How to Create Animations on a Budget?
Animation can seem like an expensive hobby or skill to get into. Professional-grade animation software licenses can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Taking animation courses or hiring a 3D animation studio also requires a significant financial investment.
However, creating animations doesn’t have to drain your wallet. With the right approach and tools, you can start animating on a budget. In this post, I’ll share tips on making animations using free or affordable software and resources. Whether you’re a beginner interested in 2D, 3D, or stop motion animation, you can get started without breaking the bank.
Use Free Animation Software
One of the biggest costs associated with animation is the software. But there are actually many free animation programs out there with enough features to let you create great animations.
For 2D animation, you can use OpenToonz. It’s a free, open-source 2D animation software used professionally in anime and films like Futurama. The interface is advanced, but there are plenty of tutorials to help you get started. For simpler frame-by-frame animation, try Pencil2D, which lets you create classic hand-drawn style cartoons.
For stop motion style claymation or cut-out animation, you can use MonkeyJam, a free stop motion software for Windows and Mac. It has onion skinning features to help preview animations. Stop Motion Studio is another good option also available on Android and iOS devices.
For 3D animation, Blender is likely the most powerful free software available. It offers features for modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, and more. The interface has a learning curve but is very capable for a free program.
Look Into Discount Software Options
While full licenses for premium animation software are expensive, you can find cheaper discount options in many cases.
For Adobe software like Animate and After Effects, look into an Adobe Creative Cloud single-app plan, which lowers costs by only getting access to one program. There are also often discounts for students and teachers.
Many premium programs also offer free trial versions that last a month or more. You can take advantage of these to test software and decide if you want to invest in a license later. Some companies also have grant/discount programs for educational or non-profit usage of their software.
Some popular 2D software like Toon Boom Harmony and Moho Pro offer cheaper indie/debut versions of their full programs with reduced feature sets. But these can be enough for beginners to start out with animation basics.
Use Mobile Apps for Animation
Mobile devices like phones and tablets can also be used for animation projects. While limited compared to desktop software, mobile apps provide capable animation tools completely free or at low cost.
For frame-by-frame cartoon animation, try FlipaClip, which is free on Android and iOS. It provides layers, onion skinning, and the ability to export your animations. Another great option is Animation Desk on iOS.
Stop motion animation can be done using the Stop Motion Studio mentioned above. Other free options include Clayframes for iOS and Claymation Maker for Android.
Simple 3D animation is possible on mobile as well through apps like Blender for mobile, Animator, and FlipAnim. Look for ones that support rigging premade models and stop motion capture.
Learn the Principles of Animation
No matter what software you use, understanding the core principles of animation is key to creating high-quality animations. Mastering concepts like squash and stretch, anticipation, arcs, and secondary action will make your animations look polished.
You can learn many principles from free online resources. Some great sources are Alan Becker’s Animation Tutorials on YouTube, the 12 Basic Principles of Animation from Centennial College, and this page on animation principles from Khan Academy.
When just starting out animating, it’s better to keep your project and scope small. Don’t try to create a full short film right away. Instead, focus on a short, simple scene or loop to practice. The benefit is you’ll finish projects faster, get more repetition practice, and have finished pieces to show.
For example, you can animate bouncing balls, a walk cycle, a waving flag, a door opening, or leaves blowing in the wind. These let you grasp how to animate weight, motion, and timing. Later, you can apply the fundamentals to more complex projects.
Creating all the assets for animation, like characters, backgrounds, and props, is very time-consuming. To animate faster, reuse, and recycle assets whenever possible between projects.
Maintain a master library of assets, rigged models, templates, and objects you’ve created. Copy and reuse them in new animations. Changing colors, outfits, or camera angles can make them seem fresh again.
You can also download rigged 2D and 3D models online to use. Just be sure to check usage licenses. Sites like Mixamo, Rigged Game Art, and CgTrader offer assets for animation.
Collaborate with Others
Consider collaborating with others who have complementary skills to complete projects. Animators often team up with writers, voice actors, musicians, editors, and more.
You can find collaborators on animation forums and communities like Reddit. Sites like Newgrounds also let you connect with others interested in animated projects.
Working together allows everyone to focus on their strengths. Just be sure to agree on clear responsibilities beforehand. Collaborating digitally using sites like Slack and Trello also makes it easier.
Do Rough Animation First
When animating a complex scene, don’t try to animate everything perfectly on the first pass. Block out the key poses roughly first to get the timing and motion arcs right.
Once the rough animation is done, go back and refine the poses and add details like facial expressions and secondary motion. This avoids getting stuck trying to animate everything perfectly from the start.
Record Reference Footage
It’s hard to animate realistic movement if you’re just imagining it in your head. Record video reference clips of people acting out the actions you want to animate. Pay attention to the emotion, weight shifts, anticipation, and follow through.
You can even rig a simple puppet with joints to act out motions like walks. Use the footage side-by-side with your animation software for an easy reference guide. This will make your animation movements more lifelike.
Take Advantage of Free Resources
There are many free learning resources online to improve your animation skills. YouTube has countless tutorials on both software tools and animation principles.
Sites like Khan Academy, Alison, and Udemy offer free animation courses you can use. There are also free ebooks covering animation basics and theory using Google searches.
Joining animation communities on Reddit, Discord, or Facebook Groups connects you with other animators where you can ask questions. Taking advantage of free resources allows you to learn without formal classes.
The most important thing is being creative and practicing regularly. With patience and these tips, it’s very possible to start creating animations on a limited budget. Use free software, take advantage of discounts and trials, reuse assets, collaborate with others, and leverage free learning resources. Before you know it, you’ll be bringing your animation ideas to life.