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XOOT's List of the Best 3D Animation Software

3D Animation Software can be an important investment for a Digital Artist.
Our list talks about some of the big names in the industry and includes a free software for those who are just starting out.
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Autodesk Maya

Known for its accuracy and customization user interface, Autodesk Maya is a favourite among 3D animators. 

The 3D models on Autodesk Maya are represented by nodes along with their specific attributes and those who wish to create or develop games, 3D scenes, movies, or people, Maya is the right tool for them. 

The program has a video-based editor that is on-destructive and non- linear in nature that helps the user to create realistic and high-quality animations.

This software allows for complex tweaks with only a couple of keystrokes and it comes with a sophisticated CG compositing program called  “MatchMover”.
The MatchMover allows users to combine 3D rendered elements with motion data from film sequences recorded on set by tracking the camera’s movement.
Maya also features tools to model the complex object such as hair, clothes, fur and fluids.

Maya aims are implying all of the tedious process such as character rig which would have to be made manually now Maya offers sophisticated and pre-weighted rigs that are ready for animation, it also features many automation tools such as curves and paths. You can also easy import and export SVG files.
Their rig tool can that can even process quadrupeds and winged models.
The fluid system won the developers of Maya an Academy award in 2008, but it’s not their first award, they were also awarded in 2003 and 2005! 
Autodesk Maya gets regular updates to improve the workflow and add fun tools.


Speaking of workflow, for the artists that use these software on professional drawing tablets, we suggest you check out XOOT Cintiq Pro Stand Alternative and how it can improve your workflow. 

Autodesk Maya has a 30 days free trail and costs $205 for a monthly subscription , $1620 yearly and $4375 for a 3 year subscription.

3ds Max

3ds Max is one of the major commercial 3D animation software suites on the market. Its comprehensive feature set makes it a popular choice for game development, visual effects production, and architectural visualization.


A comprehensive 3D animation software 3DS Max is one of the major commercial 3D animation software suites on the market its feature set makes it a popular choice for game development, visual effects production, and architectural visualization.

It features two character animation tools. “character studio” that is designed to work best for bipedal characters. “CAT” can rig and animate non-humanoid characters. This 3D animation software also comes with a tool that allows setting up and controlling scenes with large crowds of people, also know as “Populate.”
Among the other tools is the “Motion Mixer,” a 3D animation tool that takes its cue from audio editing. It displays separate tracks for motion data from each body part that can be edited for speed, transitioned, looped, and more.
Among the other tools in this 3D animation software are motion paths that let you modify animations directly in the trajectory as splines.

3ds Max’s extensive toolset gives superior control over lighting, materials, animations and rendering to name but a few of the features that makes 3ds Max a market leader in digital content creation and rendering.

If we want to talk about pipeline efficiency  3ds Max is compatible with other Autodesk software including Revit, Autodesk Inventor, AutoCAD and Alias thus fitting perfectly with Autodesk productivity pipelines.

3ds Max also boasts excellent interoperability with other engineering applications.
The interesting part is that 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya are both developed by the same company and have the same price tag. If you would like to read about which one you need to learn we suggest you check out the following link


This software is made with the hobbyists in mind. With that said to ease the workflow Daz3D takes a bunch of short cuts therefore you can either buy a ready model on the market place that appeals to you or you start with one of the preset models and modifying it to your better suit you. Like most 3D software, Daz3D has a variety of tools to tweak every aspect of the base models, like the build, size, and length of limbs and when these are set and you can choose a hair cut and clothing for your 3Dcreation. You can create complex scenes using items from a large library of props that is guaranteed to have something for each style.


In terms of animation, Daz3D is loaded with a variety of tools. Motion capture data that can be edited to fit your needs is only one of many possibilities this 3D animation software has to offer.
In their efforts to make this very straight forward and user friend they have also included The puppeteer, a tool  that displays different poses as a node in a grid and allows users to animate their model by shifting their mouse between these nodes.
Additionally users can also assign different poses to their model in the timeline, and Daz3D will generate the movements in between them, automatically.

The great thing about this 3D animation software is that it is free. Daz3D also offers a 3D Content Marketplace where you can buy and sell your models, poses, and props.

Honorable Mentions

While Zbrush and Blender are primarily used as 3D modeling and sculpting software they also have animations tools. You can read about them in our previous post.

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