, and dust
  • Advanced lighting and shading tools for creating photorealistic lighting and materials for 3D scenes
  • High-quality renderer for producing high-quality final renderings and animations
  • Integration with other software tools and plugins, such as Adobe Photoshop and After Effects
  • Scripting and customization options for automating tasks and creating custom tools and workflows
  • Multi-platform support for creating 3D graphics for various platforms, such as print, web, and video
  • Collaboration tools for working with other artists and sharing assets and scenes
  • Support for various file formats for importing and exporting 3D models and animations, including FBX and OBJ
  • Professional support and training resources, including online documentation, tutorials, and forums.

Adobe Tools

anime_software_adobe

Adobe Animate, Photoshop, Adobe Fresco, Adobe After Effects, and Adobe Illustrator have all been used in anime in some form or another. Adobe After Effects is probably the most used software in the Adobe suite for anime production.

one-punch-man-anime-adobe-after-effects
One Punch Man, created by Madhouse, used Adobe After Effects to add effects to the intro scene of the anime series

The main features of Adobe After Effects:

  • Industry-standard software for creating high-quality visual effects and motion graphics for video, film, and digital media
  • Advanced compositing tools for combining multiple layers of video and graphics into a single shot
  • Advanced motion graphics tools for creating animated titles, lower thirds, and other graphic elements for anime
  • 3D camera tracker for adding 3D elements to live-action footage or animated scenes
  • Support for high dynamic range (HDR) color and 32-bit color depth for creating vibrant and realistic visuals
  • Advanced visual effects tools for creating particle effects, smoke, fire, explosions, and other complex effects
  • Integration with other Adobe software tools, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro
  • Advanced keying tools for removing green screens or other backgrounds
  • Audio tools for adding sound effects and music to anime
  • Multi-format support for importing and exporting video and animation, including H.264, QuickTime, and ProRes
  • Scripting and automation tools for creating custom workflows and scripts to automate repetitive tasks
  • Collaboration tools for sharing projects and assets with other artists and team members
  • Extensive library of plugins and add-ons for enhancing the software’s functionality.

Toon Boom/Storyboard PRO

anime_software_toon_boom_storyboard

Toon Boom and Storyboard PRO are a great combination of anime animation software that is used by multiple anime studios today. Some of these include; TOEI ANIMATION, Asahi Production, and OLM.

So, any work done by these studios will highlight the benefits of these tools. Storyboard PRO is great for creating an anime story that truly flows.

The main features of Toon Boom:

  • Professional 2D animation software for creating high-quality 2D animation, storyboarding, and compositing
  • Advanced vector-based drawing and animation tools, including onion skinning, bone animation, and deformers
  • Advanced rigging tools for creating complex character rigs and facial expressions
  • Comprehensive lip-syncing tools for synchronizing character dialog with audio
  • Support for traditional hand-drawn animation techniques, including paperless animation
  • Multi-plane camera and 3D camera moves for creating dynamic shots
  • Comprehensive tools for creating and editing backgrounds and props, including 3D integration
  • Support for advanced effects, including particle effects, glow, and blur
  • Sound synchronization tools for importing and editing audio tracks
  • Support for collaboration and teamwork through the Harmony Server
  • Integration with other software tools, such as Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, and Premiere Pro
  • Multi-platform support for creating 2D animation for various platforms, such as TV, film, and web
  • Support for various file formats for importing and exporting 2D animation files, including SWF, QuickTime, and PSD

Blender

anime_software_blender

Blender is an all-rounder software that can be used for a variety of purposes, from games to movies to TV shows and animation, of course!

Studio Pierrot has also used Blender in anime for some of the action sequences in the popular manga and anime series called Black Clover.

The main features of Blender:

  • Open-source 3D modeling and animation software with a large and active community of users and developers
  • Comprehensive 3D modeling tools, including polygon modeling, subdivision surface modeling, and sculpting
  • Advanced rigging and animation tools
  • Advanced simulation tools for creating realistic physical simulations, such as cloth, fluid, and smoke simulation
  • Comprehensive particle system
  • Advanced lighting and shading tools for creating photorealistic lighting and materials for 3D scenes
  • High-quality renderer for producing high-quality final renderings and animations, including support for GPU rendering
  • Integration with other software tools and plugins, such as Adobe After Effects and Photoshop
  • Scripting and customization options for automating tasks and creating custom tools and workflows
  • Video editing and compositing tools for combining 3D animations with live-action footage or other 2D graphics
  • Powerful UV mapping and texture painting tools for creating detailed textures and materials
  • Multi-platform support for creating 3D graphics for various platforms, such as print, web, and video
  • Collaboration tools for working with other artists and sharing assets and scenes

CACANi

anime_software_cacani

CACANi software is quite unique compared to the others as it focuses more on clean-up and the in-between animations to make them as flawless as possible.

You don’t need to hand draw them as they are done automatically, but they are fully customizable as though you were creating the in-between animations by hand!

One of the studios that use this automatic in-between feature the most is David Production, but you can see the powered-by-CACANi branding at the end credits of quite a few anime shows, highlighting its prominence in the market today.

CACANi seems to focus most on ease of use, making large animation teams a thing of the past so that you can get great results quickly without a large workforce.

The main features of CACANi:

  • 2D animation software designed to help animators create high-quality, fluid animation quickly and easily
  • Advanced drawing and animation tools, including an automatic tweening feature, which allows for smoother animation with less manual work
  • Intuitive and user-friendly interface with a simplified workflow, making it easy for artists to focus on the creative aspects of animation
  • Real-time playback and preview, which allows animators to see their work in progress without delay
  • Advanced rigging tools for creating complex character rigs and facial expressions
  • Support for both traditional and paperless animation workflows
  • Automatic smoothing and weight adjustment, which helps to produce clean and consistent lines
  • Multi-layer timeline for managing multiple layers of animation and sound
  • Audio synchronization tools for importing and editing audio tracks
  • Support for collaboration and teamwork through the CACANi Cloud service
  • Multi-platform support for creating 2D animation for various platforms, such as TV, film, and web
  • Support for various file formats for importing and exporting 2D animation files, including MP4, AVI, and PNG sequences

TVPaint

anime_software_tvpaint

TVPaint focuses on providing anime animation software that is easily integrated with other systems and tools but equally capable of handling the majority of the anime process on its own.

It’s great for storyboarding, drawing and illustrations, and post-production alike. The most prominent studio known for using TVPaint is WIT Studio.

Some of the main features of TVPaint:

  • Bitmap technology – for traditional anime that works on an image-by-image basis
  • Coloring is a breeze if you utilize its color library feature – meaning you can change colors across entire scenes if you decide to change a character’s jacket from red to blue, for example
  • Lots of FX available for finishing touches – so you can stylize your work to suit what you are looking for

OpenToonz

anime_software_open_toonz

OpenToonz is an excellent piece of software for the go-between anime artists out there who are equally comfortable with a pencil and paper as they are with digital animation.

OpenToonz allows you to utilize both in a single project if you prefer. Studio Ghibli made great use of this software as it was primarily developed for them in-house but has now been made available for free at OpenToonz.

spirited_away_screenshot_studio_ghibli
Spirited Away by Studio Ghibli was partly created with OpenToonz

Studios such as Studio PONOC also utilize this software now that it is more readily available – though admittedly, they tend to use this for pencil tests more than anything else. Kamikaze Douga also famously used it for their Ninja Batman series.

The main features of OpenToonz:

  • Open-source 2D animation software used by professional animators to create high-quality animations for TV, film, and other media
  • Advanced vector-based drawing tools, including the ability to draw and animate with bitmap images and vector graphics
  • Comprehensive tools for creating and editing character rigs, including bone deformation and automatic tweening
  • Advanced compositing tools for combining multiple layers of animation and visual effects
  • Support for both traditional and paperless animation workflows
  • Advanced scanning tools for importing hand-drawn images and scanning paper drawings directly into the software
  • Multi-plane camera and 3D camera moves for creating dynamic shots
  • Comprehensive tools for creating and editing backgrounds and props, including 3D integration
  • Multi-language support for creating 2D animation in various languages, including support for Asian language fonts and text input
  • Powerful particle system for creating various types of particle effects, such as smoke, fire, and water
  • Support for a wide range of file formats for importing and exporting 2D animation files, including GIF, AVI, and PNG sequences
  • Scripting and customization options for automating tasks and creating custom tools and workflows
  • Multi-platform support for creating 2D animation for various platforms, such as TV, film, and web

Autodesk 3DS Max

anime_software_3ds_max

This is, without a doubt, one of the most popular 3D modeling anime animation software used today.

3D anime is becoming increasingly popular, but this software is also capable of 2.5D animation (the blending of 2D and 3D backgrounds, for example).

OLM makes use of this and has a lot of good resources for using it yourself, so be sure to check that out.

The 3D animations tend to focus on large objects or background work, but Autodesk 3DS Max gives you full artistic control over the 3D model and animate whatever you choose.

The main features of Autodesk 3DS Max

  • Comprehensive 3D modeling and animation software used by professionals to create high-quality 3D graphics, visual effects, and animations for TV, film, and other media
  • Advanced polygon and spline modeling tools for creating detailed 3D models of characters, props, and environments
  • Advanced rigging and animation tools
  • Comprehensive particle system
  • Advanced simulation tools for creating realistic physical simulations, such as cloth, fluid, and hair simulation
  • High-quality renderer for producing high-quality final renderings and animations, including support for GPU rendering
  • Advanced lighting and shading tools for creating photorealistic lighting and materials for 3D scenes
  • Integration with other software tools and plugins, such as Adobe After Effects and Photoshop
  • Support for scripting and customization options for automating tasks and creating custom tools and workflows
  • Video editing and compositing tools for combining 3D animations with live-action footage or other 2D graphics
  • Powerful UV mapping and texture painting tools for creating detailed textures and materials
  • Multi-platform support for creating 3D graphics for various platforms, such as print, web, and video
  • Collaboration tools for working with other artists and sharing assets and scenes

Toonz

anime_software_toonz_media_group

Toonz is quite possibly your one-stop shop for all things anime. From 2D to 3D, from initial idea to finished product, Toonz will take you through it all.

Check out their website to get an idea of the products available, but they are sure to meet whatever anime animation software needs you might have.

Toonz was originally developed for Studio Ghibli, so their products are probably the best place to go to see how this can be of use.

Toonz is essentially the paid-for version of OpenToonz mentioned above, but it does offer a lot more services and features that make anime production a little easier.

The main features of Toonz:

  • 2D animation software used by professional animators to create high-quality animations for TV, film, and other media
  • Vector-based drawing tools, including advanced line smoothing and correction tools, to create precise and detailed drawings
  • Advanced rigging and tweening tools
  • Multiplane camera and 3D camera moves for creating dynamic shots
  • Advanced compositing and special effects tools for combining multiple layers of animation and visual effects
  • Support for both traditional and paperless animation workflows
  • Comprehensive tools for creating and editing backgrounds and props, including integration with 3D models
  • Multi-language support for creating 2D animation in various languages, including support for Asian language fonts and text input
  • Professional-quality scanning tools for importing hand-drawn images and scanning paper drawings directly into the software
  • Support for a wide range of file formats for importing and exporting 2D animation files, including GIF, AVI, and PNG sequences
  • Scripting and customization options for automating tasks and creating custom tools and workflows
  • Multi-platform support for creating 2D animation for various platforms, such as TV, film, and web

Feature image credits.

Search
artist-profile-picture-avatar

Okuha

Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

More Posts

Thank You!

Thank you for visiting the page! If you want to level up your anime and manga art skills, I suggest you check out Clip Studio Paint!