Animation has been around since well before talking films, but an animated clip is still far more difficult for most people to create. Your phone can record a perfectly suitable video for almost any purpose, but for anything other than live-action, you need some more knowhow.

Fortunately, anyone who knows how to record a video on their phone can get started making animated videos too, all for free. Here are my top 3 recommendations for anyone hoping to make an animated video with little to no expertise:

  1. Kapwing
  2. Animaker
  3. PowerPoint or Keynote

1. Kapwing

Kapwing’s software is all intended for one purpose: making professional video edits accessible to people with little to no multimedia editing experience. For learning to animate, it’s no different. The tools may not be complex, but they make it easy for anyone to create a sleek, simple animation the first time they try it out. Plus, Kapwing’s mobile web experience is more functional than any comparable webapp out there, so it’s possible for you to animate at home and on the go, on multiple devices.

The best animation functions that you can use in Kapwing are the six to ten different built-in animation options for any text, images, shapes, and videos. Whenever you add a text box to your Kapwing project, for example, you’ll see an “Animate” tab on the right-hand side of the screen with ten types of preset animation and transition styles, from fading in to vibrating, with adjustable speed and timing.

Kapwing’s layer and timeline engines also provide a great platform for beginners to make basic animations from scratch. Since a Studio canvas in Kapwing can contain video clips, GIFs from the web, and static elements alike, you can create a beautiful backdrop for frame-by-frame animations created from scratch. Using the timeline interface, you can create and move individual layers in increments to put together stop-motion-type animated clips in just a few minutes.

2. Animaker

Animaker’s sign-up and introduction process make it a bit of a hassle to get started with, but its features are fairly intuitive for beginners, and it lets you do a lot of simple animation tasks in very little time.

There are a number of great things about the software: of all the free online options, it gives you the greatest motion customization. Its custom path animations, for example, are a cut above any other web-based free options. Plus, its character animations let you make cute animated videos in Animaker's particular style. But as a video editor in general, its editing options are a bit lacking, as it relies heavily on preset templates and elements and its main features are for the purposes of animation itself. If your project is fairly simple and relies on smooth, precise motions, Animaker might be just what you're looking for.

It has some significant snags, however. Its video processing time, for example, is fairly long. And it burns a large watermark into the exported product of every project, which makes the biggest difference of all. To remove the watermark you have to upgrade your account, whereas with Kapwing, all watermarks and quality limits are removed simply by signing in using Google or Facebook. And if you want to work on a mobile device, you’ll have to find another software entirely, as Animaker’s mobile browser functionality isn’t usable.

3. PowerPoint or Keynote

That’s right – PowerPoint and Keynote are some of the best free animation softwares out there for beginners. All other online options aren’t very practical, reliable, or useful, and top-rated desktop animators like Blender are incredibly hard for beginners to use.

It’s likely that you have either PowerPoint or Keynote already downloaded on your computer, if you’re running Windows or Mac. What many people don’t know is that these common programs can be tremendously useful as beginner animation software. In either app, you can choose from dozens of slide transitions and element animations, from build-in options to custom path animation. Unless you're working on detailed character animation, you can do most simple animations within either of these desktop apps.

I’m ranking these below Kapwing and Animaker, though, because there are undeniable benefits to using web-based software rather than desktop programs. Apps like PowerPoint and Keynote take up tons of space on your personal computer, and the files you create with them occupy more still. What’s more, they’re desktop apps, which means that it’s hard to transfer files and projects from one device to another, and all your work has to be done on a computer – web apps like Kapwing, on the other hand, allow you to use mobile devices to animate as well.

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