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The Ultimate Independent Animator's App and Resource List 2019 - Animation and Video Life

Image created with Cartoon Animator 4.
Being an independent animator is not like a studio animation job. There's so much more to do that is indirectly related to the actual task of animating. Over the years I've sought out many apps, tools, and services that can help me achieve that one single task, expressing myself through animation.

Below is my Ultimate Independent Animator's Resource List for 2019. It started out as a list of free or low cost apps that could help you in every stage of producing either 2D or 3D animation, and then just kind of grew from there.

You may not have been looking for a Time Management App as much as you needed something to get you started in 3D animation but when those commissioned projects start coming in you'll have a head start on maximizing your time.

All the apps and services on this list had to meet two main criteria:

  1. They had to be useful and relevant to an Indy Animator/artist.
  2. The base app/service had to be US$200.00 or less.
    (In the case of a subscription service that's $200 or less annually).

The focus initially was on free apps only but, over the years, I've happily paid for tools and apps that really have made a difference to my workflow. However I capped it at US$200.00 because I felt that was a reasonable investment for a tight budget that wouldn't be too big of a decision to flip on.

Where the listing is an app I've included some brief specs so you can see without clicking if something is free, paid, Mac or Windows etc. Below is the key to my abbreviations which hopefully are easy enough to remember.

Price: F = Free | P = Paid (or Paid Options).

System: M = Mac | W = Windows | L = Linux | i = iOS | A = Android | B = Browser

App Type: C = Cloud App/Service | D = Desktop App | M = Mobile App

Codes are written in the same order as the above e.g.

Name of App/Service - Brief Description.
[ FP + MWLiAB + CDM ]

As you'll see the list is broken up into categories of related apps and services so you can narrow down more easily to those that you are interested in. None of these links are affiliate links and I get nothing from any links you click on. Let's begin...

Brainstorming

If you like to think visually then these mind mapping tools can be as useful as a whiteboard for brainstorming ideas and linking them together through the use of flowcharts.
  • Freeplane - Flowchart mind mapping app.
    [ F + MWL + D ] 
  • Mind Map Free - Browser based flowchart mind mapping app.
    [ F + B + C ] 
  • XMind - Flowchart mind mapping app with more advanced features.
    [ P + MWiA + DM ] 
  • Scapple - Note taking and flowchart app. Partner App to Scrivener (see Script Writing section).
    [ P + MW + D ]
  • Canva, Mind Maps - Canva has a bunch of free and premium design tools you may find useful. If you have a mind map you want to spruce up (perhaps for a studio pitch document) then Canva Mind Maps has all kind of great looking templates you can customize, or start from scratch.
    [ FP + B + C ]

Script Writing

While you can write scripts in your favorite word processor, if you want to look a little more professional, there are script writing apps that automatically format your script to industry standards as you write, leaving you free to focus just on the writing.
  • KIT Scenarist - Completely free, open source screenwriting app for almost every platform. Mobile versions only have fees associated with them for additional cloud based services.
    [ FP + MWLiA + DM ]
  • Trelby - Basic script writing app. This may be all you need.
    [ F + WL + D ]
  • CinemaVision Fountain Editor - Full featured script writing app that includes additional advanced features like outline trees and production reports.
    [ F + MWL + CD ]
  • Scrivener - Scrivener is a complete writing tool for all types of long form writing not just scriptwriting. Partner App to Scapple (see Brainstorming section).
    [ P + MWi + DM ]
  • Celtx - Celtx can be used to document and plan every aspect of your productions but the most basic service is focussed on script writing.
    [ P + B + C ]

Storyboards

All you really need to storyboard is pencil and paper but a storyboarding app is like having unlimited paper, and you never run out of room. It'll also help make your storyboards more understandable if you need to show them to others in your team. Some apps even allow you to make storyboard animatics with audio.
  • Storyboarder - Ideal for both sketching storyboards directly into the app or importing images. Can also create animatics of your storyboards.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • Springboard - Although this is quite an old app it has features comparable to more expensive storyboarding software at just a fraction of the price. Draw directly into the app, import images, create animatics with camera movement and sound.
    [ P + W + D ]

2D Graphics Editors

This section primarily lists applications used for drawing and editing 2D images however some of these tools can also be used for 2D animation. Those apps will also appear in the 2D Animation Section.
  • Krita - Raster based graphics editor designed specifically with artists/illustrators in mind. Includes support for .PSD files.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • MediBang Paint - Raster based graphics editor for digital painting and comic creation.
    [ F + MWiA + DM ] 
  • Autodesk SketchBook - Raster based graphics editor targeted at designers and other creatives.
    [ F +MWiA + DM ]
  • Photopea - Raster/cloud based graphics editor with support for .PSD files. Free with ads or paid options to remove them.
    [ FP + B + C ]
  • Clip Studio Paint (Pro) - Like Krita Clip Studio Paint was designed for artists, specifically those creating comics, and graphic novels. Also includes tools for hand drawn animation.
    [ P + MW = DM ]
  • Inkscape - Vector based graphics editor. Can export to .SVG and transparent PNG images.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • Boxy SVG - Vector based graphics editor. .SVG native file format, and it can export to transparent PNG images.
    [ P + MWL + CDM ]
  • PhotoScape - Photoscape is actually an entire suite of free graphics tools. Whilst its actual photo editor is fairly basic many of its other tools are extremely useful, from batch editing to quickly combining multiple images into one large image.
    [ FP + MW + D ]
  • Affinity Photo - Raster Based Photo editor on the level of Photoshop without the price.
    [ P + MWi + DM ]
  • Affinity Designer - Vector based graphics editor almost on the level of Adobe Illustrator but again without the price tag.
    [ P + MWi + DM ]
  • Serif DrawPlus X8 - Before Serif released Affinity Designer there was DrawPlus X8, a similarly fully featured vector graphics tool with the ability to create vector animation and export to .SWF You can still buy DrawPlus from Serif for less than half the price of Affinity Designer, just be aware it's a legacy product and won't receive further updates.
    [ P + W + D ]

2D Animation

Whether it's traditional, hand drawn animation, Puppet rigged character animation, motion graphics, or 3D animation there's an app here that should suit your needs.
  • Pencil2D Animator - Specifically intended for more traditional hand drawn raster based animation, Pencil 2D also has vector tools primarily intended to 'ink' your sketches.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • Plastic Animation Paper - Another app for hand drawn cel style animation. Although a newer version of this app is in development the original is totally free and very intuitive once you learn the somewhat outdated User Interface.
    [ F + W + D ]
  • CACANi - 2D auto tweening clean up tool. This is a fairly advanced software app for those looking to make really high quality, professional hand drawn, cel based animation (or are just particular about smooth tweening).
    [ P + W + D ]
  • TupiTube Desk - Hand drawn, vector based animation. There is a mobile version of this app targeted at kids that is very different to the desktop app which has tools like Xsheets, used by traditional animators.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • Krita - Although mainly a digital illustration app, tools for creating hand drawn 2D animation were recently added to the software.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • Clip Studio Paint (Pro) - Similarly like Krita Clip Studio Paint also includes tools for hand drawn 2D animation.
    [ P + MW = DM ]
  • Reallusion Cartoon Animator - Primarily an animation composition tool, you'll need graphics software to create content to be animated inside Cartoon Animator. Alternatively you can buy characters, backgrounds, and props ready made from Reallusion's extensive marketplace.
    [ P + MW + D ]
  • Reallusion Cloud Animator - Raster/Vector motion graphics with interactive linking. A great solution for creating explainer videos or product promotions that you want to provide links to external sources from within the animation itself.
    [ FP + B + C ]
  • Reallusion CrazyTalk - If you just need to create talking head style animation from artwork and photos really quickly that's what CrazyTalk does best.
    [ P + MW + D ]
  • Motion Artist - A dedicated app for turning regular comics into motion comics.
    [ P + MW + D ]
  • Moho Debut - Vector/Raster based animation app. Includes a fairly well featured set of vector drawing tools for creating your own characters and other graphics or take advantage of content packs that can be purchased from an extensive marketplace.
    [ P + MW + D ]
  • Koolmoves - Flash/HTML5 based animation. Koolmoves is more than just an animation tool, it can be used to create Flash/HTML5 apps.
    [ P + W + D ]
  • Synfig Studio - Is best described as similar to Moho in its approach to creating 2D animation. It's very capable software that is being used by its developers on some very advanced projects.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • OpenToonz -  Started life as a full custom developed 2D animation tool for a professional animation studio. It has since been made more user friendly and is capable of very high quality 2D animation.
    [ F + MW + D ]
  • Blender - Blender is a powerful animation studio best known for creating 3D graphics but, since the release of Blender 2.8 it now includes very powerful tools for creating 2D hand drawn animation, as well as 2D motion graphics, and 2D bone rigged characters.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • Spine -  If your interest is more in animation for games then this dedicated 2D game animation app may be a good place to start.
    [ P + MW + D ]
  • ToonBoom Harmony Essentials - Entry level version of this industry standard tool, an annual subscription easily makes this list.
    [ P + MW + D ]
  • Serif DrawPlus X8 - Before Serif released Affinity Designer there was DrawPlus X8, a similarly fully featured vector graphics tool with the ability to create vector animation and export to .SWF You can still buy DrawPlus from Serif for less than half the price of Affinity Designer, just be aware it's a legacy product and won't receive further updates.
    [ P + W + D ]

3D Sculpting Editors

3D animation requires 3D characters and props. If you want to make these yourself then these tools are just what you need.
  • Sculptis - From the makers of Zbrush, Sculptis is their free, entry level 3D sculpting app. It's an older, unsupported app (replaced by Zbrush), but a great place to start.
    [ F + MW + D ]
  • Hexagon - From the makers of Daz3D, Hexagon is the perfect partner to their free 3D animation software. Easy to learn for those just starting out.
    [ F + MW + D ]
  • Silo - Standalone 3D modelling app that's compatible with many industry standard 3D modelling apps.
    [ P + MW + D ]
  • Blender - Blender is far more than just a 3D modelling tool but you can begin there and gradually discover what makes it such a powerful animation studio.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • Reallusion's Character Creator - A little different from other tools on this list, Character Creator is specifically for creating 3D Bipedal/Human characters relatively quickly simply by adjusting all kinds of settings and utilising existing content packs. Characters can be exported to many leading 3D animation apps.
    [ P + MW + D ]
  • Make Human - Similar concept to Reallusion's Character Creator, an open source tool designed to create human 3D characters quickly simply by adjusting settings. Characters can be exported to Blender and other 3D apps.
    [F + MWL + D]

3D Animation

If you're a fan of Pixar's 3D style, you want to get into pre-visualization, or live action 3D animation and visual effects these tools may be a good place to get started.
  • Reallusion CrazyTalk - Not just for 2D Talking Head animations, CrazyTalk also has an option to create 3D talking heads.
    [ P + MW + D ]
  • Muvizu - Muvizu animations tend to have a very specific style but they're loads of fun to make and a good place to start with 3D animation that isn't too complex to learn.
    [ FP + W + D ]
  • Blender - Blender is a powerful animation studio that can pretty much cover all your 3D graphic modelling and animation and then some. If you're at all interested in 3D animation Blender is a great place to start.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • Daz 3D - Daz3D is much like Blender in that it's a complete 3D animation solution. Behind it is a store filled with thousands of 3D content that you can purchase for your own animations if sculpting your own content is not your strong point.
    [ F + MW + D ] 
  • iClone 7 - Similar to Daz3D but packed with time saving features to speed up your workflow. iClone also has a rich content market to draw upon.
    [ P + MW + D ]

Audio

Audio can sometimes be a bit of an afterthought for visual artists and animators but music and sound effects can really add a level of professionalism to what might otherwise be a silent film.
  • Papagayo - Technically not an audio tool, what it does is help you calculate character lip syncing for specific recorded audio. It's output can be directly imported into Moho or Blender but it's still a very useful guide for other animation applications too.
    [ F + MW + D ]
  • Papagayo NG - An enhanced version of Papagayo with support for more languages and phoneme sets.
    [ F + WL + D ]
  • Audacity - The must have app for all your sound editing needs, Audacity is actually a lot more powerful than you think. You may not even need to consider any other audio editor.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • VoiceMod - Quite possibly one of the best voice changing apps around. It's free to use but the paid option will give you access to wider variety of voice change styles. Changes your voice in real time so is great for using during live streams etc.
    [ FP + MW + D ]
  • Voxal Voice Changer - Powerful, real-time voice changing software. Modify, change and disguise your voice in any application or game that uses a microphone.
    [ FP + W + D ]
  • Clownfish Voice Changer - Real-time voice changing software.
    [ F + W + D ]
  • MorphVOX Pro - change your voice online and in-game. Take your voice-changing to a new level with superior voice-learning technology, background cancellation, and sound quality.
    [ FP + W + D ]
  • Free Sound - Not really an app, more of the 'go to' sound library of independent creators everywhere. While all the sound effects are free be sure to check the licenses so that you don't inadvertently use something commercially that was intended for personal use only.
    [ F + B + C ]
  • Sound Effects Lab - Sound Library Resource. As well as general sound effects this library includes sounds specific to Japan if that's something you need.
    [ F + B + C ]
  • YouTube Music & Sound Library  - Sound library resource. If you have a channel on YouTube and want to steer clear of audio copyright strikes, this library of free music and sound effects is your safest bet.
    [ F + B + C ]

Studio Production/Live Broadcasting

You may not need the ability to live broadcast or control a multi-camera studio in real time but if you want to show your fans some of the behind the scenes production, or just create a killer tutorial for how you animated something, these apps can be a real time saver.
  • OBS - Record from multiple webcams, cameras, your computer monitor, overlay graphics and more for live streaming or record direct to a video file for editing later.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • OBS Live Stream Elements - Companion add on to OBS that gives you additional tools when live streaming to give viewers a better experience.
    [ F + MWL + D ]

Video Editing

No matter what you're using to create your animation you need something to join it all together, add scene transitions, titles and other post production graphics. Learning video editing is almost as important as learning how to animate.
  • OpenShot Video Editor - Video editor with quite a few advanced features. May be the only video editor you'll ever need.
    [ F + MWL + D ]
  • VSDC Video Editor - Fairly full featured video editor. You'll also find a few other useful free tools at this site.
    [ F + W + D ]
  • WeVideo - If you're looking for a cloud based editor so you can work from any computer WeVideo is fully featured with very affordable plans.
    [ FP + B + C ]
  • Movavi Video Suite - Features a range of different video tools including a video editor that supports a wide range of file types without the need to convert them first.
    [ P + MW + D ]
  • Filmora Video Editor - Full featured video editor. Versions and pricing to suit your creativity level with the full, lifetime license still being under budget for this list.
    [FP + MW + D ]
  • Hit Film Express - Full featured video editor with some fairly unique post production VFX tools that can elevate your work to the next level. Purchase add on packs for more features.
    [ F + MW + D ]
  • DaVinci Resolve - More than a video editor DaVinci Resolve includes tools for editing, visual effects, motion graphics, color correction and audio post production, all in a single application! (and that's just the free version).
    [ FP + MWL + D ]

Feedback

Want to get feedback on your animation without uploading to sites like Youtube? Screen testing is one way to find out how your production is being received by people who aren't as close to its creation as you are.
  • Screenlight - Free for 1 User, Screenlight is a secure place to post your finished film so you can screen test it with anyone you wish to invite to view it.
    [ FP + B + C ] 
  • TypeForm - Create a survey to research your market or gauge interest in your project.
    [ FP + B + C ]
  • Survey Monkey - Just like TypeForm, anytime you need to do any kind of market research or just get feedback.
    [ FP + B + C ]

Task Lists/Time Management

If you want to time manage your animation projects better by making lists, or are collaborating with a team and need to delegate tasks, a Task/Time Management tool may come in handy.
  • Taskade - Task list tool that includes many team features and inbuilt video conferencing.
    [ FP + MWiAB + CDM ]
  • Get It Done - Task listing app with some team management features.
    [ FP + iAB + CM ]
  • Week Plan - More than a task list, week plan is based on ideas from the book "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and can help you plan not just your projects but your whole life.
    [ P + iAB + CM ]
  • My Hours - Keep track of you or your team's hours worked, schedule etc.
    [ FP - iAB - CM ]
  • ToDo.vu - Integrated CRM, project management, time tracking and billing for freelancers, consultants and teams.
    [ FP - B - C ]
  • Trello - Trello lets you manage your projects through the creation of Boards that can include task lists, team functions and more to help you stay organized.
    [ FP + iAB + CM ]
  • Google Calendar/Tasks - Google calendar includes task and project management along with some team collaboration tools as well.
    [ F + B + C ]
  • Hubspot - This is a fully featured Free CRM tool that integrates with many apps and tools you may be using already. It may not be relevant but, if you're running a service based business on the side to fund your projects, this could get you organised. 

Funding

Got a more ambitious project that could benefit from external funding or maybe you just want to get paid so you can spend more time bringing your animated movies to your fans.
  • Patreon - Probably the best way to build a financially invested community around your work. Better suited to an ongoing creative practice than one off investor funding.
  • Kickstarter - Ideal for larger, one off projects such as a short film.
  • GoFundMe - Great for projects large or small, works best if you have a large group of friends or a strong social media presence.
  • Ko-fi - An alternative to Patreon. Better for funding an ongoing creative practice.
  • Gumroad - Want to sell your movie as a digital download or sell any digital content as a download. Build a store on Gumroad.
  • PayPal - You can do so much with a PayPal account including setting up a PayPal.me page to accept funding donations for your projects. (If you felt this list was useful I have a PayPal.me page where you can support my creativity - or just see what such a page looks like).

Distribution

Wondering where you can get your movie seen online. Youtube is probably the most obvious but there are alternatives that may be better suited to your production or just something you can try as well.
  • YouTube - You can make a full time living distributing your work on YouTube via your own YouTube channel. Or you can just host your video there as 'unlisted' ready to embed elsewhere.
  • Vimeo - A great alternative to YouTube if you plan to post your video to a website etc. and don't want all YouTube's inplayer advertising. Free to start with a basic plan.
  • Facebook - If you have a large audience on Facebook why not upload your video directly there.
  • Instagram - Maybe your audience is here? There's also Instagram TV if you're fine with shooting vertical video.
  • Twitter - Post your video directly to Twitter.
  • CoPromote - Free cross promotion tool that may get your video seen in more places.
  • Art Station - Essentially a hub for artists working in in all aspects of graphics and 2D/3D animation, build a portfolio site, sell your digital art, courses and more in the marketplace.
  • Your Dedicated Website - Want your video to get all the attention. Build a website for it and drive traffic to that website. Add links to your merch, donation page etc. Basically you control the space and what people see alongside your video.
  • Your Email List - The way to keep in contact with your 1000 true fans is through your email list. Why? Because you control it. Don't have an email list? Start for free with MailChimp.

Image Libraries and Stores/Marketplaces

What if you're a better animator than artist, or you just want to try out someone else's artistic style in your productions? These libraries are a good source of content.
  • Vector Characters - Free library of downloadable 2D characters that you can use for any project commercial or otherwise. These characters are high quality and well worth the effort to create character rigs for.
  • Graphic Mama - When free 2D Vector Characters isn't enough, you can also buy them in many different formats and bundles in this store.
  • Nicu's Clip Art Collection - an extensive library of fairly simple 2D vector graphics under a range of categories. All public domain and free to use without restriction.
  • Cartoon Solutions - An extensive store featuring high quality 2D characters and scenes in a variety of formats.
  • Sketchfab - Show off, share, buy and sell 3D models.
  • Vectortoons - 2D vector graphics and character store covering a wide range. Has an entire free section that can be used for commercial projects.
  • CraftPix - A little left of center, maybe you want to create 2D video game animations. Here's a store where you can purchase game assets for your project. Free content available too.
  • Garry Pye Creations - Props'n'Stuff - After Reallusion's own Marketplace and Content Store, Garry Pye's Creations should be your very next stop (or maybe your first stop?). High Quality characters, props, backgrounds, and even voices from Garry and his hand picked collection of 'other artists'.

Health, Well Being, and Education

Sometimes you get so caught up in your work that you forget none of it happens, or it all comes to a halt, if you fall ill or just don't take the time to recharge. These sites are for when you need some time out or 'you' time.
  • The Creative Independent - A resources of guides, interviews, and articles from Independent creators from a wide variety of fields. Produced by the same people who made Kickstarter, sometimes it's good to know you're not alone.
  • 2DAnimation101 - Quite possibly some of the best and most useful courses for artists and animators online. Many you can sign up to completely for free. Rejuvenate your art by learning something new.

That's my list. I hope you found at least one or two useful links. If so, tell me in the comments below what you found useful and why.

Is there something I didn't include that you feel should be on the list? Let me know in the comments and I'll review your suggestion and add it in if I feel it fits the criteria. With your help this can truly become the Ultimate Independent Animator's Resource List.

Comments

  1. Work up today with the intention to animate something for myself. So f inding this in my inbox was the perfect distraction. I even spent some money with a purchase of Scrivener - its a complete writing tool for all types of long form writing not just scriptwriting. I looked at this software a while back for writing projects from the book on my research I need to write to the animation scripts I have in my head that I'm often just discussing with myself.

    I grabbed the link to this valuable list and put in MS Notebook for the future. I literally almost clicked on everylink---even played around with MindMap for spell.

    Thanks for taking the time for putting this together.

    I might suggest you have a peek at this Time Management service app---its called, My Hours. I have a free sub right now testing it out, and so far I am really enjoying it and will probably do the $7 a month for a subscription. Making a living wearing several different hats has demanded that I find a software that will help me manage both my time and projects across all the hats I wear. this is the link if you think it could be a resource for this list. https://app.myhours.com.

    Again, great post, great find today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you took the time to look through the list and found something worthwhile. Scrivener is something I planned to buy as well but had forgotten about until I started putting this list together. I keep finding other apps dedicated to script writing only, which is what I would use Scrivener mostly for as well.

      I looked at 'My Hours' and have now added it into the list under the Task List/Time Management heading. Seems like a really good app.

      I plan to keep this 'Ultimate List' updated and have made it easily accessible directly from this site's menu - just click 'App & Resource List' in the menu.

      I also added another app to the 2D animation section called CACANi which assist in the automatic tweening of 2D hand drawn animation (which I know isn't something you're specifically interested in but it's new since you first saw the list).

      Delete
  2. Just added TypeForm and Survey Monkey to the Feedback section since surveys are a good way to market research the viability of a project before you go all in on something with no interest.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just added DaVinci Resolve to the Video Editor section. Thanks to Dexter Lopez @ItsMeTrickster on Twitter. Great suggestion. I hadn't heard of it but it looks an amazing for a free desktop app.

    ReplyDelete

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I bought it for the specific purpose of changing my own voice, to extend my vocal range, for voicing characters in my own animations.
I was fortunate enough to get this software at a significant discount that made it difficult to refuse, given that I'd never tried it, or even heard of it before. I'm not sure if I would have bought it at the full price given that much of what it can do (for my needs) can also be done with the freeware audio program, Audacity.
Voice Changer is relatively easy to install and set up. Once installed simply change you default microphone to the installed AV…

Make Disney/Pixar Style Characters with Reallusion's Character Creator and Toon Figure Bases

I've talked before how I've wanted to get into 3D Disney/Pixar style character animation since I first saw the animated cutscenes for the very first Tomb Raider game back in 1996.

It's why I initially bought Reallusion's iClone 3D studio app as soon as I could afford a computer that would run it.

But then Reallusion released their 3D Character Creator (CC) for iClone and I wanted to create my characters with that (and I did try with Bat Storm). But the focus of CC was realism, even with ToKoMotion's stylised body morphs.

Now with Reallusion's Cartoon Designer bundle for CC3 which features two packs, Toon Figures, and Toon Hair, designing Disney/Pixar style 3D characters just got a whole lot quicker.



The two packs are the bare essentials for creating Toon style characters. Five body morphs (2 male, 2 female, and one adolescent body morph that works as both a male or female pre teen), eleven hair style bases, with thirteen hair additions for further variation.

T…